Work/Life Balance: How to Negotiate "Normal" Working Hours

Why Are Normal Working Hours Disappearing?

When offered a job, you are usually told the hours you are supposed to be in the office (the hours you are technically paid for).  For most office jobs, it is some variation of 9am-6pm, give or take an hour or so.  But how many of us actually stay at the office within those exact hours?  I’ll bet most of us stay late every day.  

What ever happened to going to work for a normal amount of hours?

What has become of “normal” working hours?  Why do we no longer abide by them? We know that some projects require extra attention and therefore more hours (which may or may not provide you with overtime pay).  

"But how did we get to the point that 8pm was a normal hour to leave instead of 6pm?"

Is all of the work you are doing so pressing that it must be done by 8pm?  Can it not be left for the next morning?  On another note, does your team stay late?  When does your boss leave?  When does your assistant leave?  Does anyone operate on set hours?  Is everyone on their own when it comes to leaving?  Or do you wait for permission to leave?

What I Learned at My First Jobs

From personal experience, I noticed that it was the norm to be dismissed.  Someone told you when it was time to leave and that was based on how much work you did and how much work they did.  No one wanted to be there alone; we were all in it together. But I often found that people were waiting on other people, waiting for this dismissal that would allow them to leave and have a life.  When the dismissal didn’t come as expected, people became agitated and resentful

How did we let it become a dismissal?  Are we not trusted to get our work done or leave when we feel good about the status on a project?  Is it “if I have to stay, then you have to stay too,” as in misery loves company?  Does it matter if we are actually doing work during those later hours or that we are just physically present as a support system?  I believe it is all of the above.  

How to Create a NEW Normal (For Work Hours)

There are absolutely times when it is imperative to stay late at work to meet a deadline.  For all of the other times when work can be left to the next day, politely tell your boss, “I have finished X project and will be working on Y and Z tomorrow.  Have a good night!”  For the more passive employees, add in, “Is there anything pressing that must be finished this evening?” and hope for the best.

How does your office deal with the hours you work?  Are you on a flexible or rigid schedule?  Do you have to be dismissed?  Is it frowned upon to leave at a certain hour?

About the Author: Diana Antholis

Diana Antholis is the founder of the online young adult guide Enter: Adulthood and is also the co-founder of the online network Performance Advantage Inc.. Diana’s M.A. is in Organizational Management from The George Washington University in D.C. and her B.S. is in Advertising and Marketing Communications from the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC. Check out Diana's blog to see more of her great recent work.

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