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Well, at Least We're On Time

Wednesday, 23 Feb 2011 | 10:34 AM ET

The economic storm of the past two years left a path of destruction in its wake: Lost jobs, lost homes and lost profits. But amid the rubble, there's a glistening pebble: improved punctuality at the office.

Photodisc | Getty Images

Good economic times are like when you get married and pack on a few pounds: You start to let things slide because, “Hey, they’re lucky to have ME” or “Whatever — I could get a new job in a heartbeat.” Next thing you know, you’re coming in a half hour late and not trying very hard on the excuses.

Hiring managers have heard some real doozies: Everything from an employee who claimed his car was hit by a hive of bees, to another who claimed his hair hurt and still another who said he knew he was already late so he figured he’d pick up some doughnuts for everyone, CareerBuilder said.

But when recessions hit, and friends and relatives start falling around you, losing their jobs, you ditch the ‘ol beehive excuse and chuck the doughnuts out the window.

We are, if nothing else, motivated by fear.

So, it’s no wonder that after two years of financial pins and needles, punctuality has improved. Just 15 percent of workers said they arrive late to work once a week or more, down from 16 percent last year and 20 percent in 2008, according to a new CareerBuilder survey.

“Whether it is a result of fear associated with the economy or just a shift in attitude, workers over the last few years are doing a better job of managing their schedules and getting into the office at the designated time," said Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources for CareerBuilder.

AP

Even the lame excuses for calling in sick are down: 29 percent of workers called in sick with a bogus excuse in 2010, down from 32 percent in 2009, CareerBuilder said. (Maybe that has something to do with the fact that the boss is on to them!)

If punctuality isn’t your strong suit, it’s time to get serious about time: It’s no secret that bosses favor responsible — and honest — employees. So no more the traffic was horrendous, or the woman in front of me at Starbucks took forever. Take the other humans into account and leave a little early. You wouldn’t tolerate tardiness from your doctor, the local police officer or your morning coffee guy. Don’t tolerate it from yourself.

Remember the old French proverb, "The while we keep a man waiting, he reflects on our shortcomings."

And if you can’t get your punctual act together cold turkey, maybe you need to try something like this punctuality hypnosis CD, where for $12.95, it will subliminally program you to be on time.

Watch the watch …

[tick-tock … tick-tock]

You are getting very punctual!

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  • Cindy Perman is a writer at CNBC.com, covering jobs, real estate, retirement and personal finance.

  • Based in Los Angeles, Jane Wells is a CNBC business news reporter and also writes the Funny Business blog for CNBC.com.

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