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I recently started working in a big company and want to do my best to stay here, of course.

I am single and live close to my office so I don't mind staying late at all. I actually like it because the office gets empty and I can be more focused. I also have time to study work related stuff that I wouldn't have the focus to do at home.

My question is, could that look bad in any way? Like people thinking that I want to stay late just for show? How does that look to a boss?

Remembering that in this case I want to stay rather than looking to find a way to get paid for staying.

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    Be aware that if your home/life circumstances change such that you don't spend as much time at work anymore, someone might start thinking something like "Hey, Rafael used to get so much more stuff done than he does now. What's his problem?" ... – brhans Feb 2 '17 at 14:55
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Jane S Feb 3 '17 at 21:52
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    Once I interned at a company where I was picked up and dropped off every day. My ride was late one day, so I continued to plod along with my tickets and the head security guy (who I knew fairly well) came and sat with me in my cubicle and talked with me until my ride came. I was glad to have the company, but I thought it was a little weird. It didn't occur to me until way after my internship was over that he was making sure I wasn't there "interning" in order to break into the system. – 0112 Feb 4 '17 at 2:12
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    I work in a tightly regulated environment. Staying late more than twice a week is considered a potential security violation, as you may be trying to avoid surveillance. Most places this is not an issue, but if pencils start going missing from the supply cabinet and things get ugly, you may be a prime suspect. – agentroadkill Feb 6 '17 at 10:35

12 Answers 12

87

It's impossible to speak on behalf of your co-workers and boss to tell you how they might interpret your schedule.

Some things to consider about always being on site at the office...

  1. If they think you're always working, they'll feel better about piling more work on you.

  2. If you're not actually working, then you probably need to think about whether your personal use of company resources is appropriate.

  3. If you are actually working, you risk burning out to some degree at some point, and if you do, you'll be less valuable to the company.

  4. Depending on your employment status (salaried vs hourly, local employment laws), you may cause your employer some additional headaches if you're doing job-related work after hours.

EDIT: Updated point 3 to reduce the certainty of burning out.

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    @JoeStrazzere I can't do the search now, but I remember it being something like an average workforce thing. It didn't account for people who really like their jobs. The so called "If you love what you do for a living it's never work" people. – Jake Feb 2 '17 at 19:36
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    I can't stress #4 enough. If you're hourly, what you're doing could actually get you fired. Whether you're willing to do it for nothing or not, if you work hours, (at least in the US) the company is required to pay you and can incur sanctions if they don't. You could be terminated for working overtime without approval. If you're salaried, none of that applies though. – Chris E Feb 2 '17 at 20:00
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    @ChristopherEstep there are some countries, where overtime must be paid by company even for salaried positions. So, sometimes same logic applies whether or not it's hourly or salaried. – CodingFeles Feb 3 '17 at 7:26
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    One more I immediately thought of: people might think you aren't able to handle the workload, therefore staying late to make up for it. – Mave Feb 3 '17 at 10:45
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    I work in São Paulo, Brazil. We have strict laws against unpaid ovetime but of course everybody ignores it and nobody says anything. Nobody in my company gets paid for overtime but still there is not a single person that leaves exactly on time. At least half a hour everyday. And then they give bonuses and everybody is happy. – ranbo Feb 3 '17 at 13:10
58

In my experience this practice can cause more harm in ways not already covered in the answers above.

  • You might be perceived as inefficient and requiring extra time to get something done.

  • If you get in late (as a result of staying late), this can be frustrating for your team members or other stakeholders who need to pencil in meetings against your atypical calendar.

  • Your own brain starts adjusting, adapting and counting on this time to get real work done and eventually (this is inevitable) all this extra time will even out.

  • You're selling your brand at an awesome discount to the company you work for. Why would they want to pay you more when they are already getting so much? Compare that to your more brand-conscious colleague who will whine/crow/make it loudly known he is going the distance, get comped and recognized for that one week where he/she goes all out and puts in extra time ("our hero!") when the company is in crisis. That sucks but this is how most corporations recognize achievement - a contrast to your daily behaviors.

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    Agree. And there will come a time when you won't be able to do that anymore, and then you will be seen as a slacker. – user1220 Feb 2 '17 at 16:52
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    "You might be perceived as inefficient" it depends of the local culture : in France, working late is widely percieved as being very implied in his work. Many executives in France stay longer at the office than the regular working time more or less because of this. – palra Feb 3 '17 at 23:50
13

If you're clearly young and keen, there is basically no downside!

To add to existing answers though, my one caveat is that when you fill in your timesheet, you MUST list your actual hours worked. There are two reasons for this.

One is that if your manager is estimating progress now and in the future, he needs your actual hours worked to know how long tasks took you and how long they're likely to take in the future. If you worked a 60-hour week, you've basically done 7.5 working days. Now if you get yourself a girlfriend/boyfriend and drop down to your standard 40-hour week, you'll only achieve 2/3 as much in that week. As MikeP says, this can be a problem, and the only way to avoid it is to fill in your timesheet truthfully.

