How working more hours actually makes you look bad

We seem to live in a society that places value on the amount of hours that a person works each week as a reflection of the quality of their work. Unfortunately we have it completely backwards and what we should be doing is praising the people who manage to complete their work within the amount of hours that are allocated to complete it, rather than listening to the moans of the people who don’t.

Many people are working too many hours above their contracted hours which leads to the question why? When the practice and attitude seems to be common across all industries it cannot be attributed to poor management or companies/organisations taking advantage of workers and expected too much from them. It is therefore necessary to look at the workers and the role they play in working too many hours.

Why don’t job descriptions contain accurate weekly hours?

The simple answer is – they do! Job descriptions are not simply made up to entice people to apply, they are (or should be) an accurate reflection of what is expected, including the number of hours the worker is required to work. If a full time job is considered to be 37.5 or 40 hours a week then it should be assumed that the job can be completed within this time.

There are people who work extra hours and quietly get on with it. The point is that these people are doing extra and they don’t begrudge doing so and don’t moan about. They could work their allotted hours and complete their jobs effectively but they choose to work extra.

Then there are people who work an excessive amount of hours a week above their ‘full time hours’ and everyone has to know about it. These people make a point of telling everyone who will listen how many hours they have worked like it is a badge of honour. These are also the people who moan about having to work so many hours as if they are being forced to. In reality they are rarely forced to.

Hard working or just inefficient?

If the expectations of a job role have increased so much that they genuinely cannot be completed within the working week then this must be addressed. Management needs to be informed and an analysis of the job role needs to be completed in order to discover how the tasks can be more effectively delegated.

This rarely happens because moaning to colleagues seems to be a popular pastime and so these workers don’t actually want anything to change, regardless of the number of times they say they do. Not only do they not want change because it will take away one of their reasons to moan, they also don’t want the number of hours they work looked into because it will show that rather than working hard they are simply working inefficiently. They work extra hours to make up for the fact that they are inefficient and incompetent at completing their tasks within their contracted hours.

Working smarter not harder

Working more hours does not make a person hard working. It also does not make them efficient. In fact it is likely to be quite the opposite. Working smartly means that a person has streamlined all processes and is not wasting any of their working day on tasks that could are not required or could be completed a lot quicker. A smart worker will be highly organised and have clear priorities, understand their working day and how to get the most out of it. There is a wealth of knowledge on how to work more smartly and so there really is little excuse to be working extra hours on a regular basis.

Working smarter also leads to a better work/life balance. People who work too many hours cannot achieve an effective work/life balance which automatically leads to them being less effective in their work. An effective worker knows how to leave work at work and enjoy their home life, ensuring that they split their time effectively.

Why do it to themselves?

It is clear that the people who work a ridiculous amount of hours are doing so for some reason other than they need to in order to be successful in their job. They could work smarter and have more of a life outside of work whilst still being successful in their job. Many people use work as a distraction and may be reluctant to reduce the amount of hours worked as they will then need to fill these hours with something else.

The only other logical conclusion is that others just enjoy having something to moan about. There seems to be negative culture in the world of work where everything has to be criticised and moaned about. If a new initiative is implemented it’s automatically doomed to fail, if management try to raise moral it’s because they want something, if practices are made more efficient it’s annoying to have to change the way things have always been done. There is a real sense of what it was like to be in school with anyone who is positive or encouraging being the ‘teachers’ pet’ or too new to have become disillusioned yet. By working extra hours this simply adds to the list of moans that a person can bring to the water cooler.


The simple fact is that if a person is working ridiculous amounts above their contracted hours then they either doing it just so that can moan about it, or they are ineffective. They have failed to prioritise the work that they have, they are not working smartly and they are usually spending too much time moaning about working extra hours which leads to them working more hours because of the time spent moaning.

We need to create a culture where value is placed on outcomes and results rather than the number of hours that have been put in. Moving away from the idea that working more hours means someone is working hard will mean that there is less negativity within a team because people will naturally start to work more smartly, work less hours and base their opinions of results rather than how long a person is sat at their desk (probably doing very little).

* opinions are my own not that of any organisation I am associated with

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