2016 is starting with lots of new & exciting changes for us

I just counted up how many times I wrote on this blog the whole of last year and was a little surprised that there were 14 blog posts for all of 2015.

Surprised partially because I really didn’t think I’d made it past a dozen, if even that many. And surprised because I’m not really sure why I haven’t been writing. I know why I didn’t write when Kay was here, but she’s been gone for a long time now, and I still haven’t been writing much.

So I figured I’d pop in here and see if I couldn’t come up with something to babble about for a few dozen words or more. 🙂

And really, it’s been an interesting start to 2016 for us!

At the end of last year, everyone in my department, actually everyone under our senior VP (there’s about a dozen different Sr. VP’s, but each one covers quite a few people in a company of about 9,000 people), was told that instead of working the Monday through Thursday shift for 10 hours a day, we’d instead be working the Monday through Friday shift for 8 hours a day.

This is a huge deal for a lot of people because for YEARS we’ve been working Monday through Thursday. Friday was an overtime day, a day to catch up on things, when people didn’t call meetings so we could come in and crash through some work without getting a lot of distractions and then go home as soon as we were done. Or we could choose to not come into the office at all and instead set up a lot of appointments during that day and not need to take time away from the office to go to the dentist and the doctor and the DMV and all those other time-consuming things.

But for several reasons that we’ve been told and hashed over quite thoroughly until determining that none of them make a whole lot of sense, we’ve been told to work 5 days a week and to add overtime, if necessary, on Saturdays or make longer days of the weekdays. And a lot of people really don’t like this, for a whole lot of reasons.

I am, so far, kind of on the fence about it.

Parts of it are really awesome. For the past several years, I’ve been getting up at 5:00 am. I was getting up at that time when we lived in Bluffton because I had to be out of the house by 5:50 to be at my desk by 6:30 and it takes me about 45 minutes to get ready in the morning. When we moved to Pooler, I kept getting up at that time because I kept telling myself that I should get up and exercise in the morning now that my commute is so much shorter. Instead what I did, however, was get up, make myself a cup of coffee and some breakfast, sit and eat breakfast while doing some reading, and then get ready to go to the office.

Starting the first week of January, though, I’ve mostly been getting out of bed at 6:00, so I’ve been able to get more sleep on average than most nights prior to this — it also means I’m not so prompt about getting to bed by 10:00 at night, but I wasn’t that good about it before, either, and I do try to get there before 11:00, so I’m pretty sure I’m still getting more sleep than I was before this.

Plus, getting up at 6:00 still means that I have 2 hours before I need to be at my desk, so I’ve been doing really well about getting up and exercising for about 30 minutes in the morning. And then getting dressed and ready and still having time to eat some breakfast. This is exciting for me! I feel really awesome exercising in the morning before I go to the office and sit at a desk for hours and hours.

The thing that’s difficult is that we’re supposed to leave at 4:30 and if all of us leave the office at 4:30, it has, on average, taken me about 20-30 minutes to drive the 2 miles from the parking lot at work to the parking lot at our apartment complex. I could, in fact, WALK home faster than it’s taken me to drive home. Unfortunately, the route that I need to take to get home is over the interstate, past the north and southbound exit and on-ramps, in a congested area (see the 30 minute commute problem) that’s also a popular trucking route. There are car accidents on the small stretch of road over the interstate every week because there aren’t any traffic lights on the exits and people are reckless, cutting each other off, jumping through tiny gaps in the flow of traffic, not paying enough attention to the other drivers. I’m nervous enough just driving through it in my car some days. And there’s no sidewalk or pedestrian path, so walking along the edge of the road is, quite frankly, TERRIFYING.

I am still thinking about riding my bicycle once it’s more light in the morning, but I’m not sure if I’ll be brave enough to do that.

The other thing that I’m struggling with, stupidly enough, is just plain the number of hours. See, for a while now I’ve been working between 40 – 45 hours every week. I’m salaried and the company has a policy that the first 5 hours of overtime for salaried employees are not paid. The 6th hour is paid, and the hours after that, at straight time pay. (It’s generally called “take 5” around here. And while it’s an annoying policy, I’ve heard of other companies where salaried employees don’t get paid over 40 hours PERIOD and then are told that they have to work 50 hours in order to keep their job.) I’ve been of the impression that it was expected of me by my direct boss, because of the work that my department is doing (and getting behind on doing), that I work that unpaid overtime to make sure that I am helping my coworkers get their work done. Now, he never came out and said it directly. What he said, during a staff meeting, is that if we feel like we’ve got work that needs to get done, for the benefit of ourselves and the department, then we should make sure to work the hours that we feel are necessary to get that work completed. And that overtime has to be approved before it’s worked. So, since overtime doesn’t apply until I work 46 hours, I’d work 45 hours.

Now, it came out in a conversation just prior to Christmas that my boss didn’t know that I’m salaried. Also, that our department is considered to be working “mission critical” which means that every hour over 40 hours would be paid. I’m really not sure what hours he thought I was working, when I was in the office from 6:30 until 5:00 Monday through Thursday and then again in the office Friday morning for several hours. If he thought I was hourly, it seems like he would have needed to be concerned because hourly people get paid time and a half every hour that they work over 40 hours.

