Don’t stay because you’re afraid what the boss will think if you go home on time (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)Today is Go Home On Time Day.
While the campaign, organised by the charity Working Families, is an excellent opportunity to encourage people to have a healthy work/life balance, it also brings up questions around work culture – such as why there is still a need to highlight a day for people to do something they should do all the time.
Presenteeism has long been an issue in workplaces across the UK, where employees are rewarded and measured on how much time they spend in the workplace, regardless of whether they are less productive as the day goes on.
Last year, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) conducted a survey that revealed presenteeism has more than tripled since 2010. It was a minor survey, with 1,000 participants, but there is further research to support Britain’s obsession with putting in extra hours.
According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), we now work 30 minutes more every week compared to 10 years ago. What’s more, a report by Vitality showed that staying late or working additional hours is having a reverse effect; in reality, presenteeism is causing a loss of 27 days of productive time per employee every year.
Research is telling us that leaving work on time is the better option – so why are we not doing it?
‘Despite millions being spent across the globe on employee engagement, we’re seeing little improvement, yet the simple act of creating a culture where employees can leave work on time, could have a major impact and is often overlooked,’ Amrit Sandhar, founder of The Engagement Coach, tells Metro.co.uk.
‘Although contracted hours may state one thing, the guilt that some employees face when it’s time for them to go home, as senior leaders peer over their glasses and glance at the time, can create a culture that says “you shouldn’t be leaving yet if you are committed and dedicated to the organisation”.
‘And many employees plough on with consequences to their home life.’
Constantly staying late could affect your mental health, personal relationships and cause burnout (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)If you’re always staying late at work, there are many issues that can arise, including feeling overworked, stressed and constantly tired.
However, this can also develop into long-term mental health problems, such as burnout – which was recently recognised as an illness by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
‘Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed,’ according to WHO.
‘It is characterized by three dimensions: 1) feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; 2) increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and 3) reduced professional efficacy.’
Constantly working could also affect your personal relationships and hinder your creativity.
‘Staying late occasionally when there’s a big project or a crisis is reasonable,’ Felicity Dwyer, a Life Coach Directory member, tells Metro.co.uk.
‘But if you are regularly working beyond your contracted hours, this is likely [to] have a negative impact on other aspects of your life, particularly your mental and physical health, and relationships.
‘The brain needs time to switch off and recharge, we simply cannot be mentally active all the time.
‘Creative thinking comes out of a quiet mind, and this means taking time away from work, ideally with our emails and social media switched off.
‘We need time out of doors for our health, and our relationships need time and attention to thrive.’
Productivity tips to help you leave on time
Success coach and entrepreneur, Ryan Jackson, tells Metro.co.uk his top productivity tips.
Ditch the to-do list: ‘One of the major things holding people back is a to-do list. It’s easy to believe that listing countless tasks like this ensures you’re on top of your game, but what we tend to do is fill it with trivial things and low priority items. This just scatters your attention and makes it tempting to putt off bigger ticket items, looking for quick wins so you feel you’re clearing the tasks on your list and having an impact.’
Focus your days: ‘Instead of switching between tasks and different areas of work throughout the day, which requires a constant shifting of focus, aim to devote whole days to certain themes. Concentrating fully on one theme throughout the day helps you to be more focused, and more productive – and if you are interrupted, it’s easier to pick up the thread again. This is not so easy if you are dealing with multiple areas hour by hour, needing to re-familiarise yourself with those different areas of work, each time.
Plan your time: ‘Schedule important tasks into your calendar or online diary, with reminders set – and take action on them at the allotted time. Allocate only a specific time slot to reading emails, for example 30 minutes in the afternoon, or 10 minutes every hour.’
One of the biggest concerns for employees about leaving work on time is fear.
We’re afraid how it will appear to our bosses and worry that they will be see us as less dedicated if we don’t stay late.
However, dedication shouldn’t translate into hours worked, but rather the level of effort put in during the hours you are contracted to work. Good managers will notice your commitment regardless if you stay for an extra hour or not.
If you’re concerned that you’ll get into trouble for going home when you’re supposed to, it might be time to consider if you’re in the right workplace. If pressures of presenteeism are affecting your health or mental health, speak up – you have the right to do so and should not be expected to stay late all the time.
Can’t talk to your manager? Are they a source of the problem? Raise the issue with human resources or another manager instead.
As the saying goes, you should ‘work to live, not live to work’.
Don’t just embrace today as your chance to leave on time. Look after your health and make it an every day pledge.
Four ways businesses can improve employee well-being
Richard Holmes, director of well-being at Westfield Health, reveals his top tips on how employers can do their part in reducing workplace stress and making employees feel more comfortable about leaving on time.
Introduce relaxation zones‘Businesses can introduce schemes and techniques such as relaxation sessions, chill-out zones and exercise classes to help employees unwind and switch off from their workload.’
Create positive and open communication‘It’s important to encourage employees to talk openly and freely about how they feel mentally. This can be encouraged by line managers by ensuring they are approachable and have an open door policy.
‘Organising social activities is a good way to help colleagues get along outside work while making them feel more at ease when it comes to talking about their mental health.’
Offer a flexible work environment‘Employee benefits aren’t just about a high salary or extra holiday days. Businesses that have a flexible work schedule are more likely to retain staff as it gives them the ability to manage a work-life balance.
‘By businesses adhering to employees individual needs (e.g. school runs and participating in hobbies), it will reduce the stress and pressure of everyday life. Likewise, if businesses allow staff to work from home when feeling mentally unwell, it will reduce the stigma behind mental health absenteeism.’
Introduce a workplace well-being programme‘A surge in over-stressed and over-worked employees has led to a rise in mental health absenteeism. One way that businesses can improve this is by introducing a workplace well-being programme which encourages staff to manage and speak openly about their physical and mental health.’
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