Work

Self-Employment: Finding Flexible Working Hours

October 17, 2016

One of the main reasons to quit the rat race to work for yourself is flexibility. And by that I mean the flexibility to live your life in a way that’s most productive for you, whether that means being able to pick up and drop off your kids from school every day or spending more time with your husband: it’s your life, you should build it your way.

When I first started working freelance I missed this point a bit. I saw my main motivation for self-employment as being more present as a mother, and forgot the part where I was supposed to think about what would make me happier and more productive.  As someone who had spent ten years working 9-5 in an office environment, there were certain rules and routines around work that were so ingrained in me that I didn’t even think about changing them.

Looking back now with my self-employment hindsight and experience the fact I was so locked in these rigid routines makes me smile. In my opinion society’s 9-5 working hour model is completely outdated and ridiculous, and though in some work environments (call centres, shops) there are opening hours and times that work for a reason, it is completely unnecessary in others. Giving employees such specific hours that they MUST be at their desk for does nothing for productivity and trust: I’d wager that if workplaces were more flexible with their staff’s working hours they’d find more work got done and their employees were happier to be there.

The 9-5 (or, as I used to do, 9-7 or 8, yay) also neglects to consider fluctuations in workers’ body clocks. Take me, for example: I’m not a morning person, never have been, never will be. I wake up at the last possible minute, snooze my alarm longer than I should and have our morning routine down to a fine art so we’re always down to the final second before we leave for the school run. Any extra seconds snoozing are worth it. I’ve always taken a long time to wake up, getting my best and most creative work done in the evenings between the hours of 7pm and midnight.

In contrast my friend who works from home is an early riser, and gets up at 5am to squeeze in 2 hours work before her kids awake. This is my idea of hell and would never ever be a possibility: my body wouldn’t do it.

When I first started working for myself I’d come straight from years of the 9-5 and I fought my natural body clock to stick to this schedule. I sat myself down for approximate standard office hours, yawning through the morning and finishing in the afternoon. I spent my evenings as we all do: cooking and watching Netflix. It was unproductive and didn’t feel good.

Recently I have switched around the way I work and it has revolutionised my days. I’m more productive, less tired and much happier.

flexible working hours

I still hate getting up but I get the kids ready for school and check my emails first thing, before coming back home to deal with anything urgent. After an hour or so I do a bit of pottering or errand-running before quite often taking a nap for another hour, usually from mon-wed (bear with me on this, it starts to make sense…). I’m back up in time for lunch and do between 3-5 hours work in the afternoon, depending on the children’s after-school activities. I pick them up and we spend some time together, we have dinner and carry out their bedtime routine. They’re in bed by 7.30pm which is when my night shift begins, and I work another 3-4 hours.

I go to bed about midnight having completed a workday of between 6 to 10 hours, feeling productive and accomplished.

This might sound unconventional but the routine is twofold for me: for a start, I’m useless on no sleep so if I’ve had a particularly hectic weekend I allow myself to relax a little and catch up. And secondly, I’m so much more productive and able to work post-6pm, so forcing myself to sit in front of the computer all morning when I could be focussing on my well-being or other household tasks just seems a bit silly.

Of course this is all quite situational. I’m not in a relationship at the moment so I’m able to sacrifice this evening time for work. Once a special person comes along (fingers crossed, apply within etc) I’ll probably have to re-think the strategy. It also makes days out the office slightly trickier as the rest of the world is on the 9-5.

This ability to make my own schedule really has changed my life. I’m a much happier person, noticeably better at my job and I’d wager a lot nicer to be around ;). It really works!

Would you change your working day if you were self-employed?

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11 Comments

  • Reply Polly October 17, 2016 at 3:36 pm

    I love being able to fit my working hours around the kids. SOmetimes I’ll work in the afternoon if they’re busy playing, other times I’ll work in the evenings once they’re all in bed

  • Reply Molly October 17, 2016 at 4:27 pm

    I’ve gorgeous to say, I’m reading this on a day where I’m kind of yearning for a regular 9-5 in an office type of job. For me, the flexibility of working from home is both a blessing and acc curse. Trying to fit work around the kids is often really hard, especially if I have interviews to do or other phone calls to make. And I find the reality often means I’m either on mum duty or work duty while trying to do everything at home etc and not feeling like I’m doing any one thing massively brilliantly. Also – I really miss my evenings! I guess the ideal would be to work early mornings, but as my kids wake up around 5am most days that’s out the question at the moment. Wow – didn’t mean to be so negative! Just had one of those days were a job working in the circus looks kind of attractive right now.

  • Reply Molly October 17, 2016 at 4:27 pm

    Also – how many autocorrects can I get in l e comment?!

  • Reply Alison October 17, 2016 at 6:15 pm

    Wow – I LOVE the sound of your day. I don’t think I could make myself nap during the day – I would have that nagging voice in my head telling me I should be working, But then I spend my evenings drinking wine and watching Netflix with no nagging voice in my head so it’s the same thing really.

  • Reply Hatty October 17, 2016 at 7:34 pm

    You answered my questions on your other post. I think I’m like you were about time I feel guilty if I’m not working 9-5. I need to be more creative also I think 6 hours is probably fine for the average working day and would probably be more productive than two hours of exhausted procrastination!

  • Reply Slummy single mummy October 17, 2016 at 7:41 pm

    I definitely had a different kind of work day when I was single and the kids were younger. Nowadays I don’t have my evenings to myself – when my partner isn’t home Belle basically stays up later than me, and I feel guilty working in the evenings when she is awake. Early mornings and late afternoons seem to be my hotspots when left to my own devices.

  • Reply Kathryn October 18, 2016 at 2:20 pm

    I’ve definitely found a routine that works for me and only because I work for myself at home and can govern my hours. It just makes sense. xx

  • Reply Lottie | Oyster and Pearl October 18, 2016 at 2:44 pm

    I’m with you 100% on this. The idea of *having* to be at your desk for a certain number of hours just seems deeply uncivilised and unwelcome!

  • Reply Lauranne October 18, 2016 at 3:06 pm

    I think flexible working is a great idea. I was very spoilt that the first job I landed was flexible. If we were working then there was key hours we had to be in for (10 – 12 and 2 – 4) but you could come in as late as you want or leave/take a longer lunch break. It worked so well as when I had loads on I would put in long days but then take a few hours, bow out early on quiet days or take an afternoon once my workload had returned to normal. I don’t get why more companies don’t work like this.

  • Reply Caroline October 21, 2016 at 3:26 am

    Hm, may try your way. I’m exactly the same as you and wake up at 6pm. Really frustrating as that’s when you down tools. Might try giving in for a morning nap and working an evening, nice idea.

  • Reply Laura October 21, 2016 at 11:52 pm

    I have to say I love being self employed as it gives you so much flexibility which is whats is needed so badly when having kids. Also if your ill or they are ill it’s not the end of the world to miss a day. I don’t think I could work 9-5 anymore

    Laura x

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