Working full-time (sort of)

After ten years as a freelancer, I have a job! Sort of.

In January of this year, I started working with the Unilab Foundation as their Media Relations Officer, and I’ve got this position until July!

How I got the job is a longish story that merits another blog post. What I really want to write about was the adjustment, from freelance to practically full-time.

I’ve written a lot about working at home: the freedom, my control over my schedule, my productivity. So you can imagine it wasn’t easy to leave all that behind. At ULF I come in three times a week. Most people usually work from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM. I try to keep to the same schedule. It’s been a bit of a challenge. Here are a few things I struggled with:

1. Working for eight hours straight.
At home, I work in my office, then I check on the laundry or go to the kitchen to make lunch or dinner. Sometimes I go out on other errands: bank, groceries, shoe repair, drug store. When I finish a task or a set of tasks for one project, I switch to another project or article.

Now, I work, work, and work some more, all day! And I usually spend the whole day on one really big task, or several related tasks. Sometimes it can seem a little monotonous, and I can’t take a break by going to the kitchen or playing with the kittens.

2. Falling asleep at 2pm.
During my first few weeks at ULF, I remember struggling with keeping awake after lunch. No amount if coffee would wake me up! I would struggle to focus, I would stand up and walk around, I would go to the bathroom.

I guess I was running out of energy. I also wasn’t used to being a my laptop for a whole day! When I worked at home, I spent mornings on housework, and I sat down at my desk at 1pm. I had a ritual: after lunch I made coffee in my French press, and I sat down to spend an hour on correspondence. Then writing and other work until 6pm.

At ULF, I’m at my desk THE WHOLE DAY! I guess I’m not used to sitting still so much.

3. Not being able to cook.
When we lived at Yale, I would vent my work frustrations by going to the kitchen and cooking. I would scrounge around the fridge and see what I could come up with. After cooking, I felt better, because I felt like I’d been productive. So I could go back to work.

With eight-hour days, I have no time or energy to make dinner after work. I get home anywhere between 7 to 9 pm, depending on the time I leave the office, and the traffic. By the time I get home, Dad has made dinner and they’ve started or even finished eating.

I make up for it by cooking on the days that I am home, which is once or twice a week. But I really miss cooking.

4. Leaving the house almost every day.
I used to get so grumpy and tired when my schedule forced me to leave the house every day. I would make up for it by staying home most of the following week.

These days, I’m out of the house pretty much every day. I have to be in the office three times a week, but sometimes that becomes four days because there’s an event or a meeting. Then the remaining days in the week, I spend on other business or errands out of the house.

It was pretty exhausting, and people have said I lost weight. I also got sick, back in February, a pretty bad case of hyperacidity. But I think I adjusted eventually.

Now I just assume I’m going to be out all week, and consider it a blessing when I find myself at home on a weekday.

5. Officemates!
Working freelance means you probably still have a team, or even several teams, that you work with on various projects. But those teams are all over the city, maybe in other parts of the country, maybe even in other countries! That’s definitely the case with Mulat Pinoy-Kabataan News Network, with all the media outlets I write for, even with Puzzled Owl.

At ULF, I have actual officemates! I’m on the Comms team, and we work with the different project teams, and we have an Admin and Finance department! With most people coming to work daily, that means that whenever I’m in the office, I’m surrounded by people!

At first I found it difficult to work in the office. There were conversations happening around me. There were meetings now and then. People popped up at our cubicle for consults. I frequently felt distracted, and the effort of being around so many people for the whole day was draining.

I guess I got used to it, because now I can write and work in the office! But sometimes I still need a headset so I can tune people out. 😀

So yeah, even though I’m just a consultant, and I’m only supposed to work at ULF till July, it feels like a full-time job. It’s been an interesting adjustment!

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