And the second is that if you just book 40 hours every week, regardless of how long you're in there, your manager may genuinely not know you're doing extra hours. Most companies are fine with people doing a bit of surfing before/after work, and unless you've actually booked that time, your manager may think that's all that's happening. Your timesheet is what tells him you've actually been working all that time. When you get to appraisal time, this could be the difference between your manager putting you down as "does his job and no more - 1% pay rise" or to "goes above and beyond - 5% because we want to hang onto him".

  • The OP didn't mention a timesheet. It is likely he doesn't fill one out. – MaxW Feb 2 '17 at 20:32
  • @MaxW He didn't, but it'd be quite an unusual large company that didn't have some way of reporting time spent on projects. – Graham Feb 3 '17 at 17:06
  • "you must list your actual hours worked" This is very company-specific and something you absolutely have to check with management.There are a lot of reasons why companies might require hours to be registered against a daily 8 hour standard: legal requirement, linked to overtime pay/recuperation (common in EU), cost accounting (internal or external). The most basic one is that it makes it very difficult to compare people in any meaningful way. – Lilienthal Feb 3 '17 at 21:01
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    production = time * productivity. Theses things does ABSOLUTELY NOT scale. Doing 60h/week vs 40h/week does not meed producing 50% more. – Antzi Feb 6 '17 at 7:46
  • @Antzi I've read Fred Brooks too, thanks. And I'd say it entirely depends on how motivated you are. For most of us, it doesn't scale. For a young, keen kid who's excited by doing all this new cool stuff, it probably does. Senior school is typically 6 hours of teaching and 2 hours of homework expected per night. University for an engineering degree (at least when I went there) is typically 7 hours of teaching and 2-3 hours of exercises or project work expected per night. If you're straight out of uni, you're probably used to pulling all-nighters, so a normal working day is easy. :) – Graham Feb 6 '17 at 12:18
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It could look like you aren't able to complete a normal workload in an 8 hour day, and need to spend many more hours to do the same job as someone else, especially if you spend extra hours every day.

This is easily explained by you doing more than the normal amount of work and/or learning, but you did ask "Could that look bad in any way?".

I don't think doing it "for show" would be perceived as bad, they might feel sorry for you but it's not a negative.

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    That depends on the culture. I think many German companies for example would regard it as a negative that you couldn't organize your work properly. – Martin Bonner supports Monica Feb 3 '17 at 9:33
5

Other than special, short-term projects, everyone should be equally productive. Everyone should work their hours and then stop. Should. Doesn't happen that way.
You are young and single and live close. You have no issue working late. In general, this is normal for young, single people with ambition. I used to be that way.
Don't worry about it too much, but don't overwork and get burned out.
Beware of the mentioned point that if you suddenly can't work a lot (get a new friend or home or illness) then if your work output drops in half, it won't be seen as you going from 200% to 100%, it will be perceived as going from 100% to 50%.
However, it is also quite common for people to get more efficient as they get more experience. I know that I am a lot more efficient than I was 10 years ago.

  • That's a good point. I will try to balance that so I don't end up looking like I am at 50%. And getting more efficient is mainly what I do in after hours, by studying and reading documentation. – ranbo Feb 2 '17 at 17:47
4

I feel like this one needs a managerial perspective, given the CYA approach of the other answers.

My team has a very lax attendance policy. If you work enough hours to keep HR and my boss from saying anything, I couldn't care less how many or how few hours you work. If you're failing to deliver up to team standards, the problem isn't which hours you chose to confine yourself to a cubicle. (I mean, unless it is, but blowing off meetings because you work late is a different question altogether)

I know how much each of my employees can produce, and I know how many hours they spend doing it. For one extraordinary case, I even took the time to figure out which of those hours a guy was working were actually productive. Don't worry about feeling obligated to work 60 hour weeks forever. If you work 60 hour weeks consistently, I might make plans that assume you'll continue to do so, but I consider it my problem and not yours if you go back to 40 and your 40 is on par with the rest of the team.

If you work 60 hours and barely meet average delivery rates, I'm going to say something. It's not because I'm looking for an excuse to fire you, it's because I'm probably better at your job than you are and I want to teach you better ways to do it. If you say you're staying late doing research and reading docs, I'll assume you're telling me the truth and verify it later if I feel the need.

Sometimes noisy office environments are a sad fact of life. My team got moved once because I made a noise complaint, and my new location is just a different kind of bad. If you know a strategy to help yourself cope with that, I'm going to support it as best I can (see above: don't want to hear about it from my boss or HR, gonna hear about it if I can't justify it with above average throughput).

Basically, don't worry as long as you're doing the work, and don't assume every question from your manager is the first step towards unemployment.

  • I like your perspective, and it is largely in line with my own management philosophy in my team. I will say, however, that in our company culture, being available to collaborate with team members in real time (whether remote or in person) is important, so we require a considerable amount of overlap in schedules (core hours are 9am to 3pm). Every company/team is different, but it's at least something to consider. – Kent A. Feb 5 '17 at 1:40
  • And +1 for the correct use of the idiom "couldn't care less." Bravo for good English! – Kent A. Feb 5 '17 at 1:41
3

Anything could look bad - the thing you should focus on is what it is that you do in that time. If, as you say, you are adding value during that time then you have a very good argument for being there.

