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How to be on time for work: 8 tips to improve your morning routine

A female associate smiles brightly while walking down a busy pathway with a laptop and notebook tucked under one arm and a to-go coffee cup in hand.

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Punctuality may not be everyone’s strong suit, but being late for work can have serious consequences if it turns into a habit.

Continuously being late can lead to your team questioning your reliability, and some may even interpret your lateness as a sign of disrespect. For repeat offenders over a period of time, it could even lead to termination.

If you find yourself constantly rushing out the door and making it to the office with just minutes to spare, check out these eight tips about how to be on time for work.

8 tips for how to be on time for work:

1. Time your commute.

Figuring out how to stop being late starts with building your time management skills. Whether you travel by car, bus or bicycle, you should have an idea of how long your commute to work typically takes. If you still aren’t sure, you can use a clock or a stopwatch to time your commute and get a feel for normal traffic patterns.

Record your results for at least a week so you can account for any day where traffic may be heavier. Once you have a good understanding of how long it takes to get to work, you can figure out what time you need to leave by each day.

Once you have your “leave by” time figured out, you’ll have a better idea of when you should get up every morning so you have enough time to get ready and get through the commute.

2. Work some buffer time into your routine.

The typical traffic light changes every two minutes, so just a few unexpected red lights can throw off your estimated arrival time. This is especially true for those who live in a busy city or high-traffic area. If a train happens to pass through your route, you could be waiting much longer.

Once you know how long it takes to get to work on an average day, give yourself at least 15 minutes of extra time. That way, if traffic is heavy or you hit more red lights than normal, you still have time to make it to work on time.

The worst thing that could happen is you get to work early, which makes a good impression and gives you more time to settle in and start your day.

3. Prepare the night before.

Cut out some of the prep work that typically gets done the morning of by doing them the night before instead. This could include things like setting out your clothes, prepping your breakfast, packing a lunch, preparing your coffee, etc.

If you have a laptop or other items you bring home from the office each night, pack it up and set it by your door so you aren’t scrambling to gather the essentials in the morning.

4. Set an alarm (or multiple).

Set an alarm that goes off 10 to 15 minutes earlier than you intend to actually get up. This way, even if you hit the snooze button, you will still get out of bed on time. If you have a habit of overusing the snooze feature, set multiple alarms so you don’t fall back into a deep sleep.

If you struggle with leaving the comfort of your bed, try placing your phone or alarm clock on the other side of the room. You’ll be forced to get up to disable the alarm and be better prepared to start the day knowing the hardest part is already over.

5. Get a good night’s sleep.

An effective sleep schedule will be your second line of defense against oversleeping. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend at least seven hours of sleep every night for adults ages 18 to 60. Not only will you be less likely to oversleep but you’ll also be in a better state to take on your morning routine.

If you’re struggling with falling asleep, establishing a nightly routine is a good first step to regaining control of your sleep cycle. This can be as simple as going to bed at the same time every night and avoiding caffeine in the afternoon.

Your phone could very well be part of the problem. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the blue light emitted by electronic devices such as smartphones and laptops restricts the production of the hormone melatonin, which helps regulate your sleep cycle. It's recommended you stop using blue-light-emitting devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime.

6. Keep tabs on the forecast.

If you live in an area where rain or snow are common, keep an eye on the forecast so you know what your morning commute might be like. Snow and rain can slow down traffic, so plan to give yourself some more time on days when the weather may be iffy.

Check the seven-day forecast at the beginning of each workweek and note any days where severe weather is likely. Then, check back the night before to gauge the severity and set your alarm earlier to give yourself extra commute time.

If you drive to work and don’t have garage parking, remember to give yourself some additional time to heat up your car and to clear it of snow and ice.

You could also use this time to set out any weather-appropriate clothing you might need, such as a winter coat, gloves and hat. If you’re expecting a downpour, a rain jacket and boots may be suitable.

7. Stay up to date on traffic.

If you live in a city or suburban area, traffic conditions may be more difficult to predict than if you live in the countryside. Many local morning news programs have a segment dedicated to traffic that can help you stay on top of the traffic flow.

If this segment doesn't air until after you typically leave for work, there are also traffic apps you can download that will alert you about changes in traffic along your route so you can plan ahead and, if necessary, select an alternate route.

8. Keep in touch with your leader.

No matter how many of these tips on how to be on time for work you build into your routine, there’s no way to guarantee you won’t ever be late again. In these instances, it's better to communicate with your team ahead of time than to just show up late.

It’s best practice to notify your leader as soon as possible, especially if they'll need to arrange backup for the time you’ll miss. How you get this information across will depend on your company’s guidelines and your leader’s schedule.

A phone call might be the best method if your leader has a company-provided cellphone―that is, unless they often have back-to-back calls or meetings. In that case, a text or email might be the best way to get the message across in a timely manner. If you’re not sure what method makes the most sense, try asking your leader for their preferences.

Whatever method you choose, it’s important to be concise, honest and apologetic in your communication. Accept responsibility for the situation and briefly explain the reason for your lateness if you have a valid excuse. You could try to ease the tensions by expressing your appreciation and sharing how you intend to make up for the time missed.

Looking for more career advice?

From prioritizing tasks to building confidence at work, you can get more career advice from Schneider associates by checking out our other office-themed blogs.

About the author
Author Picture

Lance Kaster is a Corporate Recruiter whose journey with Schneider started back in 2016. He started as a member of the driver recruiting team, where he was responsible for building and managing a candidate pool of prospective company drivers.

He moved to the company's corporate recruiting team in 2021. In his current role, Lance specializes in recruiting candidates for Schneider’s Van Truckload line of service in Green Bay, Wis.

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