I used to know it as the “Protestant work ethic“, in which you work to keep sin at bay, but looking at it honestly it is merely work guilt, the management of this work guilt is key to your work life balance and success long term in a corporate environment.
Before we get started, I want to make it clear that this is aimed at what I class as a non timed corporate permanent job, you don’t have clock in and clock out hours, instead you have fluid expectations on delivery, and in certain situations this is what can lead to guilt at work, Also I realise that this is a practical personal way of dealing with the problem, it is not the ‘correct’ way,
I class guilt as a key part of the burnout cycle and it’s application by both yourself and your work environment, often in the form of: “Take one for the team” , “Your letting us down”, and “Don’t you want to succeed” etc etc, it’s something that appears both in a genuinely innocent way and in a hard cynical fashion in nearly every work environment.
You can receive guilt in lots of different ways and I’m not even going to attempt to touch the ones that involve people’s personalities or good and bad behaviour from managers.
However ultimately it all comes down to the fact that you don’t feel you have done a job properly.
One of the simplest but hardest ways of doing this is to look what you’re doing and allocate how much effort you think is reasonable for your job. then construct a frame work round it that you feel you can mentally defend.
To explain, lets work through an example for a reasonably demanding or technical office job:
You have a standard work week, 9am-5pm with officially 1 hour for lunch, so 7 hours a day.
We all know that you wont be able mentally or practically to defend working like this in an expectation based role, your reviews and thus any bonuses you might make would suck, and you would stand no chance of progressing in your career, so there would be little point in being in this type of job, move back to a hours based job and remove the guilt.
At the opposite end of the scale, there is what most businesses would love, for you to live only for your job, experience has shown me that that is about a 16 hour work day, maintainable but only at the cost of everything else, true it absolves you of guilt but robs you of a life.
So our min is 7 hours a day our max theoretical is 16, Lets work something out in the middle that feels good in your mind and you can defend.
On a personal physical level 12 hours is about my sustainable max output, above that, I start to burn too hot and slowly damage my self, if the job needs more than that, then I am in the wrong job, don’t feel guilt, look for another job.
Now we are between 7 and 12 hours in a day, look at the work environment around you, what time do the emails start flying by the general team, and what time do they finish, again based on experience, I’m going to guesstimate, between 8:30 local time and 18:00,
So 9.5 hours is the environmental average, that is inside our 7-12 hour window, so valid, but if you did that would you still feel ‘bad’ and not able to relax, if so then add a tiny bit just enough to remove the guilt.
Now a 10 hour day results in me personally being resolved of guilt. If I work properly and do 50 hours of decent value work, Then I can push back on the never ending expectations, I know I am delivering more than the average but not to the point of damaging my self, you may wonder why I don’t mention how many hours are needed to do the job in any of this, and that is because on an expectation based role, there is no upper limit to the work you will receive, there is a quote “if you want a job done give it to a busy person“, it is valid.
Reading this you may think that this is a terrible idea and you should just work what you are paid to work, but I am going to disagree, 1) As I said this is not for an hours based role, this is for an expectation based role and, 2) Its an ultimately honest and self defining way of looking at your work, now you can look at what your ACTUALLY doing in your role and match it against the remunerations and opportunities your role provides, to see if you are valuing your self correctly.
Your work puts a value on your time, should you not know what that value is your self? and in knowing that value, know you have matched it and can therefore remove this as a point of guilt and ultimately stress.