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3 Tips for Improving Staff Punctuality

Managers have enough on their plates without having to worry about employees being on time. But punctuality is by no means guaranteed among US employees, according to YouGov polling. First, the good news: 48% of employees are never late. The not so good news: that means that more than half of the workforce aren’t reliably punctual and, more problematically, 19% of employees are late at least once a week. These will often be younger employees—millennials are almost 50% less likely to be consistently punctual than older Americans (55+).

When managing someone who struggles to be on time, it can be hard to know what action to take. Anyone can get stuck in traffic. If they still manage to do a good job, a manager may choose to turn a blind eye—but what message does this sends to employees who do make the effort to be on time?

  1. Put in Place a Clear Policy Before you can tackle staff lateness, you have to define it. What ‘late’ means isn’t always clear. If we’re talking arriving at work within the first five minutes of a shift starting, less than half (47%) of employees would consider that late, according to YouGov polling. But when an employee’s work day starts with an important meeting requiring preparation, plenty managers would see arriving ‘right on time’ as tardy.That’s why it’s always safer to put any expectations into writing and create a company timekeeping policy, which makes it clear exactly what lateness means. This can often include a tolerated ‘grace period’ of a few minutes’ lateness, and should specify on how occasions an employee may be late before disciplinary action is taken.

    To make sure that enforcing an official timekeeping policy doesn’t add to a manager’s workload, an easy solution is to use time and attendance software, allowing employees to clock in on their way in and out of work. This can be as simple as swiping a key fob at the door, and at least ensures that employees know that any lateness will not go unnoticed.

  2. Understand the ProblemEnsuring that staff know what is expected of them is just the first step to improving punctuality. There will always be traffic jams, severe storms and childcare crises. Often, these will effect multiple staff members at once—management included.

    It’s also true that some people are incurably late—they may actually perceive time differently to the rest of us, according to research by San Diego State University. Not ideal, you might think. But this can also be correlated with higher creativity and optimism, both valuable traits. Indeed, the quality of their work may force you to keep them around.

    A bigger cause for concern is tardiness among previously punctual employees. But rather than taking any action, it’s important to find out the root cause. It could be as simple as road construction affecting their route to the office. However, it could be also be a sign that they are struggling to balance other commitments, or that their current hours are don’t work well for them. Worse, it might a sign that they are less engaged with their work, or even actively seeking to spend as little time in the office as possible.

  3. Make it Easier for Your EmployeesEnsure employees have an easy way to clock in and out for their shifts. Discipline should be a last resort, whatever the reason for an employee’s tardiness. If an employee is struggling with their current hours, perhaps a more flexible arrangement could be more appropriate. If gridlock is making their commute a nightmare, the chance to work remotely, at least sometimes, might ease that stress. And if an employee is losing engagement, try having a frank discussion with them about what will get them back on board with the project.

    Employees can also struggle if they are only finding out their shift times at the last minute. Staff scheduling software allows you to create more efficient schedules in less time, so that staff can find out when they are working far in advance—and rearrange their own plans accordingly.

    And in cases where tardiness is really just a matter of forgetfulness, with scheduling software you can automate regular shift reminders—taking a load of the minds of both managers and employees. These can reduce the minutes lost to lateness by more than 16%, according to Paycor research.

Bottom Line

As these tips make show, improving staff punctuality isn’t just about finding the right punishment. It’s about establishing clear expectations, understanding individual circumstances and doing every possible not just to make it easy for staff to be on time—but also ensuring that they want to be.


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