Ever notice? When you ask someone how they’re doing, they rarely say “fine.” No, just about everybody says “busy.”
Yeah, we’re so busy that we have to work all those extra hours–come in early, or work through lunch, or stay late, or pull a Saturday and/or a Sunday…or all of the above.
Now, I’m not averse to high performing people working long hours. Often the reality is that there is no way you can get everything you need to do done. Too many mandatory meetings. Too frequent interruptions and fires to put out. Just too many tasks to accomplish, even without the interruptions.
I wonder, however, how many managers and employees work long hours because, truth be told, they actually like to? How many get a dopamine shot in their brain when they think of how dedicated and loyal they are, how important their work is (that they have to work extra), how they are a bit of a martyr. Martyrdom can feel really good, ironically.
I recall, when I was the OD manager at Honeywell Canada, working into most every early evening. I felt guilty leaving at 5:00. I felt important staying later, just like those important execs were doing.
If, in fact, we get a subconscious positive rush from exercising our deeply ingrained habits of working long hours, then we have no incentive to become more efficient during 9 to 5. We won’t look to tips and techniques to manage our time and priorities. We won’t build in blocks of time to do serious thinking work. We won’t think twice before calling or attending a meeting.
So, if you manage an employee who exhibits chronic extra hours tendencies, engage him/her in a conversation about how much of that time is necessary and how much is simply due to habit. And if you are that employee, have that same conversation with yourself.