This is post is part of my Bad Career Advice series in which I expose outdated, clichéd, and counterproductive advice for exactly what it is.
Most of us probably dream of the 8-hour workday. It’s an elusive beast, an urban legend of sorts. Apparently, there was an era when work started at one time and ended at another and, outside of those hours, you were free. Sadly, this is not the modern reality, and that’s why today’s bad career advice is the propagation of the 8-hour workday myth.
You’re Never Disconnected
Technology is a beautiful thing but, if we have to point the finger at any one specific cause for the disintegration of the 8-hour workday, I’m aiming squarely in this direction. Today’s technology ensures you’re always “on”. With a Blackberry, a laptop and a wireless Internet connection, you can literally set up shop anywhere. And most employers expect that you will when needed. Vacations and sick days almost always include some work interaction through email. It seems nearly impossible to separate personal time from professional time.
You’re Always YOU
Just as I mentioned in my recent post called The Compartmentalization of Life, you can’t simply create a “work persona” and a “home persona”. You’re the same person in both places, and what happens in one life impacts the other regardless of what the clock says. Therefore, you have to be aware that your actions outside of the office can—and will—follow you back to the office.
Don’t think that, just because you’re in your “off hours” you can behave any way you’d like without consequence. Imagine that you’re out on the town and you get a little tipsy. You end up dancing on the bar with some friends and making a bit of an embarrassing scene. Then, you come to find out that a client was there that night and saw you. You might as well have jumped on a desk in the office. Your client is still your client and you still represent your company, regardless of where you are or when the interaction takes place.
You Set Your Limits
The truth is this: Your limits won’t be set by the hands of the clock. When you’ve completed your 8 hour shift, no bell will ring indicating that you’re free to wrap up your work, go home and live your REAL life. This is your real life and you have to set your own limits in it. It’s up to you to turn off your cell phone when you need a break. You have to say “no” when professional obligations intrude on personal time to an unacceptable degree. You have to be honest about your professional position and how your actions outside of the workplace will impact it.
If you don’t set your limits, others will do it for you and an 8 hour workday will become an even more distant dream.