OK, Loverboy fans from the 80s, that’s not what we’re talking about here, but you can thank me for having that song bang around in your head the rest of the day and find yourself doing the mid-song air guitar riff when no one is watching.
Architects are notorious for working…all of the time; perhaps a trait we are indoctrinated with in school, but one that doesn’t seem to go away once we start into practice. Perhaps it’s linked to the tortured architect’s desire for perfection, design never ends and the only thing that halts the process is a deadline imposed most likely by the client. Not only do architects work on weekends, but you’ll often find the lights on in any architect’s office late at night.
So, we have bad habits.
When one decides to own their own business and no longer answers to the boss that never leaves, we can find ourselves in murky water deciding how to get work completed and still maintain a healthy life with our family and friends. That seems to be a cultural value shared by most.
Now that we are seemingly evolving into better human beings (which I am still awaiting the jury as I question our real motivations), we find ourselves secretly troubled if we have to work outside of the 9 to 5 imposed as part of a 40-hour work week that was developed as a reaction to unsafe and unfair working conditions at the latter part of the 19th century. Henry Ford continued to champion this as he believed long hours were bad for worker productivity and the rise of unions forged work environments that approached humane, let alone safe. I won’t even touch minimum wage as the history and need for these improvements weren’t about today’s entitlement, but about being safe, humane and protecting workers from a time in history we’d rather not relive.
If you find yourself a small firm leader or solo-practitioner like me, you know that the responsibilities we carry cannot often be contained in the M-F time-frame. Sometimes Saturdays and/or Sundays are the only days quiet enough (when clients are enjoying their weekends) to get certain tasks done that cannot be completed during the noise of a modern-day work week. If you work for someone else, you need to solve this balance somehow too.
I often work a few hours on Saturdays and occasionally on Sundays in a slow pace hour here-hour there pace. Why? Am I a poor business person? Am I a poor family man? No, actually it’s the opposite.
See, my son’s events are all plugged into my calendar in “pen” just as much as my client and construction meetings. These occur mid-week, Friday afternoons and sometimes a doctor appointment in the morning. Cross Country meets have taken us away for long weekends requiring us to leave early on Fridays. When my wife has a day off, we go to lunch. I remember being the only dad at elementary school field trips.
I choose to work for myself, so I have that flexibility not to miss anything. This means work “getting done” is an ethic that I hold up high only outdone by the needs of my family.
Don’t feel guilty if you work outside of the 9 to 5. Ask yourself the more important question, how are my family relationships? What comes first? What is important to me in my life? There’s no superiority to those who claim they never work weekends.
Architecture will always be there, but our kids won’t be. However, if we aren’t responsible, capable architects, architecture may not stick around either. We are not judged by the day of the week, but the amount of time and quality of time spent with the people we determine to be most important.
The rest is incidental. At least, that’s what I think.