What Time Does Work Start?

The employee manual says that your work day runs from 8:30 – 5:30 every day.   Here’s a simple question: what time does work start?

a)      You should be sure to be coming in the door by 8:30… 8:35 at the latest.

b)      You should be visible in the break room, getting coffee, by 8:30.

c)       You should be sitting at your desk at 8:30.

d)      You should start work by 8:15, so everyone sees you’re dedicated and motivated.  It doesn’t hurt to work through lunch, either.

The best answer, according to supervisors: C.  Be sitting at your desk and ready to work at start time.  Arriving a few minutes early means you can have a hot cup of coffee and say hi to your team and still be there when the first phone call comes in.

According to supervisors we interviewed, they expect you being ready to work and at your desk at 8:30. If you need to get coffee or do other tasks before starting work in earnest, it’s best to arrive a few minutes early.   Planning to arrive early every day also has the added benefit of providing a cushion for you if you run into traffic or other problems on the way to work.  If you’re in a customer-focused environment, such as retail or a call center, you can bet that some customers will be expecting you to be available when the clock ticks over to start time.  Nothing looks more forlorn than a customer waiting in the cold for the clerk to open the store.  Showing up early demonstrates that you take your customers seriously and appreciate their business.

Showing up a few minutes early on a daily basis builds what Stephen Covey calls the “emotional bank account.”  According to Covey, “It’s like a financial bank account into which you can make deposits and take withdrawals. And if you get into a situation where you are constantly making withdrawals…you get an overdrawn Emotional Bank Account. ..It kills your freedom, your flexibility, and your credit capacity.”

Making deposits into other peoples’ emotional bank accounts consists of doing what is valuable to them.  Showing up on time, or a few minutes early, shows your manager and your team that you are serious about your work.  On the day that you get stuck in traffic – and everyone gets stuck once in a while – you can relax a little, knowing that you’re built credibility with your boss.

So if on time is good, isn’t starting very early – and working through lunch – better?  Not necessarily, according to HR experts.  If your work day consists of eight hours of paid time, and 30 or 60 minutes of unpaid lunch break time, you should be taking the break.   The extra hours that you work over 40 will qualify for overtime, and your employer is responsible for making sure you get paid correctly for the hours you work.  You’re creating more problems than you’re solving by adding hours to your work week. 

Related Article:

Fewer Workers Say They are Late to Work This Year Than Last Year, Finds New CareerBuilder Survey


2 thoughts on “What Time Does Work Start?

  1. […] What Time Does Work Start? | @work: a career blog – Here’s a simple question: what time does work start? a) You should be sure to be coming in the door by 8:30… 8:35 at the latest. b) You should be visible in the break room, getting coffee, by 8:30 … Follow “@work: a career blog … […]


  2. It’s also better to choose letter D. especially if you are just new on the job.


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