Most jobs require occasional overtime or after-hours work, but in some jobs and/or careers, long hours are the norm rather than the exception. If you’re working a job that regularly asks you to work beyond what you would consider a standard workday, how do you handle the workload — not to mention the work/life balance?
Alison Green of Ask A Manager recently asked her readers to weigh in on how to survive 12+ hour days at the office, especially if their jobs require that kind of time commitment for weeks and/or months.
Responses included “ask yourself if you’re sure these long hours will lead to better things,” “determine what trade-offs you’re willing to live with,” and “don’t tell yourself you’ll have a better work/life balance later on; figure out how to get that balance now.”
In other words, it might be time to find a different job.
There are exceptions, of course. If you’re in a field where long hours are a component of “paying your dues,” it can be worth it to hang in there and work your way up — if “up” is a place you actually want to go. Likewise, if you’re in an industry known for its long hours but you love your job and don’t want to change careers, it’s time for you to figure out how to build a life around your work.
In terms of practical advice, the Ask A Manager commenters suggested outsourcing household chores, prioritising exercise, taking every break you’re entitled to take (no eating lunch at your desk!), and — if you’re in a career where long hours are the norm and you want to stay in that career long-term — finding a friend group with similar work hours and priorities.
Think of it like making new friends as a parent; you can keep your old friends, of course, but those friendships might shift due to your new responsibilities and interests, not to mention the increased demands on your time. You’ll benefit from friends and peers who uniquely understand what you’re going through, so seek them out.
What about you? How do you deal with long hours at work? What advice would you offer someone who might be starting a new job that regularly includes 60-80 hour weeks? When should you quit a job (and/or career) that requires long hours, and when should you hang in there?