Early birds are preceived as more productive (Bilde: Colourbox)


Managers prefer early birds

Those who arrive early to work are perceived as more productive.

Two employees with the opportunity of flexitime can work the same number of hours, at the same level of productivity, but their managers perception of their work effort will still differ.

This is connected to when the employee chooses to work in his flexitime.

Early to work = productive?

Managers have a perception that those arriving to work at the crack of dawn are more productive and conscientious than those who arrive later in the day and work evenings.

Washington Foster School of Business conducted this research study. 

– Organizations may be inadvertently punishing the employees who use flextime to start and finish working later in the day. And as accumulated poor performance ratings have detrimental effects on career advancement, this could partly explain why we often see flextime utilization having negative effects on employeesè careers, according to researchers Christopher Barnes, Kai Chi Yam and Ryan Fehr.

Excerpts of this study are now discussed in Harvard Business Review, and will later be published in its entirety in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

Conducted experiments

Researchers at Washington Foster School of Business conducted the following experiment:

141 participants were asked to act as department managers and assess the performance of their fictitious employees, based on a performance profile of the employees work hours and effort.

– This revealed that the fictitious employees working from 07-15 had a better rating than those working from 11-19, even if their work performance was identical.

Researchers have also found a connection between the managers own habits within flexitime and how they rate the productivity of others. 

– Early bird managers favor early bird employees, but night owl managers do not favor either way.

What is the motivation?

The article refers to a study from the University of Minnesota and Vanderbilt University.

They reached a more nuanced conclusion:

  • Managers that are positive to flexitime are mostly positive when they believe that employees use it to become more productive.
  • If it is perceived that the employees make use of flexitime based on personal reasons, most managers are negative.

In other words, the employees might be rewarded or punished based on what the manager thinks is the motivation for using flexitime.

Different research

Nina Cathrine Berg is senior consultant at the Norwegian work environment organization, Arbeidsmiljøsenteret. She says it is difficult to transfer this kind of study from the USA to Norway.

– Our work environment is very different. It is based less on the simplified analysis of performance that you see in American research. In some companies however, you are more influenced by these notions than in others, Berg says.

She says this can be more common in large global companies.

– In the smaller businesses that dominate Norwegian working life, I think it's easier to see peoples actual performance. But these are just assumptions based on experience, and not based on research.

Based on trust

Sverre Simen Hov, communication manager at the Norwegian organization for managers Lederne, adds:

– People are different. Some are productive early in the day and others can be equally productive later in the day. The important thing is to show trust in the employee.

He says that employers that give trust, often receive more in return than if you measure and  control the employee's day in detail.

– When more and more employers expect flexibility from their employees, they have to expect demands of flexibility in return, for example when it comes to what time of day the work is executed.