Back in April, when my employer informed us that we would finally be returning to the office in June, I didn’t know how to feel. My gut reaction was dread. I had enjoyed rolling out of bed, slowly fixing breakfast, and then turning on my computer to begin work at 9:00 for a year. That was all going to change. Soon, I thought, it would be back to rushing to get my hair and makeup done, worrying about my dog being home alone all day, and second-guessing my outfit two seconds before I walk out the door.
However, our return to work was flexible. We were only required to come in two days a week out of the five, and on Fridays we were done at 2:00. It was a thoughtful transition, one that still allowed me the joys of sleeping in an hour longer on most days and then getting dressed on others. To sweeten the deal, we were informed that our company would be embracing a hybrid schedule going forward. A smile formed. It was precisely what I wanted: balance.
Now that I’ve been working on a hybrid schedule for over three months, I’ve been thinking about my relationship with work differently. Going from a 5-day workweek for 10 years to a sudden global pandemic already requires a mindset shift. Going back requires one, too.
I decided that I’ll get there when I get there.
When I worked in an office full-time, for years, I was always in the rush. One of the wonderful things about working from home is that I was seldom in a rush anymore. Since I didn’t have to commute, I was not stressed about missing my bus or catching the later train. I was never concerned about the weather or traffic affecting my trip. I’m naturally a morning person, so I’m typically up before 7:00 a.m. anyway. The burden of being “late” was lifted from me, and it was a great feeling.
However, after returning to the office, I found myself rushing in the morning once again. Occasionally, that meant cutting my once-peaceful morning walk with my dog short—an activity I enjoyed so much over quarantine. I realized right away that I would need to shift this “go, go, go” mentality on the days I had to go into the office.
Now, each morning, I get up and remind myself to take my time—like the loading screen in Persona 5. Take your time. If that means bringing my breakfast to work instead of eating it at home, or going to bed earlier so I can wake up earlier, I was ready to do it. I knew if I wanted to have a more enjoyable morning experience on commute days, I’d need to slow down—and most importantly, be OK with getting to work whenever I get to work.
I learned that a hybrid schedule is the perfect balance for me.
While I am a homebody and do love being home, I quickly realized that I missed going to the office. I missed daydreaming on my commute, seeing new things each day, and interacting with coworkers. I missed getting up with intention, getting dressed, and going somewhere. But that’s the thing: I only need it sometimes.
Going to work five days a week felt more monotonous than productive. In fact, sometimes it even felt like a waste of time. It makes sense for my schedule to be a little more flexible than most jobs since most of my work is solo, individual work. Now, I can spend those days working from the comfort of my home.
Embracing a hybrid schedule has many benefits. It helps save money, time, and energy—all valuable requirements to enjoying daily life. It’s convenient to work from home, but it’s also healthy to work with others, in person. The change of scenery alone is something that keeps life interesting and meaningful. This way, I get to enjoy the best of both worlds and recharge when I need to.
I realized just how toxic the 5-day workweek is.
We have always known the 5-day workweek was far from ideal. For the most part, it can be draining, tiresome, and inconvenient. And although working in person with others is incredibly valuable, feeling over-worked is a reality.
When I was in college, I worked 4 days a week, six hours each, and had Wednesdays off. I loved it. It felt like I had two Fridays instead of one. Tuesday nights felt like a bonus Friday to me. I often used my Wednesdays to sleep in a little and catch up on chores, so I could actually enjoy my weekend—instead of running around doing errands and laundry.
It was nice to work two days, have a little break, work two more days, and then have a longer break. It did wonders for my mental health. Likewise, it made work feel more manageable since I only have to work two consecutive days at a time, instead of long stretches of four or five. Days went by quicker; there was always another break around the corner.
Although we haven’t abolished the 5-day workweek, embracing a hybrid schedule relieves some pressure of getting up and going to work each day. The luxury of working from home twice a week provides a bit of rest for your brain. It’s a day when you don’t have to worry about what you’re wearing, how the weather will affect your commute, and if you’re going to be late. You can just put your head down and focus on your work.
If anything at all, this pandemic proved that many companies can adapt and be flexible—and that many employees are happier when they have more options regarding their schedules. I hope it’s something more companies embrace going forward, too.
How was your work schedule changed during and “after” the pandemic? How has it affected your mental health, ambitions, and mindset? I’d love to know!
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Megan Portorreal is a professional writer, editor, and creative in the New York City area. In her spare time, she enjoys reading books, writing about her life, and playing video games.