Has Covid-19 Cured Your Lateness Habit - or Your Employees'?
Returning to work after lockdown may literally be a totally new experience people who struggle to be on time.
The daily commute can be a painfully familiar routine for the 1 in 5 workers who are late for work at least once a week. Contrary to popular belief, they typically start out each morning intending to be punctual, but through self-sabotage often end up late. Reasons for their behavior include an aversion to being early, and a tendency to under-estimate the time they need to allow for the journey. But is there also something deeper underlying this habit?
My new book, LATE! A Timebender’s guide to why we’re late and how we can change, suggests adrenaline addiction could be one of the reasons for a lateness habit, and lockdown may have provided a unique opportunity to test this theory.
Persistent "Timebenders" may find it hard to believe, but the stomach-gripping fear they experience when they realize they are running late is something they must crave – or they wouldn’t keep repeating the behavior. The panic triggered by “OMG! Is that the time?” releases a flood of adrenaline that increases the heart rate and blood pressure, deepens breathing, and speeds the blood flow to larger muscles. This creates an exhilarating surge of energy that makes us feel alive, and people with an addictive habit have been shown to have a neurochemical variation that means their brains become extra-saturated with the drug.
“Rehab” from adrenaline has always seemed like an impossible concept – until the arrival of Covid-19, when the regular morning adrenaline hit produced by rushing to work was replaced by the minimal effort of signing in to a Zoom meeting. The stress of getting showered, dressed, and out the door was replaced by a basic hygiene routine and the ease of pulling on a pair of sweatpants. The tension triggered by grabbing a coffee and Danish on the go was replaced by the leisure of eating a healthy breakfast. Life in the slow lane was suddenly the new normal.
Punctuality in the first few days back to work after lockdown should be no problem since uncertainty about traffic, buses, and trains will have made journeys unpredictable. Therefore, leaving home earlier than normal should be an easy choice to make. Whether this new pattern can be sustained in the longer term will depend on whether the long weeks of lockdown have broken the addictive behavior. A 30- to 90-day adrenaline detox will have allowed bodies to become accustomed to normal levels.
Early evidence suggests that this period of isolation from the triggers that make them late has given Timebenders more control over their punctuality. Here are two real-life examples.
“I used to arrive at work in the last minute and leave home so late that I had to run all the way. After lockdown I find that I leave early enough to get there without stress,” says Edina Barna.
Bjørn Pedersen, on the other hand, found that avoiding public transport has had the opposite effect. “Before lockdown I used to take the bus to work and was always on time, because I knew that if I was just 1 minute late and missed the bus, I would be at least 15 minutes late for work. But now that I travel by car, I’m often 5 to 10 minutes late, because I just postpone leaving a little bit. I no longer get the positive stress of, "Oh crap, I gotta leave right now or I’ll miss the bus."
Interestingly, people who develop addictions typically find that, over time, the desired substance no longer gives them the same reward — an effect known as tolerance. However, the memory persists, and prompts addicts to keep repeating the experience. Hence lateness can eventually become nothing more than a tired old habit.
This will be the challenge for people addicted to lateness. Can they use the unprecedented experience of Covid-19, and their unexpected release from the daily adrenaline-fueled stress of getting to work, to break their habit of being late?
Grace Pacie is a business consultant and author in the U.K. She wrote this book because she was unable to find a book to help her with her lateness habit. The book is available as an ebook and an Amazon paperback, as well as bookstores. She also has a website and blog entirely devoted to the subject of lateness, as well as a Facebook page on the subject.
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