I'm a co-founder of my company. I use to arrive earlier than any of my employee, and leave only after most of them have finished.

I have the feeling that my presence is motivational to them, and that they really appreciate it because they see me as someone they can rely on.

I have been doing this for almost one year and now, I'm kind of tired. How could I leave the office earlier than them, without having any impact on their motivation ?

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    What specific evidence do you have that your presence is directly responsible for motivating them? Are you sure this isn't all in your head and/or a fairly standard "work hard while the boss is watching" effect? The former would indicate you have nothing to worry about, while the latter would indicate there's nothing you can do (if you're not there, that effect cannot apply - hopefully it's not really necessary, though.) – Steve-O Apr 8 '18 at 18:44
  • There's a difference between early and on time. But if you arrive way earlier in the day than your reports and leave at 3 when they only get to leave at 5 that can cause legitimate visibility problems. Middle management should typically strive to maintain the standard business hours for that reason. Can you clarify what arrangement you currently have and what you'd change it to? – Lilienthal Apr 8 '18 at 19:04
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    "I have the feeling that my presence is motivational to them" Are you sure about that? Perhaps it is the opposite? Maybe they would be more motivated if you left them alone, but you don't know it because you never leave before them and they can't get rid of you because you are the boss. :) – Masked Man Apr 9 '18 at 1:01
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    Your employees would likely be more productive if you didn't work those hours. I know one time we did a study of an Navy command that was concerned about the amount of overtime they were pulling and found out that everyone was staying just because the boss did and that they were doing things like rearranging the files on overtime not work that was time sensitive and needed to be done on overtime. Everyone was more productive when they were not doing make work so as to appear productive to the man in charge who stayed too many hours making them feel they had to. – HLGEM Apr 9 '18 at 18:37
  • How big is your company? For small-sized companies, I could expect the CEO to be working incessantly, sometimes more than the employees. Small companies also often lack a middle management structure, so people like co-founders and c-level executives will find that their presence is more important. – CKM Apr 11 '18 at 14:23

I have a boss who is often not in the office, sometimes for weeks. But I and my colleagues still do our jobs.

We all know it's his company and he provides the work and he pays our salaries. As long as he provides enough work for us and pay our money we don't really have to see him. And if we have some questions we email him or call him and we get answers. So we can do our work without him being present.

Sometimes the boss is at home (and works?) and sometimes he is traveling to see customers. How much of his day he really sees customers is another question. But nobody really cares as long as he gets his work done. And his work is providing us with work and making sure we get paid.

I don't know if this will work for you. It obviously depends a lot on your work. If your employees could do the same without you and make double the money then probably you should not leave them alone - otherwise they will do it without you.

But if you do your job of making sure they have work and get paid and you are available when necessary then it shouldn't be a problem if you are not so much in the office.

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  • You probably meant "you should <s>not</s> leave them alone"? – Masked Man Apr 9 '18 at 0:40
  • I meant to strike the "not" but turns out HTML tags are "limited" in comments, thanks to the oh-so-great SE software that "powers" the network. – Masked Man Apr 9 '18 at 0:49

I think you have made a good first impression for a year, so that good-will should last some time. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Don't come in so early if possible. If there are things you can get done that really help everyone out. Otherwise, ask around if someone else would like to arrive early and take care of things. My guess is they'd let you leave early if it means they don't have to come in early.
  2. Give everyone some lead time and tell them everyone is going home on time. Threaten to unplug their computers. If there is any chance of burn-out, you're doing everyone a favor.
  3. Arrange for dinner to be delivered for those staying late. If you want to buy me dinner and leave, more power to you.

No one can possibly predict if any of this will work. Have a conversation with people and find out if this is really a problem or not. If people are actually getting things done instead of sticking around in front of the boss to make it appear like they're working, you have a much bigger problem.

Make their jobs easier whether you're physically present or not.

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Working long hours motivates your team in two ways: One, if I see that my boss is working his *** off instead of being a lazy ********, then I will feel bad about not pulling my weight and work harder (as a tendency). Two, if my boss is in the office I won't be twiddling my thumbs because he can see it. The first is a very positive effect. If you have to rely on the second then you have a problem.

If you don't have work outside the office, then I would suggest that you leave some days at lunch time (so there is no effect "the boss is gone, so I can leave as well" which would happen if you leave at four instead of five in the evening).

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