Why do laborers always show up early or late?

My friend Mads recently complained about publicly contracted tree cutters starting work close to his bedroom window one morning at 4:30 am.

The same day, a story ran in the news which could have a tragic ending: following a festival in Jutland, renovation workers lowered a heavy garbage container on top of a tent in which two girls were sleeping. They fortunately made it out in time. The Campgrounds were open until 12 noon, however for some reason the contractor had decided to start work at 8 am instead of the agreed time.

These are not isolated incidents.

We have been living across from a construction site for the past year, and it has been a source of constant bewilderment that delivery trucks would show up in the middle of the night, and workers would enter the site before 6 am, only to have it deserted by 4 pm.

I think most of us have experienced booking a service or delivery and being told a day but no time – or a window of, say, 12-4, only for them to arrive at 4:30. Or even worse, a window of 8-12, and then they arrive at 7. Not fun if you have small children that sleep in, or not unlikely you would be in the shower at that time.

Now I get the value of beating traffic and start work at 7. Fine, if everyone agrees. What I don’t get is the justification of just doing your job whenever you feel like it. This may work for freelancers who have no interaction with others, and work without disturbing people.

But if you book a meeting at work, you show up at the agreed time. Not an hour later, not an hour earlier. And I don’t think anyone would appreciate a train driver running his route 30 minutes ahead of schedule so he could get off earlier in the afternoon.

So why doesn’t this seemingly basic level of timeliness and concern for your stakeholders carry into other professions? If there is a good explanation, I’d love to hear it.

Author: Kenneth Mollerup Birch

Living north of Copenhagen, Denmark. MA in Information Science. Interests include communication, internet, sociology, language, politics, religion, theology, travel, music, and food.

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