askST Jobs: Does working overtime more when at home mean you’re inefficient?

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askST Jobs: Does working overtime more when at home mean you’re inefficient?

Tay Hong Yi

NOV 14, 2022, 5:00 AM SGT

SINGAPORE – Manpower reporter Tay Hong Yi offers practical answers to candid questions on navigating workplace challenges and getting ahead in your career.

Q: I have a tendency to work overtime, especially when I work from home. Does it mean I am an inefficient worker?

A: If your job scope has not dramatically changed, yet you work longer hours at home, you need to reflect on what is causing you to do these longer stints, said Mr Paul Heng, NeXT Career Consulting Group managing director.

The reasons may be self-imposed, circumstantial or relate to lower productivity, he said.

Self-imposed reasons include working longer hours to prove to yourself and your co-workers that you are still productive even while working remotely, given a perceived need to compensate for being out of physical reach of your colleagues.

“After a career-long practice of working at a proper workplace, we feel guilty of ‘not going’ to work,” said Mr Heng.

Circumstantial reasons may include family and other commitments punctuating the work day more than back in the office, requiring a longer work day to complete the same tasks, he added.

Meanwhile, lower productivity could result from additional time needed to complete the same assignment compared with working in office.

“(When) working in the office, we can simply walk over to our colleagues’ desk to get their input, but when working remotely, we may need to schedule a time, or to send a short message before we can get their input,” Mr Heng noted.

If you can find valid reasons against working longer hours, such as worsening health or family ties, you should set clear work targets for the day or week, or a maximum number of hours you work past your usual time when you were in the office.

However, there is also nothing wrong with working longer hours if you enjoy your work and doing more of it makes you feel happy, Mr Heng added.

In return for the autonomy to manage what their work hours are, as well as the time saved on commuting, those working from home should be prepared to work longer hours when their job requires, said Dr David Leong, managing director of human resource (HR) consultancy PeopleWorldwide Consulting.

“The assignment of work is based on outputs and deliverables. Therefore, how, what and when to deliver is left to the workers’ discretion. Employers are likelier to be concerned about results and the set timelines.”

This means you should discuss with your bosses how much time you would need to complete an assignment or project, and commit to this plan.

You should then inform your bosses and seek their approval if more time is needed, Dr Leong said.

Meanwhile, those who are still concerned about clocking too many hours while working from home should clearly express their preference to return to the office so that they can revert to more fixed hours, he said.

“Workers who prefer fixed hours of work should not expect the benefits of working from home and yet count hours in the same way since they control their hours of work,” he added.

HR expert Mayank Parekh, who was previously chief executive of the Institute for HR Professionals, said that employees may be tempted to continue working for longer than usual as they have full access to work all day at home, unlike leaving work at the office.

Working remotely in a new environment, such as the library or a cafe, could help energise you and increase your productivity, he added.

“Commuting provides a mental break, and tearing yourself out of the same environment refreshes your thinking.”


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