Is clock watching harmful to your long-term career?

By Robert Half on 24 May 2018

Do you constantly find yourself watching the clock, counting down the minutes until the end of the day?

Do you start winding down before home time, making sure your desk is cleared, your coat is on and your PC switched off, so you don’t go a minute over your allotted hours?

Perhaps you find yourself avoiding colleagues in case any last-minute tasks present themselves?

If this sounds like you, then you may want to try and change your behaviours, as clock watching could be harming your career in the long-term.

6 ways clock watching can harm your career

Whether you must physically clock out to be paid hourly, or you’re a salaried worker, clock watching can be harmful to your long-term career. Although your official hours may be 9-5, here are six negative effects of being distracted by the clock.

1. You can become more stressed – Unsurprisingly, clock watching can increase your stress levels. Being so aware of time passing can add extra pressure on you. By wasting time staring at the clock, you also have less time to do your work. This will not only add further stress, but it can result in missed deadlines, as well as rushed and poor-quality output.

2. You’re wasting business time and money – When you’re constantly watching the clock, can you really reach your full potential? Your focus may also waver, along with the quality of your work. To a business, time is money. Therefore, if you’re being less productive and are starting to get ready to leave before your work day is officially over, this may not impress your employer.

3. You look unhappy and demotivated – When you love the job you’re in, you can get so engrossed in tasks that you don’t realise the time. However, if your manager sees you continuously staring at your clock and not at the project you’re supposed to be working on, this can imply that you don’t want to be in the office. This will not play in your favour when job promotions, pay rises and other opportunities are up for review.

4. You look unambitious – Businesses appreciate enthusiastic employees who use their initiative and find new tasks to fill their time. If you’re clock watching, this could suggest that you have too much time on your hands and are not interested in taking on more responsibilities and progressing your career.

5. You may appear unreliable – Whilst you should never be forced to work overtime, your employer would want to know they can rely on you if needed. If there’s a busy period for example and you typically don’t work a minute over your official hours, a manager may assume you’re not dependable.

6. You may miss out on opportunities – Managers often arrive at the office early and leave late. By arriving and leaving on your official hours, you may miss valuable opportunities to connect and build relationships with them. Don’t forget that these are the people that will be making decisions that can help progress your career.

When is clock watching OK?

As you can see, clock watching can be bad for your career, but there’s another side you should consider too.

It could be argued that if you’re productive, hard-working and focused at work, and you get your projects delivered on schedule, why shouldn’t you start and leave at your contracted hours? After all, if an employee works far beyond their working hours, it could suggest that they’re not being productive enough.

If you’re hoping to progress your career path, being known as someone who meets every deadline, provides an excellent quality of work every time, has positive relationships with colleagues and shows they love their work, is better than being known as someone who puts in long hours but does average work.

A final thought

When you clock watch, time doesn’t move faster. In fact, clock watching makes time feel like it’s going far slower. It even makes your job harder as you end up wasting time. You may think that you’re getting away with it, but it won’t go unnoticed by your colleagues and manager, which can have a long-term impact on your career.

It’s important to know though that to progress in your career, you don’t need to feel guilted into working every hour available. If you can show that you’re a hard worker, use your initiative and complete tasks by deadlines, you will still get noticed for the right reasons, even if you leave on time. It doesn’t mean you’re lazy or uncommitted.

In fact, making sure you leave on time can be good, as it’s important to have a healthy work-life balance. This not only means that you have an opportunity to relax, so you’re refreshed for the next day, but it can help to reduce stress and burnout.

Every business differs, so make sure you read the situation carefully and make your own mind up as to when is an appropriate time to start and leave. The good news is, with an increase in flexible working arrangements and working from home, businesses are focusing more on productivity and results, not how much overtime you did or didn’t do.

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