February 4, 2013

Working Late: Balance It

By Dr. Ramiro Zuniga

A colleague once told me that there is an unwritten rule about working late. He was convinced that supervisors who leave promptly at the end of the day are not as highly regarded as those who “put in the extra time.” Something about that just didn’t feel right to me.

Make no mistake: I have worked late. It, however, has always been clear to me that this should not be common practice.

I believe that it is more important to have balance in your life. I have often said, “I love my job, but I love my life more.” Yes, there will come a time when supervisors will have to work late. The key is having the right perspective.

Here are a few thoughts.

I don’t think that “putting in time” is the same as doing quality work. I am more impressed with someone who does a great job during the scheduled work day. This, to me, indicates that this individual is highly organized.

I believe that working late for an extended period of time is counterproductive. As humans, we need time to rest and reenergize. I would prefer an employee to come in the next morning rested as opposed to working sluggishly in the days to follow.

You also have to keep in mind staff morale. Overtime pay will cease to be a motivator after extended periods. Regardless of how much employees get paid working overtime, they will reach a point of exhaustion. Add to this the frustration associated with feeling that working late is never-ending. This particular situation arises even more quickly when overtime work is rewarded with compensation time instead of money.

And finally, low morale and exhaustion will most definitely lead great employees to look for employment elsewhere. In their exhausted state, subordinates will feel less responsible for the success of the organization. Because they earn more money and hold a higher-level position, supervisors will be held to a higher level of responsibility. All of this makes it easier for employees to walk out the door.

I close by offering this advice to those of you who are newly in a leadership position: The greatest responsibility you have as a leader is to take care of yourself. How effective will you be if you are constantly tired? Even worse, how effective can you be if your constant tiredness leads to stress and eventual illness?

Concern yourself with performing at optimal condition and not with working late. Exceptional work, not clock hours, will lead to you being successful in your career.

Make staying organized a priority. Each morning, set a goal to complete two or three major items before the day is done. Review your calendar, e-mail, and task lists at the start and end of each day so that nothing falls through the cracks.

Instill organization and planning in your subordinates so that your team is not constantly facing harsh deadlines. Meet regularly to ensure that everyone is aware of upcoming tasks and projects.

Be careful to work late only when it is absolutely necessary. Respect your staff enough to know that they have lives outside of the workplace. Make the most of working late when you can. Buying your team pizza, ice cream treats, or something similar—nothing too over the top, is one way of accomplishing this. And most importantly, be sure to thank your employees for working late, and remind them that it was really necessary.

A cardinal rule: If you are going to ask your staff to work late, be certain that you work late too and that you are the last one to leave.

And remember, “Love your job, but love your life more!”

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