If you’re just starting out in a management position, you may wonder if there’s anything you should change about your work schedule. Is it better to show up for work earlier? If so, how early?
Managers should start their days 30 to 60 minutes earlier than their employees. They will spend this time planning their day ahead, organizing tasks, taking time to reflect, and work on their self-improvement.
When I accepted my first management role, I quickly discovered that being a manager comes as a package with many extra responsibilities. They all take a bite out of your time, especially if you don’t know how to organize yourself (at first).
Sometimes, to have more time you have to make more time. No matter what organizational skills you have, getting an early start is highly productive.
The Positive Effects of Coming to Work Earlier
You’ll find out that 30 to 60 minutes working on your own, without your team’s distraction, can do wonders for your day. The office is a quiet place during that time. I always find it soothing and have a sense of satisfaction when I’m starting the day alone, preparing for what will come next.
If you’re working from home, that’s fine too! Not being absorbed by your colleagues in chats or online meetings for a good amount of time will feel great.
Having more time also boosts productivity, because you’ll be able to help others more throughout the day.
In this article on realsimple.com, Maggie Seaver talks about how people are most productive during their first hours of the day.
Not only you have high productivity, but you’re happier and more satisfied with your life too.
So what’s stopping you? Take control of those juicy hours!
Having a good work routine improves your discipline, lowers stress, and builds your image in the company. By getting in early, you have more time to settle into “work mode”: making a coffee, going through some leftover paperwork, and doing miscellaneous tasks.
It’s your time to start the day the way you want to! No clients, no emergencies, no distractions – just focus on yourself and the day ahead.
Who knows, if you’re commuting, maybe you’ll even beat traffic.
Making use of the extra time
So, you’re 30 to 60 minutes ahead of everybody else. What do you do?
Balance things out. See if there’s any work you needed/wanted to do the days before but didn’t have time to do it. The background tranquility gives you a great opportunity to catch up on what you left pending.
Reflect on what went well (or wrong) during the past few days. Write down the actions you want to take to improve things. See where you’re at with your objectives and set targets for the day.
Think about your team members. You can take time and analyze who needs feedback, or who’s underperforming. You can plan meetings and organize your calendar for them.
Stay up to date with your company. Read the latest blog post to see what’s new. See who else joined your company. It’s important to be aware of your surroundings and be well-informed.
Go through your schedule and emails. I find it very productive to have an overview of the tasks at hand, prioritize them, and think about approaches. Slashing unnecessary emails is a great way to get rid of the fluff. If you see something you need to delegate, plan it ahead of time.
And last but not least, work on yourself. Keep your favorite leadership book close by. Visit my blog and start reading (wink, wink). Listen to a good podcast. These are the factors that will help you progress if you include them in your daily routine.
When should you come in early for work?
It’s always good to have some extra time for yourself. That being said, there are situations when I feel morally obligated to make use of that time.
Here are a few examples:
- You know it’s going to be a big day
If you’re working on something that needs more of your attention, start the day early. Think of trainings, interviews, or similar situations where you can’t delegate the tasks to somebody else.
Meanwhile, your team may still need you. Using the extra time is useful here because you can plan ahead and inform your team of the challenges at hand. They should come to you with urgent matters only during a day like this.
- Your team needs help more than usual
The more help they need, no matter the reason, the better it is to have more time for them. As a manager, you have your own tasks, besides leading the team. You can use those 30 to 60 minutes to reduce your workload and free some calendar slots.
- The company is going through stressful times
You are a team player. If you notice the company needs extra effort to move past trickier times, it’s an excellent opportunity to show how productive you really are. By doing so, you’ll make your contribution and help the company move forward.
Think of other situations when having more time would work to your advantage.
Coming in Early and the Effects on Your Work Environment
I’d like to talk a bit about how others will perceive you when you’re consistently coming in early for work.
Your coworkers from other departments will most probably see you as a hard-worker and dedicated employee. They’ll know that if they come in early too, they’ll have quality company. It’s very possible to tie some bonds during this time, as you’ll have more opportunities to talk with them in a quiet setting.
