Is It Worth It To Put In Extra Hours At Work?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about working early and late:

I have a habit of reporting to work one hour earlier than everyone else and leaving at least one half hour later than everyone else. However, I feel as though I get nothing accomplished. Can this hurt me in the long run?

Signed, Working More But Enjoying It Less

Dear Working More But Enjoying It Less:

You ask if your work hours can hurt you in the long run. I think you mean, can it hurt how you are viewed by others, not can it harm you personally. However, I will answer your question from both perspectives since I think they are linked. Many people like to get to work early so they can get things ready for starting to work at the regular time. Many people leave later as a way to wrap things up at their leisure and avoid the traffic rush.

Generally there isn’t any harm to that, but in some cases there is.
1. Extended work hours can become such a habit that working regular hours can seem to be arriving late and leaving early…even to those who know your schedule. An employee told me that after several years of staying later than everyone else he started leaving promptly on time. Several coworkers made remarks like, “Must be nice to cut out early.” He reminded them that his work schedule was exactly like theirs. They they were surprised because they thought he was supposed to leave at a later hour!

2. Those who come to work on time and leave on time may resent those who seem to be martyrs to work and who imply, by their work hours, that they are too, too busy to get everything done in regular hours. Or, that they are better workers because of the extra time they devote.

3. Bosses may feel concerned if they see someone is working extra hours, because, unless there is a work product produced in that time, it may seem that the employee has an ulterior motive–more money, more attention, use of equipment or supplies, or other reasons.

4. The employee may feel the strain of so many hours at work and start to resent coworkers, the boss and others.

5. The employee may not be able to get very much accomplished because others aren’t around for communication, approval or passing work along. Thus, the employee may work more but not really fill the time as well as hoped.

6. The employee may be seen by others as being needy and grasping for approval by working more and more hours.7. The employee’s family may resent the early starts and late coming home times.So, there are plenty of reasons to keep to the regular work schedule unless you’re assigned something different now and then. On the other hand, as I mentioned, there are enough good reasons to have extended work hours that many people do it–some do it habitually and perpetually.

The biggest issue for you seems to be that you are doing the extra work but feeling that you are getting nothing accomplished. Try assigning yourself specific things to do during the extended time. Or, keep a journal of the things you do, so you can see a list of work accomplishments and feel better. You could also use the time to do tasks other than your regular work, like deleting old files or developing new file folders on your computer.

If you’re wondering whether to continue your extended work schedule, consider only doing it two or three days a week for awhile and see how that works. Or, continue coming to work early but start leaving for home on time. See if you are able to do all that you need to do with that schedule.Also, see if anyone notices your decreased hours. Sometimes extended work hours are a subtle or even subconscious way to get praise or to show dedication. If no one is noticing anyway, the employee may as well be at home! If there is no requirement for you to report to work early and stay late and you are not getting anything special done during that time, you may find you can add to work enjoyment by keeping to the required time. You may also reduce negative feelings others have about it, if you have noticed that they do.Best wishes to you as you consider this issue. It’s not a major one but can create problems if the circumstances aren’t right for you, the work and those with whom you work.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.