Helping the Chronically Overworked Find Life Balance

Would You Ever Consider Leaving Work Early If You Are a Leader or Key Stakeholder?

Chapter 8: Secure Your Community Part 7

In the last post, I have tips on how to leave work early if chronically overworked.   I shared the post on the HRB site on LinkedIn, and the response has been explosive. The 58+ comments  run the spectrum which I summarize as

  • A good leader creates an environment where things can run smoothly even when they aren’t there
  • As long as you are reachable by phone, it’s ok.
  • Don’t leave too often or other people will start leaving early too.
  • “Leave whenever you got to as long as work is being done or is getting done per expectation & standards”
  • It is more about the mental connection to work than whether you are physically at the office or not
  • Some people didn’t feel they had the freedom to leave early even if they wanted to.

I think there are two issues to consider when deciding whether you can leave the office early:

1. Can you leave without the organization falling apart?

The answer to this needs to be yes.  If it is no, either the organization is not well led, or does not have the right people.  What could happen in your absence?  Will it impact the revenue number?  Will it hurt customers?  Will it send anyone to jail, or create a flag for auditors?  Unless the answer is yes, don’t even worry about it.

2. Can your ego survive if the organization doesn’t fall apart in your absence?

I hate to admit it, but one upon a time, for me the answer would have been no.  (And if I’d been laid off when that was true, I would have been devastated.)  If you’ve read Chapter 7, Secure Your Identity, you are already thinking about this issue.  Many people (including me) suffer from the Illusion of Control, a belief that we have a much bigger impact on the outcome than we actually do.  And when there is trouble in other parts of our life, work can serve as a refuge.  (See posts here and here for more.)

Which is more important to you, the work or the people you are with?

Let’s say you have left the office for an hour to have lunch with a friend or to coach soccer for a child.  The phone rings.  Let’s assume that the reason for the call is “legitimate” and that you will “add value” to the business by answering it.  Should you take the call or call back when you are finished with lunch/practice?  At least for me, once I got a work call or email there was no turning off the thoughts.  And then I was no longer present for the people around me.

Imagine you are with someone at lunch, their phone rings, they peak at the caller id and say “it’s my boss and it’s the end of the quarter, but you are more important to me.”  They turn off the phone and put it away.

How would you feel being that person?   What are the long term benefits for you of making other people feel that way?

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