To leave or not to leave. That’s today’s question.
When you’re first starting out at a job, oftentimes staying late can work out to your advantage. You show that you’re dedicated, and you want to work hard, learn as much as possible, and put in overtime on every important project. As time goes on, you might start to feel tired. Your social life might slip. Your overtime on projects makes you less excited to get up in the morning. Moods are shifting from positive to negative and irritated.
You’re experiencing classic burnout symptoms, and soon your quality of work will start to suffer. Turns out, staying late at work can be harmful to your personal life and your career. Here are some of the reasons you should consider leaving when you’re supposed to.
Improve Your Quality of Work and Life
Always working overtime can slowly wear away at your mental state. When putting in 100 percent for over six or more hours, you will eventually experience serious burnout down the road. No matter how much money you’re making, burnout will wear away any enjoyment you feel at the job, and higher wages does not always equal a happier life. Before you know it, your work and your relationships will begin to suffer.
However, if you leave work on time, you’ll have more time outside of the office; away from the constant stress that work can often cultivate. You’ll be able to spend more time exercising, catching up with friends, reading, and doing whatever other activities that help you relax and unwind. You’ll be able to find time to be happy and comfortable. Over time, you’ll notice your performance won’t decline, and your outside world will keep you motivated and inspired to create your best work.
Plus, finding healthy ways to reduce stress will mean less conflicts in your life. Burnout and underlining stress can hamper our ability to make empathetic decisions, and can interfere with our emotional intelligence. In the office, this can result in conflicts with our boss or colleagues, which only tacks on more stress and can bleed into our work. Instead, reduce your stress by leaving on time, improve your awareness of your emotions and your needs, and your environment will remain positive. In turn, so will your work.
Finally, studies show that empathy is a declining trait, with a particularly steep drop off occurring in 2005. The University of Michigan indicates that social isolation could be to blame while other sources suspect it might be in part due to increased cell phone use and the overall pace of society. Regardless the cause, overworked, over-stressed and under socialized individuals are likely to have a difficult time being empathetic towards others when faced with emotional, mental and physical exhaustion from extra hours in the office.
Improve Your Discipline
Although there are occasional times when staying late is warranted, for many other situations it gives an excuse to procrastinate. Why leave on time when you can hang out by the water cooler for an extra 20 minutes and just stay late?
Procrastination is the nemesis of productivity. Forcing yourself to leave work on time also forces you to do your work during those designated hours. You’ll be able to buckle down and improve your personal discipline. Work now, or it won’t get done in time, and you’ll suffer the consequences.
Additionally, if you’re a manager of a team, working late can often pressure your employees to do the same. Instead, lead by example, and leave work on time to encourage those below you to also build up this healthy habit. If there are tasks that do require you to stay late, your employees will know how serious the task is, and will buckle down alongside you when they can.
Improve Your Productivity
Jay Bacrania with Entrepreneur did a succinct job of describing this problem:
“When you feel like you can just “do it later tonight,” you give yourself the illusion of having a lot more time than you actually have. By entertaining this illusion, you deprive yourself of the pressure that comes with knowing you have to stop. Committing to leaving by a certain, reasonable time every day creates boundaries, and can give you the motivation to carefully identify and prioritize the highest-yield work you should be doing.”
Psychologists call this state of mind the “planning fallacy.” First described in 1979, the planning fallacy refers to a person’s bias in estimating the amount of time it takes to complete a task. If you’re estimating your own time, you often have an optimistic outlook; whereas is someone else is estimating the amount of time it will take for you, they often have a pessimistic outlook.
When it comes to productivity at work, setting up designated time to complete tasks can often help you overcome the planning fallacy. Instead of procrastinating or underestimating the amount of time you have, you’ll be able to complete projects before their deadline. Your boss will be impressed, and you’ll be a lot less stressed at the end of the day.
Burnout caused by stress and overworking is one of the leading causes for employee turnover and lack of engagement. Luckily, leaving work on time instead of staying late can help prevent everyday burnout. You’ll also appear more disciplined and well organized to your superiors, and your overall quality of work and life will benefit.
Although staying late can often look like you’re dedicated to the job, it can ultimately be more harmful than good. Instead, take advantage of your business’s’ hours and leave on time!
How do you ensure you leave on time? Let us know in the comments below or @thinkproductive
By Katie McBeth
Katie McBeth is a freelance writer out of Boise, ID, with experience in marketing for small businesses and management. She spends her free time being the mother of three cats and a dog named Toby. You can follow her animal and writing adventures on Instagram or Twitter: @ktmcbeth.