Balancing work and home life is always a problem - especially if you have a job you actually enjoy and a family you actually love.

The traditional 9 to 5 (or 8 to 6) five day week with an hour for lunch is really pretty unsatisfactory. Unless you happen to live right next door to work you are then spending additional time travelling and most evenings are arriving home with most of your best energy gone. The weekends become a frantic rush to cram as much as possible in - including relaxing time. At least the travel to work provides a separation between the two lives - unless you have been suckered into taking your work home with you.

Fortunately in the early days of television it was useful to have staff available for more than an 8 hour day - equipment needed setting up in the morning, rehearsals in the afternoon, and then broadcast in the evening was the routine, with the same technical (and creative) crew following through the whole process.

When the BBC Television unit was at Alexander Palace they devised a shift pattern based on an 10.5 hour working day with a one hour unpaid meal break. This meant that to stay within 40 hours a week a person could only work 3.5 days a week. Transmission went on 7 days a week, so a fortnightly pattern was introduced. 1 day on, 1 off, 1 on, 2 off, 2 on, 1 off, 1 on, 1 off, 2 on, 2 off. If the pattern starts on a Monday that means you work Mon, Weds, Sat, Sun, Tues, Thurs and Fri over the fortnight. It only adds up to 36.75 hour week instead of the then standard 37.5 but the missing 3/4 hr was seen as compensation for having to work a socially disruptive pattern.

Work days are long, but your second meal break is paid time, and basically on work days that is all you do and on non-work days the entire day is yours - you can take and collect the kids to school, bond with the baby, do serious DIY jobs, indulge in time consuming hobbies. With a partner who doesn't work (because TV work was pretty well paid) you can even run a business or a small-holding on the side - many people did.

The downside is, of course, that you are working alternate weekends, and things that happen on a weekly pattern (eg evening classes) are difficult to fit in.

Communication between the two shifts working opposite days becomes a bit of an issue so there is usually a supervisor or junior manager working a conventional five day pattern who can coordinate activities. Sometimes there may also be a junior technician also on 'days' who gets to see both shifts and provides another level of informal continuity.

The basic Ally-Pally pattern is fine for operational people - telecine, VT, Pres and MCR and so on - but in Maintenance departments the single days can be a bit of a pain - often a job may require more than a day so either it has to wait until you are next in or someone else has to pick it up. So at TSW we introduced a modified version - this was discussed and agreed between ourselves before we put it to management who were initially sceptical ("what are they up to?") but saw the benefits for the company in having better continuity. The modified pattern was 2 on, 2 off, 3 on, 2 off, 2 on, 3 off. So the weekends were now 3 days including the Friday.

This was undoubtably the best work pattern I ever had. I was on late shift, which involved a 12:30 start, starting with a hour covering for the early shift going to lunch and then a lunch break - although in practice we mixed up the lunch hours and by arrangement we could have 'lunch' before coming in so start an hour later - this was the norm at weekends. The evening meal break was paid time around 6pm - the early shift who had been in since 7:30 would take their second meal break at the end of their day so could leave at 7pm. Then the end of the day was notionally midnight - but this was before the days of 24hr broadcasting so the late shift always involved some lucrative overtime to take us through to closedown. A really late film with a bit of an over-run could even result in the 'ten hour break' rule being broken - ker-ching!!!