Reducing Hours or Changing Work Environments due to Depression

Hi everyone,

I’m new here! Long story short, I’ve suffered bouts of depression since I was a teenager, but there have been periods where it’s calmed down enough for me to function like a “normal” human being. That changed again when I found out my mother had Stage 4 cancer about a year ago. Things haven’t been the same since.

Long story short, I left my demanding agency job of 3 years to another agency which is a bit more flexible. They still believe in the 40hrs myth, that butt in chair = valuable employee versus quality of work no matter where you are. I disagree with this and am having a hard time in this agency setting. I take a lot of work from home days or days for appointments or sick days. I’m out from the office at least once a week and they’ve been very supportive because they know about my mother. They don’t know about my mental illness. That’s harder to bring up due to the stigma surrounding it.

And so, I have a lot of issues I fight with every day.

  1. Getting myself to wake up at some ungodly hour to get ready, commute and go to work
  2. Being able to sit at my desk during downtime or tedious tasks without having a panic attack or just screaming my head off because that’s what it sounds like in my head.
  3. Being able to actually focus on my tasks and feel self-motivated to learn or find something productive to do when I don’t have tasks.

Basically every moment I feel like is wasted e.g. commute, doing nothing when there are no tasks to be done and I’m there for the sake of a number on my time logs, I feel like I’m going crazy. I feel like I could be doing just about anything else. I need to feel productive. When I’m not feeling that way, I am just desperate to DO something. And I don’t think I can do this in this current work environment… There are times where I’ve just had to take a sick day or work from home day because the prospect of putting all the effort just to get to work only to do nothing was just too much. I think about my time with my mom, and as her daughter, my own time as I feel like, someday this could be me with cancer, and life just seems TOO short to waste a single moment. I’ve had panic attacks where I’ve had to literally leave my office and go see my mom, just to make sure she’s okay. Just to spend that time with her and then I feel better after. I really value family time now and I don’t think I can stand this 40hr working thing anymore…

So I was thinking of suggesting that I have a regularly set work from home schedule or at least certain days that I work from home? I even contemplated reducing my hours, but since they have that “40 hour mindset” I don’t think they’d like this option very much. They’ve been supportive this far, but I’m hesitant in making these suggestions to them. Anyone else ever do this? I’m terrified but I’m not sure how much longer I can last like this.

I think I’d just feel better if I knew I had some flexibility. That I didn’t ALWAYS have to be in an office. I’ve also been looking into remote positions at other companies, but they seem to be hard to find. I interviewed for one but didn’t make the cut. Still trying to see if I can make my current job that I’ve been in about a year now work for me rather than just leaving without giving it a chance. Advice?

I posted a few days ago and part of it was relating to this. I feel the exact same way you do. Finally, one day I emailed my supervisor’s supervisor (my company is a little weird organizationally) and asked to work at home half the day everyday and come into office in the afternoon. He called me into his office and I was sure he was going to shoot it down. I explained my trouble focusing and how much more productive I was at home. Surprisingly, he agreed! He was very sympathetic and I got the feeling he struggled with the same feelings. The bad part is he said not to tell anyone or ‘everyone would want to do it’.

This doesn’t sound bad at first except when I come into the in the afternoon after working hard at home all morning, I do get weird looks from my coworkers. Since they don’t know what’s going on, I worry a lot about if I’m being perceived as blowing off work just coming in whenever I want to. It’s been a learning process trying to deal with this feeling that I have prove I am working hard. That said, I’m so much happier and less stressed than I was before coming into the office all day.

Being in the office all day, much of my day basically wasted because all I could think about was getting out. I would start feeling trapped, watching the clock and couldn’t get anything done. I do think 40 hrs is excessive, even when a good chunk of that is done at home. I get weird responses from everyone I’ve told that. But it’s true! I think 25 hrs a week is a healthy amount of time to work a week. IMO life shouldn’t be so heavily dominated by work. At the end of my life am I going to look back and think, “geez, I’m so glad I never had the time, energy and money all at the same time to do all those things I really wanted to do in my heart but helped this company increase its market share instead.”? No.

@Frustrated That’s the feeling I have a lot too. Only my bosses and HR know about my mom so I feel like being out once a week or taking all this time out of the office makes me look like a slacker too. I’m constantly worrying about my performance. I had a one on one meeting with the senior dev a week ago or so and that really helped me. He basically said to stop worrying about job security and everyone thought I was great, so to just keep on at it. I spent this last Friday giving a tech talk to the other devs on a topic, so that was pretty awesome.

I really do want to figure this out. I’m just really afraid of being shot down but whenever I do work from home, they get results. The last project I was working on was during the really bad winter when it was way too cold out for me and my asthma, so I took a LOT of work from home days in Jan-March. The manager on the project said I was doing awesome and by the work I was getting out, it was obvious I wasn’t home watching novellas and sipping martinis or something.

I guess it’s that unhealthy work ethic the US has hammered into us. Other countries don’t work as many hours as we do. I also realize I work best at 2 or 3 hours sprints. So at most I can work 3 hours, then one hour break, then another three hours. Any other hours are just the “fake work”.

Meetings. “Looking busy.” Researching. Or just taking tea breaks or whatever. It’s a complete waste of time. I think if I could reduce my hours, even just 35 hours will make a difference! 30 would be wonderful! My commute is a little over an hour and I can almost NEVER get to work on time. I try. OMG I try. But just getting up is an achievement. And then getting there and getting myself in that state to actually work - another achievement. So yeah.

At home, I can get the extra sleep, not have to worry about getting all dressed up and take my time eating breakfast as well as work in a place I’m comfortable in. I don’t have to spend money on commute or lunch. And I’m home that much faster to start dinner. I can even use my lunch to take a nap or run errands that I usually rush to do after work so I don’t get home too late.

I’m glad your boss listened to your feelings. I’m still undecided whether I want to go for reduced hours or working from home. I feel like they’ll be more receptive to the latter. I also feel like I should make sure to tell them in person, but yeah, that’s scary haha. I’ll assume that I’ll have to talk to HR and she’s been great with me so far. I just have to get over that fear that they might think I’m any less of an employee than the others because of this…

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