Also, he’s been the gentlemen doing my employee performance and pay review for the last two (three?) years and it’s very clear in my pay review paperwork that I’m not an hourly employee.

But whatever the case, I find myself now trying to stick as close to my 40 hours as possible, since apparently I’ve been going above and beyond what’s actually expected of me. In the conversation before Christmas, my boss (while looking surprised and embarrassed) said that he very much appreciates the work and effort that I’ve been putting in, working those hours between 40 and 45. But since it was clear that I’m not going to get paid now for having worked those hours and if I’m not expected to work those hours, then I might as well NOT work those hours.

Of course, sometimes extra hours will happen, like this past Wednesday when I was at work until 6:00 working with the engineering Lead on a scheduling situation. And, from what it sounded like when I asked my boss about what I should do about those extra hours (leave early Friday, put in for overtime, or “take 5”), unless I’ve requested and been approved for overtime ahead of time, I’m still going to end up “taking 5” anyway.

While I’m on the topic of frustrating use of time, I’ve also apparently not been making proper use of Personal Time Off (PTO). No one ever explained it to me and reading the policy about it didn’t clear things up much, either. So when ever I had to be out of the office for an appointment or if I went home sick, I would usually just make up the time on Friday. It’s not often that I need to be out of the office for more than a full day being sick or anything, other than when I intentionally am taking a vacation. When I wasn’t able to make up a sick day later in the week, I’d put it down as a vacation day.

I guess that’s not what other people were doing. This came to light because the company recently changed the PTO policy and now I’m even more confused than I was before. And the people who were using it (I guess) properly, are really upset. Because if they take PTO and then end up working overtime, then the PTO will not get paid until they reach 40 hours of pay. So, if someone took a sick day Monday and clocked in 10 hours of PTO, worked 30 hours Tuesday through Thursday, and then came in on Friday and worked 5 hours, they now will get paid for 35 hours of work and 5 hours of PTO = 40 hours of pay. I guess before, they would get paid for 35 hours of work and 10 hours of PTO = 45 hours of pay.

Unless it was me, in which case I’d take 5 hours of vacation and 35 hours of work to get paid for 40 hours. And no one ever told me that wasn’t the way to do it. In fact, if I put in a request to my boss to ask if I could take a day off, then he would email me back and say that I was okay to do so, but that he’d expect me to make up the work. Now, in hindsight, I guess he’s saying specifically the WORK and not the HOURS, but seriously, it’s not very clear.

So people are freaking out about not getting paid for the hours that they thought they should get paid and I’m over here going “Wait… You could get paid for that?! And for working more than 40 hours?! Dang it!!”

Which really just clarifies to me that I need to figure out how to communicate with my boss more effectively.

So, I’ll be using PTO now when I go to my doctor’s appointments that are going to have to happen during my regular working hours instead of on my “off day Fridays” and not working more than 40 hours as much as I can possibly help it. And not working so much is good for me anyway.

So it’s been an interesting start of 2016 for me. I’m happy about getting to work later in the day — both for the extra sleep and the opportunity to exercise in the morning, which combined are helping to make me feel really good about myself. I’m happy to know that I’ve got this PTO thing that I’ll be learning how to use properly in the coming weeks. I’m happy that my boss knows that I’ve been putting in more hours than he expected and that he says he appreciates that, even if he’s not going to pay me for it. And that’s frustrating, but I’m going to stop working so long. And the traffic is frustrating, but only for a short distance every day. And losing my free Friday afternoons is frustrating, but the extra time in the morning makes up for it, as well as knowing that I’ll use PTO to go to my appointments.

I think it’s going to be a very interesting year and I’m excited to see what happens!

4 thoughts on “2016 is starting with lots of new & exciting changes for us”

  1. Wow–that is an interesting start to your year. And it’s still January! 🙂 But how exciting that you’re getting more time in the morning. Yippie!!

    1. It’s been lovely! I was sitting and eating my oatmeal this morning, watching the sun rise, and thinking that this is one of the best parts of my day. 🙂

  2. So glad to hear that you have time for some exercise in the morning. Remember, it doesn’t have to be a lot. Just enough to burn a few calories and get your metabolism at a nice high rate.

    It doesn’t sound too safe to ride your bike, unless you can find an alternative route – maybe a bit longer, but safer? Maybe you could just stay at your computer doing personal stuff – playing a game or something – until the really bad congestion has cleared up. You would probably get home just about as soon, anyway, but with a lot less headache! Or how about getting a 15 or 20 minute walk in around the parking lot (or inside if it is raining)? If it was me and it was every day, I’d find something to do to avoid that traffic congestion!

    1. Hey, Mom! Unfortunately, the route that I take home is already the least congested. And if I was staying at my desk, I’m pretty sure I’d just keep on working — there’s always something that needs to get done. And it’s pretty much back-to-back from the parking lot to the light half a mile down the street starting 4:25 until 5:30 or so. So I’d probably have to find something to do for an hour at work. Or, just suffer through for 30 minutes and get home.

      They’re starting to talk about things that they can do to make it better, though! So maybe soon it won’t be nearly as bad as it’s been.

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