For some reason, I found myself thinking about how different my "work day" is now than it was 5 years at when I worked at Marathon Oil in Findlay, Ohio.
Back then my day was fairly straightforward. I got to work at roughly the same time each day (typically a bit later than I hoped, but I'm not a morning person). I worked at my desk until lunch time. Then some of us would usually head to lunch, come back, and work for another four hours or so. And there were meetings. Lots of regularly scheduled meetings.
I could generally predict the time I'd arrive at the office and the time I'd head home to within 30 minutes. It was rare to stay an extra hour or two. And when I was at home, I rarely dealt with work stuff. Yeah, we eventually got some VPN software, but I didn't want to deal with Windows more than I had to anyway.
It's hard to describe a "typical" day in my work at Yahoo. There really isn't one. Let's take yesterday (Monday) and today (Tuesday) for example. Yesterday I got to work around 10:30am and left to head home around 7:30pm. But after I got home I spent a few more hours dealing with work stuff remotely. Yeah, we have a VPN, but I still to most stuff with a combination of SSH and Yahoo Messenger. It's not at all uncommon to get people pinging me on messenger at all hours of the day or night. If I'm on-line, I'm "available." I forced myself to go to bed just before 3am.
Today, like most days, I got up and checked my work e-mail during breakfast (meaning 9:30am or so). I didn't head to the office until about 11:30am, since I knew I had a meeting at noon. I headed home at about 7:00pm only because traffic is better if I wait until after seven--the carpool lanes open up. Then, a few hours later, I was answering more e-mail, posting a job listing, and talking about product ideas with someone via messenger. I'm sure he was at home too. I know people who regularly conduct conference calls from their cars or their lazy boy recliner at home.
And then there are the days that I'm helping someone in England or India at midnight. And there are the days that I spend the whole morning dealing with the random errands and stuff that tend to pile up as part of life. And the days that I work from home because I'm really far behind on laundry and there are fewer
distractions interruptions at home anyway.
My work day starts when I wake up and ends when I convince myself to go to bed. Much less of my communication is face to face compared to back then. There's the phone, e-mail, messenger, and so on. But there's a lot of non-work stuff that gets injected in there too. Life and work blend together far more this way. And I see nothing wrong with that except that the burden is on me to keep things in check. But with that burden comes the freedom of more flexible hours, locations, and so on. Few of my meetings are repeating, regularly scheduled affairs. That, of course, helps a bit too.
If someone actually asked me "how many hours a week do you work?" I'd have no idea how to answer.
Welcome to the virtual workplace and, in some ways, the virtual job/life mix. It's one of the cultural differences between working a high-tech job and a more traditional job. But equally important is that it's much more a part of Silicon Valley culture than it is in somewhere like Columbus, Ohio (where many of my old friends now live and work). Many people I know at other Bay Area tech companies also live a similar work/life blend in which the boundaries change daily.
Most of the time I really don't even notice anymore. Living and working this way just seems natural. But when friends and family come to visit, they're often surprised, confused, or just in disbelief. "This is your job?" "You work this way?" "That's not work--you're just using instant messenger." And so on.
Posted by jzawodn at August 11, 2004 12:29 AM