This has been inspired by the question Can staying late look like something bad?

Let's assume a salaried, office role, where the contracted hours are 9-5.

What are the likely perceived differences between someone who works an hour extra in the morning compared to another who works an hour extra in the evening?


6 Answers 6


It depends on your company and the people in your team

I regularly start work at 7am and that's when I start sending emails out.

Personally, it gives me two hours of peaceful work before people start coming in around 9am and starting to chat about TV, what they had for dinner, what the cat sicked up, etc.

People know I get in early and no one says anything adverse about me leaving before the 5pm rush hour starts.

  • 22
    Sending mails out early probably helps. :)
    – Llewellyn
    Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 17:50
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    @USER_8675309, that is naive. It does matter at most companies.
    – HLGEM
    Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 19:41
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    The other side of this answer is that there are employers that think you are a slacker if you leave before 6pm. Even if Pete got in before 7 and worked a full day, and left at 4:45 he would be seen as a slacker as opposed to the guy who arrives at 10:15 and leaves at 6:05 with certain employers. It all depends on the culture.
    – Pete B.
    Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 20:24
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    To add to @PeteB. answer, I know of a guy who got fired because he left 2 hours earlier than everybody else, and people in his team and others viewed him as a slacker. It didn't matter much that he came two hours earlier than the others, and that he did his work well. Impression >> reality.
    – Shautieh
    Commented Feb 4, 2017 at 3:06
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    Also this is industry dependent. If you work in finance in particular getting in before market open is very important particularly if you work in a supporting role to make sure that trading systems are up. Nobody cares if you're around after market hours because nothing is happening Commented Feb 4, 2017 at 19:23

Yes, people see you are still working when they leave, they don't see you when you are in before them. Unless you work second shift, people are not going to assume you are in much earlier than them. Also, I think people assume that if you're staying late, you'll be there a while to get things done and that there is something pressing.

  • @JoeStrazzere I'm sure you're right, but me, being the perpetual 2+ standard deviations from the norm has always had bosses that were habitually late. Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 18:22
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    Sending emails early won't change anything, it's easy to send emails from your comfy bed, or to automate the process and prepare them the day before. Also you can come at 7, send a few emails and then play until 9 and nobody will see the difference. On the contrary, as several people stay late in the evening, they can backup each other.
    – Shautieh
    Commented Feb 4, 2017 at 3:11
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    I have experienced this first hand. Business had been slow for a while, and in a speech our CEO praised the people who were always staying late. I personally reminded him to also compliment the people who always came in early. They were not on his radar, so to speak. Commented Feb 4, 2017 at 22:53

It's definitely perceived differently.

Whether you come in early or not, leaving at at five can make you look like a clock watcher in some people's eyes, and someone who is not on the fast track and not striving to be great.

It's terribly unfair and I happen to be someone who prefers to come in early. But you can mitigate this bad rap:

Post your schedule on your door or cube. Tell your team and bosses how you work. Change you IM status to show you schedule. Block time on your calendar so people won't schedule you for on-site meetings when you're not there and make the blocked out time title explain your schedule. Eventually if you are open about it and get the word out there people will start to realize you are not lazy - you just have a different, maybe even more productive way of working.

If people know exactly how and when they can reach you, and they can do so reliably, it could actually become a positive thing.

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    Don't know why this was downvoted, but this is spot on for everywhere I've worked over the past several years. As unfair as it may be, your boss does not notice if you come in early. He does notice when you stay late
    – Michael J.
    Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 21:12

To answer the question, you need to place yourself from the point of view of the perciever, and wonder who perceives your actual extra time. I'll assume you're not bragging about it, just doing the extra hour. Long story short : most people won't know.

If the perceiver is working 9-5 ...

Then he won't see anything before 9, and anything after 5. For all he knows, you're doing 8:59 - 5:01. He may think you're punctual and professional, that's it. Whether you work an extra 2 minutes or an extra 2 hours is irrelevant for him.

If the perceiver is working extra time, but not at the same time as you ...

Example : you decide to work 8-5 and he works 9-6. Then you only see each other during the 9-5 timeline. Then, you will not see each other's extra work. You will not, yourself, know that he is overworking, since you're going to be gone at 5. You're back to the case described above.

