May 19, 2014
Humans remain wedded to long-held ideas about the times and places in which we work best so if you want to get ahead in your career, you need to be in the office nice and early, regardless of any flexible working arrangements. That is the conclusion of new research from the University of Washington due to be published in full later this year in the Journal of Applied Psychology. The research is flagged up by its authors in the current issue of the Harvard Business Review. It shows that our attitudes to presence are so pervasive that workers who get an early start are rated as more effective by their line managers regardless of the number of hours they work and what they achieve in that time. Researchers conclude that managers have a profound morning bias that leads them to confuse conscientiousness with an early start.
The research focussed on a group of over 200 pairs of managers and employees with start times ranging from 5am (really?) and 9.45am, averaging out at just 8.45am. The study showed a clear correlation between how managers rated staff and the time at which they got to work. The research suggests that those who work flexible hours to balance their commitments, for example by taking children to school in the morning, might be doing unwitting damage to their careers, despite having flexible working hours sanctioned by their employers. The results of this research were largely corroborated by two related tests.
There are two possible chinks of light illuminating such gloomy suggestion. Firstly the research was carried out primarily in the US so may show a cultural bias. Secondly, managers who start late themselves exhibit less morning bias.