Are people starting work earlier?

Is it just me or are people getting up earlier these days?

Over the past year I have been working on a project which has involved a slightly longer journey than usual so I’ve often been on the road or the train before 7pm and sometimes before 6.30.

When I commuted into the City regularly I often used to be up and about at this time because I used to go to the gym before work. I stopped doing that about five years ago and, until last year, I hadn’t been travelling that early on a regular basis since.

From memory, when I used to walk or drive to the tube station before 6.30, I did so along near-deserted roads. Turning up at the station any time before 7.00 pretty much guaranteed you a seat on the tube.

Not so now. Even at this ungodly hour, the trains and buses are full of people and there is a lot more traffic on the road. A couple of months ago I went to York on business and had to get an early train from Kings Cross. I got on a Piccadilly Line train at 6.10am and got the last seat in an already crowded carriage. Ten past six in the sodding morning for God’s sake! Where the hell was everybody going?

All this is only anecdotal but it is based on a year’s consistent observation. I asked a friend of mine who works for an investment bank, and who, like me, has been in London since the late 80s, and he had noticed the same thing. Both of us reckon that, compared to a decade or so ago, more people are staring work earlier in the morning.

I have tried to find some data to back up my observations but have drawn a blank so far. Presumably Transport for London have data on road and rail use at certain times of the day but it’s not readily available.

If I’m right, though, what might be the cause of this trend towards early rising? One friend of mine suggested that Eastern Europeans tend to get up earlier than British people and that the increase in their numbers has brought more people onto the trains earlier in the day.

More likely, though, people are getting into work earlier for the same reason that they are taking fewer sick days. They are scared of losing their jobs. Getting into work early makes you look keen. It also means you can catch up on any gossip and rumours before your boss gets in.

I would be interested to know if anyone else has noticed this and especially keen to hear from anyone who has any data to back up, or even completely refute, my hunch.

Answers in the usual place please.

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7 Responses to Are people starting work earlier?

  1. Pingback: Are people starting work earlier? - Rick - HR Space

  2. I think there’s more flexitime these days. Doubt people are working much longer hours, I think it’s just they have the chance to get in early and leave early.

    • Rick says:

      Do you think there is more flexitime than there was ten years ago?

      • Anecdotally, hell yes. Each company I’ve worked for since then (Software, media) has had a more flexible time policy, and managers seem increasingly tolerant of people bending policy further, as long as they do enough hours overall.

        I have absolutely no hard data or real evidence though!

  3. Cj says:

    Maybe it started off as getting ahead of the traditional rush hour and has now developed into the new rush hour! I also find the roads in and around London are also increasingly busy earlier and for longer…

  4. Comparing from when I left the army in 1990 and started communitng to now I would say you are right about the roads. Monday’s was always busy in the early morning but now it does seem to be every day. I suspect its a combination of factors, amongst them people trying to get ahead for an easier journey and others have moved further out in pursuit of cheaper houses and an improved quality of life for their families.

    I remember reading a report on some research some time ago that claimed that people who got to the office early were seen as enthusiastic, efficient and hard working whereas those who stayed late were seen as inefficient and lazy. Perhaps there is something in the fear of losing jobs as well.

  5. You may have detected an international trend — it is not just London. I have noticed a similar development here in the United States (Seattle, Washington area). I provide training programs for different employers and also conduct workplace investigations when there are allegations of discrimination. Three years ago, morning classes almost always started at 9:00. A year ago, most of my requests wanted training to start between 8:00 and 8:30. This year, I am getting several requests for 7:30 a.m. starting times. At the same time, some places want training to be scheduled from 3:00 until 7:00 p.m. Maybe businesses are starting to work 24 hours a day, every day.

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