Work late or work at home?

Today it is 6:30pm and I’m still at work. Which I suppose by most people’s standards isn’t too late, except I got in at around 7:30am and I have at least another 30 minutes of work to do and this is a regular occurrence for me.

For the past few years I’ve had a hard time with my work/home balance. See as a graduate student and a post-doctoral researcher, this balance didn’t really exist. You were expected to spend your whole life working. Work and home were the same thing. You ate, drank, breathed, became your research. And that was fine… for those 7.5 years I did it.

But now I have a “real job” and have had it for 2.5 years now. And well, now, I want a separation between work and home.

I want to come home and not think about what I have to do the next day. Not work on lecture notes. Not grade papers. Not read journal articles. Not… well… work.

So this year I’ve tried to adopt the policy that work gets done at work and home gets done at home. Which is fine… except now instead of leaving at a “normal hour” and accepting that I’ll have some work to do at home, I leave later and later as I try to get everything done before I get home. Mr Woodpecker is exceptionally forgiving of my coming home at 6pm… 7pm… but when 8pm rolls around his stomach really starts to complain.

But then when I do get home I get 3-4 hours of uninterrupted time with him. No worries about work or my day.

But I get less time with him in the evening. And that’s just a bummer.

It feels like either way I lose. I lose time when I’m with him or my home life becomes my work life.

Am I the only one who has this problem? How do you balance your home-life/work-life in a job that doesn’t end at 5pm?

7 thoughts on “Work late or work at home?

  1. I’d much rather work in the comfort of my own home, though of course that makes it difficult to maintain barriers between work and life. I accept that there will be bleeding through, particularly as I’ve started to freelance more again.

  2. Short answer…. I don’t.
    Long answer… I almost always have work to do at home outside of “normal” work hours. I’m trying to get better about turning off the laptop, though. Any ideas?

  3. In an effort to compare apples with apples, I have to use my experience as adjunct faculty with our local university. The biology department there is wonderful, maybe a bit too wonderful. There’s 14 permanent faculty 10 GA’s and three adjuncts, All eager to be your friend. I found that very embrace-ment ended up costing me a lot of time and makes me late going home. So I guess my question is how much interaction do you have with the other faculty? Is that taking up too much your time?

    I also have a rule no bringing papers home to grade but sometimes depending on the workload it can get tough. So I too struggle with the work home type situation. I have found that part of it is definitely time management.

    1. Oh yeah, my collegues are wonderful and of course I spend time talking with them in the course of the day. That is part of what makes my job amazing.

      I have always said that teaching is like a goldfish, it expands to take up the time you give it. I have had classes where I prep for them in 10 minutes and others where I prep for 10 hours. It just seems like if I don’t cut myself off at some point I’ll work forever. =)

  4. I think you’re right with your goldfish analogy. I had a friend in grad school who had a wife and two kids (unlike most of the rest of us kid-less folks at the start). He was in school to train for a second career, having been an entrepreneur before. He always preached doing the best you could with the time you had, not taking all the time you thought you “needed”. He said that if he tried to do everything he “should” do for his business, he would have never seen his family, and the same could be said for grad school. In retrospect, I should have adopted this theory way back then, would have saved me a lot of aggravation. Now that I have a kiddo, I am adamant that I won’t work at home,(not that I’m any good after he goes to bed at 8 pm anyway). I can’t work late because I have to pick him up from daycare. In the 13 months I’ve been back to work since mat leave, I’ve only brought work home 3 times, which is a pretty good record for me! I used to stay late all the time just to go over a report “one more time”. I finally realized that I the extra time had diminishing returns, and I should just call it done and move on. It’s a hard thing to do, and I know some jobs just take more time (like an early career professor) but sometimes you can “cut the fat” timewise, not unlike you do with a budget for money. Good luck finding a balance that works for your job and your relationship!

  5. Wow. That is tough. It’s not possible to get the work done during the day? Those are long hours. Making time for your marriage when possible is insurance for a happy marriage. Obligations are necessary but it can lead to rifts if they aren’t managed well. Best of luck.

  6. I chose to get my work done before I go home. You are more likely to finish fast if you can go home at the end, and it isn’t fair for your husband for you to work while you are supposed to be spending time together. Get your work done, and feel worry free at home. even if you have to stay an hour longer, your mind will be at ease.

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