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Is It a Good Idea to Work Outside Designated Work Hours?

How to make healthy choices.

Key points

  • Boundaries between work and personal life are becoming increasingly fluid, thanks to the digital world.
  • Pay attention to when you are most productive and make strides to organize your schedule more efficiently.
  • Make sure you aren’t regularly compromising self-care by working more.

The pandemic helped blur the physical boundaries between going to the workplace and being at home, because so many of us can work anywhere or any time of day as long as we can access a computer.

The ease of accessing work can easily muddle work-home boundaries and make it easier to work longer hours. According to a recent survey by Robert Half management consultants, about 70% of people who transitioned to remote work say they work more hours during the week and now work weekends, too. The reasons for doing so vary.

Four Reasons Why People Are Motivated to Work More

1. Riding the Wave of Productivity
You may sometimes experience a surge of energy when the world around you is still waking up or winding down. Such golden hours are a prime opportunity to tackle tasks that demand concentration and creativity. By seizing the moment, you can make significant progress before the official workday begins and feel good about it. Essentially, it’s an attempt to reduce the stress of the next workday.

2. Capitalizing on Free Time
Life doesn't always follow a strict schedule. Plans get canceled, partners may be out for the evening, or kids go to bed early. During such unexpected pockets of free time, you may feel an urge to get ahead at work. Working during such moments can help you catch up on pending tasks, meet deadlines, or dive into projects without the interruptions that plague office hours.

3. Battling Workaholism
Some people have an insatiable drive to be productive. They may use work as a shield against uncomfortable emotions or life challenges such as loneliness or relationship issues. For workaholics, working outside regular hours is a way to feed their addiction to productivity, although the habit may come at a cost to their health and relationships.

4. Overcoming Unreasonable Workloads
At times, employers can pile on unrealistic workloads and deadlines. This leads to burnout and exhaustion and can assault self-esteem because meeting the expectations feels impossible. The fear of failure or of being reprimanded can drive anxiety, compelling people to work outside their designated hours to stay afloat.

How to Determine Whether It’s a Good Idea for You
Ultimately, the decision to work outside of designated work hours should take into account your personal and professional situation. You’ll want to strike a balance between dedication to your work and maintaining a healthy work-life balance. You’ll want to examine the benefits when making healthy choices:

  • Stress Reduction: By catching up, meeting deadlines, or getting ahead, you can reduce the stress that often accompanies a heavy workload.
  • Boosted Self-Esteem: Accomplishing tasks and achieving your goals outside of regular hours can boost your self-esteem and sense of accomplishment.
  • Reclaiming Unproductive Time: When your typical workday is less productive due to distractions, technology glitches, personal problems, or other issues, working outside your regular workday window allows you to compensate for lost time.

On the flip side, downtime can also be an opportunity for rejuvenation instead of working. Deciding whether to harness the wave of motivation to work or indulge in relaxation depends on several factors:

  • Mental Health: Consider how each choice affects your mental health. An excellent way to gauge this is by asking yourself, “ What percentage would my battery be charged if I were a cell phone? Of course, our energy varies depending on the time of day, our health, and more. However, it's our self-love responsibility to balance life’s demands without our personal battery becoming dangerously low on power. Remember, self-love isn’t selfish.
  • Social Health: Social health, or our social well-being, refers to our ability to form and maintain positive, satisfying relationships and contribute to our social and community networks. Ask yourself: “Am I feeling connected and supported, or isolated and lonely?” Be honest with yourself as you contemplate your answer.
  • Physical Health: Evaluate your physical well-being and energy levels.
  • Fatigue and Burnout: Assess your overall level of burnout and fatigue. Ask yourself: “Would working extra hours push me into an unhealthy workweek?” Before you respond, consider that overwork and burnout contributed to more than 745,000 deaths worldwide in just one year, according to a recent study from the World Health Organization. People working 55 or more hours per week have an estimated 35% higher risk of a stroke and a 17% higher risk of dying from heart disease than those who work 35-40 hours a week.
  • Workload and Deadlines: Consider your workload, upcoming deadlines, and time-management skills. If you struggle with workaholism, seek an accountability partner to help you make the right choice. It could be a friend, roommate, or partner.
  • Upcoming Events: If you have a planned vacation or surgery, working extra now might enable you to relax and recover later.

Discovering Your Most Productive Hours
Identifying your peak productivity hours, or your "scary hour," can revolutionize your work habits. Here's how:

  • Track Your Energy: Pay attention to when you feel most mentally clear and productive. Consider factors like morning vs. evening, exercise, meals, and sleep quality.
  • Organize Your Schedule: Once you pinpoint your peak hours, schedule essential tasks during that time.
  • Time Management: Use less-productive hours for less demanding tasks, such as responding to messages or organizing your workspace.

By understanding your energy cycles and leveraging your most productive moments, you can achieve greater efficiency and a healthier work-life balance. In a world that values flexibility and innovation, working outside the conventional 9-5 schedule is a choice that many employers and employees embrace.

Finally, deciding to work before or after office hours without getting paid is complex and should be carefully considered. While there are potential benefits to putting in extra time, such as demonstrating dedication and commitment, it is crucial to weigh such benefits against the potential drawbacks, including work-life balance.


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