Why You Should Let Employees Go Home Early

Clare Bell

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has grabbed a megaphone atop a mountain to make this curious proclamation: Leave work early!

Okay, not literally, but in a recent video for makers.com -- a site that explores "trailblazing women… [who] inspire" by telling stories of working in their industries -- Sandberg confessed that she has been going home "early" at 5:30 p.m. even when she was working at Google.

"It's not until the last year, two years that I'm brave enough to talk about it publicly," explains Sandberg. "Now I certainly wouldn't lie, but I wasn't running around giving speeches on it."

But, wait, in most traditional jobs leaving at 5:30 p.m. is still staying late. Right? Maybe. But she recalls when she was "getting up earlier to make sure they saw my emails at 5:30 [a.m.], staying up later to make sure they saw my emails late. But now I'm much more confident in where I am and so I'm able to say, "Hey! I am leaving work at 5:30." And I say it very publicly, both internally and externally."

Some commenters are pointing out this is the first step in casting aside the shackles of an office culture where women have a tougher time carving out time from their jobs to spend with their families. But I know from experience that I did stuff like this at old or current jobs, and it isn't strictly a gender thing.

Job security is tough to come by, and nothing will scare someone into working extremely hard than the prospect of having the rug ripped out right from under you. But really, without that balance, what sort of work are you getting out of your employees? Fearful and probably borderline competent stuff -- not anyone's most creative or genius effort.

So if someone wants to leave "early," which is still a reasonable hour assuming they've worked all day, chill out. Let 'em go home. They'll come back the next day refreshed, recharged and ready to rock. Unless, of course, it's a weekend -- in which case those TPS reports can wait 'til Monday.

Don't ask 'em to come in on the weekend. 


David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as an interviewer-writer for Adult Swim, he's also a columnist for EGM. He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. When not playing video games for work he's thinking of dashing out to Chicago Diner, Pizano's, or Yummy Yummy. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.

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