A work schedule of flexible predictability

Working remotely at Automattic means you set your own schedule. This does not mean you can decide on a whim when to work and when not to work (sorry, mom). Instead, you have full authority to choose your working hours, as long as you do so with at least 2 weeks notice. This allows us to offer consistent live chat coverage, while still keeping a maximum of flexibility for each individual Happiness Engineer. You can shift your schedule to your liking, just let us know in advance.

As a part-time single mum of twin toddlers, I take ample advantage of this flexibility. The kids stay with me every other week, and even when they are at my partner’s place, I take them to kindergarten. Hence, there are certain times in the day that I am not available – and these times shift from week to week.

To make it a bit more visual – this is what my potential work hours are during a week with kids compared to a child-free week. This does NOT mean that I’ll end up working all those hours, it just means that I could.

Now, let’s add some preferences to this setup: my team is based in UTC+5.5 (India) all the way to UTC (South Africa, Europe). This means I best overlap with my team in my mornings/early afternoon. My peers and other team leads are often based in the US though – so I best overlap with them during my evening hours. This means there is a huge temptation to be working at all times to not miss out on anything.

To counter this problem, I’ve further divided my week into UTC days and US days. Monday is my “standard day”. Tuesday and Wednesday are my early days and Thursday is my US day. And suddenly every day is different, though across time every (second) MONDAY is the same.

All my weekly commitments are scheduled within hours that do not change from week to week – so there is a certain core-time where I am always available. However, this mixed schedules allows me to be flexible for other calls (e.g. joining US based team meetings during my child-free week), something that would not be possible if I had to stick to the exact schedule every day.

Of course, I am absolutely and entirely dependent on my google calendar. I consistently track my time to make sure I don’t accidentally log 14 hours during a child-free day. And I am extremely paranoid about keeping my availability in our chat scheduling tool up-to-date. It’s a small trade-off compared with the quality time I get with my kids (during their week) and with my writing and running (while child-free).

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