Staying at the office till late at night is something virtually every Singaporean employee has experienced.
But if we’re completely honest with ourselves, many times, people end up staying late not because they really have that much work to complete, but because they’re working inefficiently.
This gets worse when bosses value face-time and actually reward employees who deliberately spread their work out over 10, 12 or 14 hours.
Worst of all, this kind of behaviour isn’t even intentional in many cases. People get affected by the lack of urgency of their colleagues, and distracted by the many interruptions that happen at work.
Here are six productivity sinks that are preventing Singaporean employees from going home earlier.
Compulsive internet surfing
The Internet is an ever-present threat for office workers who spend most of their time seated in front of a monitor.
Some people even keep multiple browsers open at all times, so they can click to Facebook / their favourite online shopping site / Hardwarezone EDMW whenever their boss walks out of sight.
For many, compulsive internet surfing is something they can’t even stop themselves from doing, especially if they find their work boring or repetitive. Just five minutes of concentrating on work without clicking to one of their favourite websites can feel like death.
Your office might ban every website that doesn’t end in gov.sg, but that doesn’t mean employees are safe from internet distractions. Smartphones also take up a sizeable chunk out of many office workers’ days.
For instance, when the Pokemon Go craze was at its height, there were more than a few office workers who were basically connected to the game throughout the work day, interrupting their work every few minutes to catch Pokemon or claim goodies at Pokestops (for those lucky enough to within range).
But it’s not just games that distract employees. WhatsApp is a constant distraction, and there are office workers who spend their entire day chatting with friends and making witty comments in chat groups.
Chatting with colleagues
The worst thing about working in an office where nobody dares to leave before the boss is the fact that employees drag each other down by chit chatting all day long.
There are offices in which employees are constantly walking around, stopping at colleagues’ desks to talk, taking leisurely strolls to the pantry in search of gossip partners and taking long tea breaks together. These are usually the offices in which everyone stays back late.
Long lunch breaks
I have more than a few friends who usually stay at work till 8 or 9pm every day, but take 1.5 to 2 hour lunch breaks.
For those who “die die” want to leave on time, what would be more helpful would be to plan the amount of time you give yourself for lunch according to how much work you have.
If your workload is manageable, give yourself the full hour; otherwise, you might want to cut your lunch break to 30 or 45 minutes if it means you’ll get to leave earlier.
Poor planning of workflow
It’s rarely a good idea to just do whatever tasks are thrown at you in the order you receive them. If you’re not trying to hack your day such that you get as much done in as short a time as possible, you’re probably not working efficiently enough.
For instance, if you feel super sleepy after lunch and work much more efficiently in the morning, get your most heavy-duty tasks done first thing in the morning, and then attend to mundane administrative tasks later on in the day, preferably while blasting music through your headphones to keep yourself awake.
There are also some systems you might be able to put in place to get work done faster.
For instance, a secretary at one of my previous workplaces used to create templates of all the letters and documents she had to prepare ahead of time. When she was called upon to type them up, she just had to change details like the date and names. Other secretaries would only type up the documents when needed, and usually went home hours later than her.
Micromanaging or not delegating enough
No matter how much pride you take in your work, there is really no point in trying to do every damn thing by yourself.
You should also learn to let go a little and be less perfectionistic if you feel the need to micromanage your subordinates to the point where they’re starting to plot your death.
The way to empower your subordinates to do the work that’s delegated to them well is to invest some time into training and teaching them, and then giving them the autonomy to do their best.
Unfortunately, many people get this backwards by being unwilling to properly teach their subordinates for fear of “spoonfeeding”, and then wasting hours every day micromanaging them.
Do you often leave work late? Tell us what are the main reasons for this in the comments!