Brother UK teamed up with professional life coach and behaviour expert, Nick Hatter, to provide expert insight on why some people are prone to being late and tips on how to avoid being late.

“With over a third of Brits being late for work, it’s safe to say we have an epidemic of lateness in the UK.”

“The reality is of course that life happens – and modern life is complex and volatile. Life is imperfect, and so are we. Many are juggling to meet the growing demands of work, childcare, whilst trying to squeeze in a social life, hobbies, studying, extra-curricular activities and of course, some sleep. No wonder that over a third of office workers are late for work! How does one find the time to do it all?”

“From a young age, we are conditioned – or rather, shamed – into being on time. Perhaps we were given detention, shouted at by our parents and teachers, and such experiences can leave a deep and ingrained emotionally charged belief that being late is deeply unacceptable and shameful.”

“As a result, this can create a lot of anxiety when we are running late – and this type of conditioning can be very hard to break. We worry that as adults we might be in big trouble like when we were children. We might then fall into a cognitive distortion such as catastrophic thinking, thinking that we might be fired, or we will lose a client, or some other catastrophic event. All of a sudden, running late feels like a life-or-death situation, as our heart begins to pound, and as adrenaline pumps, we begin to feel stressed, agitated, angry and lose our ability to think clearly. We might then think it’s OK to take unnecessary risks such as speeding, running into closing train doors, or rushing across busy roads, putting ourselves and others in potential danger…”

“There are some roles of course where being on time is crucial. In emergency services, timing is everything – the difference between being seconds and minutes late is quite literally the difference between life and death. For the rest of us though, while persistent lateness can be a reason to be fired, most likely being late to a meeting, presentation, or for your regular office job, won’t have a life-or-death impact generally – and all of us would do well to remember this, whether we are employees, managers, or directors.”

Tips to avoid being late:

Under schedule and become a pessimist – rather than trying to cram as much as you can into your schedule, give yourself plenty of breathing space between meetings and activities and give yourself a buffer to account for mishaps, such as traffic, unexpected road works or public transport delays. Expect the worst to happen, especially if it’s a really important meeting or unmissable appointment.
Accept “good enough” and slightly lower performance standards – trying to perfectly complete things can be a recipe for lateness, as can “just one more thing”-itis. Accept the outcome of your timing and endeavours and stop trying to be perfect.
Practice mental rehearsal – working with a professional coach or therapist can help you rehearse the behaviour you want to see. This can be highly effective — if you can do it in your imagination, it’s much easier to do it in real life. This works for overcoming phobias as well as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). You might want to rehearse leaving and arriving early if you’re chronically late, for example.
Explore the possibility of work and activity addiction – You might well be someone who feels compelled to have an over-scheduled life with work and activity, and the thought of arriving early and waiting around may fill you with dread; you may be addicted to cramming and to adrenaline. There are support groups that may be able to help with this, such as Workaholics Anonymous. Professional support may also be necessary.
Learn to say “no” more – Setting boundaries is also a key to maintaining punctuality. So, practice using phrases like, “I’m sorry, I can’t because I have an important appointment I need to make”. Using ‘because’ can be a useful and powerful way to justify your ‘no’.”

If you are going to be late…

“If you are going to be late, people are often more forgiving if you can give them a heads-up in advance. A quick text or email such as “So sorry, I may be 10-15 minutes late because [xyz]”, ideally more than 15 minutes in advance, may help you gain forgiveness as it shows that you’re trying to make it and that you value their time. Try to also have compassion for the reason behind your lateness and forgive yourself.”

“You can also make amends for being late by putting in more time, giving extra time for free, or even getting your client or boss a small gift. It’s the thought that counts! Just don’t make lateness a regular occurrence.”

Be forgiving of others’ lateness

“I once had a client turn up 30 minutes late for a coaching consultation – and she didn’t let me know in advance – so I thought they were just going to be a no-show. When she arrived, I was tempted to tease her and ask if she wanted coaching for her timekeeping… It later transpired that she was late because someone at the tube station had collapsed and because she was a doctor, she felt called to do her duty until further help arrived… After that consultation, I learned to be more forgiving of others’ lateness…”

“If you’re going to be late, also remember that it’s better to arrive late and alive…”

“If you’re rushing, to calm yourself down if you’re stressed, you can also do some 7-11 breathing – breathe in for 7 seconds, and out for 11 seconds, which will help activate the parasympathetic nervous system. You can also scale your anxiety from 0 to 10 (10 being the highest) in your head to help you step back into your ‘observing self’ and to get some detachment from your emotion.”

Nick Hatter also provided insight on how employee lateness can affect the cost to businesses.

“Lateness can result in lost productivity and money overall. According to the Office of National Statistics, the average salary of a full-time employee in the UK is £38,600 per year – or £18.53 per hour (assuming 40 hours a week and 52 weeks per year) [1]. Thus, every five minutes someone is late costs a UK company on average £1.54. This may not seem like much on prima facie, but can easily add up over time, and of course goes up with annual or hourly salary.”

“There are approximately 29.5 million employees in the UK [2], of which 25.7% (7.6 million employees) are in ‘professional’ jobs [3]. Thus, if 35% office workers are late, and on average, if each worker was late between 30 to 90 minutes in total per month (because of traffic, public transport delays, family emergencies, doctor appointments, poor time-keeping, etc), then the collective cost to UK businesses because of office lateness could be up to 3 billion pounds a year – or higher – especially if lateness results in someone getting fired (thus requiring time to hire a replacement) or a lost sale as a result. Of course, these are catastrophic events, but they can happen.”

“Given only 15% of remote workers admitted to being late (compared to 30% with on-site office workers), there may be a good economic and business case for retaining a remote-first culture. Remote workers will generally not have to contend with traffic jams or public transport delays, for example, and they do not have to spend time travelling home to deal with a family emergency.”

“Employers should keep in mind that employees are not perfect, and that allowances and flexibility should go both ways – i.e., employers sometimes may cause employees to be late for other events such as dinners or appointments because of work or needing them to work extra hours or overtime.”

“Employers should also keep in mind that certain mental health conditions, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), could also be a source of lateness (e.g., if the employee has obsessive rituals which they feel compelled to do before they leave the house).”

You can find more information about the research here: