I’ve been working remotely for Particular Software for the last ten years. To this day, I still feel guilty for taking time off during regular working hours, even though we don’t have working hours at all.
Society is built around working hours. Schools start before we go to work, and often, the school day ends after we finish work, for example, in Italy, we have pre and post-school making it so that primary school ends at 6 PM. Retail and grocery shops are still open when we stop working, and so on.
Initially, having fixed working hours made sense and still does for many jobs. The Industrial Revolution brought mass production, and productivity became a significant concern. Working hours were a way to determine/guarantee/measure productivity. It’s as if the metric for my job was how many lines of code I could write per minute—oh gosh, don’t make me think about that.
I’m writing this post while working from the swimming pool at the nearby gym—I had a meeting-free morning and decided that the bar at the swimming pool was a better place.
I’m feeling guilty for doing it. I wouldn’t feel like that if I was standing at my office desk.
The main reason is that society expects people to work; by working, they mean producing something through labor, visible effort, and sweat and tears. Especially in a rural place like where I live, work is still mostly seen as connected to fatigue. When I work from the local McDonald’s or a bar, people stare at me, and it’s evident in their minds “Work?” is quoted as a question; instead, they believe I’m wasting time.
All that is engraved in my mind, and that’s why after ten years, I still feel guilty about not being at my desk, at regular (whatever that means) working hours, sweating, and fatiguing to produce something. Summer is coming, and that will help in making me sweat while coding…
Interestingly, a couple of years back, I worked from a fantastic place for an entire week. A friend was hosting me, he was remotely working too, but his company was enforcing nine-to-five working hours on employees. I was compelled into a specific place from nine to five for a week. We had a 90-minute lunch break and two 15-minute “coffee” breaks during the day. I didn’t feel guilty—I was working like everyone else.
There is no actual conclusion. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to overcome the feeling of guilt; I’m too old.
All I wanted to bring attention to is that if you’re feeling the same way, you’re not wrong. Society is slowly changing, and we’re in the middle of a significant transition.
Photo by me!