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The modern workplace is replete with flexible work arrangements, catering for any number of personal circumstances – and not without good reason.

Research has repeatedly proven that allowing flexible work arrangements boosts productivity, workers engagement, and retention. Equally though, surveys consistently show business leaders can also see the management of flexible working arrangements as a negative, and can be reluctant to employ mature workers and mothers returning to the workforce.

For example, a 2013 study from Kronos found just 54 per cent of employers were willing to provide flexible work arrangements. Half the employers surveyed stated that flexibility is too disruptive to the working environment.

What’s more, since everyone has different circadian rhythms, it’s logical for early birds to begin work earlier and night owls later.

Yet, as researchers at the University of Washington School of Business have found, bosses believe employees who work from 11am – 7pm for example are less conscientious and dedicated than early risers.

Delving into the attitudes of employers towards flextime, the researchers also found the negative attitudes of employers affect the performance reviews and promotion prospects of flextime workers.

The researchers performed three experiments to test whether bias existed against flextime employees, and whether the workplace celebrates (and rewards) early-risers.

The hypothesis tested was: In the eyes of managers with power over careers, are employees who choose later start times stereotyped as less conscientious, and given poorer performance evaluations on average? Do the “larks” on a team hold a hidden edge over the “owls”?

In all three experiments, even after statistically controlling for total work hours, employees who started work earlier in the day were rated by their supervisors as more conscientious, and thus received higher performance ratings.

“[In] three separate studies, we found evidence of a natural stereotype at work: Compared to people who choose to work earlier in the day, people who choose to work later in the day are implicitly assumed to be less conscientious and less effective in their jobs,” the researchers found.

Notably though, instances of bias were most prevalent when employees had supervisors who were larks, and disappeared for employees who had supervisors who were night owls.

The full study and formal paper will be published later this year in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

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Stephanie Zillman

Stephanie Zillman

Stephanie is the editor-at-large of Dynamic Business. Stephanie brings with her a passion for journalism, business, and new ideas. On her days off, you might find her reading a book on the beach.

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