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WORKING: Long Hours
By Joshua Stewart
Updated: 8 months ago

ATLANTA  —  
Working long hours seems like the norm in our ever-connected society. You may put in 10 or 12 hours a day, then do email or other work at home late into the evening. Career and workplace consultant Brandon Smith says working all those hours actually may be limiting your career rather than advancing it. (Photo Courtesy of Chris Gilbert via stock.xchng.)
Working long hours seems like the norm in our ever-connected society. You may put in 10 or 12 hours a day, then do email or other work at home late into the evening. Career and workplace consultant Brandon Smith says working all those hours actually may be limiting your career rather than advancing it. (Photo Courtesy of Chris Gilbert via stock.xchng.)
Working long hours seems like the norm in our ever-connected society.

You may put in 10 or 12 hours a day, then do email or other work at home late into the evening.

Career and workplace consultant Brandon Smith says working all those hours actually may be limiting your career rather than advancing it.

“You really don’t have more capacity. It’s not like they can give you more responsibility,” said Smith, who also teaches about leadership, communication and workplace culture at Emory University and Georgia State University. “I know some companies that, if they find their ‘high potentials’ – the people they want to promote – working too much, they’ll tell them, ‘you have got to find ways to get that off your plate because we cannot give you more [work].’”

Smith said workers can get caught in a trap of being an indispensable expert in some aspect of their organization. That means they can’t advance because they are the expert.

“Who’s going to do that job? When we work those long hours, we tend to get so far down deep in one thing where we own it, that they can’t promote us, because we’re too needed,” Smith said.

He said studies have shown working too long also tends to result in lower-quality results. Plus, you can become less productive and get less done as you tire from long hours.

Smith’s solution is to “mandate” and “migrate.”

“You [need] to set the boundary,” he said. Tell your boss you want to train others to do some of your work so you can move on to bigger things. And set a deadline to “migrate” that work off your plate, Smith said.

And: “Tell the boss how many hours you’re working,” Smith said, because he or she probably does not know. “Collaborate with your boss to prioritize and establish what needs to get done.”

Smith said it’s also key to set “blackout” times in the day when you won’t do any work or check emails.

“Maybe that’s dinnertime. From the hours of 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. or 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., whatever,” he said. “You’re going to have dinner, put your kids to bed. You’re not going to do work.”

Brandon Smith teaches about leadership, communication, and workplace culture at Emory University's Goizueta Business School. More of his advice is on his blog and at theworkplacetherapist.com. While you’re there, ask him your workplace or career question. We might answer you in a future radio segment.