Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Productivity metrics

I mentioned yesterday as I was wrapping up the post that things were getting back to normal if not already there. One of the more easily grappled-with aspects of normalcy, of course, is the whole job situation, so allow me to elaborate on that a bit more.

My wife was supposed to work every day last week through Saturday, with the exception of Thursday, although she was expected to attend a mandatory work dinner on Thursday night, something she was entirely unenthused about. Of course all of those expectations and supposed-to’s pre-dated the kidney stone hospitalization, and in the aftermath the schedule had been modified significantly. Obviously she didn’t go to work on Wednesday, and although she was discharged from the hospital fairly early on Thursday she was excused from the dinner meeting as well. Friday became a day off, too, and apparently could have easily become the effective Day One of her maternity leave as far as the office manager was concerned. However, there really was no medical reason for my wife to stop working altogether; she hasn’t been banished to bed rest or anything like that, merely advised to drink as much water as humanly possible and perhaps avoid excessively calcium-rich foods in addition to discontinuing her straight-up calcium supplements. (This might not seem like a big deal, and in the grand scheme of things probably isn’t, but since she gave up caffeinated coffee and tea during the pregnancy my wife has been using hot cocoa as a placebo, and Swiss Miss prides itself on being high in calcium.)

Mmmm, reconstituted spray-dried dairy product ...
Also it’s more or less understood that my wife will only take about three months maternity leave, total, so every day not punching in now is one day sooner she’d have to punch in when the baby is only a couple months old. So the office manager’s heart was in the right place, trying to tell my wife to just stay home and relax and stay healthy and let her colleagues worry about covering appointments and whatnot; she just didn’t think through the whole truncated post-partum leave angle the way my wife did, and thus my wife graciously declined.

So by Saturday she was back to work, though only for a half day, and Sunday had already been scheduled as a day off, after which she’d be on Monday through Wednesday. Those weekdays have been reduced to half-days as well. We shall see what happens on Friday and beyond, but mainly it’s highly comforting to feel like my wife’s employer has her personal well-being somewhere on their list of priorities. They were accommodating about hiring her while she was pregnant with the little guy and bringing her onboard just as she was transitioning from her first ever maternity leave, and they’re still accommodating for baby number two. There are myriad things about the job that drive my wife (and me, by proxy) crazy, but now and then we’re reminded that in many ways it really is a positive place to work.

My work schedule, on the other hand, is a bit more rigid on a day-to-day basis, so basically I had to burn a couple of paid days off for Wednesday and Thursday last, then come back for a full day on Friday and for the foreseeable future. This leaves me, as of today (which is one of the two Tuesdays per month when leave time accrues) with a little over one day of paid time off to my name. I think that might actually be to my benefit, in a weird way. All along I’ve been thinking of my paternity leave as essentially unpaid, because it was always going to be longer than however much leave I could accrue plus life has unexpected ways of forcing my hand on using leave time, anyway. And I had been mentally rolling around the idea of writing my boss an email and preemptively explaining that although I had three days off coming to me I’d just as soon take every single day of paternity leave as unpaid FMLA, and come back in two or three weeks, and keep the three days in the bank … because I’ll need three days off for travel and various activities associated with my wife’s brother’s wedding in mid-June. I think that’s a reasonable way to handle everything but I still just instinctively recoil at the thought of having to outline those kinds of number-crunching machinations for official approval.

If my wife were to go into labor the morning of Friday, April 8th, she’d be one day shy of 39 weeks and that would feel just about right (apparently her doctor doesn’t want her to go all the way to 40 weeks anyway). I could burn a leave day on Friday, which would not only complete the week but the pay period, and then I’d take the next two or three weeks off unpaid, and then start accruing again when I came back. Which would not get me up to three days in the bank by mid-June, more like only two, and so I’d have to get permission to go into a negative balance for leave at that point. I have a hard time explaining why the thought of that conversation bothers me less than the hoarding-leave-for-later conversation, but so it goes. If any other sequence of events prevails, from the baby being born on a Wednesday to staying put past her due date, I’d rather just take it all unpaid and sort out my leave balance when I get back. But we shall see.

The other element which I fully do not expect the baby to take into consideration is my imminent office relocation. It seems almost definite now that my group will be heading to Crystal City on or around April 21st or 22nd, which seems highly likely to be one or two weeks after the baby comes, meaning I will still be on paternity leave and I will miss it. Some people might view that as a blessing but I would be slightly bummed. Associated with the move will be at least one or two days where everyone wears jeans to the office in order to pack, as well as one or two (or many many more) days when the new computer network is non-functional and there’s little to no work getting done. It almost seems unfair to be home doing nothing and not getting paid when my colleagues are at the office doing nothing but very much getting paid. Ah, well. Being home with my entire family has a certain value that transcends the usual paycheck-earning, at that. It’s just going to be odd, maybe even downright surreal, if I pack up most of my work stuff in advance, then stop showing up one day because my wife went into labor the night before, and then come back to a completely different cubicle/office/building/neighborhood a week after everyone else has already settled into the new digs. But there are worse fates, I suppose.

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