I work in an academic-like environment with free working hours. Everyone including my boss have a hectic schedule for work hours; and her plans for meeting me often clash with my plans for leaving time. I'm often only informed about this when she arrives. This is my first job and I have no experience regarding time management. How could I manage my working hours better?
I'm a recent graduate in my first workplace, where I started 3 months ago. This is a highly scientific physics research institution, where employees are academics - many being among the best in their fields. Correspondingly, the environment is somewhere between academia and industry - the workers are given maximal possible freedom, and the results are more important than working hours.
In practice, this means that everyone, including me, has totally free working hours. These working hours are usually pretty hectic and unpredictable also. The contract only specifies that on average, 40 hours per week should be spent working; when this happens is up to the employee.
Now, this sounds amazingly convenient, but I struggle with keeping up my work-life balance and limiting my worktime. Sometimes I start early and work 8-9 hours, between say 6am-3pm. Or I work 12 hours one day, so the next day would need only about 4h work.
The problem is that my planned working hours often clash with my boss-supervisor's plans for that day. Often in the morning, when she arrives (e.g. 8am), she wants to schedule a meeting after my planned end time (e.g. at 6pm) - not being aware that I've been working since 7am, and would finish already by 4. Of course, occasionally we can discuss this and postpone the meeting, but if I do it often, it paints a bad picture. And though we're on excellent terms and she's very friendly, as a fresh worker I'm very reluctant to refuse a meeting time.
This results in that my plans for working hours rarely work, and I end up working much more than 40h per week. At the same time, due to the special nature of the working environment, this isn't against law company rules - I'm responsible for managing working hours, not the institution.
How could I manage to take full advantage of the free working hours without hurting my reputation, reliability, and relationship with my superior? To what extent should I keep up regularity?
Things to consider:
The working hours of my boss are as hectic as mine. Sometimes she arrives at 7am, sometimes at 11am or even 2pm. Sometimes she leaves at 2pm, other times at 9pm.
This could be said about my "teammates" as well...
... but actually there's no "team" as it is. We are more like a group of PhD/postdoc researchers with a common supervisor (my boss and her husband, who is a higher-ranking leader of a different division than her), working on their semi-independent project fitting in the big scheme of research done by the group. Occasionally they help me of course, but our work does not depend on each other.
Based on discussions with colleagues from different divisions, my working hour plans aren't out of line. Some even work on Saturday in exchange for shorter working hours during the week. OTOH, Some PhD guys spend 12 hours in the office regularly. The unpredictability is also typical.
My relationship with my boss is very friendly. We already collaborated before I joined this institution, and we are friends in our private life. Even so, professionalism regarding work is kept between us.
as a new employee, I do have some stress regarding my performance, leading to lengthened working hours, and I would like to sort this out as well.
The institution is in the EU, but my team, including my boss, is fully Indian. I'm the only one from my country. The whole institution is very inter- and multinational; more than 2/3 of the scientific divisions are foreigners from multiple countries around the word.