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Working Late Versus Heading Home

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Over at the Harvard Business Review blog network, Ron Ashkenas asks an important question to professionals: Should you stay late or go home?

Anyone who has ever worked in an office knows what it’s like to see the clock slip past 5:00PM. We all have gone in on weekends, rolled into the parking lot super early, and put in weeks that were well beyond the official forty hours. According to Ashkenas, not only do we all work late once in a while, but the problem is getting worse:

A study suggests that nearly two-thirds of U.S. companies report that their employees have worked more hours over the past three years. It’s likely that there are similar percentages in other countries.

This growing trend is predicted to continue. An unintended consequence of our global, connected world is that customers, clients, partners, and colleagues expect immediate responses to their demands. At the same time, jobs are in short supply in many fields, so nobody wants to disappoint. As a result, more employees are putting in longer hours, and many regularly face the dilemma of whether to stay late and finish a critical task or put it aside until the next day.

The author of this piece admits that he enjoys working late and that he has an “understanding family.” But in reality, most people who work late dodge the real issue. The fundamental issue is the relationship between worker productivity and satisfaction. Just because you’re putting in lots of time doesn’t mean you’re getting much done. Furthermore, people who are exhausted and overworked are among the most likely to stop work due to their dissatisfaction or problems with their physical health.

employee productivity working late

© Flickr user the trial

Ashkenas offers up a good tip for those who may find themselves in a situation where they’re constantly being asked to work late for tasks that could be taken care of in the future:

Open up a dialogue at work. Make it clear to your boss and your colleagues that you are indeed willing to stay late and pitch in if there are legitimate reasons (a client deadline, a customer crisis, a seasonal overload, etc.). But also emphasize that this should be the exception, and not the rule. In fact, if there are constant crises and deadline dramas, you might want to talk with your team about how to redesign the work process so that you’re not held captive to it.

Ashkenas also makes another point:

And don’t stay late just because you want to be perceived as a hard worker. Mostly everyone sees through that ploy.

We covered that issue in a blog post about employee productivity workplace heroics. As we noted then, ” It’s easy to adore people who can achieve amazing feats, but it’s more important to ask why we need flashes of superhuman effort in the first place.”

If you find yourself asking the question about whether or not you should stay or go home, the answer is easy: go home. Unless you are saving lives, the work will probably still be there tomorrow. Come back when you are rested and relaxed. Instead of spending three hours after 5 to get something done, you could maybe get it taken care of in an hour the next morning when you aren’t drained. You may just find a fresh perspective to be the most satisfying approach of improving worker productivity.

Looking for more ways to bring a higher level of productivity to your organization? Need clarification on anything we’ve discussed in this post? Don’t hesitate to reach out to the business improvement consultants at AccelaWork today! We’d love to help!

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