Working hours vs hours worked, and why I can’t get it straight

27 Jun

That's me doneSince I started freelancing proper I have identified a strange phenomenon which might class me as stark raving mad, but at the risk of appearing insane I am going to write about it anyway.

To set the scene. I love freelancing. I love the variety, the interest, getting under the skin of a business, being able to dive straight in, because when you’re paid by the day, from that very first day I believe you have a responsibility to make a difference.

And I’m not going to lie, there is another massive benefit, the fact that at the moment, almost all the time it means three out of five days I’m working from home. Of course, I’m old enough to be realistic, and I know there is a down side, which is that freelancing is a fragile security. But if this is sustainable – and I will do everything in my power to ensure that it is – I believe it might just be the ideal way to carry out that daily balancing act of giving 100% for work when there and 100% for children when it is their time. And doing four loads of washing on ‘mini program’. Yes, it’s that wild, I tell you.

When I’m working, I like to be working, and working extremely hard, which is probably fair. But even if I’m not meant to be working but it’s during the working day, here lies the problem. I start to feel a bit twitchy and find my fingers flexing themselves at the keyboard even when I’ve done my time (as it were). So suddenly, before I know it, another couple of hours have passed, I’ve got a bit more nicely sorted out… and I’ve entered an unnecessary and undesired ‘added value FOC’ stage. Now this is where I need to, quite simply, get a grip. Repeat after me: “I am not a supermarket three-for-two value deal, I’m a human being.”

Even aside from the loft-clearing and garage-emptying and children’s room rationalisation and interesting salad-making that I could be doing in the time when I’m working when I’m neither meant nor expected to be, there are two very good reasons why, as I’m contracted to work for a set amount of time, if I do more (without prior agreement), any extra hours I do will get me into a world of trouble.

Firstly, I won’t get paid for it. Which is fair enough. No-one’s asked me to do the extra, it’s my own highly developed guilt chip that drives me to it. No-one is responsible for this state of mind except me.

Secondly, frankly far more disturbingly, if I do more hours, don’t charge for it, and don’t tell anyone I’ve done more than expected, it will provide a misleading impression of my productivity and what I’m actually capable of in the time allocated. If I’m meant to do eight hours but really I do ten; well how’s anyone supposed to know what is genuinely achievable by me in eight hours? The assumption will be made that it’s what I’ve done in ten, so when I honestly do eight, lawks, I will immediately under-achieve. Rather than under-promise, which is definitely the better way to go.

So next week I am setting myself a target of hoisting a recycling bag out of the loft for each day I’m at home. Or maybe it would be better to incentivise with an episode of Jeremy Kyle a day. Let’s think about that for a moment eh.



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