There is one thing everyone has done and many keep on doing at work and it is working after hours. I’m also one of those people who at first did not really give it much thought. But at some point when the negative effects started to weigh in I realized why we live in a world with a set number of working hours.
There is a reason why usually we work for 8 hours a day
Everyone gets tired. The average time during the day that you are productive is about 4 to 5 hours. Those 3 hours left are for socializing, organizing and having some time to take breaks. Back in the days work started with the sunrise and continued until sunset. There were no set working hours and it should mean that a lot more work was done. However that is not true.
A statistic you can check at A life of productivity shows how productivity drops after you exceed the 35 hours a week. The negative effects don’t show at first but with each passing week you can see the productivity levels dropping.
Working after hours does not always mean you are a hard worker
Spending more time at work does not always mean you are working hard and contributing more. There are exceptions, I agree. I also had some projects with impossible deadlines that required me to stay late. However what one experienced manager once told me was that all employees in his company have 8 hours a day to do their work. If some can manage in 8 hours and some cannot then there is an issue he needs to adress with those working more.
There should always be a line between work and personal life
It takes a lot of effort to separate one of the other but it is quite important to do so. You have a limited amount of time each day. The more you spend at work the less you spend with your friends and family.
I recently read an outstanding article by Shane Rodgers about The career advice I wish I had at 25. He points out that you will regret all the big and small occasions you did not spend together with your closed ones because you were working after hours. There is no job in this world that will compensate you for those missed opportunities. Keep that in mind.
There is also a famous saying about how no matter how much you work there will always be something more that needs to be done. Remember this and try to set yourself a limit when it comes to staying late too often.
You reach your peak during the day and decline towards the evening
For most people the best time to deal with complex tasks that require a lot of effort is during the morning hours. Many identify this as their peak for performance and it makes sense. You are well rested, energy levels are hight and your mind is sharp.
Based on the circadian rhythm the early afternoons are best for tasks that require you to communicate and stay mentally awake. So usually this time is most suitable for meetings, calls and even communicating with colleagues around the office.
As the hours pass you complete task after task and finish a few meetings. It is natural that your mind and body start to get tired. You feel more lazy, demotivated and get easily distracted. Drinking coffee, fresh air and a quick break helps but only for a short time. When you reach this moment it is time to stop. You might be able to do a bit more work but it will probably take you more time and you might compromise on quality.
It gets harder and harder to disconnect from work
Nobody became a workaholic in a day. At first you start working after hours once or twice a week. In no time it increases to 3-4 days a week. Suddenly you spend time on your laptop even during the weekends. You create a sort of a habit that keeps pulling you and is hard to get rid off.
There comes a day when you realize that you are so used to working all the time that it feels unnatural to not do it. The bad thing is that you keep bringing your work everywhere you go. It suddenly becomes your main interest and when you meet friends all you talk about is work.
I’ve seen this countless times and even had a brief period where I was that person. You really have to try hard and set your boundaries. One thing I did was to train my brain for months to just shut down about work once I stepped out of the office. I still get calls on weekends and when on vacation but try to filter them and answer the ones that are a true priority.
Work is work and we all need it to be able to have the lifestyle we want. However we often tend to forget that it is exactly that why we are working – to live and not the other way around. Working after hours is bad for you because it brings more stress not just on you but your closed ones. Even if you get well payed for those extra hours really think about the real cost behind spending more time at office than where you would like to be.