HR & Management

Is leaving work early actually a sign of effective time management?

5 min read

10 April 2019

Within the world of work, it's taken as a given that those employees who leave work 'on time' are seen as underperforming compared to their counterparts who exceed their stated work hours. But why is this? Is this a productive cultural trend to encourage in the workplace? Moreover, are we as employers unknowingly encouraging this practice of presenteeism to our the detriment of our own businesses?

Leaving early is something that the vast majority of employees wouldn’t ever consider doing – but why is this the case? Nine-to-five contracted hours still prevail as the most popular working schedule and often things that seem to deviate from this, such as leaving early, are quickly regarded as a poor use of working time; however this is not always the case, and this mentality is actually damaging for both effectiveness and productivity, as well as workplace wellbeing.

The problem with the long-hours culture

Within the workplace, a dominating idea remains that those who stay late at work every day are automatically maximising their time and are the most loyal employees to the business – however this concept omits the actual contribution each employee is making.

On the face of it, the employee who stays late is spending more time in the office and could appear more productive; however much of this time could have actually been spent procrastinating, whereas an employee who may have left the office earlier could have actually achieved more in a shorter space of time.

Therefore, it is much more beneficial to look at the contribution of each employee as opposed to simply their hours in the office. Rather than questioning the loyalty of those who leave early, it may actually be more beneficial to look at the time management skills of those who need to stay late.

Staying late

Staying late not only indicates lacking time management skills, but it also creates a poor work-life balance and unhealthy habits. If there are some employees who are staying late regularly and working flat-out during the day, this is a sign that their workload needs reviewing or that you may need to hire another employee.

Consider this – why is it important that people do not come in later or leave earlier? For many businesses, the answer isn’t entirely due to practical requirements but is due to cultural traditions that many leaders think they need to follow to be successful.

Start and end times do hold some importance as they ensure employees are available for any client calls, meetings or tasks but they should not be completely rigid. Working late may be required sometimes to accommodate for big projects or staff illness but it should not become a regular occurrence or one that is expected.

Consider time in chunks

Everyone has different periods of the day where they are most productive and different commitments in their life, so it is important that the workplace culture reflects this to fully embrace flexible working. If the way we consider time management is reconsidered, then the workplace can be more accommodating of the different requirements of employees. One way of considering time differently is to utilise the chunking method.

Some people find working in smaller chunks more effective, such as minutes or hours, but others prefer long-term thinking in terms of days, weeks or even years! If each employee is able to work within their preferred time chunk, they will be most productive and useful for a project. Similarly, mixes of time chunks will challenge each other to try to think differently too.

Working with those who think in the short-term and others who have a more long term outlook will mean you can gain guidance for all your business goals and can identify who is the best person to allocate for each stage of a project.

Do not give praise, nor power to unhealthy work habits

Unhealthy behaviours of praising or expecting long-hours culture or poor time management skills will only continue if they are not challenged by leaders and employees alike. In order to create a healthy and productive workplace for all, we need to recognise the contribution of employees, not just start and end times, and acknowledge and accommodate different ways of managing time.