Ask The Insider columnist Ashley Lutz answers all your work-related questions, including the awkward, sensitive, and real-world ones. Have a question? Email [email protected]
I’m pretty good at my job, from my understanding.
I’ve never missed a goal, I’m thorough, and I routinely hear positive feedback from my managers.
But one problem is keeping me up at night: I feel like everyone in the office is silently judging me because I never stay late and usually leave before 6 p.m.
The majority of people in my office seem to function on a “the more hours you’re here, the better you’re doing” mentality, but I inherently believe that as long as I’m getting my work done, that’s all that matters.
I often like to make sure that I can hit the gym for a 7 p.m. class — and having time to work out and take care of myself is crucial to my productivity at work.
I also pride myself on my ability to manage time and work over the course of an eight- to nine-hour day. I never leave if there’s a pressing project or deadline.
Still, I cannot help but be scared that people think I don’t do enough work and that I’m uncommitted. Should I just stay late or come in early to show people that I’m committed, even if my work is done? Should I just stop caring what they think?
Anxious About Clocking Out
I once had a mentor tell me that life is like tending to four dishes on the stove, and you can only really pay attention to two at a time.
When you’re killing it at work and meeting all your family obligations, your social life suffers and your time to work out and sleep evaporates. When you’re leaving work early to go to the gym, you fear you’ll be passed over for the next promotion.
Finding the perfect balance is impossible, but achieving peace of mind is not.
Obviously, you don’t want to leave your coworkers in the lurch in the middle of an important deadline. But it sounds like you’re getting your work done and feedback from your managers is positive. Assuming all that, we can talk about the best way to move forward.
Business Insider reporter Shana Lebowitz recently
experimented with cutting back on her work hours for a story. She found no difference in her productivity and found benefits like having more time for enjoying hobbies outside of work.
But, like you, she describes intense guilt at leaving earlier than her coworkers.
The good news is the guilt you’re feeling is probably unwarranted.
Modern companies seem to be growing out of assessing people based solely on “face time,” endless hours unnecessarily spent in the office in order to appear more productive. Lebowitz cites Nordic countries, where employees who work long hours are viewed as inefficient.
I polled senior managers at Business Insider to see how they felt about “face time.” Everyone I spoke to said they focus on the quality and quantity of work rather than whether the employee stays at their desk outside of business hours.
Everyone is entitled to his or her own priorities. How can you spend your time so you are the maximum level of happy?
You know that leaving for the gym is something you need to stay centered and sustain productivity. It’s better for you to prioritise what will sustain you in the long run so you don’t burn out.
Your manager has communicated you’re doing a good job, so you likely don’t need to worry about it. Even so, it may be worth following up with him or her to discuss expectations and ease your mind. Getting reassurance from above might make you feel better.
If your boss conveys that staying late is part of the culture, maybe it’s time to search for a company that will judge you on your impact and accomplishments rather than just “being there.”
As for your guilt, I doubt your coworkers are silently judging you. It’s more likely their brains are occupied with pressing deadlines, family drama, and what to eat for dinner.
In the words of David Foster Wallace, “we’d care less what people think of us if we realised how little they actually do.”
Set your priorities confidently, and you will go far.
Ashley Lutz is a senior editor at Business Insider answering all your questions about the workplace. Send your queries to [email protected] for publication on Business Insider. Requests for anonymity will be granted, and questions may be edited.
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