Today is exactly three months since I leave work on time and am not carrying a laptop under my armpit.
I sleep for seven hours, start the morning with one and not three cups of coffee and spend at least half an hour to have lunch away from my office desk. I renewed my gym membership, remembered the books I haven’t read for a while and stopped feeling guilty about watching TV shows on Netflix. And sometimes I even take a day off!
In the past, I used to talk in an uplifting tone about the time spent working after office hours, on weekends and on holidays: “See how much work I’m doing and what a great employee I am!” And not even to boast – it simply always seemed that the best employees are the ones that work the most and the hardest, are the first to come to the office and the last ones to leave, and on the weekends the security guard at the door addresses them by their name.
While it may seem that the longer you work, the more you manage to do, in reality, it is not true. Studies show that employee productivity drops after a 50 hour-work-week and falls off a cliff after exceeding 55 hours. Besides, long working hours are associated with numerous negative factors: burnout, stress and a variety of health problems.
The loss of health cannot be redeemed with the reached career heights – exhausted employees make more mistakes, have difficulties communicating with colleagues or customers, they lose the ability to make decisions, understand other people and manage their emotions.
So what should be done that the cravings to work more would not get in the way of working well? The first step to getting rid of any addiction is to admit that you have a problem. If you are surrounded by a culture that requires you to work faster and more efficiently (or take the third alternative – work more), it is very easy to ignore workaholism and take it for granted. However, in order to be healthy and feel satisfied with your work, you firstly need to stop and evaluate, whether you are spending too much of your time on it.
Identify, which tasks are most time-consuming. Categorize your work not only by the deadlines but also by their importance and duration. Also, identify the distractions that divert you from the tasks that require concentration. Perhaps it is enough to check your email during certain hours and it is not necessary to respond in real-time to every email you receive? Maybe an important issue can be discussed over the phone instead of going to a meeting? Delegate tasks when possible, avoid micromanagement and postpone assignments that are not very important.
Set limits. Have a separate phone for work and personal business (and do not forget to delete your email from it!), do not bring home your work laptop and turn off Slack notifications at a certain hour.
Plan what to do after work. If you have specific plans after you finish work, you will think twice before sacrificing them. Sign up for pottery class, arrange a dinner with friends, buy theatre tickets or plan a workout at the gym. Not only will this force you to leave the office on time but it will allow finishing your tasks faster and more efficiently.
Good habits start with good examples. If company executives work 60 hours a week, other employees are likely to feel pressured to work as much, or sometimes even more. Healthy work culture is also not enhanced by emails sent after office hours (even if they say that there is no need to reply now), work-related messages on leisure social networks, requests to help on holidays (just one quick question) and a rule to show up at work even if you are dying (with 39 °C fever and a box of Coldrex).
And if it seems that you have tried it all but at night the office lights are turned on by THE SAME one stubborn employee, invite him or her for a chat. Perhaps the reasons for working long hours can be resolved by reducing workload, allowing to go on holidays (rested people work more efficiently!) or simply noticing that managers do not expect their employees to work around the clock.