It's 5:00:01PM. Time to Leave Work?
It’s 5:02 and 34 seconds. You’ve been watching your computer clock tick for the last half hour. You’re done with all your work. You’ve read the entire Internet, reorganized your inbox (sub folders for sub folders for sub folders style), and have sent emails with the subject line “I’m dying…” to everyone you know. Your boss sits in the next office, yapping away on the phone. All you can think of is what it will feel like to step through the front office doors and into freedom. Should you leave? In a sane world, yes. But often, the unspoken rule is that you shouldn’t leave work before your boss. You’re expected to be there until after they leave, unless they tell you to go home first. In which case you should probably say something horribly insincere like “Really? Wouldn’t you like me to stay and help you with anything? Like organizing your file cabinets?” And, dangerously, it is likely that yes, yes they would.
But before you even think about shutting down that monitor, make sure that you’ve done everything you were supposed to do, prepared everything you were supposed to prepare, and know what your game plan is for the next morning. If you’ve done all this, and your boss still doesn’t give you the green light, try doing some above and beyond work (a.k.a. brownie points) for a bit and then asking them if there’s anything they need help with. It’s a polite cue that you’re done with all your stuff and are wanting to be released back into the wild.
In general, the best way to figure out when to leave work is to observe when other people are leaving. All offices have official “hours,” but different departments usually have their own ebb and flow. You should get in that current. Underlings, unfortunately, are usually expected to put in the worst hours—since the overlings probably had to do the same to get there. It’s that whole “paying your dues” thing. I would say life isn’t fair, but, unfortunately, it’s pretty understandable. Gotta pay the cost to be the boss.