LET'S TALK ABOUT: how long you spend at the office
Monday, 6 October 2014
I read a feature on The Everygirl last week about how to turn your internship into a job and the first point really really bothered me: be the first in and the last out.
Can we talk about this a little bit? Office culture seems to favour those who work long hours, staying long after the usual 9 to 5 to put the extra time in to make their work pitch perfect, but it is something that has never sat right with me.
I get to work early every day so that I can get ready for the day and start working on the dot at 9am. I rarely stay late, though sometimes I bring work home with me. Everywhere I've worked, at some point or other, I have felt awkward leaving on time every day, like I can't be putting in as much work as everyone else or I must be cutting corners somewhere. It's hard to write about this without it coming off as a massive rant or boasting about the fact that I don't work until 7pm every day, so here are three important points I want to make about the amount of time you spend at the office, and then I will hold my peace forever more!
1. I'm not saying you should never stay late. There will be times when you have more work and times when you have less. But when you stay late every day, or answer e-mails long into the night, you set the precedent that that is the norm. Particularly in the case of turning your internship into a job, if you come in early and leave late every single day, and you get the job, it is likely that that is what is expected of you once a permanent role becomes available. Don't burn out! Set (realistic) boundaries and people will respect them.
2. Be efficient. If you have to stay late working every evening just to get everything done, rather than just looking like you're working, then your workload is too heavy. I really mean this. Is there something you can delegate to a junior member of staff? Is there something you can say no, I don't have time to do this for you until next week? Perhaps you can re-shuffle your routine - look at when you are at your most productive in the day and set that time aside to take care of the tasks you find the most challenging. Maybe it's time to schedule a one-to-one with your manager to discuss ways that you can improve your time management, or areas of your role where you can scale back. If there are a few of you in your team consistently working overtime, it might be time that your manager thought about looking to add another head to your team. Don't be scared to say that you are struggling; no manager (well, most managers) wants to hear that a member of their team is miserable and you certainly don't want to burn out!
3. Be confident in your performance. In one of my first jobs, I actually asked to speak to my manager about leaving work at 5:30pm (my contracted hours). I explained that I liked to arrive early, that I felt I was good at prioritising my workload, and that I was leaving on time every day, but I felt self-conscious that I was seen as not working as hard as others. She reassured me that she was happy with my work and it was really a weight off my shoulders. I know that I am good at my job and that I am working hard and not cutting corners. If I was slacking, and someone called me out on leaving on time, I would not feel okay with myself, but the amount of hours you spend in the office is not a competition. If you are happy with what you have done today, give yourself a pat on the back and go home!
I really don't want these points to make anyone feel bad about working late, but I hope that if you feel constantly overloaded at work that you might find a few things to think about in there. Do you work long hours? How do you feel about getting to leave work on time?