There are days when you need to work long hours and stay at the office 10+ hours. Sometimes it’s just something you have to do and that’s very understandable. Especially when you’re starting your own business, you probably have to work very long hours for a while. It’s okay and you don’t need to stress about it too much. But if you find yourself at the office after 7 pm every evening, you should really pay closer attention to your work-life balance. Working long hours and staying late at the office every day may have some negative health effects, even if you loved your job.
I know that working late is partly a cultural thing. I’ve understood that some bosses even expect you to come early and stay late. Of course, if that’s the case there isn’t much you can do about it. Corporate life is busy these days and most of us have very demanding jobs and it’s not always easy to maintain a healthy balance between life and work. Though, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to do it. So, if you need to constantly work long hours and discussing with your boss and the rest of the team isn’t going to change things, I’d seriously consider looking for some new opportunities. Your health should always be your priority number one.
But if you’re like me and have a full-time, 9-5 job with a flexible schedule, you should seriously start paying attention to your working hours. Leaving the office after working 8 hours doesn’t make you a bad employee. We need to get over with the idea that a good employee is the one who is the last one leaving. Nope, the good employee is the one who successfully completes her tasks. If you do your work well and give your best during those 8 hours you spend at the office, no one should have any reason to complain.
Why working long hours is bad for you
This should be quite obvious, but working long hours everyday isn’t doing you any good. Here are some negative health effects it causes.
- Working more causes you more stress (obviously)
- When you spend most of your days at the office, you have less time to recover from work
- Long working hours leave you less time for hobbies and interests outside corporate life
- It harms your relationships since you won’t have enough time for other people
Stress every now and then isn’t going to hurt you. But if you feel stressed up all the time and barely have time to do all the other stuff (groceries, seeing family, having a dinner with your boyfriend) things should change. Also, I believe that everyone should have life outside the office as well. You need hobbies and other interests to unplug and explore. Those are the things that keep your mind fresh as well and help you to recover from your demanding office life.
I know stress may seem like a no big deal since everyone has to cope with it every once in a while. But stress is actually a warning sign and when you feel it, you’re supposed to slow down a bit. If you don’t listen to it, it’ll eventually lead to burnout. And trust me, burnout is going to hurt your career much more than 8 hour workdays. Working long hours also causes other negative career effects including
- lack of creativity
- lack of self-improvement
Stress and lack of personal time are probably the main causes of creative blocks. Or at least this is my own experience. When you have enough time to recover and do something completely else, new ideas start pouring out of your head like a waterfall. Also, it’s hard to attend any online courses, conferences, classes or improve yourself in any other way if you barely have enough time to eat dinner and go to bed. So, make sure you leave some time for relaxation and self-improvement.
How to get out of the office earlier
First of all, I’m definitely not encouraging you to just leave the office immediately after 5 pm. Definitely not. The secret of quitting those long hours is to work smarter. And yes, maybe even harder. It’s all about productivity. Most of us spend a lot of time doing things that really doesn’t help us to complete things from our to-do list. Talking with our colleagues, checking and answering emails in every 15 minutes or completing those little and easy tasks are the things that are probably hurting your productivity the most.
There are millions of blog posts about boosting your productivity and how you want to do it is all about you. My favorite method to boost my own productivity is the rule of three. It simply means that everyday you set yourself three goals you want to accomplish. This method helps you to prioritize things so that you won’t waste so much time doing the unnecessary stuff. That also helps you to leave the office earlier, if you’ve managed to accomplish those goals.
Of course, no employee is an island and you probably have some coworkers and team members you’re working with. That means you’re not always able to leave when you’ve completed your own tasks. Also, if you’re always the first one running out of office it may cause some misunderstandings in your workplace. So, before leaving early, complete these tasks:
- Double check your own to-do list, are you sure you’ve completed all the important tasks?
- Check your inbox, is there something urgent you need to answer today?
- Ask yourself if leaving now will affect anyone else’s work?
- Ask your colleagues if there’s anything you could help them with
- Inform your coworkers and boss that you’re leaving
If you think you’re ready to go home, just leave. Remember, the work will never be finished and working long hours probably isn’t going to change things. Tomorrow is another day. If you don’t have anything urgent it can wait ’til morning. So, just leave and take some time for yourself, relax, have fun and be ready to rock your career again tomorrow.