I just started at a new place of work yesterday and I already noticed they don't have a good work-life balance. I started at 9 am and had to beg to leave by 5 pm. I prefer to work from 8 am to 4 pm because I have to get to the daycare before it closes at 5:30 pm.

Yesterday, my supervisor was in the office from 8 am until 7:30 pm and she was the first to start today by 8 am. My colleague also told me she got an email from a supervisor by 9:30 pm and she worked till 1 am. Where I was working before was pretty laid back and I don't put in extra hours. I am a little worried I may not be able to work that long. I like to spend quality time with my daughter after work and I am also preparing for a professional exam. Should I be worried? The contract says 37.5 hours per week and lunch 30mins per day. Office is in Canada

  • 12
    Do you have a contract which defines your working hours? Aug 8, 2019 at 4:27
  • 11
    What country/state/province do you work in?
    – Derek
    Aug 8, 2019 at 4:38
  • 4
    Are you hourly or salaried? Do you get a break for lunch?
    – jcmack
    Aug 8, 2019 at 5:12
  • 2
    Did you talk about overtime work during during interviews?
    – Simon
    Aug 8, 2019 at 7:50
  • 5
    You've been at your new job for one day. How can you possibly make any decisione or come to any conclusion based on such a short time?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Aug 9, 2019 at 5:10

5 Answers 5


Should I be worried?


Sorry to make this sound like a bit of a negative response but it seems you walked into a new job without doing some research on the company culture.

Some companies are like this and some people don't mind working in places like that, others (such as yourself and myself) absolutely do mind it.

In my experience you will not be able to change a companies culture, you either fit in or ship out. There's no other way.

You could try speaking to your manager about your commitments and come to an agreement but be prepared to be seen as someone who is "not a team player". Chances are, if he's the biggest driver behind this culture he will not take too kindly to anyone wanting change.


I was in a similar situation. I was given work with deadlines where it's impossible to do them in the regular 40h work week. I also saw other people not leaving at 5pm so at first I felt pressure to also keep working not to be "the new one that from day one is not working enough". I even once went at 6pm where he "joked":

Where are you going? It's not even night yet.

After some time I basically got a mental breakdown (I was waking up in the middle of the night, not able to sleep again fearing I won't be able to finish my work on time). At some point I had enough and went to the boss and asked to speak to him directly, explained that I can't continue working like this, and if things don't change, I will be forced to look for another job. Sounds like a threat, but I really didn't want to change my job, nor did I wanted to continue like this.

Then came the famous saying from my boss:

But I come to work every day at 6am and work basically till midnight.

Then, I said it's all great but it's something YOU WANT (started YOUR OWN company, you get all the benefits of its success). It's not something that I want. Basically explaining him that I have no extra benefits of staying late in comparison to him, and therefore I see no valid reason staying late or working overtime unless its critical to the entire company.

He basically just stood there, knowing he can't argue with that so he "had to leave because of a meeting" and we will continue speaking later on. In the end, he cut some unnecessary tasks from the team, and I went freely at will without him ever making any comments about it. I still did do my 40h and I did stay longer when I felt like it (was super focused and work was interesting) but I didn't have any issues again on this topic.

The takeaway is, you need to ask directly whats the "expectation", and stand firm on your ground that you work the hours agreed by the contract and that other people staying longer is their personal choice and that you have other wishes.

Only thing is, you need to evaluate how freely can you speak to your boss, as I was back then in a situation where either he cuts the slack, or I will quit. I had basically nothing to lose, but he really had a lot of work and losing a good employee would do more harm than good. If not, you should probably search for another job, and then when you have another offer, talk to him, if he insists on continuing overtime you can freely quit.

  • 1
    This is a great story and a good example of how an idea that feels like common sense to one party can seem completely alien to another. Aug 14, 2019 at 21:19

You need to think whether the work/life balance CAN change to suit your needs.

I had similar - 37.5 hours a week. I used to come in at 7:45 and leave usually at 4:45, which I realise was longer than I needed to. Most other people came in at 8:30 and left at 5, and they didn't see me come in earlier. They got annoyed that I'd leave earlier than them, even though I'd started far before. There were a lot of times I'd work over, sometimes to 8, and even a full week where I didn't see my children as I'd be home after they'd gone to bed. I'd even have to take work home to do in the evening a lot of the time.

I did bring this up with my boss, and was basically told "we all have families and we all make sacrifices for work". That, and being told I wasn't "pulling my weight" by not working as much over a weekend when my wife was in hospital (with me visiting and taking care of kids on my own, despite the fact I'd worked through a night and even gone into the office on the weekend when it was shut to collect equipment), convinced me I had to leave.

You need to think:

  1. Is this something that can change? Or is your boss or company culture too resistant to change?

  2. Would you actually want this to change? Or if it were to change, would the culture where others are still working lengthy hours and possibly making remarks about yours get to you?

  3. If it can't change, would you be willing to put up with it for the next few years?

In my case, all my colleagues actually DIDN'T have families, or at least didn't have young children. They didn't have daycare, they had teenagers who were mostly self-sufficient (in my boss's case) or no dependents at all. Nearly all of them were pretty young and still lived with their parents. If I was in their position I'd probably be working a load. But I wasn't. So I, after a lot of looking, left.

