Leaving your work at work

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Back when I was just a baby fresh out of school in the working world, one who still believed that journalism was a respectable and well-paid profession, I had a mentor at work. She was a senior editor at the daily newspaper where I worked and right from my very first day I could tell she commanded a lot of respect in the newsroom. Her columns were well-read and always got lots of reader feedback, mostly positive, she got invitations to everything cool that was going on in the city, and she was one of those people whose opinions really mattered--people seemed to care about pleasing her more than even her higher-ups.

When I found out she was also a single mom, I admired her even more. Until then I'd figured she came in at 5AM and left after midnight and didn't even take breaks to eat but was just some kind of award-winning story-producing robot. She seemed to get so much done and was so accomplished professionally--knowing that she was also raising a family on her own was super impressive.

These were the days before I had a laptop, so at the end of the day, if I had something to work on in the evening, I'd save it to a disc (OK KIDS, DO YOU KNOW WHAT A DISC IS?? Holy shit, I feel like a frigging dinosaur right now) and bring it home with me. One night, this particular editor saw me packing up to head home, and she asked what I was doing that night. I waved the disc at her and mumbled something about working all night on a feature piece after I got home and had a bite to eat.

She made a face and shook her head at me. "You should just stay here until it's done," she said. "That's my rule of thumb. Never take your work home. Even if you have to be here half the night, keep your work at work and keep everything else separate."

She was totally right, and for a long time I lived by those words. It was way less convenient to bring work home, not having a laptop. And it was so nice to come home and know that even if it was 9, 10, 11 PM, I wasn't going to park myself in front of the computer for another hour or two. When I left the office, I was done.

Since then things have changed. I've had a laptop for the past five or so years and a Blackberry for the past two, so work not only comes home with me, but it goes to the grocery store, out with friends, in the car, to the bathroom. Sadly, I'm not joking. It's convenient and sometimes it's great to be able to curl up and work on a project from the couch or a coffee shop. Other times, I wish being home meant being home, relaxing, not thinking about work. I would say my mind is at least partially occupied with work at least 95% of the time and I'm guessing that's because I can't/don't ever leave it behind physically.

I wonder if times have changed for my old colleague too. I'm guessing she's all hooked up with laptops galore and probably an iPhone by now...I wonder if she has managed to leave her work at the office at the end of the day. I think her advice was fantastic and I'd like to start following it, even one night a week or one day on the weekend.

Do you prefer to get your work done AT work or elsewhere?

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  1. I agree with it, but it truly is hard when you have your iPhone everywhere and can get your emails everywhere and in a time when people get pissed if you don't respond to their emails within an hour - well, yeah, you can't really "leave your work at home". But it's a beautiful idea.

  2. As a teacher, I have colleagues who stay in their classrooms 'til late every night and spend a ridiculous amount of time working in their classrooms. While I will occasionally stay and get things done, I must say I favor coming home, putting on sweats and something terrible on TV and then working at home.

    But, I will also say that I work in a profession where there is ALWAYS something to be done --- even during summer break --- and I am religious about setting limits on my time. I'm a work hard, play hard girl.

  3. I always try and live by the rule of leaving work at work. I've been in the opposite situation before though- blackberry everywhere, dependant on knowing what's going on at 2 in the morning and toting my laptop from airport to home to the office and back around again.

    Now that I have a situation where I can choose between staying at the office or moving to another venue, I always prefer the office. I love when people disappear for the day and things get quiet. I can think better, and I know i'm 100% more efficient (and effective) in the 2 extra hours at the office vs. the 4 hours in front of my tv in the sweats.

  4. I'm all for the separation of work and home. It's really important to me to not have too much overlap. Luckily I work at a job where I'm not in demand on the time and I dont have a blackberry at my fingertips, so I have the luxury of keeping that separation. Even if I move up in seniority though I never want to get to the point where I'm working or thinking about work at home or doing personal things. EVER. I wouldn't mind working from home occasionally but only if absolutely necessary. I think it's vital for your health and well-being to make time for your home and what's in it, as well as making time for work and what's in that. There aren't too many things that are SO important that they can't wait until the next morning.

  5. I definitely prefer to have my work finished at work, but sometimes I have to take it home. On a disc because I don't have a laptop!! Only because at home I have certain programs we don't have here, and what would take me an hour to do on the wrong software would take me 20 minutes at home. But for the most part I definitely prefer to stay later at work than to bring it home.

  6. I love to work away from the office. I am 99% sure I need to get out from behind a desk and be a work-gyspy.

  7. My work generally stays at the office. If you see me taking file folders home, it's because that's the last option for getting something done.

  8. That's an awesome thing to follow. Although my goal is to eventually work from home in pjs....