You Can Go Home Late – And it’s Not a Bad Thing

I was browsing my Facebook feed last night and saw four different people (from three different industries) share the same graphic: the one titled “Always Leave the Office on Time.” Let’s get it out of the way: I have a huge issue with the statements on that picture.

Absolute statements are absolutely unhelpful.

The list of seven pieces of advice are always worded in absolutes. By this virtue, it creates a forced duality upon us: you are either one or the other. The duality is expressed in extremes. One either leaves the office on time (and presumably lives a perfect life), or one does not leave the office on time (and ends up in nine different levels of misery).

This sort of advice is not only an exaggerated generalisation, it is also dangerously ignorant of how others make “not going home on time” work for them.

Let’s take a look at this list I’ve come to greatly dislike (I’ve taken some liberties to correct the list’s grammar) – and my personal thoughts on each and every one:

  1. Work is a never-ending process. It can never be completed.
  2. The client’s interest is important; so is your family’s.
  3. If you fall in your life, neither your boss nor your client will offer you a helping hand but your friends and family will.
  4. Life is not only about work, office, and client. There is more to life. You need time to socialise, entertain, relax, and exercise. Don’t let life be meaningless.
  5. A person who stays late at the office is not a hardworking person. S/he is a fool who does not know how to manage work within the stipulated time. S/he is a loser who doesn’t have a personal or social life. S/he is inefficient and incompetent in his/her work.
  6. You did not study hard and struggle in life to become a machine.
  7. If your boss forces you to work late, s/he may be ineffective and have a meaningless life too, so forward this to him/her.

The list concludes that leaving the office on time equates to “efficient“, “good social life“, and “quality family life“, while the opposite equates to “inefficient and incompetent“, “no social life“, and “less family time“.

One set of values isn’t the only set of values in the world.

The author of this list is, for one reason or another, extremely bitter at the cards life has dealt him/her. And I feel sorry for the author.

  1. Work can be completed. At the very least, segments of a larger project or campaign can be. It’s not always possible, but it can happen more often than we think. On numerous occasions, I would prefer to stay an extra hour at the office if it means my entire Saturday frees up. No “homework” to speak of.
  2. I completely agree that our families are important. I also believe that we should take care of the clients who enable us to take care of our families. I believe we can take care of both parties’ interest with careful time management and being tactful.
  3. On more occasions than I can count, my bosses have bailed me out of real world, outside-of-the-office problems. For people like me who live independently (heck, my parents are literally on the other side of the planet), it’s my bosses and colleagues who are often my first lines of support.
  4. In five years in the supposedly toxic industry of advertising, I have managed to make many new friends (including my best friend), take regular vacations, read the books I want to read, build the toys I want to build, hike the trails I want to hike, and be in the best shape of my life. I’m not an anomaly either; my industry is known for people with plenty of hobbies!
  5. This one just makes no sense. Leaving the office early is not always the right decision. It’s about making the decision to do the right thing for the benefit of the team, and for our own good. There will be nights when we need to pull in together until sunrise to deliver great work. There will be weekends we sacrifice to help out our teammates. There will be family dinners we need to miss because a colleague was hospitalised. There could be a thousand other justifiable and totally fair reasons to “work past the stipulated hour”.
  6. Is being a machine so bad? A machine is efficient, single-minded, and produces consistently good work. I’ve always loved identifying the machines in my team; they’re the best ones, and boy do they have social/personal lives.
  7. I have had the privilege of having bosses who lead by example. If great work for great clients demand that the time sacrifice is equally as great, they would be the first to roll up their sleeves and burn the midnight oil. I can only follow their admirable examples of self-sacrifice and hope my effort and contribution somehow helps the cause. And no employee worth his salt would ever insult his/her immediate superior so bluntly by forwarding this ridiculous list.

Hack Sheet:

  • Context is always important. It’s too easy to pass judgment on those who “stay late” at work, but have we ever considered just how much the work they do means to them? Sometimes, the only time we get a chance to learn or teach is after hours!
  • Personal motivations are as complex as they are unique. I’m sure there are some people have miserable homes to go home to, and thus find solace and appreciation at their workplaces. Again, it’s too easy to pass (unfair) judgment.
  • The paths to our successes is our own. There is no one formula to “what works”, and we should always be wary of ‘wisdom’ delivered in absolutes.

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