If you arrive at the same time every morning as your colleagues, then they will notice you work later and could make their own conclusions but if you want to steer their thoughts, let them know why you do it. You never know, they may appreciate it, especially if your work helps theirs. Or they may feel sorry for you, if their perception is that you are missing out on the evenings they have. Or, yes, they may think you are just trying to impress the boss.

If any of those opinions do affect you, then you'll need to decide on what to do, but in itself, staying late is not going to have a specific defined affect.

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    It should be noted that this is also very dependent on the culture of the country/city/company/whatever you work in: In Germany, for example, staying significantly longer than the others generally gives the impression that a) you're bad at your job and so need longer than most and/or b) you have a very unhealthy work/life balance (which in Germany, unlike in e.g. the US or Korea, is considered bad). – errantlinguist Feb 2 '17 at 21:32
3

Just log out of the office following your work schedule, and ask your boss and human resources if you can stay to develop yourself. That way,insecure officemates won't think that you're staying just to get a lot of work done ahead of them, and you have express permission to stay from the office.

HR/the Boss may want you to file a report on what you did during your extra staying time though, but I don't think it won't do harm unless you lie to them.

3

You're really asking - will the company mind if I use office resources after hours to do my own studying? Ask them. I doubt there's an issue about liability insurance etc. when the building isn't fully staffed, otherwise you'd be required to clock out and the building would be locked. But ask anyway.

Some of your co-workers will certainly look for problems in any non-standard behaviour. Cope with it. If you want to be special, don't be afraid to be special!

2

I had a new hire with the same problem. He is an excellent worker but he always came in early (by an hour) and left late (by an hour) while he was doing office work.

I let this slide for the first two weeks - giving the person time to adjust to the new position and reality of working in their first job.

Then it got to the point where he was leaving very late, always working.

This is not good for anyone especially you as a worker. If you are constantly staying late, it can be a sign of many problems:

  1. Your are being overworked, or mismanaged.
  2. You are lacking some core skills for your job - and thus are not performing as well.
  3. Your environment (during the normal working day) is not conducive to your productivity and thus you are getting most of the work done after hours.
  4. You are lacking some work/time management skills (or your manager is not handling your work schedule) appropriately.
  5. You believe working late shows that you are a "hard worker" or "sincere about your job" or "want to do well".

All of these are red flags for your management and you should also be aware of this.

For my staff, I stopped one day and I told him to turn off whatever he was doing because it was time to go home. He said he just had one more thing to finish; to which I replied you can do it tomorrow.

Time and work management - and work life balance - is a skill you must learn as you start your professional career much like any other skill and you have to practice at it.

For my colleague, since he was single and a recent graduate he had nothing else to do and was excited about working and wanted to make sure he gave his all. Once during a social retreat for my staff I found out that he was the same way in college, pulling in "all nighters" to get a project or assignment done.

"All nighters" may be okay in college - they are definitely not the norm in a professional work environment - unless perhaps you are on a night shift or part of some fire fighting role.

It is not about "does it make you look bad" - but more about trying to avoid having this be norm - or what is expected of you.

Your job is one part of your broader life. It should be given its due respect / priority, but not at the expense of the rest of your health and well being.

1

I actually like it because the office gets empty and I can be more focused.

That's a red flag right there.

It implies that while the office is busy, things are either too distracting for you to be able to focus or you have more work than you can handle, so you need to stay late to get things done.

This suggests that management aren't doing a good enough job at either managing your workload or providing a productive working environment.

Regardless of whether or not this is actually true, this is how it would look to me, and I would draw conclusions about the competency of your managers as a result.

Besides, surely there are better ways to be spending your free time? Go to the gym? Meetups? The pub?

  • I do those thing and still have time to stay longer at work. The day has 16 hours! Besides weekends... – ranbo Feb 3 '17 at 13:36
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    Different people work differently. Some love an open office with no perm desks and lots of activity (some of them get work done, some just collaborate all day). Some want a cocoon to get work done. Nearly zero offices account for all types. – MikeP Feb 3 '17 at 17:41
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    This so depends on the kind of work. I'm a coder. There are times I need to talk to people. There are times I need quiet. Working late or early is how I make you distracting people go away when I don't need you. Some of the best code I've ever written happened when I snuck in on a Saturday. But then I spent a month working normal hours teaching people to use what I created. The issue isn't about if management is doing a good job. It's if they are willing to get out of your way so you can work in your most effective way and if you can handle that responsibility. – candied_orange Feb 3 '17 at 22:18
1

Obviously if you are looking to find something wrong or see it in a negative light you can.

I am not implying this is happening, but I have heard of a couple real-life cases where employees would basically stay at work all the time to cover up frauds they were carrying. Nobody was catching them because they were always shuffling the deck. Then the company force them to take vacation, the in auditors came in, and oh no! Yikes!

So if you are looking for the dark side there it is.

protected by Jane S Feb 5 '17 at 8:39

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