The early bird gets the worm. And possibly the promotion. A new study suggests that employees who start their day earlier when given start-time flexibility are given higher performance ratings.
Flexible work schedules are rising in popularity. Companies like Google allow employees to set their own hours or work from home whenever they need to. Other companies set boundaries, like the ability to start any time between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m., but allow autonomy within those boundaries. These twists on the traditional nine-to-five have been popular with employees and companies. Flexible work schedules have been associated with increased productivity, higher job satisfaction, and decreased turnover.
With results like these, workplace flexibility sounds like a no-brainer. But for the individual worker seeking a raise or promotion, it might not pay to take full advantage of the flexibility offered.
Early Hours Linked to Conscientiousness
The University of Washington Foster School of Business study conducted laboratory and field tests that all came to the same conclusion: early work hours are associated with conscientiousness. When conducting tests in the field, the researchers reviewed actual supervisor ratings of conscientiousness and performance and found that employees who start work earlier—even when controlling for total hours worked—were rated by supervisors as more conscientious and received higher performance ratings.
So what’s a worker to do when the snooze button—or spending more time with her family or going for a morning run—is more appealing than beating the other birds to the worm? Foster School of Business researchers say to be wary of bowing down to the old proverb.
“One message workers could take from this research is that if they have the opportunity to use flextime, they might be better served by using it to move their schedules early in the day rather than later in the day,” the researchers wrote. “However, we would hesitate to recommend this, since a trend in that direction can only heighten the penalties for their colleagues whose lives outside work make the earlier hours difficult. More productively, they can raise the subject of hours and timing with their supervisor, and help make explicit the understanding that start time is immaterial.”
Making Mornings Matter
Whether or not start-time flexibility is a factor for you, early mornings at the office can be hard. But according to Laura Vanderkam, author of “What The Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast,” there are some things you can do to become a morning person, which can make you happier, healthier and more satisfied.
1. Count The Clock
Vanderkam suggests writing down how you spend the minutes in your day, counting them the way a dieter counts calories. “A big part of the morning problem is our evening hours,” she says. “We straggle our way into bed over the course of several rambling hours puttering around, reading, surfing the web, watching Jon Stewart, or cleaning the house.” Evaluate the way your time is spent, consider cutting out unnecessary surfing or channel flipping and, instead, set a time to hit the hay each day. Bedtimes aren’t just for kids.
2. Figure out What’s Missing
Morning is the best time to carve out some minutes—or an hour—for that activity you never have time for. Taking the time to sit down to breakfast with your spouse or go for a run before the stress of the workday can play a role in reducing stress and increasing productivity. “The best morning activities aren’t the things you have to do,” Vanderkam says, “But the things you want to do but just never seem to get around to.”
3. Build the Habit
You can’t change from a snoozer to a morning person in a single day. Making your morning routine a habit can take several weeks. Vanderkam says it’s OK to bribe yourself along the way—if I run, then I get Starbucks. “Creating habits can take enormous willpower and energy, but maintaining habits actually conserves it. If you just know ‘mornings are when I run,’ it’s not a question of fighting yourself every day, it’s simply what happens.”
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