Working Too Much? Go Home Already!

by Staff - Original publish date: June 6, 2012

When Your Work Is Done, Get Out of There

Pamela Selle wants you to go the heck (we softened up her original language) home. Seriously. If it is 6 p.m. or if you are done with your projects for the day or your brain is just burned out from the last eight hours of staring at a monitor, Selle says, just get out of the office. It's tough to be the first one to leave the office for fear it makes you look bad, but going home when your work is done does have benefits. It's better for your productivity, it's better for your employer, and it is most assuredly better for you. 

In February, Philadelphia software engineer Selle delivered this message in a 5-minute presentation at a gathering of about 300 local business people. But since then, her exhortations have reached a much wider audience. On March 29, popular website Lifehacker featured a video of her talk on its home page; since then, it has been viewed 60,000 times on YouTube. 

I tracked down the newly minted hero of the overworked (OK, I tweeted her) and Selle graciously agreed to answer a few questions about her own approach to work, her sudden online fame, and what she likes to do after she goes the heck home.

Inspired by Friends

Q: How did you decide on your topic?

Selle: It was one of those "I've been thinking about this..." and someone saying "Yes. Do it. Yes." At the time I proposed the talk, I was constantly watching people I know blow off things they'd rather be doing in order to put extra hours in at work. The crushing foolishness of it all was getting to me. So I thought I could write a funny talk about it, and there you go.

It's OK Not to ALWAYS Be Busy

Q: Have you ever been a workaholic yourself? Or have you always practiced what you preach in this area?

Selle: I come from a point of view that's more like "Is it really that hard?" 

Pretty much every -- nope, every single job I've ever had has resulted in me being bored at some point, of not having enough work to do. That's perfectly okay. Companies need people, and they aren't always crushingly busy. But when they aren't busy or you're done for the day, get out of there. It just blows my mind seeing smart, talented people sit at their desk and goof off because of some arbitrary 'hours' they need to put in (at a salaried position which theoretically has an hour range) rather than leaving, doing something that's enriching intellectually, makes them happy, generally makes their life better. Seriously, what the hell?

So I suppose my answer is that it's a mixed bag. I don't consider myself a workaholic, I merely wish there wasn't this stigma against people who go home when their work is done.

Going Home Boosts Productivity

Q: I can understand how leaving on time helps my psyche. Are there ways it benefits my employer too?

Selle: Absolutely. I talked a (tiny) bit about how productivity goes down over time from over work, but after I gave the talk, I had some more time to look into the research. The fact is that research on productivity has shown for, oh, the last 100 years or so, consistently, that good managers need to send their workers home. 

Something got messed up at some point, and managers started thinking they needed to 'trick' their employees into working longer hours. Especially if you have a job that's a creative job, such as writing, engineering, policy -- many jobs today -- you have to stop working to continue being effective. One of the messages I liked best among the research and articles I found was "It's easy to work harder, it's harder to work smarter." I'd like to hope that I'm going to work smarter and go home so I can enjoy my life. That's what it's about in the end anyway.

Going Viral

Q: What's it been like to see your presentation go viral and be featured on Lifehacker?

Selle: Awesome. I just want people to take the advice. There's all that research out there, but maybe it takes a 5-minute (funny? I hope?) video to convince a manager, anyone to reconsider their productivity priorities.

What to Do After You Go Home

Q: What do you like to do after you go the heck home?

Selle: I hang out with my husband and awesome cat, code on personal projects, yoga, ride bicycles, lift weights, plan events in the tech community, go to meet-ups in the tech community, write, read, watch "The Wire," go to art shows, cook, go out to eat, write about going out to eat ... lots.

Recommended Reading/Viewing

Thank you for reading this article. As a bonus, the editorial staff has compiled a recommended reading list you might find helpful:

  • Simplify Your Work Life: Ways to Change the Way You Work So You Have More Time to Live
  • Understanding Psychological Contracts at Work: A Critical Evaluation of Theory & Research
  • Living the 80/20 Way: Work Less, Worry Less, Succeed More, Enjoy More
  • The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere & Join the New Rich
  • Take Back Your Time: Fighting Overwork & Time Poverty in America

Also, you can watch Selle's uncensored video by clicking the link below, but be warned this video is not safe for work due to strong language. But even if you can't get past the vulgarity, Selle's message is a good one and it's something all clock-watching employees should take to heart. Now go home already!

Click here for Selle's uncensored, NSFW video!