The Split ShiftThe Work-Life Balance Technique in the Information Age

The Split Shift

We previously wrote about how the pressures of the modern work environment create incentives for professionals, especially men, to fake the hours they work.

A new book out by Laura Vanderkam titled “I know How She Does It” and originally featured in the New York Times, is based on the hour-by-hour time logs from 1001 days in the lives of working mothers earning at least $100,000 per year. The book discusses some interesting techniques used to balance work and home.

One of the more interesting techniques she discusses is “The Split Shift”. Increasingly in vogue with working parents, it entails leaving relatively early to spend time with family, then doing some work after the kids go to bed.

We have seen colleagues do this before and its amazing how shuffling two hours of work can create a change in peoples lives. Parents can choose to work demanding jobs and ensure regular time with family. This creates an important balance that also pays dividends in the workplace. We are surprised that more companies have not encouraged this approach, but if you are a manager, we hope that you will do so.

The split-shift approach also benefits professionals who are not parents. It creates the chance for those professionals to go to their favorite spinning class, or allows them to go back to school and take classes. Regular “me” time can be refreshing. It prioritizes fitness or family, and will make people more effective in and out of work.

Yet, we find that many professionals don’t take advantage of this option. We’ve heard all of the common refrains — “I am just not productive when I get home”, “I’ll just end up watching TV”, “I have so much work, it’s better to power through”. So here are 3 tips to making the “split-shift” work for you:

  1. Create a conducive home-office environment. This does not require thousands of dollars of investment on that standing desk (although those are nice!), but just a reliable internet connection, an ergonomically friendly place to work, and a specific corner designated for work — ideally not near the TV set

  2. Let your partner / Significant Other know about this change of routine and if possible, agree to build a routine together that works. Our non-statistical experiments have shown that its really hard to work when your spouse is watching ‘The Game of Thrones’

  3. Make some adjustments at work. If your colleagues are used to just “popping by” your desk at 7:30pm and to chat about work, that will require change. You might feel self-conscious leaving early, but once you demonstrate that you are actively working and productive later that night, people around you will adjust.

We practice this policy actively here at Tapwage. And we find that some time away from the office allows us to tackle more challenging tasks at night. This gives us the extra spring on our step in the morning when we come to work armed with our newest ideas.

We hope this works for you. Have you had a great experience with the Split Shift, or a more difficult one? Write in to share your story to We would love to hear from you.

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Advice Annie is a team of Tapwage writers and guest contributors who help answer career and workplace questions