I was thinking today about the structure of the average workday, and the structure of our days in general, and I thought I'd like to do a little "ask the audience".
See, I enjoy a more loosely-structured workday, without strict hours of attendance and with the ability to get my work done in a way that makes sense for me (and the company, of course). I realize that I have the luxury of a very relaxed work environment, trust me I do. Having worked in places with strict rules about start times and end times and break times and clocking in and clocking out and arguing about overtime pay...well, you know I'm serious when I say I know how lucky I am. I find myself thinking this every day.
But I know what it's like on the other side, and I think more workplaces should allow their employees the freedom to get their jobs done, provided it doesn't affect the business. Obviously, many businesses have specific hours of operation. And some types of work require knowing that people will be there at specific times (mostly service-oriented positions I think, but I'm sure there are others). But if an employee's job doesn't require specific hours, why set them? We have a general "be here roughly when everyone else is here" policy, because it's good for morale, more work gets done when you can talk to your teammates, etc. but even with our customer support team (who has dedicated hours to man the front lines), there is some flexibility with start and end times, as well as with how you manage your time during the day.
Personally, I've found that I work much better when I am in the workplace for roughly 8 hours, taking little breaks throughout the day, than when I'm in the workplace for roughly 9 hours, taking an hour for lunch (and those often-ignored but totally legally required 20 minute breaks). If I'm deep into a project, I don't like to interrupt my workflow with a one-hour break (unless it's a special occasion and I'm making lunch plans with a friend or something). I prefer to work on a task until I find my brain wandering (usually around 2 hours) and then take a 10 minute break to grab a snack, catch up on personal email, read the latest TechCrunch gossip, etc. I'll usually take 15-20 min somewhere in the middle of the day to eat lunch at my desk while reading blogs...but this means I am also checking work email and handling any issues that come up. And I generally check up on work stuff from home at some point later that night, and in the morning before I go into work, just in case there's a fire to be put out.
Allowing my brain to switch from work to non-work throughout the day keeps me more alert and more focused on the work I have to do. And psychologically, I think it makes me a better worker because I feel like I'm in charge of my day. It's oppressive to feel like someone is counting your minutes (or worse, like you have to count your minutes in order to get paid), monitoring your restroom breaks, keeping tabs on your location every second you're not at your desk. If someone puts the onus on you, you're more likely to respect it - it's like that whole thing about not giving teenagers so many rules that all they can think of is rebellion, right?
My whole semi-structured day seems funny to me, though, because in my personal life, I'm much more productive when I'm on a schedule - "tonight I will do laundry and Saturday at 4pm I will go return those jeans" and such. Maybe it's because my personal life consists of more small, schedule-able tasks, whereas my work life consists mostly of larger, more long-term projects (with short-term action items, but still). Different activities call for different types of time-management, I suppose.
So...how do YOU structure your work day? (or if you're not working, how do you structure your days in general?) Do you enjoy a longer lunch break? Lots of little breaks? Do you even get a break at all? I want to know!