By Amy L. Hatch
A story about Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, has been making the social-media rounds this week — all because this high-powered female exec and mom confessed that she leaves her office at — gasp! — 5:30 p.m. every day.
In a video for Makers.com, Sandberg says:
“I walk out of this office every day at 5:30 so I’m home for dinner with my kids at 6, and interestingly, I’ve been doing that since I had kids. I did that when I was at Google, I did that here, and I would say it’s not until the last year, two years that I’m brave enough to talk about it publicly. Now, I certainly wouldn’t lie, but I wasn’t running around giving speeches on it.”
What’s crazy about Sandberg’s “bravery” is the fact that leaving the office at 5:30 p.m. used to be considered perfectly civilized, and it certainly didn’t mean you were slacking off or putting your family before your work (and what’s so wrong with that, anyway).
I grew up in a company town, the northeast city that gave birth to what we called the Big Three: Eastman Kodak Co., Xerox Corp. and Bausch and Lomb and everyone knew that if you worked at Kodak, you were home by 5 p.m. — no matter what your gender.
My dad worked for Xerox his whole life, and while he stayed at the office later than most of the other fathers I knew, he never went to work on the weekends and rarely worked past the bedtime hour.
I did a stint at a gig that required a life led on call, a 24-hour a day job that left me very little time for anything else in my life. Working at a newspaper is to be ready to get to that event, scene, press conference and, in my case, endless evening municipal and school board meetings, not to mention holidays, weekends and plenty of other off-hours work.
It takes a toll and it prevents you from having a life.
When I left that job for corporate America, I left my office at 5 p.m. on the dot most days, and earlier if I had nothing left to do that day. I raised eyebrows left and right doing this, although plenty of the other cubes were empty at the same hour.
But the offices with the doors? No one left earlier than 6 p.m.
Surprise! I had trouble getting promoted.
Our society is more competitive than ever and staying late at the office is just one way we try to outdo each other in our relentless — and exhausting — quest to be and have the The Very Best. But to what end?
Some professions demand a serious time commitment — doctor, fireman, newspaper reporter/editor, even plumber. But how many of us can really say that our jobs are so important that we need to sacrifice our personal lives in order to do them?
Are you with me? Are you in favor of the eight-hour workday? Let’s start a revolution — go home on time tonight.