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

Reader Comments
# Oliver Thylmann said:

Ricardo Semler from Semco had a wonderful quote in his book Maverick:

"As I tell our people constantly: we've all learned how to answer email on Sundays, but none of us has learned to go to the movies on Monday afternoon. Until we learn that, we are email slaves harnessed to the wicked ways of the Profit and Loss Master." - Ricardo Semler, Maverick

I think you are already further than many others in that you can come later and nobody will really complain if you leave at mid day if you don't _have_ to be there. The hard thing in the future will be to get this work/life balance right and especially to get people to relax and even do something that doesn't have to do anything with work.

Great info on your work day. Thanks.

on August 11, 2004 01:29 AM
# Josh Woodward said:

My experience with starting my own company has both drifted back to the Marathon days and continued the Yahoo! trend. I have set "work hours" from 9-5 that I guarantee essentially instant support, and I always sit in front of the computer. This is also when I do 90% of the development and admin stuff. But then I try to answer questions as soon as possible off-hours, which means popping in here between shows on the TiVo at night, and here and there on the weekends.

I wouldn't say it's better or worse than the other two, since they all have advantages, but it is nice to be back to a fairly fixed schedule with no work that *needs* to be done off-hours.

on August 11, 2004 04:18 AM
# wil said:

It's all good until you find one of these girlfriend things, especially one of these girlfriend types that want children. Then everything gets thrown out the window.

Until that day comes, however, I am happy to report to a similar work/life balance, or I even call it a lifestyle choice. I love it, and therefore I love the company I work for to allow me such freedom, and trust to deliver. Without that, I couldn't live my life of work and play how I want to. Sounds to me like Yahoo is giving you the (work)life you chose to lead.

on August 11, 2004 04:20 AM
# Jeffrey Friedl said:

Your work day ends when you go to bed? Wow, I envy that. Mine seems to continue on as I toss and turn, either because I'm stressed or excited about something I'm working on (usually the latter, which is good, but sometimes I wish I could just turn the brain off).

on August 11, 2004 04:20 AM
# Ravi said:

All this talk about balancing work and life makes me wonder why there should be a divide between the two? Especially if you are working on something you love and are excited by - isn't that a core part of your life? your life even? Speaking for myself, whenever I am "working" on something I enjoy - its not really "work", so there's no question of balancing it with some other, supposedly more fun/fulfilling, part of my life.

on August 11, 2004 05:43 AM
# Peter Herndon said:

I wish I had this kind of job. Working in NYC, living in the suburbs (Westchester, for those of you familiar with the area), I have a 9-11 hour work day most of the time, plus over 2 hours of (unproductive) commute per day, with no concept of telecommuting or work/life balance.

Come to think of it, my job pretty much blows.

But, as my boss is non-technical, I have a lot of autonomy as to what I do. On the other hand, I also have few resources with which to do it...

on August 11, 2004 07:44 AM
# kasia said:

My workday is kind of like that.. except it's balanced between two places.

on August 11, 2004 07:54 AM
# Jeri said:

So, where is your love life in the picture, Jeremy? Unless the computer is the love of your life?

on August 11, 2004 08:49 AM
# Zotter said:

Ahhh...yes.... the Marathon days....
That model is very common for big companies that move at glacial speeds.
I hope also that you day is more exciting working on more ground breaking projects than the "leading edge" stuff at the local Ohio Oil company!!!!

I now work for another large company, United Business Media... and somehow we've managed to create a micro R&D office (all BGSU grads) in Greenwich , Connecticut with maybe only 2 days a week in the NYC office. Our small team of 4 people is responsible for the vast majority of online related projects..... anyway... you description really hits home. Our hours go late, unfortuantely... we don't have the luxury of sleeping in because the Brits are 5 hours behind. I'd absolutely love hitting the office at 11:30am instead of joining conference calls at sometimes 6:30am EST!??!
Anyway, the point being.... I think companies that want to be more innovative will require more flexible arrangements with employees.

Your observation about IM is perfect. Originally everyone thought it was the same as "playing games".... now IM and virtual spaces are at the heart of our company.

