Do you always find yourself working late or not leaving work when you intend to? Do you regularly work long days? Are you currently looking out of the office window and wishing you could enjoy the beautiful summer weather on the longest day of the year?
As an ex-lawyer, I spent the first part of my career answering an emphatic "yes" to all of those questions. I "grew up" in an environment in which long-hours, late nights in the office, cancelled social events and disrupted holidays were the norm. In fact, more than that, it was expected - if someone was leaving on time, they were clearly "under utilised" and had the capacity to take on more work. And if someone wasn't prepared to put in the long hours, it was articulated that they probably weren't in the right profession/firm.
Although working long hours can be a sign of an engaged employee, in every case there is a "tipping point", after which engagement quickly turns to disengagement. This was certainly true for me - I started out wanting to be successful, to do a good job for the client, to be thought of highly by the partners etc. And yet, over time I came to resent how much of my "life" was taken over by work - how I cancelled social engagements so often that I stopped even making them, that I never had the time to exercise or eat properly, and as a result felt overwhelmed and burnt-out. Because of those feelings, I wasn't as efficient or productive as I could have been. Sam Ewing's musing that "It's not the hours you put into work the counts, but the work you put into the hours" springs to mind.
So, if employers want to keep employees happy, engaged and productive, it's critical that they encourage employees to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
This is important not just for employers though - one Harvard study found that setting limits and boundaries at work are a key success tool. “The key trait of successful business people who have true satisfaction in their lives is the deliberate imposition of limits,” said Laura Nash and Howard Stevenson. People who are good at setting limits are able to find the “just enough” point, the authors say, when they had done just enough for a given project or for the day.
Boundaries are also key to maintaining productivity - they prevent the huge drop-off in performance that comes from excess hours (25% and more), fatigue and stress. MRI scans of fatigued brains look exactly like ones that are sound asleep.
21 June is Go Home on Time Day - this is the day to make it happen! We are delighted to support our friends at Working Families in this fantastic initiative to raise awareness of the importance of work life balance.
On the longest day of the year, with the thermometer set to reach 32 degrees in London, what are you going to do when you go home on time? Pledge to #gohomeontime on Working Families' Facebook event page.