Will it change, and if not, do you want to leave?


You're contractually obliged to work 37.5 hours. That's all you need to do.

They can ask nicely if perhaps, occasionally, you might help out with X, and you may or may not do this.

But don't feel obliged to. Just apologise and say you have other, regular commitments. Or maybe do an extra hour once every couple of weeks - but it's your choice.

Get there 5 minutes early. Leave 5 minutes late (public transport times being ok, if you use that).

For a while, you'll just have to put up with the 'humourous' quips: "Thanks for dropping by, Bernice. Enjoy your afternoon" until they realise you're serious. If it's still going on after a month or 6 weeks, that's crossed the line into abuse/bullying and you'll need to deal with that as an issue.

Where it will become a problem is when you need to take an hour for some personal task. Although with flextime, this may not be a problem.

I used to work stupid hours for ungrateful people a lot in my twenties and thirties, until I learned a number of useful phrases ending in "off" - That's a last option though with people you know well who repeatedly don't hear "no".

  • 1
    What is contractually obligated and what is seen by co-workers or management is often not in line with eachother, as wrong as that may be. I have overheard many times over the years "So-and-so just comes in at 8, takes their hour lunch and leaves at 5." or "They aren't a team player because they leave early every Thursday..." etc. When in reality they either treat the company the way they are treated, or have an obligation (but come in early), etc. It often doesn't matter what the law is if your colleagues feel you are shorting them. As a result - I giveth thee a down vote. Aug 14, 2019 at 15:21
  • @JCrosby You're giving a down-vote because someone doesn't give a **** what their co-workers think? Dude.
    – Jonast92
    Aug 14, 2019 at 16:46
  • No, I'm giving a vote down because generally the above advice is garbage and a great way to become the target of being spoken and thought ill-of behind their back. I have seen it play out in a way where people (when layoffs came around) it was those who were liked got to keep working and those w ho "weren't team players" got asked to leave. Aug 14, 2019 at 16:48
  • @JCrosby although what you said is right, in longer term, this doesn't matter. Unless the person is so fragile that it's difficult for him to land another job, by the time such situation arises (asked to leave), people like us are long gone.
    – Devesh S
    Aug 14, 2019 at 17:11

I can relate to you. At the start of my career I ended up in such situations quite often. Although, with enough lucky and a different way of working, I usually don't land-up in such mess anymore. I would like to think it's because of the strategy, but it's mostly luck.

Few notes:

  1. I don't know how good you are at your work. I am assuming decently good.

  2. I don't know how the organisation is. I am assuming rigid and workaholic type.

  3. I don't know under what obligation you are (financial and other). I assume you are not under any debt or something which might hinder your decision to leave the organisation.

Summary: If you can't change it and they won't let you be yourself (9 to 5 guy), leave the organisation.

I am sure you don't need philosophical advice, but just to put it down:

  1. It's not a life and death situation. Work done is good, work not done is not catastrophe (unless you are working at hospital ICU or other such places). It's ok to let it be.

  2. It's not you, its the organisational culture. In most of the organisation this is becoming norm. You have to understand you can't change it, no matter what. It's a trickle down cultural effect. You have to think about yourself. Usually the only way out of such mess is to actually get out of the organisation or team or whatever possible. These things don't change, unless the CXX or top guy wants to..

  3. Growth is subjective. By linear logic, you leaving office at 5pm vs your colleague burning his lantern at 10 pm in office, he would be at advantage (although not always, but mostly) when it comes to growth, favoritism and other perks in office. You have to agree to the fact that decisions have consequences. If you leave at 5pm, you will miss some of the cakes. You have to live with it.

  4. Work is not worship, respecting your time is. The culture these days cultivates the mentality where people are staying in office for 12 hours. That doesn't means you have. People stay for 100 reasons in office. I once did a small survey in my office of people who stayed longer hours. On asking why, their responses? Because my roommate jams the internet with Netflix, my kids don't do their homework, I like to work when there are less people, I come late and then work late, browsing non-work related sites are easier, I am preparing for some exams, I have to take a Skype call with my girlfriend, etc. etc. You see, it's not work, it's the culture. It's difficult to ascertain actual work with nonsense.

  5. You don't have much to lose. Not taking weekend calls, not opting in for extra hours (unless very urgent), not doing work related anything after office hours. Every-time I did not do this, someone else did it. In short term, you will be called upon, but in long run, these things actually don't matter. (this is under the assumption you are good at work, otherwise it's much trickier)

  6. You don't have to become one of them. This is easily the most important of all advice. Try your best not to turn like one of them. It's easier said than done. I seen people who have spent 20+ year in industry and have the 9-5 disciplined working hour with hardly any overtime and weekend nonsense. It is possible. You just gotta find the right organisation, team and culture.

I have worked for good organisation where although such culture did exist, I usually had a lead or manager in my vicinity who was sensible and did not encourage it. Hence it was much easier for me. If your organization is like the way you described right till it's root and you don't have anyone around who thinks the same, the above points will most likely not work and you will be cast away. My suggestion, look for something else. Your daughter needs your time more!

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