Sunday, February 4, 2007

The Value of a Saturday at Work

Many people bristle at the thought of working on the weekends, but every now and then it might pay you to go into the office on a Saturday. I went in for 6-7 hours yesterday and I was able to get a ton of stuff accomplished.

The biggest benefit is the lack of distractions. The kind of work I do often involves long periods of concentration, working out numbers, trying different solutions, and seeing which fit the best. The chances of getting 2 straight interruption-free hours of work during the week are practically zero for me. There are always coworkers coming over to interrupt me, phone calls to be answered, "urgent" emails, or other things that throw me out of whatever it is I was working on.

Yesterday, I had absolutely none of that. I had complete control over my day, and I used the time to get through some work that was particularly frustrating to try to do during the week.

The second biggest benefit is just the amount of time it adds to your week. There are only a certain number of hours I can work in five days without feeling fatigued, burned out, or just plain sick of the place. I estimate that to be somewhere around 60 hours. After that, I am not as effective. Working on Saturday gave me a fresh day, and some more work hours that I did not have to squeeze into my five day week. Knowing how much I was getting done, realizing I could leave whenever I wanted, and not having coworkers asking me for things also made the day incredibly stress-free.

I was also amazed at how pleasant the commute was. Instead of taking the bus and the train to work, I was able to drive all the way in because there was no traffic. I found a parking space pretty easily, and I made it in to work in about half the time it usually takes me during the week.

Another big benefit is that I ran into a fairly high-ranking company executive while I was there. We had a brief chat in the elevator. A chance meeting, but if that person talks to my boss's boss, or if I am ever applying for a job change into their area, it is the kind of thing that tends to leave a good impression.

Finally, just getting all of that work out of the way is a benefit in itself. I am going to feel much better when I get into the office on Monday and I'm not immediately hit with the giant workload that I had when I left on Friday.

There are downsides too, especially if it becomes necessary or expected for you to work on Saturdays, and they start to interfere with your personal life. I didn't have anything in particular to do yesterday, so it was completely my choice to go in and work. If I was asked to go in, I'm sure I would have resented it. I feel like my weekends are mine, and I should be able to use them however I want to.

Anyway, I am not going to make this a habit, but I think a Saturday every now and then (once every few months or so) could be a great tool for getting through a pile of work, reorganizing, and refocusing.

If you've never done it before, I recommend you try working on Saturday once or twice, and pay attention to how you feel while you're doing it. If you're like me and you don't have to go in, but can do so every once in a while to catch up, it's probably a good use of your time. It will make you a more valuable worker, and over time, your salary should grow to reflect that value.

Please remember that I'm not aiming this advice at people who feel overworked and hate their jobs. If you feel like you have to work weekends just to keep up with your workload, if your boss expects you to come in over the weekend, or if you work ungodly hours during the week, I would seriously rethink your decision to remain in your current job. You might be getting well paid, but is all of that stress really worth it?

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