The thrills of working late


Not many grads working in London would feel compelled to write such a blog post I feel (perhaps I’m wrong, I’d love to chat with them).

However at 23:30 on a Tuesday evening in October, I’m back in flat and typing away.

This isn’t a post about “Ooh look at me working long hours” it’s about the fact even after every other company in our shared office had gone home this evening, I was still totally comfortable cracking on with work.

This surprised me. And so I thought I’d share it.

I watched a very interesting TED talk recently about how the surest way to demotivate someone is to demonstrate how their work had no value. This was shown through having participants make lego objects and give them to a “boss”. The boss would then ask them to make another after either thanking them, saying nothing, or breaking their model up into pieces.

Though the person was still doing the same task (i.e. building another lego model) the fact that it evidently had no value (the boss would always break it up) meant these people stopped the experiment before the others.

Now, what’s Lego got to do with what I’m doing?

The reason I am willing to put in long hours at the moment is that I can see the tangible benefit that my efforts are having on the business.

In previous jobs, staying late was often to put in facetime, or spending hours waiting for a review to come back from a senior, only to type up their comments to then pass to someone else to scribble all over them. There are countless examples, but they all revolve around the work you do not really making the world a better place.

It’s difficult (I find) to get truly excited about checking the consistency of a colour scheme in a 100 page Powerpoint presentation at 11pm at night.

However, when it’s a task that you’ve been doing, which can directly improve a business you work at – I find that brilliant.

So what can we take away from this?

A number of ancillary points, but the key one being people are motivated if what they do is going to be valued.

In past experience,  I’ve found asking people to do mundane tasks works best if you give the context as to WHY it needs doing, rather than get forceful about it.

For people to be truly happy working late, they have to believe that what they are doing is valuable.