Do you ever leave work at 5.30pm?

Published by Emma Lee-Potter in on Wednesday 2nd May 2012

Working late last night, I finished the piece I was writing and keen to get it out of the way, clicked send. I was stunned ten minutes later to get a reply from the person who’d commissioned the article. It was 10pm!

Whatever happened to the far-flung days when we’d all finish work at 5.30pm and skip merrily out of the office, safe in the knowledge that we wouldn’t be back at our desks until the next morning? We sometimes went wild and stopped for a drink on the way home, or heaven forbid, went to the cinema. Now, with emails, mobile phones and loads of us working from home, work is a rolling 24-hour enterprise. It’s so extreme in the newspaper world these days that friends of mine work from 8am to 9pm, and are still expected to be on call right round the clock.

That’s why an interview I read with Facebook COO (chief operating officer) Sheryl Sandberg this morning was like a breath of fresh air. In a recent video interview, she relates how she walks out of the office at 5.30pm on the dot every day – so she can have dinner with her children at 6pm. She admits that telling people she was working shorter hours to spend time with her family was a challenge at first but now she’s quite open about it.

“I was showing everyone I worked for that I worked just as hard,” she says. “I was getting up earlier to make sure they saw my emails at 5:30am, staying up later to make sure they saw my emails late. But now I’m much more confident in where I am and so I’m able to say ‘hey! I am leaving work at 5:30.’ And I say it very publicly, both internally and externally.”

As a famous businesswoman at the top of her field, Sheryl Sandberg can call the shots more than the rest of us, but I definitely think she’s on to something.

PS. BT has put its iconic red phone boxes up for sale at an eye-watering £2,000 per box. I don’t know about you, but I’d far prefer one like this chic green one – spotted at Bicester Village the other day…

8 comments so far

  • As an ex-teacher, if I left school at 5.30, that was only the start of an evening of work – just in a different location. Marking and preparation were the orders of the evenings.

    Liz X

  • When running our Auberge, in high season midnight was an early clock off. But then in the winter months we took it easy… Love the phone box by the way!

  • I wonder though if it’s easier for someone at the top of the corporate ladder to leave on time and have a family life, than it is for someone clawing their way up? Still, the concept has to start somewhere.

  • I leave at 5pm on the dot. That is so I get home at 6pm for tea with my husband and kids. It bothers me less than not getting in early – I like being at my desk at 8/8.30am to catch up on the day ahead which at the moment I can’t do. I’m lucky I have a v chilled boss and a job which is doable 9-5.

  • I agree, Mary. I suppose that when you’re the boss you can decide what time you want to leave work. But on the other hand, I think it sets a good example of getting the right work/life balance.

  • Thanks so much for commenting, MPB. It sounds as though you have got a very good balance – and lovely to get home for tea with your husband and kids.

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