In today’s corporate culture, there is no such thing as a true 9-to-5 job anymore. Technology has blurred the lines between work hours and free time, and many companies foster competitive environments where employees feel the more hours they clock each day, the better. So how do you know just when it is okay to leave the office for the day and head home?
When you should stay
If you’ve got strong momentum on a project and you don’t want to stop simply because the clock struck five. There is nothing wrong with riding a wave of productivity. Many employees actually get their best work done after the office thins out. The atmosphere quiets down, allowing them to focus more clearly on tasks.
You should also stay if you are on a deadline and you will miss it if you pack up and head home for the night. If you miss your deadline, you don’t want to be called out for leaving “early,” before your work was complete.
When you should go
Inevitably there will be days when you find yourself staring at your computer screen wondering, “Why am I still here?” If you are not engaging in any productive activities and you’re simply staying at your desk because your co-workers or your boss are still there, you’re not doing anyone any favors.
If you are confident that you’ve put in a full day’s work and you are on top of all of your projects, don’t be afraid to go home. Just be sure to run through a quick checklist before you pack up:
- Have you answered all emails from your co-workers regarding open tasks or projects?
- Have you addressed all questions and concerns regarding open tasks or projects?
- Are you confident that you got everything done for the day that needed to be accomplished?
One tip if you do make the decision to leave the office before most of your coworkers: make sure to say goodbye as you head out the door. You don’t want to look like you’re sneaking out, even if you’ve stayed past quitting time.
When in doubt, ask
Don’t ever assume that you may or may not leave the office, especially if you are new to the job. Just ask your boss about his or her expectations regarding working late. Having a direct conversation is far better than spinning your wheels waiting to be dismissed or abandoning your post while you are still needed.
For an increasing amount of the workforce, flexible hours and remote options are becoming more acceptable, mostly due to always being in direct communication through pervasive technology use. This means that companies are becoming more comfortable with not following the traditional “9 to 5” routine – of course, as long as they are still achieving results.