How to Survive Long Hours at Work

Whether it’s a tight deadline or an unexpectedly massive workload, sometimes your 9-5 can turn into a “9-whenever”. Extended work hours can seriously drain you for days to come. Despite my best efforts, I tend to pull some long hours at work for a variety of reasons, so I’ve had to develop ways to make the schedule a bit more bearable. Try out these tips next time you need to stay late at the office! 

Preparation is Key

If you find that late nights are becoming more frequent, it helps to prepare for the eventuality. For example, make sure you have a safe and easy way home. I always store a phone charger at work so I never have to worry about the battery dying before I leave the office. It also helps to meal prep some healthy dinners so you aren’t stuck with whatever food is available near the office. My local options are a Tim Hortons and a Burger King, so the options are slim (pun intended)!

Practice the “Five O’Clock Check-In”

This strategy is best for those with the bad habit of staying late more often than necessary. It might sound crazy, but it happens! You don’t want to fall into the defeatist routine of thinking every night will be a late one. Because if you think it will happen, it definitely will!

At five o’clock (or another pre-selected, reasonable closing time), make a list of everything you need to complete in order to go home that day. If you work with a team, create the list together to ensure your collective goals are captured. Then start whittling down your to-do list, and stick to it! Once it’s done, go home. This discipline is harder than you think, especially if many of your co-workers are working long hours. “Face time” is a dangerous trap, and it’s so important to value your own time and work efficiently.

Don’t Schedule Meetings After Hours

It can be tempting to push meetings until the end of the day when other priorities pop up. But remember that come five o’clock, people tend to get a little…loopy. I’ve found that evening meetings tend to be the least productive. This is especially true when you all have lots of work to complete once the meeting is over. You risk adopting the following mindset: “It’s going to be a long night anyway, so who cares if this meeting runs long?” Let me tell you: your family cares, your body cares, and your mind cares. Try to avoid these late-night meetings for everyone’s benefit.

Take Short, Active Breaks

If you’re spending long hours at work, mental and physical fatigue will creep up on you. This can lead to a decline in the quality and quantity of your work. To mitigate this, get up at least once an hour and take a walk. Grab a drink of water, stretch your legs, and rest your eyes if you’ve been staring at a screen. You’ll head back to your desk feeling at least slightly refreshed. Your body, and your boss, will thank you.

Get Plenty of Rest After Those Long Hours at Work

Once you get home, make sure to take a “brain break” and get plenty of sleep. Use this screen-free opportunity to get some exercise, if you still have the energy. Take advantage of your vacation time as well, as I’ve been doing for the past week. Recharge for your own enjoyment, and to help you feel refreshed and ready for the work days ahead.

It can be overwhelming to juggle all of your roles and responsibilities while working long hours. But it’s just like using oxygen masks on an airplane: you have to take precautions for your own (metaphorical) survival in order to take care of those around you.

How do you handle long hours at work? Share your tips in the comments below!

How to Survive Long Hours at Work