If you both work extra time simultaneously...

Then the person will know you do work extra time. Assuming this, he might either think highly of you, as a professional and dedicated worker ... or poorly, as you might not be able to do your assigned work within normal hours, and need to make up for inefficience by staying longer in the office.

  • I think the perceiver will notice things... Emails being sent, documents being saved, work items tend to leave time-stamps. Unless the work doesn't involve anything really computer related, in which case you might well be right....
    – user44108
    Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 14:28
  • Yes, that is something OP could add to his question - what's the nature of the job ?
    – Thalantas
    Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 14:35
  • The OP isn't asking for himself, this is a hypothetical question based on another question by someone else.
    – user44108
    Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 14:40
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    The latter point doesn't make sense; it's hypocritical at the least. If the person is staying late too, who are they to judge that you're "not able to do your assigned work within normal hours". Why are THEY there then?
    – Doktor J
    Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 18:53
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    I generally work late and often coordinate with a competent early-riser. We can often pass project tasks between us and experience results of each other. E.g., s/he might leave a problem at end-of-day and find various alternatives in the morning. Commented Feb 5, 2017 at 3:24

What are the likely perceived differences between someone who works an hour extra in the morning compared to another who works an hour extra in the evening?

The perception of people is fickle and mostly their imagination and bias and personal opinion of you.

If you want to be hard working in their "perception", just come 5 minutes early and leave 5 minutes late, so you catch all of their "feelings" about your time at work.

If you want to be hard working in terms of "working", make sure your coworkers have your results when they get in. It does not matter when you did this, but they will know you did this while they were home.


Much of the answer depends upon what you are doing for the company, what your boss thinks, general perceptions of your work performance, etc.

I worked within the IT industry as a consultant where much of my job functions required after-hours systems and network changes. In this regard, working late was seen as a necessity. As well, many programmers that stay late can also be seen as focusing on code as much as any programmer that came in early. This, of course, does not apply everywhere.

Any perception has to be tempered with performance. Being a highly effective member of any team I was assigned to, after-all, this is why I was hired as a consultant, any perception of time was outweighed by effectiveness. For example, coming in late and working late could easily be seen as a reward to the environment.

The are many studies of how the brain works and people can often be put into different camps. For example, we obviously know about the A type personalities. However, what seems to get little respect is that some people perform better in the morning and others later at night. I happen to be one that is sharper and more effective in the evening hours. For example, I am a far more effective and efficient coder at night often working till 6am.

Some people who are early risers, often cannot understand why others are not early risers and can become judgmental as a result. I experienced one direct report that appreciated after-hour work, however, could not understand not coming in at 6am like he did. It was completely beyond his understanding. However, this direct report would leave fairly early and could not see that his presence was needed during business hours and that the company suffered as a result. The number of hours where the direct report could be effective to the company was actually short in light of the global demand.

Add to this, for some, the commute would be impossible. For example, in the area where I lived, for some locations, the commute was at least 1.5 hours for a 30 mile commute and that leaving early only made things worse. In this regard, making the effort to come in early only resulted in wasted time with no gain.

Be that as it may, I have always made myself available on-site, on-line, by phone, by e-mail, or other means fairly early in the morning. At one location, I would login from home and respond to e-mails, check systems, and solve problems before leaving for work. For me, it was always about the work, the company, what I had to do to ensure the best interest of the company, etc. Given that, no-one, I mean no-one could criticize my work ethic or how I managed time. For example, one fix that would normally have taken 30 minutes took much longer because the environment was poorly managed and the failed employee fired. I came in on a Sunday afternoon, outside of the SLA (service level agreement) hours, began the repair that took 36 hours due to previous bad backups. The repair required a full rebuild of the system from the ground up and porting of data with layering in portions of backups that succeeded. In the end, many employees were able to get back to work much faster than they would have otherwise given the SLA adding value back to the organization. I was in on time the next morning and filled out the rest of the week as normal. That level of service goes very far to alleviate any negative perception.

And that is the rub. While people will prefer early versus late and may be judgmental in the process, this can be offset by commitment, effectiveness, and honest efforts to accommodate the needs of the company.