Can 4-on 4-off be a boon to hackers? Investigation from the one man no one asked…

4 days off.  Sounds like mana from heaven, doesn’t it?  One day to crash, one day for gym, two days for anything from hyperactive, sucrose-fueled making of things to being so horrendously lazy you run the risk of turning into a cow in the rain.  The only thing left to ask is whether you would be so giddy if I told you that your working days will now be 12 HOURS long…  and there’s still 4 of them in a working week…

Having recently gotten into the swing of a 4-on 4-off work cycle, I reckon that I can stand as an authority on the subject (in the same way that we read an article on Overclocking Sandy Bridge and somehow become instant wizards, in spite of the fact that we follow the article once and never touch it again).   This’ll be my take on how 4-on 4-off will affect your life in ways other than the extra days.

You’ll be harder pressed to hit burnout

Burnout seems like a staple of the average working life, especially when overtime gets mooted like there’s going to be Christmas Parties for everyone who believes himself to be Jesus.  In the case of 4-on 4-off, 50% of your days are your own, as opposed to 29% in the standard work week.

This has a big impact on how you experience your free time – Even half-a-day of overtime can leave you with a day drained of energy, and on a standard work week this can kill a weekend stone-dead.  Up until two weeks ago my typical weekend was a Saturday of a train-trip somewhere (not wise given the circumstances but Summer is when all the Steam Railways are at peak operation), followed by a Sunday of 4 hours Overtime and a Gym+Swim session.  The result?  Body like a dying battery.

Nowadays, even a whole day of overtime will still leave me 3 days to frolic and ferment ideas.  If you want to know why I’ve come back online after 2 months of two flatline blogs, there you go.

You can take short breaks without arranging time off

This is a big one if you have only just moved out, or have a big project to take on (Supply hiccups aside, the SLA 3D Printer is underway at last!).  If you are only just making the rent and need to set aside money for 6 months to afford such a short break, you can dodge the risk of lessening your income, even for a couple of days.

Those 4 days can easily accomodate a zip to another City or even to Mainland Europe in my case, with a couple of Hotel Nights to let you wind down the generators.  I’ll outline a break I’ve got in mind for Summer 2015:  Day one will consist of me packing my things ready to meet the Caledonian Sleeper that night, which will whisk me to Scotland and into Day two, which sees me strolling, taking in whichever Scottish town I’ve ended up in (Fort William for Ben Nevis?  Inverness for access to Steam Railways?), Day 3 Will almost certainly be a Steam Railway, winding through the Heather behind a gorgeous blue engine, a steadfast rebuke to the various greens seen below the border, and Day 4 of course, I go home.

Incidentally, have you heard that Eurostar will offer a service to Amsterdam in December 2016?  By that point ICE trains will probably also serve Germany, or you could just go anywhere by plane for a few days, but what can I say?  Trains are my world.

Speaking of Holidays…

You now have access to 12 consecutive days off, just by taking a week off

Yep, that’s 4 days off, 4 days break from work, 4 days off, back to work.  Normally, the most that can be mustered is 9 days off per week off.  I’ll probably leave it to your imagination what you can do with 12 days…

So is it still Mana from Heaven?  I wouldn’t be too sure, given what I’m about to present next:

Your 8-day period of work/time off shifts through the weeks

Weeks are seven days long; that is a clause I feel so stupid typing that I might as well tell you the rain is wet (and yet people still say that?).  4-on 4-off is a period of 8 days, which means that the block of days in a week that you work will shift onwards by one day per week, making it difficult to tell whether you can make an event (I for one have had to forfeit two Railway Modelling events to this phenomenon, go me).

This is why companies offer their workers extra pay for working this shift pattern, because it’s anti-social (probably a characteristic that barely registers to me), if you like to attend places I’ve never even stepped in (Nightclubs, Cocktail Bars and the like) that hold events predominantly on weekends, be prepared to forfeit a few chances to score.

Momentum is a major effort when you start your 4-on

In an ordinary work week, it’s 5 days on vs 2 days off, so momentum is pretty much constant, more so if overtime is involved.  It’s also what’s been drummed into us since we were kids, so it’s an instantly familiar working pattern.

After 4 days of the harrowingly-straining activity of surfing the net with a plate of Jacobs Crackers and Butter, a 12-hour shift usually hits like a fully-laden skip on the head.  This has a knock-on effect for the body clock – my first 4-off saw me waking up at 5am with no alarm in anticipation of hard graft, only for me to realize I could just curl up back to sleep until 1pm.  You can also expect to be late more than once, too, after a night of “What harm can another hour do?”

The Rub:  Am I in a sea of regret?

I reckon on no, actually.  Those 4 days off have gotten me back into good habits, like this blog, and allowed me breathing room for my other plans and activities.

That said, if you plan to start a side-business, as I do with the SLA 3D Printer playing a pivotal role, The 4-off is no cure for laziness.  Motivation is down to you and you alone, and not even the most rabble-rousing, charismatic speaker can truly make you shoot for Jupiter.  Work to find the root cause of your inaction in terms of your physical habits as well as your mental state (I’ve actually got a lot to say about the Motivation Industry, but since that’s only just come to me after 1.5 hours of writing, I’ll leave that to another day).

As for you, I’d peg this arrangement to be introvert heaven, I mean, the less days being forced to be politically social is always a dividend, right?  Extroverts might want to seek out either the standard arrangement or try to find a job that does 4-on 3-off; this has 10 hour days with regular, 3-day weekends, but it is pretty damn rare to find this arrangement so good luck with that one.

Until my ideas are roused again…