...and as JOsh said, thank goodness for TIVO.

on August 11, 2004 09:18 AM
# Egor Egorov said:

Jeremy, how do you force yourself go to bed and even sleep (i.e. suspend & see dreams), reveal us The Secret, please?

on August 11, 2004 10:40 AM
# said:

I have a flexible work arrangement, and the tools to work pretty much wherever, whenever.

Some downsides:

(1) Everyone's expectation is that you're always available (nationally, globally) via IM, e-mail, or phone. Few things piss me off more than idiot people IM-ing me at 11:30pm to ask an "urgent" question. I would bitch-slap these people silly if they asked me such questions in person.

(2) I run quite a bit of equipment from home (swiches, routers, servers, PCs, etc.) - I pay the electric bill (which the company would pay if I worked in an office).

Sounds petty, but I spent over 10k (unreimbursed) to get the proper AC (pun intended - both power and climate control) configuration in my house. Plus, I had to personally pay for the equipment racks.

It does rule, however, to have time during the day to do whatever - including my former secretary...

on August 11, 2004 10:46 AM
# juan said:

It's the big question of balancing life and work, I mean, there are few compagnies out there worth spending more than office hours working for them.
I guess you're really lucky to have found one.

on August 11, 2004 11:20 AM
# Larry Cannell said:

At a certain level this all sounds exciting but, to quote Joe Robinson: Get a Life!

on August 11, 2004 12:37 PM
# Tom said:

It sounds like the balance you've found works for you. I just hope that your company will be as understanding when you want to give less of your time to the company for whatever reason. I guess as long as there is give and take on both sides it can work.

on August 11, 2004 01:34 PM
# jon oropeza said:

as an Everything Guy (Sys and DB A, webmaster, programmer, printer driver installer, coffeemaker fixer) for a smallish brokerage house, this is my life that you're describing as well - somewhat by necessity, somewhat by my own choice. Been doing it for 3 years now, and it certainly is about balance - you have to know when to leave the cell and blackberry behind. Most of the problems arise from Old Paradigm Rules being applied to the New - someone getting upset that i'm at the movies on a Monday afternoon or that I'm blogsurfing At Work.

on August 11, 2004 03:43 PM
# said:


What, perhaps, is most amazing about your work arrangement is that you have no qualms about posting it on the web.

Given the large number of Yahoos who read your blog, do think anyone will think less of you because you work from home to do wash?

At my company, while personal things are done during the day, regularly, I'm sure that no one would post to the web (using their name) without some fear of management reprisal.

When we lay people off, which happens regularly, those who emphasize the importance of personal things during their work-day have been at the top of the "to-go" list.

Yahoo must be one cool-ass place to work. Maybe I'll e-mail you my resume.

on August 11, 2004 06:51 PM
# Stephen said:

Ahhh at last I know that i'm not entirely alone in my caotic lifestyle! Perhaps this is a commonality among MySQL programmers ... we should do lunch ... what you doing at 2am next Thursday? Ok just kidding ...

on August 12, 2004 11:54 AM
# Dimitar Vesselinov said:

Jeremy, what about yoga and meditation?

on August 15, 2004 05:20 AM
# Duff said:

That sounds cool and awful at the same time. I'm not sure how I would function without specific work & home times... I know my fiancee would want to kill me if I was working at midnight though!

In general it seems dangerous to me to stake so much of your identity with work. Work changes and often goes away, after all!

on August 16, 2004 10:38 AM
# Scott Johnson said:

My workday is almost always like the "home" portion of your workday. I start when I wake and finish when I can convince myself to go to sleep, often never leaving the house. But I do occassionally make it out to a client's office.

on August 24, 2004 11:02 PM
# tine said:


I think work is as good as you make it. A friend of mine once told me to "Be like a rock and Smell like a tree." Yup, that's the kind of crazy thinking that comes to mind when i think of a typical work day for us all. In the end it really only matters how you feel about your work. And I know a smart guy like you had to have made the change from Oil to Email for a good reason. So too have i experienced a big work change

on August 26, 2004 06:38 PM
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