I was browsing through my LinkedIn feed today (which is a topic worthy of discussion another day) and I came across the title of a blog post that asserts that you should leave the office on time every day. Here’s the image that asserts this and then gives seven reasons why you should leave the office on time.
What do you think of this idea? Do you agree that you should leave the office on time? Are these good reasons to leave the office on time?
As I read through this I had three major thoughts pop into my mind. First, the key to getting out of the office on time is to work hard during the hours you’re supposed to be in the office. If you take a 2 hour lunch, spend a half hour talking sports with your co-worker, get distracted looking at cats on Facebook for a half hour, then you haven’t been working hard and you’re responsible for providing an honest days labor. However, if you work hard, plan effectively, and get stuff done, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be ok to leave the office on time.
What’s interesting in the startup world is that they wear the number of hours they work like a badge of honor. It’s almost like a rite of passage for them. You’re not a real startup company if you’re not working 16 hour days at the office. The problem I’ve had with this is that these startup employees aren’t working 16 hours per day. They might be in the office 16 hours per day, but they’re still only working 8-10 hours of those 16 hours. In many cases, those long hours become a lifestyle job. You’re going to get your play time and socializing time in. Startups just often choose to do it at work, while claiming that they worked “16 hours”. For some people this makes sense and can be a lot of fun, but let’s be clear that you’re not working those long hours. You’re just at the office those long hours. But I digress…
The second concept I thought about leaving the office on time is that doing so will make the hours you do work more effective. Most jobs require creativity and focus. Taking a break from the work and doing something that’s not related to work will help you be more creative and more focused when you are working. Plus, interacting with people outside of work will give you an added perspective that will make your work better. If you spend 16 hours a day at work, you live in a bubble and miss out on learning from other people. Leaving the office on time and engaging with other people can make the hours you do work so much more effective.
Finally, while I agree completely with the concept of leaving the office on time, I wouldn’t go so far as saying you should ALWAYS leave the office on time. Sometimes an extra 10 minutes finishing something for a colleague can be incredibly valuable. Sometimes there’s a tight deadline for a major project and you need to put in some extra hours a few nights in a row to meet the ambitious deadline.
These short sprints where you don’t leave the office on time are totally reasonable and can actually be a lot of fun as you create a bond with your team. The problem is when staying late at the office becomes the normal. Then, you’ve got problems. Like most things in life, all it takes is balance. I realize that it’s much easier said than done. However, I think it’s much easier to accomplish this today than it was a decade or two ago.