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I am about to change jobs. In my new job I will be working without logging time worked, and without looking at the clock as my new boss puts it. I will be allowed to work from home, when I desire, and of cause the work permits it. Basically I will be given free reign on how and when I work, I "just" have to complete the work I am assigned on time. I guess you in the US would call this a salaried job, without fixed office hours.

I have never worked under circumstances like this before. I have always had a job where I work a certain amount of hours a week, sometimes they are fixed hours every day and sometimes I could decide when to come in and when to go home. But the number of hours have always been a fixed amount a week.

I am really excited starting this new job, but I am also concerned on how to handle this added flexibility/responsibility. I like to work very effectively, and I know too well the feeling of having used up all my mental energy 6 hours into the working day, and just kind of watching the clock the last two hours before going home. I am so much looking forward to not having to do that.

So my question is, how do you best handle so much freedom in your working day? What should I be on the watch out for, both personally and professionally on a job under these conditions? How do I avoid working too much?

closed as off-topic by Jim G., jcmeloni, Ricketyship, jmac, gnat Jan 31 '14 at 6:42

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If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    I bill by the hour - I open a spreadsheet, 'clock in', and 'clock out' before I stand up to take a break or run an errand. Each time I 'clock out' I fill in another cell with what I've been doing in the time period. This will give you an idea how much time you're spending on the job, and also allow you to recall some things you might have forgotten about if you reached certain 'branches' in your work and took one path. – Meredith Poor Jan 30 '14 at 19:29
  • Or look out for a personal tendency to slack off because you can without it being immediately noticed. Espcially if there is a big backlog of work not yet assigned to anyone but you are only putting in about 20-25 hours a week of productive time. – HLGEM Jan 30 '14 at 20:36
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    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about personal productivity. – Jim G. Jan 30 '14 at 20:47
  • I believe this should be re-opened. Learning how to be effective and professional in new situations is certainly WP material. – Wesley Long Feb 2 '14 at 18:57
  • event when your boss tells to not look at the clock, you still can look, just not mension him - "I have used my hours, I stop working." If there is something very urgent, then you can work extra hours, and another day less hours. If it ends that you constantly work extra hours but do not have time to stop earlier next days and if you do not like this, quit job. – Will_create_nick_later Mar 19 '17 at 5:50
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"With great power comes great responsibility." -- Uncle Ben

Work flexibility is a wonderful thing. There are three things that could happen:

  1. You will take advantage of the company (e.g., not work enough hours by doing a poor job just to get things done)
  2. The company will take advantage of you (start working you too many hours)
  3. You will find a steady-state where the flexibility is mutually beneficial to you and the company.

Finding that steady-state is much harder than you would initially think. Personal accountability is the key phrase in this work situation. You have to be accountable for your (1) hours worked, (2) work quality and (3) hard-to-measure added value to the company. I ordered these three items in the order of difficulty.

  1. Hours worked -- it is important that you become very organized and keep task lists up-to-date. Basically every hour you work on a project must be logged in some form or another. When I was in your situation, I kept a very detailed, up-to-date wiki page that had weekly status reports (with all work hours logged on each task). This might add 30 minutes a week to your workload, but it is well worth it if someone ever tries to call you out on not working enough hours.

  2. Work quality -- You mentioned working hard for 6 hours and then watching the clock for 2 hours at a traditional on the clock job. I know the feeling. With this new flexibility, you should be able to increase your efficiency by working all 8 hours when your mind is fresh (not necessarily in a 9-5 workday). My personal experience is that even with the flexibility offered by an employer, my efficiency did NOT necessarily go up when working altered schedules. You will still have to master your mind to prevent yourself from slogging through that last couple extra hours a day. This is easier said that done.

  3. Added value -- One of the great things I've learned on one of my jobs is that YOU can lead by example. Even though the company I was at had flexible hours, I tried to be there at 8AM and left at 5PM. I still think it was appreciated by my employers because it was a good example to the rest of the team. I added value by being present at work while everyone else was working to help out with problems, answer questions, and just be there to support initiatives. The flip-side of this coin, I have seen people take advantage of flexibility and they contribute very little to a team because they are rarely available/present. My illustration goes to the point that your availability during the standard work hours while maybe not required will not go unnoticed. There is added value there that working off-hours sometimes loses.

If you concentrate on all three of these points, then you will have your work flexibility and you will have a bullet-proof log of your work activities. Congrats on the new job!

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I would go by still clocking my hours. If you don't record your working hours at all, most probably sooner or later you'll start spending your whole day working. And as you can finish everything you have been assigned, you'll get more and more work to do.

Just remember clocking hours do not mean that you have to work from 9 to 5, or 40 hours per week. But by writing those down to any tool - Excel or Google Spreadsheet, or whatever - and drawing a simple chart might be invaluable in a few months. If the trend is increasing and reaching worrying levels, you should take actions. This sounds trivial, but in practice humans do not notice slow changes very well.

Also remember to separate your work and free time. For example, you could try to arrange a separate room for working.

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    I would second the "separate room" issue. Also, make that room look like an office, not a bedroom with a computer in it. You may want to start by only working 1 day per week from home, then increase as you deem appropriate. Maintaining focus outside the office is a skill that has to be developed. – Wesley Long Feb 2 '14 at 18:59
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Know what's fair

First, figure out a way of finding out what's fair across your team or group - when and where you work may be extremely flexible, but there are likely to be unspoken expectations of how much time you spend working.

Once you have a sense of how much work is "enough" work in a slow week and a busy week - then have some way of figuring out if you've given work it's fair shake in the midst of your personal life. Keep track of hours or keep a log of when you start, take breaks, or finish each. Something that you update regularly that you can go back to rather than searching your recollection.

Work may never ask for it, but it'll help you know if you really are working as many hours as you think you are.

Know the expectations on response time

In very flexible work environments, I see the biggest difficulty to adjustment being unclear expectations in turnaround time. When people are given leave to work any time from anywhere, there can often be an unspoken expectation that they are also interruptable anytime and anywhere. Even when the individual isn't "on call", there may be various levels of urgency that demand hours vs. days of turnaround time.

Often what's "urgent" isn't clear - so check in on different types of messages.

Be Sure to Use Tracking Systems

Offices with lots of flexibility generally rely on some sort of people-finding method to figure out who's where and who's available when. It may be an online web calendar, or a Outlook based process, or autoresponses in email, a group email list or something else - often there may even be more than 1 point of reference.

Make sure you follow the rules here, when there's no guarantee on where you are, people do not want to waste time guessing on where to find you.

Be clear and accurate on work estimates

Where they aren't expecting a minimum number of hours, it's quite likely that you will be expected to stringently adhere to estimates. Make sure that you can meet them and that any potential delays are very clear and communicated early. This is true for any job, but where you may not have been obviously in the office beating your head against a hard problem all day (because you were working at home where no one could see you), make sure that your boss is as aware of your successes or failures as he would be if he was looking at you in person.

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Be optimistic! Always you will find a different scenario when you are switching job. Everything will fall in its place once you started working. Believe me, flexibility in your working schedule will help you creatively.

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    Hello Kimmy, and welcome back to The Workplace. Answers here should be sure to be a standalone answer that entirely answers the question. We also have a back it up rule that states, "answers should be backed up either with a reference, or experiences that happened to you personally. You should always include in your answer information about why you think your answer is correct." If you could edit your answer, it would be appreciated. Thanks in advance! – jmac Jan 31 '14 at 5:20

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