Staying late at work has become the norm to such an extent that we often sit down to dinner at almost 10pm. This is fine if you’re holidaying on the Amalfi Coast, less okay if you’re in Croydon. In fact, a new survey reveals we’re clocking up longer hours than ever: 82% of Brits in managerial and above roles work more than 40 hours a week (up from 68% in 2011), while 28% clock up more than 50 hours a week (a 9% increase from two years ago). Indeed, if Dolly Parton were writing 9 To 5 today, it would be more like 9 to 8. Which doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.
Ultimately you do it for the money, and job satisfaction, but working late as a means of showing how much you care about your job is an old-fashioned idea. If it's your company, then great, if not, and you're in a corporate office, it's unlikely your extra hours will make a direct difference to the individuals you work with. The only person it will affect is you.
Sometimes staying late in unavoidable if you’re on a deadline, but if it’s happening regularly you need to address it.
Be honest with yourself: can you feasibly complete all of your jobs by the end of the day? If not then consider delegation. If you are struggling with your work load it might be worth re-evaluating how much you're prepared to 'do' for work. Don’t automatically say yes to work projects if it means staying behind for ages to get the work done, over-time money is great, but it can seriously affect your health.
It's also worth assessing how productive you are during your regular day. Pyschologist Sarah Deadman recommends mentally breaking down a big task into smaller chunks so it feels more manageable; "if you have a major deadline that involves investing more time, it's better to finish your day and get to the office earlier the following morning as your cognitive processes will be refreshed and you'll produce better work,” she says.
So if and when you do leave work on time, how can you leave your guilt at the door? Identify where that guilt is coming from. Have your colleagues made you feel bad, or are you tied to answering the phone?
All the important ideas I’ve ever had have been conceived either while on holiday or when out running, not at my desk. You need to take care of yourself before you can take care of your work. While this isn't a proven fact, studies show, and I agree, you're 'better' when you're away from work.
So get your jacket, get home and have your sausages and mash eaten by 8pm. Because the only time you should dine on Mediterranean time is when you're actually there.