off the clock?

I’m spending a day at the car dealership, because the fan of my car started to make a horrible noise last week. And then it started to make a horrible smell. And I still had to drive about 300 miles, before I could bring it in for service. Not fun.

Turns out, there were approximately 6,000 parking stubs that had fallen into my engine and were blocking the fan, some of which were scorched. Which required the mechanic to not only pull apart the dashboard, but also to take apart the blower. Time consuming AND expensive, my favorites! And of course, they also found some other things wrong—the water pump is leaking, and I need new tires. It’s a small miracle that the engine hasn’t caught fire, evidently. Sigh. I wouldn’t mind so much, if they just had free wi-fi here, but their network is password-protected.

And I have been able to get a lot of work done, since I’m not spending a bunch of time commenting on other people’s blogs. But now? I’m ready to go. Unfortunately, the car, she is not ready yet.

In a funny way, I was actually looking forward to spending the day here. One of the things I know about myself is that I’m pretty stressed out, when doing an errand that I would usually consider a pain in the ass comes to seem like a vacation day. I first recognized this phenomenon when I was in college, and I had to go to the gynecologist for my annual pelvic exam. When the act of concentrating on something outside of my day-to-day life starts to seem relaxing—even a not-very-relaxing situation like a pelvic? Well, that’s a bad sign.

One of the things that I really dislike about my current work situation is that there is absolutely no boundary between on-the-clock and off-the-clock. If you work from home, then in a sense, you’re always at work. I think nothing of checking my work email at 11 p.m., or listening to my voicemail at 6 in the morning. And since I don’t have a ‘work’ phone number—just a cell phone—in theory, I’m always reachable. I say in theory, of course, because there are certainly times when I just will not answer the phone. And I think that makes me unusual among my co-workers. I work with a lot of other people who work out of their homes, too—it’s the norm in our organization. And there is definitely this sort of over-compensation that goes on, as people want to make sure that everyone knows how hard they are working, even though they don’t go in to an office every day. There are a few of us—mostly working parents—who set hard limits on things. One of mine is that I will not talk to you between the hours of 6-8 p.m., no matter who you are. I can’t even tell you how popular my 8 p.m. conference calls make me with the childless staff!

I thought about taking personal time today to deal with my car, but in reality, I am doing the same exact thing here that I would do at home—I’ve been on the phone for at least an hour, I’ve written like 25 emails (although I can’t send them yet). I’m editing documents. In short, I’m working—I’m just not doing it at my desk. And since my desk is normally located in my dining room, it doesn’t seem like that big a leap, to my desk is a couch at the auto shop. I mean, some people work at coffee shops, right? Is this different?

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October 12, 2005. work.

5 Comments

  1. RainbowMomma replied:

    The grass always looks greener to me and you just proved my point. LOL! I’m envious of your work arrangement and long for the day that my boss finally gives in to my request to work from home. And I think your rules are perfectly reasonable (says another momma LOL).

  2. Comfort Addict replied:

    Technically, I’m not a telecommuter. However, I do work from home sometimes (I have a laptop and a VPN connection to my company’s network). I definitely identify with the feeling that I have during those times that people don’t know how hard I’m working. I, too, have tried to set limits (in my case, to preserve my sanity). I can hardly imagine how hard this would be were I telecommuting all the time.

  3. AdventureDad replied:

    The borders between work and private time are very blurred today. You are probably getting more stuff done at the dealership because there are few distractions and you are more focused. But there is still a large part of the population who are lagging behind in perspective. They believe if you are not at your desk you are not doing any work. In my job that would be true but my job is very different and very specialized. If you work from home you might be able to do your work at odd times and weird places. If you got a smart boss he will be supportive and focus more on results

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  4. Leggy replied:

    Not a single thing different than working at home. I have similar issues, except that I’m not really on a time clock since I bill by the hour. So if I only get 2 hours worth of work done, the only one it hurts is me. (Although boss does get annoyed when things take longer than originally promised.)

    Cutie Pie has been home from school the last few days and between a) bribing him with videos during conference calls, and b) husband coming home early and heading out to work at a coffee shop all evening, I’m working as many hours as I would on a typical day.

    As long as it gets done is all that matters.

    I’m with you on the blurred boundaries though. I wish sometimes that I was better about not checking work email at 11 pm and not reading blogs at 11 am.

  5. landismom replied:

    Yeah, I’m not actually ‘on the clock’–I’m an exempt employee, after all. But I do have to record my time every week. So if I go in to volunteer at the Bee’s school or something I’ll put it in as an personal hour–but that’s a moment where I’ve got my cell turned off and I’m away from my computer, so am legitimately not working, which was not the case here.

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