Employees that ‘stroll into the office’ around brunch time may be your most productive

We're conditioned to think that people need to start early to be productive. But could later arrivals to the office actually be the 'most' productive? Beth Rush takes a look:

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Apr 8, 2024

Talk to any CEO, and it’s better employee productivity that’s the one thing they crave most.

It’s the reason many are now mandating outright returns-to-the-office, and it’s also why there’s a whole mini science developing around office design, taking breaks, and offering at work perks that prevent productivity levels dipping (often towards the end of the day).

Intriguingly, it’s precisely because work is seen to take a nose-dive later on during the day that employers are also getting more and more pernickety about people getting to work on time, and starting when they’re supposed to to make the most of their morning efficiency.

But could it be that there’s something that many CHROs have forgotten – that those who stroll in mid-morning may actually be the most productive employees businesses can have?

That’s right, could allowing people to arrive at work a bit later in the day make them and their teams more efficient?

Does starting your day early really guarantee productivity?

Many people wake up early from a young age. School was based starting the day not long after breakfast. And yes, research does show that jumping into your responsibilities shortly after waking up can make you more productive.

But – and there’s a big but – this is only if people can shake off their sleep inertia quickly.

Because the fact is, everyone’s brain is different. Some people wake up more exhausted than others, based on their sleep routine and factors in their personal lives.

It means that those who can’t get past their sleep inertia before arriving to work may actually waste more time at their desk because they don’t have enough energy.

Our chronotypes, or daily sleep-wake cycles, are mostly genetic, per sleep.

Dr. Michael Breus introduced the four chronotypes —bear, lion, dolphin and wolf—based on results from a popular online chronotype quiz.

Over half of the study’s participants were bears (or people who were most productive from 10 am to 2 pm), while 15% were lions (the early risers, who felt most productive from 9 am to 2 pm).

Factors to consider when measuring productivity for employees

Approaching office productivity with new perspectives can help everyone succeed at higher levels of efficiency.

Consider these factors when deciding how to help yourself or other team members improve at their jobs without necessarily clocking in early in the morning.

Management style balance

Walking into the workplace around brunch might not seem connected to management styles, but it directly results from effective leadership balance. Anyone learning how to measure productivity should reflect on the existing management styles in their workplace.

You might have a manager or supervisor who’s detail-oriented. That’s a helpful way to lead, but team members might wonder about the big picture for specific goals and get demotivated. If you balance that leadership style with big-picture guidance, your team will get the double-sided perspectives they need to stay on task. Those who arrive around brunch time may already have balanced management teams supporting them this way.

It’s important to recognize that teaming up leadership styles requires a conversation with your supervisor or manager. Ask them to clarify how they define their leadership style to guide your team members together more effectively.

Knowing what your workplace needs from those in leadership provides a comparative advantage that boosts your productivity and those around you.

You’ll give everyone the extra information they need to succeed on extended or shortened schedules, including yourself.


Miscommunication happens in every workplace. One person may think they clearly outlined a concept, while someone else needs more information to connect the points within the primary objective. The time it takes to explain something multiple times delays everyone’s productivity.

Those who work shorter schedules may feel comfortable doing so because they know how to communicate with different people. They spend time reading to figure out their voice and write often to practice condensing information into easily understandable points.

When it’s time to communicate with someone verbally or in writing, these employees get their point across in one attempt. As you learn how to measure productivity, keep your communication abilities and development strategies in mind. You’ll save precious time for yourself and your team members, especially if you encourage them to focus on the same personal development.

Interpersonal interactions

How you interact with the people on your team and in leadership positions can help or hurt everyone’s efficiency. Employees may feel more motivated to stay on task and put more energy into their work hours when they trust their workplace relationships.

Research shows higher productivity levels in employees who look up to confident leaders in times of crisis. They know they’re in good hands and feel their work matters. Even if they work shorter daily hours, they may accomplish more because they retain greater focus.

Topics discussed in meetings

Many working professionals have long days filled with meetings. Although brainstorming together and collaborating are key parts of a successful workplace, meetings that stretch throughout the day could waste time.

Productive meetings often last an hour or an hour and a half. Any longer than 90 minutes and it’s likely people will start to lose focus. Those leading presentations might meander into unrelated topics just because they have to fill time.

Shorter meetings keep people on task. There’s less chance of discussing irrelevant topics or tangents because the meeting ends quickly. Getting to the point faster delivers crucial information more effectively, boosting everyone’s productivity so they don’t need to spend as long in the office.

One challenge may be covering dense information in shorter periods. Those leading meetings can send materials a few days early so everyone has time to review the information beforehand and ask questions as needed. You can also organize the conference with minute-by-minute allotments to better gauge how well you’re using your time.

Responsibility assignment

Many working professionals have been through meetings where the leadership team asks for people to raise their hands if they have questions. Everyone sits for a minute in awkward silence before the presenter moves on. If that happens throughout the workday, the unused minutes become unproductive chunks of time.

The next time you lead a meeting and need people to participate, pick specific people to give feedback. Pointing out individuals for questions or comments eliminates wasted time.

This method is also a good tool to develop everyone’s self-confidence. If you choose people in a meeting for specific responsibilities regarding a new project or timeline, they instantly evaluate if they’re the right person to handle that role. They’ll either agree that they have the skills for it or develop the confidence to speak up when they disagree.

Everyone takes that practice into other workplace dynamics to boost office productivity when emailing, chatting or working with a group. The less time they linger on uncertainty, the less time they need to spend in the office.

How starting the workday early also helps people

Some people prefer starting the day early.

Here are a few reasons early mornings help individuals remain efficient in the workplace.

They might have more energy in the mornings:

Improving office productivity requires understanding that everyone has different routines when they leave work. People who thrive by starting their day around brunch might do so because they stay up late and need more sleep. Those who naturally get tired in the evening and sleep through the night wake up with more energy. They could be more productive in the mornings because that’s when they naturally have the most energy and focus.

They could prefer shorter workdays to reserve afternoon hours for loved ones:

Motivation is a vital part of anyone’s productivity. Someone who dives into their work and gets most things done by lunch might maintain that efficiency because they want to spend their afternoon hours with their family. Measuring productivity requires understanding what your team members value most, like afternoons with their loved ones or mornings that make up for late nights.

They might be more productive if they feel less of a time crunch:

Although some people feel they do their best work when there’s less time before a deadline, that mindset doesn’t work for everyone. You or your team members might feel less stressed by starting the workday early, preventing that stress from decreasing productivity regardless of whether there’s a deadline that day or not.

Boosting office productivity

As people learn to measure productivity for employees or themselves, they must consider more factors than sleep routines and caffeine intake. These new factors could help you boost workplace efficiency by trying new perspectives.

Productivity depends on essential things like circadian rhythms, interpersonal relationships, communication and individual approaches to efficiency.

Even schools are thinking of starting later – so why not workplaces?

 If you’re still not convinced about later starts… several schools and universities are now trialling starting later, to ensure their students are productive when they do actually start work.

  • In Pennsylvania, Upper Darby High has started mandatory in-person attendance to start at 9:45 a.m. instead of 7:30 a.m. Students are instructed to use the time from 7:30-9:45 a.m. as they see fit; sleeping in, meeting with teachers for one-on-one guidance or working on extra homework.
  • In a study of 18,000 students in schools where districts postponed the start of their school day by 20 to 65 minute, grades actually improved.
  • According to Paul Kelley, honorary associate, Sleep, Circadian and Memory Neuroscience, at the Open University, school start times should be put back to as late as 11am to combat a sleep-deprivation crisis among young people.
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