The post 6 o’clock dance
As I type this, I’m on my way back from London on an uncomfortably packed and warm train with many dejected looking people. Luckily I haven’t had to commute for over a decade.
While those around me play on iphones and one guy has one of those paper things; I believe it is called a book, I chat with a person I vaguely know and ask how work is going. He describes how exhausted he is from working late 3 or 4 nights a week. It turns out that this is essential to gain new clients and admits that it is hasn’t hurt his promotion or income and more importantly, he enjoys it. But he knows people (he called them drones) who work late with no reward and no real need and went on to explain the post 6 o’clock dance.
There is an unspoken requirement in some companies for staff to work long hours. As we chat about the drones, I wonder if it’s a London thing and after a quick search, I find dozens of articles and research showing that the vast majority of people who stay late at work have no higher productivity than those who leave on time each day.
Why do the I’m-a-hard-worker-because-I-stay-late people do it? It appears that most people only stay well beyond their contracted hours due to peer pressure and to “be seen” to be working late. It’s nothing to do with actually being busy. Employees can feel that they can’t leave until someone on their level leaves first and I am told that is known as the “post 6 o’clock dance”.
Perhaps it’s the culture within a company that implies that an individual won’t progress without being seen to put in the effort, even though they are actually arranging a Tesco delivery or liking updates on Facebook. This seems a waste of everyone’s time to me.
Of course there are times when you need to stay late to finish important work (personally, I prefer to get up a couple of hours earlier and do it then), but it cant be every day or that would suggest the company is inefficient. I’d recommend that if you aren’t being productive and making a real difference, try being a rebel: go home, go to the gym or go to the pub. See some friends, visit family or read your kids a bedtime story… unless of course that your work is fun and fulfilling. I’ve met people who truly love their work and their work/life balance is near perfect, because work is life.
So it seems that, according to my acquaintance, many old style companies forget that healthy employees with a great work/life balance means lower staff turnover, retaining the best people and higher productivity.
I’m lucky that I work for a company that recognises how work/life balance is important and they provide the required support and the technology to improve efficiencies. I have never felt pressured to work beyond a reasonable time and therefore, if I want to check emails on a wet Sunday afternoon so that Monday morning is an easier start, the choice is mine. If I want to sit and read some technical blurb in the garden on a sunny summer evening, I decide if it’s worthwhile and more entertaining than the alternatives.
6 o’clock for me is when I want to be getting ready for a run, not sitting at a desk wondering whether I can now dance. When it comes down to it, I’m not actually a very good dancer anyway.
[Originally posted on LinkedIn]