When you get comfortable, it’s easy to get sloppy. You stop caring as much about the little things and at first, it seems like that’s fine.
Even if the ramifications aren’t apparent, there are ramifications to compromising on the little things, like punctuality and preparedness.
Forbes published survey results from YouGov that surveyed Americans to gauge how often they were late for work.
This result did show that younger employees were a bit more likely to be late than their older counterparts, but personally, I’ve seen both my fellow Millennials and my older colleagues counting down to retirement be late with some regularity. At any rate, punctuality is something people of any age can benefit from.
We should all try to have some level of comfort — not complacency, mind you — in our personal and professional lives. We need peace and we need time to catch our breath at times. However, you can be comfortable and unstressed, but you should use those positive feelings to push yourself to do your best work.
1. It shows you’re committed.
When your elders told you to always be on time to impress people, they were telling the truth. Punctuality is something that will never truly die. Professionally, it shows your commitment to your job and your desire to put your best foot forward. It shows that you aren’t there to loiter by the coffee machine or water cooler all day, but that you want to get your day started and be productive.
I’m focusing primarily on punctuality in your professional life, but being on time for personal engagements never hurts either. If someone is grievously late on a first date without good reason, would you really want to go on a second date?
Punctuality is important for your personal life as well, but it’s absolutely key to your professional life.
2. You’ll never miss anything.
Even if your office is a bit lax and strolling in any time between 9 and 9:30 is more or less acceptable, being early means that you’ll never miss a meeting, you’ll never miss someone looking for you, and you might even get looped in on important meetings that you’d otherwise have missed.
I worked as a copyeditor at a startup for a brief time and saw this at work even in a looser, more modern work environment. Everyone worked long hours, but there was some flexibility; if you got in at 9, you left at 6. If you got in at 9:30, you left at 6:30. We worked hard and kept busy, but this flexibility didn’t do an ounce of good for me. I lived so far away that I had to leave at 5:30 to get my commute down to 1 hour. If I left any later, I’d sit in traffic for 2 hours.
Subsequently, after a few months of haunting early morning coffee shops, I got a key to the office and was 2 and a half hours early every morning. This was extreme and I’m certainly not telling you to do this; most of my colleagues didn’t arrive until 8 at the earliest.
I found myself getting invited to meetings with senior leadership. It was interesting to learn more about the startup I was working for and learning more about the tools they used to measure success. It also helped me get involved with more exciting projects.
Nevertheless, in normal circumstances without awful traffic, I think that getting in a few minutes early is sufficient. The goal is to never compromise on punctuality, but not to throw yourself so far out of work-life balance that you end up burnout.
3. It’s something that both colleagues and supervisors appreciate.
Sometimes, you might just have a job with a cool boss who totally understands that the train is never on time and that the bus is always going to get caught in traffic.
It’s really nice to have that understanding, but why not just catch the earlier train?
That old moniker about the early bird catching the worm wasn’t wrong. If you work on a team, your colleagues will appreciate it if you’re on time, especially if they are as well.
Even if you work more independently, supervisors are always happy to see their reportees at their desks with a few minutes to spare before the start of their shift.
4. You’ll earn more respect.
Regardless of what your rank is — whether you’re the corporate prince or pauper — it commands respect when you’re punctual.
Do you respect a colleague who is constantly late? Do you respect a boss who rolls in at 10 in the morning when everyone else needs to be there at 8:30? These numbers are just examples, but even people in power command more respect when their fortitude shows through.
Whether you’re on the top of the ladder or just starting to scale it, people will have more respect for you if you’re consistently punctual.
5. It’s actually better and less stressful for you too.
The earlier you go, the less stress you’ll face. It’s actually better for your mental and physical health to get to work early. If you’re working some variant of the standard 9–5, leaving earlier will likely mean hitting less traffic. The amount of stress you feel in traffic may seem trivial, but it compounds and adds to your overall fatigue.
If you take mass transit, the earlier trains and buses are deliciously empty compared to the ones at the peak of rush hour.
I’m always looking for ways to maximize the time I spend commuting or figuring out the best way to write while riding mass transit. I’m all about productivity. I’ve even spent stretches of my life looking into the dead stare of a camera talking about it.
If you work a different schedule that doesn’t leave you battling rush hour, there are still benefits to pointedly making yourself early.
If your commute is thirty minutes but you religiously leave forty-five minutes for it, you can run five minutes late one morning and it won’t compromise your ability to get to work on time. It’ll limit that possibility of not giving yourself the full time required for your commute and ending up speeding and getting a traffic fine, or missing your train and needing to have yet another of those awkward calls with your supervisor.
All of these unpleasant little circumstances are stressful. Minor stress stacks and becomes major stress without us even realizing the toll it’s taking.