For many years, the 9-5 working hours did not exist in my line of work. Particularly, not when I was in the advertising industry.

In fact, it is a norm for ad people to work late and not leave for home until the sky was dark.

Anyone caught leaving the office shortly after 6pm was asked, “Are you on half day today?”.

Unhealthy work culture

Staying late at office was being celebrated even till these days. People were judged for leaving the office on time even when they had finished their work.

More people who stayed late for work would then come into the office later than usual.

It became a vicious cycle.

Breaking the cycle

When I left the advertising agency to go in-house, I was pleased no one judged me for leaving on time. It was amazing to still see daylight as I stepped out of my office and be home in time to enjoy home-cooked dinners.

Was I, therefore, less productive than my peers still in the industry?

No, because I made every hour count, and my days were intense and packed with agendas.

Everyone at work was committed to finish what they had to do before the knock-off time. I found myself to be extremely productive and yet able to manage both work and personal life.

The “half-day” discipline

I was amazed to find the same unhealthy culture prevailing when I returned to the agency world after almost a decade.

Look, I am not averse to working long hours if the project/deadlines called for it.

My years away from the unhealthy work culture had disciplined me on working hours.

I learned to make time for proper meals, rest and the family. And, I can do these without compromising my efficiency while in the office.

If I have to attend to work after office hours, I would make sure that my personal needs are taken care of first.

I encourage my staff to leave on time, take breaks and follow regular meal habits.

We should not judge others when they do so. It’s unnecessary.

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