Everyone at my law firm works late into the evening. I have a young child and can’t do that, but my (mostly male) team don’t seem to respect me. What do I do?
I’m a big believer in a work/life balance, spending time with your family and Parkinson’s law: “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” If work expands to fill the time allotted to it, make less time available to get more work done quicker.
There is little to gain by working late. It’s usually counterproductive; your efficiency dips and the quality of work drops. The only thing you gain is respect within a dated company culture. Mary Portas’ new book, Work Like A Woman, asks why we are trying to fit into workplace cultures created by and for men who traditionally have made little or no contribution in the home.
The more subtle signs of presenteeism (leaving your jacket at your desk so people think you haven’t left work) and the more concrete (working 9-5) were created without consideration for child-rearing. New parents soon recognise that the ludicrous rhythm of the default workplace does not accommodate school times; nor do school hours accommodate commutes.
So, what do we do when the rules are outdated? Invent new ones. Build a routine that enables you to hang out with your family, explain it to your team and stick to it. All other macho noise can be blocked out. Working longer means you bill more to the client, increasing the income for the firm. But how does the money stack up versus spending time with your child? Are you prepared for the inevitable if you bill less than your colleagues?