Before the pandemic emptied offices and turned dining tables into desks, getting a midday haircut or heading out for 5 p.m. therapy could involve a bit of clandestine choreography: clearing one’s schedule of meetings, finding a friend to cover, then slipping out while the boss was away.
That dance came to a halt in March 2020. And in the absence of commutes and face-to-face conferences, some white-collar workers began defining their own hours, sneaking in grocery runs, medical appointments and naps between job tasks.
Many others found those blocks of reclaimed time quickly filled by new responsibilities, like child care and nursing sick relatives back to health. But the mere existence of such hours raised other questions: How scheduled should a person be? And should relaxation — including and beyond the lunch break — have an official place in the 9-to-5?
Throughout the pandemic, well-heeled employers have offered their charges all kinds of benefits and perks tied to well-being: extra paid time off for parents, free access to therapy apps, Peloton bikes. But what some employees have become most accustomed to is the sense that they can work their hours and block off the rest as unavailable.
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