A recent New York Times article about how to ‘fake’ an 80 hour work week has hit a nerve with our colleagues and clients. Coming on the heels of the expose article about the work culture at Amazon, we started thinking about the impact of working long hours.

First, we all recognize the absurdity of a corporate culture that mandates levels of work commitment that have employees essentially living at the office, and only occasionally spending free time at home. We know of one agency that mandates a three hour response window to any client request, so staffers routinely set an alarm to get up and check email in the middle of the night, lest they miss a critical client request. This is a step too far, we assure you.

What’s intriguing to us at Point Taken is the focus on ‘faking it’ – leaving the impression of working long hours, without actually having to do it. Helping people manage impressions others form of them is what we do all day, so this part really got our thoughts going.

Want to know how to do this?

First, we recommend that employees work on appearing competent and committed in the hours they are at the office. Reducing time spent unproductively, especially if that waste happens in public (like hours in the lunch room, obvious Scrabble marathons, long discussions of matters best held private, emails circulating interesting cat videos, etc).  Look productive and people will assume you are productive (and hey, you might actually become more productive).

Then, don’t call attention to any accommodations you make in your work hours. If you need to take time off to attend to something, keep it on a ‘need to know’ basis, and make sure you still keep up your productivity.

The last key is to divorce ‘work’ from ‘workplace’. With all the technology available to us, we can work from almost anywhere with Wi-Fi. So, if you have to participate on a three hour corporate conference call, there is no rule that says you have to do so from your office. When we recognize that work can happen almost any place, then you have the chance to really take charge of the flow of your life.

And finally, we have to be OK with setting limits. No company is going to tell us to work less. We need to set the limits that allow us to be fully productive humans in all the roles we have in our lives, not just the ones at work.

Full New York Times article available here.