Last month, the New York Times published an op-ed titled You Don’t Need More Free Time. The writer polled more than 500,000 respondents about their day-to-day emotions and found, week after week, the same unsurprising pattern: people’s feelings of well-being closely tracked the workweek. They were at their lowest Monday through Thursday, and highest on Saturday and Sunday. Interestingly, this data was true for people regardless of profession or whether they even had a job, suggesting that in order for free time to be valuable, it must coincide with the free time of others.
The author concludes that this points to a key flaw in the work-life argument: “Over the past few years, many workplaces have looked for ways to create more flexibility in individual work schedules… a disadvantage of these efforts is that they may lead us even further from a weekend-like system of coordinated social time.”
But reading this, I can’t help but think of how things are shifting.
In the last several decades, most people were working roughly the same hours — 9 to 5, Monday through Friday — and if you weren’t on schedule with the majority of Americans, you were likely to feel like you were bowling alone. But that is becoming less and less common. Today, it isn’t unusual for someone to work on Saturday morning and leave early on Wednesday. Technology gives us that freedom, and — regardless of whether it’s a good thing — companies are taking advantage of it. As far back as a 2011 study, 85 percent of companies were already allowing remote work — workplaces are adapting to the new workforce.
Choosing a job in which time and location are flexible may occasionally take us out of sync with others, but it also helps us create the schedule we want — maybe one that allows us to coach our kids’ soccer team or to spend an extra day in Florida with our spouses.
And while a flexible job may take us out of sync with some, it can put us in sync with others. The coworking culture is designed to promote social interaction. From our experience, the lab cafe, work bar, and work lounge, plus events and meet-ups, help remote workers make connections with people who have similarly flexible schedules.
If you can choose where and when to work, and you have friends and peers that do the same, then why live for Saturday over every other day?