I came across an article a few weeks ago which struck a chord with me. It references the importance of leaving work on time. It’s not that I think that the author is wrong about this. The part that really got to me was the categorization that those stay late in the office are “losers”. I have a problem with the negativity and incorrect assumptions that come across from his statements.
Confession: I am a workaholic. It comes from a strong ethic that my father had, and the fact that I wanted things to be right – all the time. I am also a control freak, and like things done in a particular way. Beyond that, I came from humble beginnings. I believed that, if I wanted to avoid returning to my old life, that working hard was the way to do it. So, it just became what I did. I’m not saying that it’s right – but there were reasons why I did it.
So, back to those statements. I do believe that Mr. McGregor has a valid point when it comes to leaving work by a certain time. Here’s what I agree with (and I’m paraphrasing):
- Work is never-ending.
- The interest of your client base is important. But – family is always first priority.
- Life is not only about work.
- You did not spend all that time studying to struggle in life or become a machine.
And…that’s pretty much were my agreement ends. I have VERY strong issues with these following points (again paraphrasing):
- If you fall in your life, the people at work won’t help. Your friends and family will.
- A person who stays late is not a hardworking person; they are a fool that does not manage time. They are a loser who doesn’t have a life. They are inefficient and incompetent.
- If your boss forces you to work, they too may be inefficient and have a meaningless life. Forward this to them.
Talk about negativity. Sure, there may be some instances where this is right, as nothing is absolute. However, to categorize people in such a pessimistic tone isn’t motivating. I can’t imagine what it must be like to work for someone who has this kind of negative attitude towards work.
Personally, these statements are far from the truth. I am in the midst of a difficult time in my life, and I can’t tell you how supportive people at work have been. Obviously, they don’t help as much as my family and friends have, but that’s my choice. Also, before my pregnancy and even during, I worked 12+ hours a day. I’ve worked during hours when many of you are sleeping. Guess what? That’s the nature of my job. I wasn’t always asked to do it.
I do my job well, and I’ve built a good reputation for what I do. Sometimes, projects that I’m on are just like that. Doesn’t make me a loser. I work hard at what I do, and I’m extremely proud of it. It gets hard, and sometimes I feel obligated to do the time. That speaks more to my work ethic, personality and personal beliefs.
The people who work longer hours aren’t necessarily inefficient or incompetent. They may need to work due to the demands of a specialized schedule, a lean network, a project, or a demanding industry. They may need to do this to survive. They may just really like it. Who are we to judge that? Are people in healthcare, law enforcement or legal work losers? Labeling people this way is ignorant and demoralizing. Oh, and forget about forwarding the negativity to your boss. It may not go well since you’re calling their lives meaningless. Talk about burning bridges.
I think what we really need to focus is on is how difficult it is to accept that a work-life balance is possible. So many of us can’t seem to figure that out. I didn’t for a very long time, and I lost a lot because of it. Often, I would find myself in the office hours after others had left. If I was at home, I was checking emails on my phone and responding accordingly. It wasn’t really a surprise if I was working on the weekend. I wasn’t always made to do this.
Again, it didn’t mean that I wasn’t a hard worker. I wasn’t inefficient either – I had achieved quite a bit in my field, and I’m very much competent. My problems just meant that I never q figured out what worked for me, and I never took time to really think about the work-life balance.
The job became my identity, which sometimes was great, but sometimes not. On the outside, it may have seemed like my life was meaningless. However, that just wasn’t the case. There’s a difference when you work like this by choice. I still had values and things to look forward to. I still had goals and purpose. It was just I didn’t prioritize them correctly in conjunction with my personal life.
Now that I’m a new parent, I had to figure out that work-life formula right away. In the end, the balance looks different for everyone. . So far, this is what I’ve had to learn since returning to work a month ago:
- Not every day requires me to stay late in the office. For those days, leave on time and do not feel bad about it. You put in the work. Go home on time as much as your responsibility allows.
- It’s great to be a goal digger. It’s awesome to be the superstar at work – but what’s wrong with being 100% instead of 150%? People appreciate getting quality work done on time – don’t put too high of an expectation of yourself, otherwise, you’ll feel worse for just putting in the 100%.
- For the days that require you to stay late, understand that this is a part of your job. Just do what you have to and get the job done so that it’s not every single day. Don’t stress over it. It happens.
- If your job becomes too much, and affects your personal well-being and your balance, think things through. Prioritize and figure out what can be done to improve your situation. Ask for help if you need it.
- On a crazy day – do something for yourself. Get up for 10 minutes and walk around. Take the long way to the restroom. Say hi to a coworker.
- Take the lunches. The whole hour if possible. It might not happen every day, but when it does, you’ll feel better. Don’t eat at your desk either!
- Keep in touch with your friends and family – daily for those that are close to you, weekly for your friends. I send random hello texts to people to see how life is going for them.
- You need time off to unwind. This could a walk with the family, a movie, a book, whatever. I look forward to the time I’ve set aside to spend on my hobbies and seeing my friends and family.
- Most importantly, work is important, but not as much as you’ve led yourself to believe. A job is what you do, but it isn’t who you ARE. Remind yourself of this every time you overextend yourself at work
It seems like a long list, but what it really gets down to just knowing what’s realistic. I know that I have some weeks in the coming months that are going to be hectic and long. I also know that I can pick and choose certain days where it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s definitely a work in progress. Workaholics develop these habits over a long period of time – so it will take longer to get better. Being a new parent helps, since work is no longer the top priority. I think a better way of saying is – when you look back at what you’ve done, would you feel regret or satisfaction? That’s the key I think – really acting on the belief that your life and well-being comes first.