Friday, August 27, 2010

Being on Your Own: Costs/Benefits

Over the years I've given a lot of thought to what it might look like if more of us were able to schedule the activities of our lives in sync with the natural rhythms of our minds and bodies - working, resting, eating, excerising, and meeting with others at the times that feel most "right" to us.

After years of relatively little flexibility in those things I've been experiencing more and more latitude. This has increased my satisfaction and effectiveness in some ways, but not in others.

Certainly, not having to rush to be at the office for those 8:00 prayer meetings every day has been a plus, even though I miss the content of those meetings a great deal. For years, I kept regular 8-5 office hours (as was expected) but then stayed late so I could actually get things done when people were gone. Now, I have plenty of peace and quiet for getting things done. The last couple of weeks have been great. I work and rest and eat and exercise at the times that feel right with me. The benefit on my health, stress level, etc. is huge. But I don't have a regular group of people to have lunch with and pray with every day, as once I did. That feels like a considerable loss. I'm trying some strategies to get that synergy and fellowship in other ways. So far these strategies are working quite well, but that's something I'll have to monitor over time.

What a benefit it is to be freed to do things your own way. What a cost it is to find yourself alone and out of step with others. Take the simple question of family dinner time. If one person eats at 6:00, another at 8:00, neither can have the satisfaction of dinner together. Similarly, you may miss much of the satisfaction of working together with others if people don't consistently come to the office and keep some kind of regular hours. Sometimes - especially in a larger group - you can find enough people who are wired to want what you want, and give the others freedom to do things their way as well, and it isn't such a battle. But usually there's some need to bring the whole group together, and it's hard to please everybody in such cases. Besides, even with the best of "matches," human personality is such a complicated thing that I believe we will always find a few "irreconcilable differences."

How much of our personal preferences will we sacrifice and ask others to sacrifice so we can walk the same path together? Where will we compromise for the good of the group or give in to honor someone else's preference?

Of course, within any group of coworkers, family members, or friends you may find varying levels of desire for that togetherness. For some, it may be worth sacrificing all; others may not feel any benefit from their compromise. That can lead to a lot of frustration, can't it? You may feel, "these people don't care about each other because they don't want to be with each other," or "these people don't value each other because they're trying to control each other."

One of the books I read this year mentioned some research that had been done on stress in the workplace. This research suggested not only that some people function best in the mornings and others in the evenings, but also that some are at their best at the start of the week and others toward the end. This comes from our hormonal patterns and ultimately from our genetic mix. So, how are you going to plan meetings? And, are you going to ask people to give the best time of their day or week to meetings, or leave people free to give that "best time" to other aspects of their work or lives?
"There are people who insist on holding planning committee meetings on a Monday afternoon. This means half their members are not really with it; they only begin to come to life about Wednesday noon by which time the other half are stating to go down. So a wise leader plans committee meetings on a Wednesday afternoon when there is hope of getting something out of all of them ... We should never, of course, use our physical structure as an excuse for behaving badly...but it does help to have a bit of understanding and to plan sensibly." (Marjory Foyle in Honorably Wounded: Stress among Christian Workers)
May God give us grace to know ourselves, how we work, what we need, and how much we can flex on these things without breaking. May we navigate these questions with grace and love for one another.


Megan Noel said...

one hopes that the big technology companies did their research back in the dotcom boom days when they had money to burn, but i have noticed a lot of them have "core hours" - usually something like 11 to 3, when they preferred to have everyone present and scheduled meeting. other than that people could work around those hours. i don't know if there was some research involved or just compromise.

one thing i noticed at work is that they used to have the mockup daily to-do meetings at 7:30am and they have changed them to 3:30 pm the previous day. i suspect that was done in response to what worked best for people.

i have had some friend who worked from home. one of them made a regular effort to be around people by going to yoga 3x a week. you at least have interaction at church once or twice a week? well anyway there are ways to schedule "people time" even if you do work from home. if i ever was so fortunate to work from home i would need to do that.

do you ever still think of learning to knit? i was thinking today of sending you a beginning book i have that is really good. there are knitting circles all over the country. another way to be around people. i found one in ballard but they were very spinning oriented the one time i went. i should try again, i felt out of place. there is even one in my condo but they meet during the day when i am at work.

Marti said...

I like that idea - core hours. If, as is likely, I find myself belonging to a dispersed team of people based in several time zones, any interaction will necessarily be along those lines.

Yeah, I do have quite a bit of church stuff going. Sometimes it has seemed like too much and I've pulled back. But this "semester" I think I'll really enjoy it.

S. and I met for a work-together-in-a-coffee-house day last week. It was great. I think we will try to do it often. Another friend told me he thinks his church has (or had) a group of work-at-homers that organized those kind of meet-ups on a regular basis.

My goal is two hours of people time a day, most days. People with families wouldn't need to work at getting that, but I will...

I think I may very well count myself "fortunate" to work at home, as you say, but we will see. Working in an office all these years - well, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times!

Marti said...

Re: knitting. nah. I mean, maybe it will happen someday but it's hard to see if being something I'd really enjoy or care about.