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Man leaving work early

Leaving work early – is it sloping off or could it be good time management?

What’s the attitude in your organisation around the start and finish time of people’s working day? How do your senior team behave and how do they judge other people around when they arrive and leave work. This will determine how people behave much more than any real resourcing issues in your workplace...

Human beings are very adaptable and can pick up on culture quickly, it’s engrained in our biology. Right back from our tribal roots we have the ability to tune it to what’s required to ‘fit in’, most of this is unconscious until we stop and think about it.

This short video explains how to achieve a better work life balance.

If an organisation is complaining about people coming in late or leaving early, we will always unpack with them why this is important. We want to ascertain how much of it is to do with a business requirement and how much of it is a cultural issue. There are good reasons to regulate peoples’ start and end times for working days, people need to be available for meetings, tasks and appointments as the business requires. For some organisations, though, this issue has developed more meaning that it really deserves.

Here are some common ones:

  • Leaders complain about people leaving early. When explored further that is defined by anyone leaving before 6pm. Their contracted day is 9-5.
  • People arrive early or on time for work and then spend time drinking coffee, eating their breakfast and ‘catching up’ with colleagues. They are present but not working.
  • People’s expectations of working day times vary significantly from their contracted hours.

Working late sometimes when there is an important deadline or something you want to finish shows dedication and good prioritisation. If you have someone who’s always working late then it could be appropriate to question their ability to manage their time. If the organisation is not drastically under resourced then people should be able to accomplish what they need to within the working day.

The problem with organisational culture is, if no-one challenges what’s happening, it can slip into unhealthy behaviour. Before you know it, it’s ‘just the way it is here’. Sadly we have also come to value people who are ‘so busy’ as if it’s some kind of badge of how popular and important they are. If you want a productive and healthy culture these slippages need to be addressed.

Signs of slippage are:

  • Managers are demanding more people and resources without a direct business cause. They just seem to be overwhelmed. This could be an indication of slippage into an unproductive culture. People working late too often is not necessarily a symptom of overwork.
  • You walk around the business during the working day and people seem to be engaged in idle activities a lot. I’ve seen many organisations where people come in early, are working when the boss arrives, slack off during the day and then get busy again around 4.30. This is not the fault of the individuals, it’s a sign that management measure productivity by what you are doing when they arrive and leave.

People should be measured on their outputs and contribution to the business and, as leaders and HR professionals, you need to make sure this is being measured appropriately; not just by employee’s working day start and end times.

In our Mind Mastery course we teach you to understand the reasons behind your employees’ behaviours and foster the kind of business culture that will generate the results you want. If you'd like to learn more, join us on one of our upcoming webinars.

Read more about how to be more productive and more in flow in Karen and John’s best selling book Time Mastery; Banish Time Management Forever, available from Amazon UK or direct from Monkey Puzzle.

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

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