Today is Go Home On Time Day, as part of National Work Life Week in the UK. Which begs the question, why do we need to be urged to go home on time? And why do we need just a day a year to do that? Why do we feel we need an excuse?
Your company probably isn’t paying you to work past your contracted hours, so why stay? For many of us there just happens to be an accepted work culture that if you leave at 5pm you are somehow slacking off or not a ‘team player’ (read: someone who is willing to sacrifice their time outside work to put in some extra work time to win favour with colleagues or their boss). Colleagues without families moan that those with kids are knocking off ‘early’, when the reality is that most are hammering away at their smartphones and firing off emails into the evening or after the kids have gone to bed to ‘catch up’. When did work expand to fill our home time too?
I’ve worked in Japan, and there the culture is very much you do not leave before your boss, and even when you do leave your should vehemently apologise. And most people are beavering away (or trying very hard to make it look like they are) way into the evening or night. Is that the way we’re going in the UK? Do we just resign ourselves to the long hours culture, even if that means we’re madly underpaid when you look at pay by the hour?
Surely the ones who are out the door at 5pm are just more organised to have finished what they need to do for the day. Or at least that should be the ideal we all aspire to. We would all be much more productive with more rest time anyway, and if we didn’t spend hours after 5pm still checking up on work emails and trying very hard to make it look like we’re still at work.
Rather than 1 day a year, I long for the time when we can all down tools at the right time for us without any sense of guilt that we’re letting the side down. When we can acknowledge that yes, we do have lives and families and pursuits outside of work time. And that work and life in general would be much better if we could strike a better balance between the two.