Your manager will appreciate your efforts, without a doubt. Because you’ll be using your time to be more productive, you’ll achieve more. If your manager notices this, it can go one of two ways.
- They’ll give you even more to work on.
- They’ll start looking at you as a power player.
This is why it’s best to make your intentions clear when this topic will be brought up. You’re not doing it to increase workload, but to optimize what you’re doing already. If this impresses other people, it’s just a bonus for your image.
But if your performance will only bring extra, non-paid work to the table, it’s time to have a talk with your manager. Set clear expectations and explain why you’re doing what you’re doing.
Getting to work early does not mean you should burn yourself out. Of course, you’ll be more than happy to get a promotion, go forward with your career and expand your team, if that’s where the company is heading to. Communication is key.
Your team members will notice it too. Because they don’t know specifically what you’re going through as a manager (the tasks you have, the challenges you face), there are several ways in which they can react.
Although many can see this in a positive light, there will be some who will have some questions. You can think of it as a potentially unwanted side effect. I’ve been called a “workaholic” when all I was trying to do was to streamline our work processes. Even though it’s a bit rude to hear these things, you should pay attention to them.
Consistently starting your day off early may put psychological pressure on your team. They can raise this question: “Does our manager expect us to get to work faster too?”.
There’s nothing stopping them from doing the same thing and granting themselves some extra minutes in their routine.
I believe these “preparatory” minutes before actually starting work are useful no matter the role you have in your company. You can educate your team about the reasons you’re getting a head start, and maybe convince some of them to do the same thing. It’s optional, but they may see the advantages.
Depending on your company policy, working extra hours can bring some benefits to employees. It’s up to you to see how this applies to your team.
You shouldn’t expect financial rewards for things you want to do out of your own will. That being said, it wouldn’t harm to mention it if the opportunity arises.
Defining Core Hours
Besides starting the day early, if possible, it’s important to set some core times for your activities.
According to yourdictionary.com, core hours refer to the fixed block of time during which the company expects the employees to be at work.
For example, let’s say your schedule is from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Monday through Friday, which is the most common full-time work schedule. Setting core hours allows you to have high productivity intervals in which every member of your team is working.
For the example stated above, an idea would be to have core hours from 10:30 AM to 1:00 PM, and after lunch, from 2:00 PM to 4:30 PM. During these times, all hands are on deck, with very few exceptions. By “exceptions”, I’m referring to emergencies or special days used for something else: training, conferences, and so on.
You need to get your people on board to respect these times. They can collaborate and communicate without having to wonder where their colleagues are. You, as a manager, can always depend on the fact that your team is ready to handle any tasks during core hours.
This approach also goes well with “flexitime”, which is a custom work schedule mutually agreed between employees and managers. It gives your people the flexibility to do some personal activities or gives them the possibility of working their own hours. Of course, it depends on what your company policy is in this respect.
Once you establish what the core hours are, make sure your team keeps up with them. As a good rule of thumb, you should always be there before the core hours start.
What Should you do when Running Late?
If you’ve gotten your team used to a specific schedule and want to always stay true to the core hours, running late should be a rare occurrence. This applies to your team as well.
However, when it does happen, you need to keep a communication channel open.
Everyone should phone in or leave a message on a group chat with an approximate time of arrival. This brings peace of mind and sets some expectations on how long the delay will be.
You don’t need to explain or share the reasons why you were late if you don’t want to. It’s much more important to pay attention to how often this happens. If it’s a regular thing, your team will notice and it may produce unwanted effects. What would keep them from slacking if their own manager is not doing what they preach?
Getting a head start is beneficial for your mind and body. It also increases productivity and relieves some of the day-to-day stress.
Use the time to think about matters that are overlooked or pushed in the future. Take a few minutes to improve yourself.
Consider coming in early especially when there are tough days that need your full focus.
Have core hours in place and respect them. Communicate as a team when one of you is running late.
Don’t burn yourself out. Get enough sleep to have an energetic start each morning.