Saturday work is a powerful tool but also dangerous.
Saturday is my favorite work day of the week. I often say on Fridays “I am looking forward to tomorrow because that means no meetings.” On Saturdays, my work friends always greet each other “Welcome to the losers’ club”.
These are thoughts that came from a workaholic. But they also apply as a cubicleMonk.
This is what I love about Saturday work:
- I can work on anything I want
- I can bring my son to work with me
- The feeling of comradery with others working
- No meetings but very important conversations happen
- Allows for focused uninterrupted work
- People are more relaxed
Dangers of Saturday work:
- Drains too much energy
- Doesn’t allow time to recharge
- Doesn’t allow space to unplug from work
- Missed opportunity with friends and family
- Missed opportunity for healthy activities
- Gives impression that extra progress is happening
- Saturday work can slow you down as you will have less energy and make more mistakes.
- Masks problems in the project
- If you must work on Saturday, a mistake was made. Either estimation or another mistake that needs extra effort to recover.
- Can turn into expectations and leads to making even more unrealistic schedules
- The recognition from management for working weekends can set unrealistic future expectations and pressure on everyone to work the weekends including my future self
Saturday work guidelines:
- Must fit in exercise as part of the work day
- Target work that:
- Clears the plate for the next week
- Clean desk
- Clean out inbox
- Expense reports
- Try something new
- Experiment with a new idea
- Train on a new skill or technology
- Clears the plate for the next week
- Get chores at home done first
- Don’t come home to chores
- Have a plan for a family activity
- Don’t leave all of your energy at work
As a manager, Saturday work is even more of a double edged sword. I have to be even more careful regarding my employees health and well being. Saturday work as a team can move mountains but it can also burn people out. I have never and will never demand or even strongly ask people to work on the weekends. But engineers are smart and they can feel the pressure which can lead to feeling obligated to come in on the weekend.
As a manager, I love to see the relaxed positive environment that leads to untethered creativity and freedom that comes from rolling up our sleeves on Saturday morning. During the peak of one project, Saturday work turned into almost a party-like atmosphere. We had a blast working together to find creative solutions to problems our product manager was bringing us. But this is not sustainable or even desirable. So my challenge as a manager is how can I bring this “Saturday Work Environment” to the office Monday-Friday.
Yesterday, I had my first drive to work on a Saturday as a cubicleMonk. It was an amazing drive and later in the day than usual commutes. In the winter months of Seattle, one goes to work in the dark and comes home in the dark. My commute takes me along two lakes with views of mountain ranges. I get to drive through my favorite park and see my favorite landmark Mt Rainier. I hadn’t seen these views for months. OK, I didn’t see Mt Rainier because of clouds but at least there was a chance. I thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful drive.
As I drove, I felt fear that I was driving back to the workaholic days. This simple drive could lead to the demise of the cubicleMonk. But I reminded myself that I had already done the dishes, caught up on finances, did yoga and breathing, saved us $40 a month on cable bill. I had a date planned for the evening.
I was nervous as I drove into the parking lot but when I walked into my cube, I felt great. I felt free and relaxed. Almost no one was there and it was so quiet. In just a couple of minutes, I was able to clear up my inbox and some quick todos. Then I jumped into expense reports. A long period of no interruptions allowed me the time to find the receipts and get all of the data entered. Often when doing expense reports during working days, interruptions lead to having to repeatedly re-login and pick up at the random place I left off.
The hours flew by and I got a ton of work done including some great planning discussions. All of my expense reports are done and I don’t have to worry about them on Monday.
I left before all of my energy was gone. There was still enough light outside that I was able to park along the lake. I walked the trail and watched the sun start to set. I had not been in the sun for a week and it felt great.
I got home a couple hours later than I wanted. But because of exercise and sunlight, I had good energy and this allowed me to go on a wonderful date. This is a huge contrast to my Saturday work as a workaholic when I would come home and park myself on the couch as my family served me with junk food and beer.
Saturday work is still amazing even as a cubicleMonk. With my new guidelines, I’m excited to get back into the office on the weekends. But not every weekend.