Punctuality becomes fashionable in post-social isolation commitments


The launch party for Tina Brown’s new book, “The Palace Papers,” was set to begin at 6:30 pm, and the press arrived punctually at Michael’s bistro in midtown Manhattan, known for attracting professionals for business lunches. At 6:35 pm the place was already packed.

I was on the other side of West 55th Street, watching what was happening with almost disbelief. Years of experience in this type of role, either as a journalist or as a guest, have taught me to attend at least 15 minutes after the time quoted on the invitation. I walked into Michael’s at 6:40 pm.

Tina Brown did not fail to notice that people showed up at exactly the appointed time. “Everyone these days craves company,” she commented. “Today we want to get to the party as soon as possible, before the place is forced to close due to another Covid outbreak.”

At New York City Hall, punctuality has taken on new importance since May, when Eric Adams took over.

“Mayor Adams is super punctual,” commented his chief of staff, Frank Carone. “If you’re five minutes early, you’re on time. If you’re on time, you’re late.”

Katie Honan is a reporter for The City, a non-profit news outlet covering New York. She said she liked the change seen since the departure of the previous mayor, Bill de Blasio, who was often late for appointments. Honan, who describes himself as someone who has a compulsion to get to his appointments early, has noticed and appreciates Mayor Adams’ punctuality.

“There is a huge and notable difference between Mayors Adams and Bill de Blasio,” she said.

In 2022, arriving late is no longer fashionable. It’s a shift in attitude that seems to have been born out of the pandemic, which is now in its third year.

In the first phase, when video conferencing became the usual way of working for many office workers across the country, people who previously had difficulty being punctual are no longer being late due to traffic or workplace gossip sessions.

Collaboration between people living in different time zones has improved, and people are able to pick up their children from school or take care of other related tasks in the middle of their professional workday.

“We’re reevaluating our relationship to time, and punctuality has become a primary concern,” said Linda Ong, CEO of Cultique, based in Los Angeles, which advises companies on changing cultural norms. “Today the tolerance for delays is decreasing. There is an expectation that you have more control over your time and that you arrive on time.”

Now that more and more office workers are returning to face-to-face work, they don’t want to give up the ability to control their own time, noted Sophie C. Avila Leroy, a management professor at the University of Washington Bothell.

“With the pandemic, people were able to control their own schedules for a long time,” explained Leroy. “With returning to the office, you have to manage all these things – the commute between home and work, the face-to-face interactions with people, and the fact that you can no longer take care of your personal and family life the way you used to when you were working. at home.”

For her, the reluctance of some people to return to the office will require managers to prioritize efficiency.

“People are implicitly asking, ‘Why am I going back to face-to-face work? It’s good that there’s some reason I have to spend on fuel or public transport. It’s good that there is something that justifies my risking contracting Covid, given that I’ve already proven that I can work efficiently from home.'” For Lery, this can translate into an idea of ​​”I’m here to work, not to chat.”

Marcia Villavicencio, a naval officer stationed in San Diego who also owns a fitness and life coaching business, agrees that telecommuting has made people less willing to tolerate the distractions and inefficiencies of the office. “People want to get things done in less time, so they can do what they want,” she explained.

The new emphasis on day-to-day punctuality comes as scientists are working to tell time more accurately. As the New York Times reported this year, physicists and metrologists at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures are redefining the measurement of the unit of time known as the second.

Chard Orzel, who is professor of physics and astronomy at Union College and author of a recently released book, “A Brief History of Timekeeping,” said adherence to punctuality has been increasing for millennia.

To measure time, he said, the ancient Egyptians converted water vessels into clocks. Modern notions of punctuality emerged thousands of years after that, in the industrial age.

“With the growth of cities, public clocks began to appear showing the time, and people began to make a point of punctuality more and more,” said Orzel. “By the end of the 19th century pocket watches had become of good quality and cost little, about $1 for a pretty good watch, to allow most people to have one. They only had to go to a train station once a day. week to set their clocks.”

He understands why punctuality is being valued more at the moment.

“I think people don’t want to spend so much time in the office anymore. They’re saying, ‘I don’t like wearing a mask. I’m going to come here, do what I need to do, and get out of here as soon as possible.'”

Translation by Clara Allain

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