Eight Days a Week


Not quite eight standard days (8:30 to 16:45 with three quarters of an hour lunch break), that’s what I used to work in the years before I requested and was granted the privilege of working a condensed week, i.e. doing my 36 1/4 hours in four rather than five days. I worked this type of condensed working during my last 18 months at work, the rationale being that my wife had retired and might not pressurise me so much to do the same if we could spend a 3-day weekend together.

But how did I get to work such long hours to start with ? For starters, it’s not unusual in a production environment to put in a few more hours to get some things done before and after the end of the official working day. It was only in an office environment like Welsh Labs or the AGO in Port Talbot that people tended to stick pretty rigorously to the official hours – with all the resulting congestion to get in and out of the gates around that time of the day.

But even measured against the production environment yardstick I was working longer hours. The original reason was a combination of avoiding the worst of the rush hour traffic (which on the part of the M4 near Newport could be horrendous) and making sure that VB applications had indeed run properly before their data were needed in the morning meetings. As I may have mentioned elsewhere, my initial VB applications were running continuously and performed their data handling function using an internal clock in a timer-based subroutine.

Unlike the later habit of kicking off applications using a Windows scheduler, this meant that (1) the application could well accumulate excessive CPU resources, and (2) if an application fell over, it needed to be restarted manually. That’s why I made sure I was in the office shortly after 7am, which gave me time to take corrective action before people starting to look at their web pages around 8am.

Over time, converting my applications away from timer-based to Windows-scheduled somewhat relieved the pressure, but with the ever-increasing number of applications that I had on the go it was always prudent to arrive early enough should there be trouble at t’mill. And so it happened that I got up at 6am, got dressed and in the car, ready to have my first cup of coffee at work some time between 6:30 and 7am.

Gradually I came to realise that the increased amount of time translates quite readily in increased output when it comes to writing webpages and applications. So the habit stuck, and since it’s quite often inconvenient to cut a job you’re working on short because of going home time (developers will tell you what it feels like to be “in the zone”), you work until you’ve reached a convenient point where it will be easier to pick up the thread the next day. So most days I finished work some time between 17:15 and 17:45, which allowed for tidying things up and making preparations for the next day.

Hence when the time came to work an condensed week, doing my new official hours of 7:30 – 17:30 was not much of a hardship, since it didn’t really extend my actual working day at all. The only thing I noticed (as you would working a full day less) was that all of a sudden the work starting piling up, and I had to make sure that I kept some new requests at arms length. It also meant that when Theo finally came on the scene to relieve me, I didn’t have the luxury to feed him tidbits and let him gradually get used to ongoing projects – there was a backlog that needed dealing with, and I suppose there’s no better way of learning than being thrown in at the deep end.

I’m just glad he didn’t drown and took to the task so readily, otherwise I might have been less flippant about retiring from the job when I did.

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