Making Your Work Hours Fit Your Lifestyle

Making Your Work Hours Fit Your Lifestyle

You like to rise with the roosters rather than burn the midnight oil. Is this acceptable? What if everyone else works late? Will this affect your career?
 
Not everyone lives – or works – on the same schedule. Gone are the days of 9-to-5 jobs in virtually every career field. Businesses have gone international, and employees can be on-call at any hour on any day of the week, including holidays. Although there are many negative aspects to this, including the inability to ever truly escape from the world of work, you can also make this global business environment work for you.
 
It may be normal at your office to stay late to finish work, to prepare for court, or to meet with clients. However, you don’t necessarily have to do the same. To get approval to arrive early rather than stay late, you may want to schedule a meeting and prepare a written proposal. There are several benefits that you may want to present:
 
  1. You are available to meet with and talk to clients at a time when the office is normally closed, which may be more convenient for potential clients, such as those who work nights, don’t have time after work, are calling from a different time zone, or just want to talk to someone without having to wait until “normal” business hours.
  2. The office is quiet, making you more productive.
  3. You can review drafts prepared the prior evening with “fresh eyes.”
  4. You can do last-minute research, drafts, and client preparation prior to trial, and just be the one the partners and other associates call or email when they think of something that needs done right away.
  5. Although you are not at the office as late as others, you are reachable by phone or email when needed, and you can occasionally stay late as the need arises.
 
Once you obtain permission to arrive early, you may hear some negative comments about why you never work over. In time, however, your different schedule should become an asset to the firm. And your willingness to be available to help others, your motivation to work on your own, and your ability to negotiate a winning situation for the firm should all make you stand out as a reliable member of the team.
 
As for your coworkers, you need to communicate what you are doing so that they know that you are putting in as many hours and as much hard work as they are. You may even want to post your hours in your work area so that others will know when you are planning to be there. Also, you can offer to perform some tasks for others in those early morning hours. This will remind others that you are putting in your time and that you are part of the team, even though you may not always be in the office at the same time.
 
If you are currently seeking a job or desiring a change, be sure to check on the potential for a flexible work schedule during the interview process if this is an important benefit to you. If there is an existing policy permitting a flexible work schedule, that’s great. If not, you should make your proposal prior to accepting the position.
 
If you are currently employed and your desire to work early doesn’t fit with the work culture of your firm, you may need to evaluate your desire to stay or to look for a different job. In fact, there are many jobs for attorneys other than at law firms. The obvious choices include corporations, non-profit organizations, self-employment, and small firms or office sharing arrangements. You can also work for many government organizations that have flexible work hours or consider career paths that require or desire a law degree but do not actually practice law.
 
In law school, you spent a lot of time learning how to advocate for your client by thinking outside the box. It’s time to use those same skills to obtain what is best for you!