Quit glorifying working overtime
Some days, I notice the time. At 6pm, tabs start to close and bags start to pack. Short goodbyes and see-you-tomorrows ring out.
Other days, I don’t. The next time I check the bottom-right of my screen I see only half past 6.
It doesn’t bother me much either way.
If there’s work to be done for the day, I’ll get it done on that day. If there isn’t, I’d never look for more work to do that can’t be done tomorrow.
In 2018, Elon Musk tweeted an infamous line going: “There are way easier places to work, but nobody ever changed the world on 40 hours a week”. When asked what the correct number to change the world was, he responded: “Varies per person, but about 80 sustained, peaking above 100 at times.” He was subsequently referred to as the ‘shittiest Bond villain’ (which, on hindsight, is really a double negative, but could have also meant that Musk is crap at villainy AND time management, making for a deeper burn).
Of important note though, is that there is absolutely nothing wrong with those who continue to work past stipulated hours, or those who wrap up for the day on the dot. The issue comes when people (especially those responsible for employee performance reviews!), start to shower praise on those who work more than they were contracted to, as if it was a key trait of a high performer.
I had a candidate tell me that he was worried to start at his new company. “I don’t know if I should leave on time - which may make me look lazy - or stay back after working hours - which may make me look unproductive.”
That conversation made me believe that we are forgetting why we work more hours than we are obligated to. Are we actually contributing to meaningful work past 6, or are we trying to satisfy the backward mind of a someone who’s worked that way in his/her heyday, and think that’s the only way up the career ladder?
If you couldn’t finish your day’s work, it’d be very irresponsible to up and leave for the day. But if you’re done, how does going home make you a bad employee?
Employers with the wrong mindset are quick to categorize employees, and in this case: hard workers and lazy ones, in which the earlier work hours beyond what is required of them. In doing this, they make a fatal assumption that someone who works more than 40 hours a week is equally productive every hour. Experience tells you that this can’t be true; math tells you that such workers are paid less per hour, and logic tells you there is then something we can improve in the employee’s productivity or the way tasks are distributed. We haven’t even discussed the very real problem with work burn-out.
The only achievement that forcing others to do overtime when it wasn't needed has is making your employees feel unrecognized for work they do, only hours they put in, regardless of what they've accomplished (or didn't).
So why is it that we still associate overtime with the quality of our employees? Why do we unconsciously serve compliments to someone staying long after we have left as ‘very hardworking’, discounting ourselves? Why do we take pride in tagging #hustling on Instastories?
As Geoffrey James for Inc.com puts it (hilariously), we should be a lot smarter than ‘succumbing to Stockholm Syndrome’ - don’t stay for the sake of getting acknowledgement from a mistaken manager - stay because you have actual work to do you can’t postpone.
So the next time you feel pressured to stay past 6pm, ask yourself a couple of questions:
- Is there a difference doing this tomorrow morning? (Hell, is your client still even in their office?!)
- Are you only staying to impress someone who is gravely mistaken of thinking that overtime equals results?
Let’s not glorify overworking. Instead, let's make every second count and then set aside time left of the day for family, friends, and Netflix.
What has your team done differently to stay motivated during this period?
Share your thoughts with us!