I once had a boss who would walk around the office at 5:05 to see who was sitting at their desk and who had already left for the day. He said that if you were able to leave at 5 every day, you didn’t care about your job.
So, we all sat around for an extra hour a day twiddling our thumbs so as not to arouse his suspicion. Sure, some days we had plenty of work to carry us to 6 or later. But, other days… not so much.
It was always especially tough for me. If there’s one thing I do really well, its manage my time. I’m the type who would rather work through lunch than stay late and I often manage my day down to the minute to make sure I get everything done on time – and done well.
So, sitting around every night just for appearances made me angry. Shouldn’t your work be evaluated based on… well.. your work? Not how many hours you punch on a time card?
What my boss wound up doing was giving me an incentive to be less productive (what was the point in getting everything done by 5 if you still had to stay another hour anyway?) and resentful. I asked for extra work, but there wasn’t always more to do (if there was, I did it, of course!) – which made me that much more resentful… What was I supposed to be doing for that extra hour or two if there wasn’t more work to do? All in all, it was frustrating.
Nowadays, I have a different problem. There’s always more to be done at my current job. I have ten thousand things on my to do list and enough work to carry me for 24 hours a day if I wanted to.
But, I’m still only working a 40 hour-ish week. Definitely never more than 45.
Well, I’ve come to realize that once I hit that eight hour mark, my productivity declines dramatically. An assignment that takes me an hour to write at 8 a.m., takes me three hours if I start it at 6 p.m. After about eight hours of work, my mind starts to feel the pressure. I think it simply gets tired.
And the quality goes down. Sometimes, I’ll look at something I wrote at the end of the day and realize that I spent three times as much time on it and it absolutely stinks.
So, what’s the point of working late then? Isn’t it better to work only in the times when you’re the most productive and only put out the best product?
I think so many people nowadays have this idea that the longer you work, the harder you work. They see it as a reflection of how dedicated you are… how promotable you are… how important you are…
But, a lot of the time it’s just a show. Just like the performances I used to put on for my old boss each night.
The best workers are the ones who don’t have to tell you how hard they work or how dedicated they are. They show it in their work.
Take a look at your average workday… how much of the time are you really productive? When you stay late, is it worth it? Food for thought.
Read more from contributing writer Jennifer Lee Johnson on her personal finance blog, The Next Rich Girl, or follow her on twitter.