The average American worker spends almost 9 hours a day at work, and only 7.5 at home, which let’s be honest is a sad, sad statistic. Not only is it sad because you are spending so much time at the one place you don’t want to be but, it also has devastating effects on your work life balance, health and job satisfaction. To make things worse, some people spend even more time at work than they should! The question is how late do you stay at work?
There are a lot of rules when it comes to corporate life: don’t leave the coffee pot empty, clean up after yourself…always wear pants. Although those office rules are pretty straight forward some are slightly more nuanced, like hierarchy and more pertinent to our topic, when to go home. Just to make things even more confusing, this also differs depending on the country you live in.
For example, in Japan employees only leave when their bosses do, but in western cultures, although some people agree that’s the correct etiquette, most bosses don’t mind if you leave before them. Just to add another layer of complexity the time people leave might be affected by coworkers and the time they choose to leave.
You’re Fare Share
If you are working on a team project and your teammates are still working on it when it comes quitting time, then you might want to stick around. By leaving you might be sending the message that you don’t care about the collective effort and that you have no problem burdening them with your workload.
If it becomes habitual, then you might want to have a sit down with your team and see if they would consider leaving earlier than they usually do. This will show your coworkers that you are dedicated to the project, but also care about your life outside of the office.
The one thing that will keep you in the office longer than you’d like is an impending deadline. Due to the constantly fluctuating demands of the contemporary market, deadlines are frequent and tight. How can you avoid tight deadlines? Unfortunately, you can’t, just suck it up and get it done.
If you see that your work/life balance is suffering immensely you might want to consider delegating tasks or even foregoing projects altogether (if you are in the position to do so). You should always stay on top of your regular workload so when a tight deadline does rear its ugly head, you won’t have to balance your normal workload with the extra responsibilities to meet the deadline.
A 1993 study published in Psychological Review showed that periods of deliberate work (or practice as the study used violin students as their subject) and breaks were more effective than long periods of medium work. The most successful students surveyed for the study usually practiced with great focus for 4 hours and then took a break and commenced working again late in the afternoon. Embracing and capitalizing on your most productive periods of the day is crucial. Not only does this help you optimize your work time but it also can make you avoid stress, fatigue and mistakes.