In a fascinating and potentially important bit of research, the University of Washington found that flextime isn’t necessarily all it’s cracked up to be. Bosses in the study, led by Christopher Barnes of the University of Washington, showed an “early bias” that favored employees who arrived early.
Many international companies allow for flextime. Google lets its employees set their own hours; Microsoft allows many employees to do so as well as long as they come in between 9 and 11 am. At KPMG, 70% of the employees work flexible hours.
As Mr. Barnes found, “People seem to have a tendency to celebrate early-risers. Witness the enduring popularity of aphorisms like Ben Franklin’s ‘early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise’ or, in China, ‘a day’s planning should be done in the morning.”
He explained, “The field study we conducted tested the hypothesis that supervisor ratings of conscientiousness and performance would be associated with the timing of an employee’s work day.” The hypothesis was supported.
The researchers found that supervisors rated employees who came to work early as more conscientious. They received higher ratings than did those employees who came to work later.
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They then created a lab experiment to test their theory that supported this early bird theory.
As the researchers concluded, “One way or another, team leaders must come to accept that the people who use flextime to start their day late are not necessarily lazier than their early-bird colleagues.
Otherwise, flextime policies that could serve both employees and employers well will become known, and avoided, as routes to dead-end careers.”