There, I said it. Go the @#$% home. Get a life and go home. What am I talking about here? This article is about having a solid work/life balance plan in place. It is important to give your brain a rest and to avoid the constant pressure of doing overtime. It is important to enjoy life. I am not talking about the occasional overtime needed to finish an important project or to fix a crises situation, but if your normal 8 hour work day turns into a “normal” 9 hour or 10 hour work day every day you do not have a healthy work/life balance anymore.
Having a healthy work life balance is important as it is the foundation that allows you to perform great at work. Many studies have shown that constant over time increases stress levels dramatically. These studies have also reported that the productivity of people constantly doing overtime, goes down dramatically past the 8 hour marker. There is a great study to read here. Make sure to scroll down and look at the chart about half way down that illustrates how dramatically the productivity goes down.
You are (usually) paid for 8 hours of work per day. If you are hourly paid this might not necessarily apply to you, but for salaried people any hour of overtime usually results in you giving away your time for free. Why would you work for free on an ongoing basis? Sure, there might be financial pressure – after all, we all need to be able to pay our bills and we do that with the money we get from being paid at work. There is the fear of losing the job that allows us to pay the bills. But there are too many people working dramatic hours of overtime even without having that pressure. Their jobs are safe, the industry they are in is stable and finding new work is not that difficult.
If you are a manager you can do a lot to help your employees to achieve a healthy work life balance and reap the benefits of having really productive and motived employees. Go the f… home! If you come in early and stay late your employees feel pressure to do the same because the old habit of being seen at work by a manager equals of actually doing work is still alive. Employees will try to be in the office before you and will stay just long enough so that you (the manager) will see them “working” on your way in or out. But the productivity you get out of these employees will be less compared to employees do not feel this type of pressure. So, if you are a manager go home on time and do not stay until the evening hours. Your employees will feel less pressured and will be able to leave after 8 hours knowing that life is good. And guess what – employees who like coming to work will be more productive and they will deliver better results even if they “just” work 40 hours per week.
Conclusion: Working the occasional hours of overtime is not what this article is about. This article is about avoiding the habit of turning 8 hour work days into “normal” 9 hour work days (or worse, 10 hour work days). If your employer expects you to work 10 hour work days every day, but really just pays you for 8 hours then you should either make sure you get paid appropriately or find a new job. And it is no secret that changing jobs usually results in a higher starting salary. As an example I recently left my old employer because the formerly enjoyable job had turned into a nightmare job where 9 or 10 hour work days were the norm. Even if I would work the same amount of hours somewhere else, a higher starting salary would at least make up for the additional work.