Think twice before you take advantage of that flextime offer. Your boss may claim not to care when you show up for work, but new research suggests that’s not exactly the case.

Researchers at the University of Washington Foster School of Business have found that people who elect to work an earlier shift are perceived by their bosses to be better employees than those who work a later one.

Flextime policies are increasingly popular these days, with companies allowing employees to choose their own hours, within a certain acceptable range, as long as the work gets done. It allows people to work in life and family obligations.

“Today, nearly 80 percent of American businesses offer some kind of non-traditional work schedule,” says a press release – though that number seems strangely high. “These include compressed work weeks, job shares and, most frequently, flextime.”

Study authors Kai Chi (Sam) Yam, Ryan Fehr, and Christopher Barnes, however, found in three separate studies that there is a “natural morning bias at work.”

Yam says, “Compared to people who choose to work earlier in the day, people who choose to work later in the day are implicitly assumed to be less conscientious and less effective in their jobs.”

The findings reportedly suggest that employees may be poorly judged on performance when they are not, in fact, performing poorly – and this could mean fewer raises and promotions.

So, if you’re a night person rather than a morning person – a distinction that research suggests may be genetic – you could be unfairly penalized.

I am definitely among the night people. Mornings are incredibly difficult for me. I still do my darndest to get to work by nine – and almost always wind up rushing in at about 9:20.

In fact, I tend to be about 20 minutes late for everything. I hate this about myself. I know that it’s rude to be late and it suggests that you undervalue other people’s time and overvalue your own. But I can’t help it. I have a theory that my problem isn’t self-involvement but a bizarre inability to gauge how long things take. They always take longer than I expect, even if I’ve done them a hundred times – the morning lineup for coffee and the wait for the elevator always adds about ten minutes, yet I routinely underestimate that time. I absolutely never take a lunch break though, so I think I make up for the time.

I know I’m far from being the only one out there with this problem. Can we latecomers become more punctual? Probably not without effort. But here are five tips I found.

    1. Do a walkthrough. A dry run will help you find out how long things will actually take. (There is no way I would ever have the time to actually do this. But maybe you will.)

    2. Schedule a time to stop doing whatever it is you’re doing. Instead of going “OK, it’s 4:00 and my 4:15 meeting is 15 minutes away,” so I better shut down the computer now, realize that it will take some time to shut things down, get your shoes on etc. You need a buffer.

    4. Avoid the time-suck vortex and the one-more-task syndrome. If you have to be somewhere, don’t start something. Simple, right? If only it were that easy.

    5. Be prepared for obstacles. Assume there will be a traffic jam, an earthquake, or an apocalypse and prepare accordingly. This also applies to lineups for coffee and elevators. Probably.

Would you take one minute to answer five questions for us? Please? There are only five. I promise.

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