Leading a Double Life as a Trial Happiness Engineer

A topic that comes up every once in a while during a Happiness Engineer Trial is how to balance your “regular” life with your new one at Automattic. Sometimes it can feel a little bit like you’re leading a double life!

Here I’ll share a few tips on how I managed to balance a full-time 35-hours/week job with a 20-ish second one as an HE Trial.

In 2018, my schedule looked something like this:

Work days:

  • Full Time Weekdays – 8am to 4pm
  • HE Trial Weekdays – 6pm to 10/11pm
  • HE Trial Sundays – 10am to 5pm
  • Rest days – Friday evening and Saturday

That’s about 12 hours of work on my weekdays. Not bad.

Many HEs have reported feeling “imposter syndrome,” a feeling in which you worry that you don’t belong and that one day you’ll be exposed as a fraud. When doing the Happiness Engineer trial in your spare time, it can feel like you’re hiding a big secret from your current employer — as if you’re sneaking around like a double agent.

Part of me was envious of those who could take an entire month to focus on their trial. I wasn’t able to do this because of the demands of my full-time role at the time of my trial, though I would have used unspent holiday time to work on the trial if I could have. But here’s the thing: most of us are dedicating as much of our lives as is reasonable to focus on the HE Trial and the important part is we get enough exposure to the job to learn whether it’s something we would want to do full-time and I think that’s the point.

So how does one balance work/personal/work life? Here are some things that helped me.

01Forgiveness

Ask for forgiveness in advance. You will get grumpy, anxious, excited, elated, etc. — all the feels.

02Set Expectations

Ensure that your family knows that you’ll be busy and make sure your expectations are clear. Despite being at home, you’re at work. You cannot step away from 2-3 concurrent chats.

03Share the Load

Offload housework if possible. Where possible, reduce housework or ask those you share this work with if they can help offset some of the duties during your trial. I’m the chef of the house on most days. Thankfully, my fiancé-now-wife found a new love for cooking. I still clean the litter box and take out the trash though.

04Allow Yourself to Rest

Give yourself “headspace” (i.e. weekend). This was something that someone on my hiring team gave me permission to do. A rested employee is an effective employee. Just like in an MMO game, you will gain more XP if you are rested rather than grinding non-stop. Max and relax on days off. Enjoy your hobby, even for a little bit. It’s a return to your normal state. Get back to yourself.

05Give Your Relationships Attention

Bring attention back to your loved ones. They’ve been trying hard too, so return the favor. Go on dates if you have a significant other and intentionally spend time with your friends. 

06Sleep

Get a good night’s rest. Easier said than done, especially when you hit some adrenaline highs and you’re still wired.

And lastly, here’s an important one:

07Give Yourself Credit

Recognize that you are doing your best. You don’t know the outcome until the very end, and nothing is certain other than the fact that you’ve worked hard. This is as much a personal challenge as it is a professional one.

For those reading this and about to become a double-agent, I wish you all the best!

Visit the Work with Us page to learn more about how you can apply to be a Happiness Engineer, too.

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