For Mario Contreras, putting in eight hours at the office is just the beginning of his workday. After he eats with his kids and puts them to bed, Contreras heads over to his laptop and shoots off emails or resolves a concern with his construction crew. The night might end hours later when he finally slips into bed.
Contreras, the 32-year-old owner of 27 Charley’s Grilled Subs, says as he opens new restaurant locations worldwide his workload stretches as does his work hours. In the evening, he connects with people all over the country and the world who are designing and building his new restaurants. “I find you just can’t clock out anymore.”
Today, only 11 percent of professionals globally say they have accomplished all the tasks they planned to do by the end of an average workday, according to a study by LinkedIn. It’s no wonder then that many workers find business is creeping into the evening hours and more of us now consider dinner simply a midday break.
The smartphone, the laptop and the tablet allow us to be more connected than ever before, and that makes it oh so tempting to reconnect with work from home at night. Workplace experts are grappling with whether we are burning the midnight oil by need or by choice and if we can sustain this pace.
“Today, jobs are more precious and the economy has driven that home,” says Tim Geisert, chief marketing officer for Kenexa, a global recruiting and leadership development firm. “That has made people more willing to put in discretionary effort.”
Geisert says he is one of those workers who put in evening hours. “Technology is an enabler. I’ll spend my quiet evening time catching up on what didn’t get done that day and trying to get ahead for the following day.”
Some late-nighters say it’s daytime distractions that lead to evening hours — the meetings, the phone calls, the people who barge into your cubicle. “Nighttime is my think time. I save emails that take more thought and do that at night,” Geisert explains. “I find online conversations at night are more fruitful.”
Valerie Mitrani and Julie Lambert, co-directors of educational services at the Center for the Advancement of Jewish Education in Miami, say working more effectively during the day may help your workload from invading your personal time at night. The pair, trained in Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, recently spoke at the Jewish Women’s Foundation of Broward County and advised scrutinizing and prioritizing our work habits to do tasks that are both urgent and important.
Flexibility and connectivity factor into this new work pattern, too. Mitrani says she is one of millions of Americans who took on more job responsibilities in the past few years as organizations cut back staff.
“Fortunately, with technology, everyone can work on their own time frame,” she says. “I’d rather get home at 4:30, do homework and eat dinner, and then be more productive for another hour at night, rather than staying later, fighting traffic to get home and missing out on time with my kids.”
Of course, the ease of working at night may have turned it into a habit that may need to be curbed.
“If you are trying to put serious hours in and want to see your children, working from home at night is better than the alternative, which is working 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.,” says Laura Vanderkam, author of 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think. However, it can become a problem if you do it every single night, she says. “Challenge yourself. For two nights a week, force yourself to do something other than work, something to maintain your personal life.”