It was 9.30 am when I reached the office.
“Thanks for turning up for work,” said my colleague from our global HQ. I wasn’t amused.
He repeated the same to another senior colleague who walked in 30 minutes later; much to the embarrassment of our colleague.
I decided to confront him over his chaffing remarks, to which he responded, “In the US, almost everyone begins work between 7am – 7.30am. Perhaps my remark is coming from this mindset.”
By now, I was steaming with anger and retorted, “What does coming super early to work denote?” as I felt his annoying remark was a cultural attack on my team.
He responded with these reasons:
- Makes him more productive (less people in office to trouble him)
- No disturbances arising from calls from clients (allows him to focus on the most critical tasks). But I have to ask, “What’s more important than clients?”
- Denotes a kind of discipline which is visible to all (call it “looking good”)
- Allows him to leave early (well, I like this, I must say)
I shook my head in disagreement as I have got myself in debates throughout my career on the subject of getting in early or “on time” to work. To tell the truth, there was a phase in my life when I was in the opinion that colleagues who arrived to work after the scheduled start time were lazy and undisciplined. However, from these very repeated debates, I begun to question my personal point-of-view: could this be dependent on the context of the organisation and its line of business?
Allow me to put this in perspective: In one of my previous assignment’s, I was the only one in office at 9.30 am and this occurred almost daily. It was a business unit in a service industry that was not profitable. Naturally, I shot out an email to the HR Head; asking if this tardiness was acceptable? HR promptly obliged with an email sent to everyone across the company; “reminding” them on the importance of arriving on time to work. In private, though, the HR head shared with me that most of our colleagues were travelling from far distances and that I shouldn’t be hard on them.
“Oh really,” I bit back. “From neighbouring countries, no less!”
To make matters worse (for myself and those within my circle of influence) soon after the email was sent; I stood at the hallway of the office at 9.30 am every morning to see it made a difference to these latecomers. Unfortunately, it didn’t; and the number of empty seats at that hour remained the same. However, as days passed into months and I familiarized myself with my team members, I snubbed my personal opinion – this was a hard working team who delivered most of what was expected of them. How petty of me to check on timings!
Having said that, each industry has its unique nuances concerning the time employees’ clock in and out of work; especially clocking in. For example, in a customer-facing environments, employees are expected to be in the office on time as the company’s brand (and revenue, too) could be impacted by presence or absence. On the other end of the scale, there’s the individually-contributing roles; for which it is acceptable to practice a flexible work schedule.
After all, in a work world of different time zones, customer zones, certain work contexts (call it escalations or deadlines), and travel requirements, we end up working way beyond office hours so starting late seems like an earned right. Unfortunately, when you work with colleagues who are oblivious to your workload but are only witness to your late starts, you are labelled as a latecomer! However, if the key stake holders of your company acknowledges your contributions (and not your attendance sheet!), that’s well and good! When it is on the contrary, you need to worry!
I was once in an international assignment (sorry, my story again) during which time I used to arrive at the office in the other country every alternative Monday morning at 8 am from a red eye flight; grab some sleep – shut eye for an hour or so; and get into office between 11am – 12 noon. Soon after, my boss informed me that he got to know that I was clocking in late to work on these days to which I smiled as karma took a bite at me! I conceded that his spies were right about my late starts but they weren’t around when I ended my days. I also showed him the number of flights we had per day to that country. You now know how I must have felt about the people who sat next to me in the office, soon after!
In my view, irrespective of the industry/role you are in, coming after the company’s official start time frequently (and unfortunately!) creates these impressions:
- Not serious about work
- Taking the company’s flexibility for granted
Even if your boss is a believer of your output (more than your time adherence) it will eventually get to him/her too – you see, a slight slack on your part at work such as missing deadlines (despite of genuine reasons) performance dips; and customer escalations, your late starts will become a point to soreness with your stakeholders.
My advice? Lest you’re a constant “superstar” at work (and we know how many can really be one), stop your late night TV shows; get to bed early; have two alarms switched on the night before; skip your shower and breakfast, if you must; leave home by 6 am; and be at work before the everyone. And oh, don’t forget to keep staring at your PC – even if you don’t accomplish anything for the day, it will be fine!
When I get in to the office way before anyone else, I believe everyone else is late!