how should I handle last-minute schedule change requests without being a jerk?

A reader writes:

What is a reasonable policy for last-minute schedule changes or days off? I’m new to management and have a team of six. So far I’ve approved last-minute schedule changes because I understand that life happens and the reasons haven’t been outlandish. However, I think that I’ve been too relaxed.

I had about 14 last-minute requests over the last four weeks, ranging from finishing the day from home to working the entire day from home to taking the day off. Besides the high volume and not knowing when Teapot Tester Tina or Teapot Maker Tom will be around, the frequent changes result in multiple project shifts and sometimes delays. We haven’t had any major catastrophes, but I don’t want it to get that far.

Each person on my team is unique and many have family situations that play into this, from serious family illness to being a single parent. I don’t have children, and I don’t want to be unreasonable due to a different personal situation. For example, one person has a parent who is seriously ill, and will leave early or ask to work from home to drive them to their appointments. This person has a scheduled work from home day to allow for flexibility due to this, but appointments commonly come up on other days. Other team members have children and will ask to work from home when childcare falls through, or to leave early to get them from the bus and finish the day from home. Custody issues have also caused last-minute partial days off.

Multiple doctor appointments, a few family emergencies, sick days, and funerals have also come up over the last few weeks.

I want to say no questions asked on funerals and sick time… and family emergencies… and all of it! Life is messy and I want to be as supportive as possible of my team. However, the volume and resulting disruption in project work is becoming a problem. It also seems unfair to the people who never have last-minute schedule requests.

Technically our work can be completed from home, but commonly things move so quickly that it’s important to be in the office. It is also my boss’s expectation that everyone is in the office for at least eight hours every day unless they are ill, in which case everyone is encouraged to take the day off or work from home if they’re feeling up to it.

From reading your blog, I know I should focus on the issue of frequently fluctuating staff and my boss’s expectation, rather than the reason for each and every request. What’s a fair policy that supports and encourages a team while still maintaining a standard of being in the office?

(As a side note, scheduled work from home days and days off are much less of a problem. If we know when someone is unavailable ahead of time, we can schedule project assignments accordingly. This also allows me to make sure that there are enough Teapot Makers and Teapot Testers to keep the assembly line moving smoothly.)

The question to ask should always be, “What’s the impact of this on our ability to get work done at a high level over the long-term?” If you can give people flexibility without causing serious disruption, you should — because, as you point out, life is messy. And being flexible and accommodating is how you attract and retain good employees.

That said, some jobs do require working in the office the vast majority of the time, and it can legitimately cause disruption when you have a bunch of last-minute schedule alterations to work around. The thing I’d want to know here is: How disruptive is it? If it’s pretty minor, I’d try to err on the side of continuing to be flexible. After all, illnesses and child care emergencies and so forth will always cause some degree of disruption; that’s just how it goes when you employ humans. But if the disruption is more than minor, then yes, you probably need to look at changing something.

In your case, one reasonable approach would be to say that last-minute requests to work from home or to take a partial day off should be saved for emergencies or illness. That would allow people to continue doing it for illness, doctor’s appointments (which fall under health stuff and are just part of the deal when you employ people), funerals, or personal emergencies, but would discourage people from the more optional things, like leaving early to pick up a kid from the bus stop and finish the day from home.

With your employee who wants to leave early or work from home to drive her sick parent to appointments: If it’s truly impacting the work, it would be reasonable to say something like, “I want to be as accommodating to you as possible, but I also need to balance it against the needs of the team as a whole. I know you can’t always schedule appointments for your work-from-home days, but are there other things we can do to minimize the time you’re away from the office?” Simply having a conversation about this might help solve it; the person may not be aware that what she’s currently doing is a problem. (It might also make sense for her to take intermittent FMLA for the time she needs.) But also, if this would be solved by you having more advance notice of her schedule changes, ask for that! That would probably be far easier for her to do.

As for whether giving flexibility to people who ask for it is unfair to the people who never request it, I’d argue no. It’s to their benefit too to work for an employer that allows this kind of flexibility, even if they don’t need it right now, because they could need it in the future. Most people will appreciate knowing that it’s there, as long as they don’t routinely end up picking up other people’s slack. That last part is important, though; if they are having to bear the brunt of their coworkers being away, then you need to take another look at the question of impact (because that very much counts as impact).

Also! Don’t ignore the fact that you and your boss have different viewpoints on this. If your boss wants everyone in the office for eight hours a day unless they’re sick and you’re more flexible, then you need to talk with your boss. Ideally you should be able to make these calls for your department and should be able to say to your boss “here’s the system I’d like to use and why I think it’s best” and your boss would say “it’s not how I would do it, but as long as things are running effectively, it’s your call.” Of course, in reality, your boss might be unreasonably rigid on this issue and not agree to let you manage it as you think best … but if that’s the case, it’s better to bring that to the surface now and figure out how to handle it than have it come out by accident later, when it might appear to your boss that you were intentionally undermining her clearly stated preferences.

{ 98 comments… read them below }

  1. Mike C.*

    Outside of the boss’s belief that “butt in chairs == success”, I wonder if you might benefit from having a day or two scheduled where everyone who wants to works from home. That way appointments and what not could be scheduled on those days while the remaining days could be focused more on the tasks that require face to face interaction.

    This won’t eliminate the actual emergencies of course, but for folks who have on going situations or just need some time out of the office to actually get work done this could be really helpful.

    1. OriginalYup*

      Yes, my office has a standing weekly work-from-home day. It’s working really well. People know to schedule meetings around it, and I always know that it’s a feasible day to schedule my 4pm dentist appt or whatever.

      Another thing to consider is the idea of core hours. For example, everyone is expected to be in the office between the hours of 10am and 3pm every day unless they’re taking the day off. People need to work 8 hours a day, but can flex around those core hours, so that Person A can work 9-5 most days but switch to 7am to 3pm (or 10am to 6pm) on days when they need to take care of personal things.

      Offering a structured approach like these often eliminates a bunch of in-the-moment requests. Funerals and illness and so forth will never be predictable, but it might help people to plan more predictable things if they know that they’ll always have flexible schedules on Thursdays or can always leave the office at 3.30pm if needed without a lot of hassle.

      1. sunny-dee*

        That’s what my company does, even for people working from home. We’re all expected to be available from 11am to 4pm (but even that is pretty flexible).

      2. OwnedByTheCat*

        Question about this: how are people held accountable to work for eight hours? My fiance struggles with this – many people in his office don’t work a full eight hours but since they’re all expected to manage their time, there is no oversight to hold them accountable. He ends up often working long hours to pick up the slack of his coworkers (don’t worry…he’s looking for another job.)

        But as a manager, how would one ensure that employees WERE putting in core hours? I’d rather be in the office from 8am to 4pm. But what if as a manager, I left at 4pm and an employee who came in at 10am left right after me?

          1. alter_ego*

            Yeah, but if he’s picking up their slack, then it sounds like they aren’t getting their work done.

          2. OwnedByTheCat*

            Well, they’re not. Certain teams will have to stay late (like 9pm, 10pm) to put out fires, while other teams don’t work a full 40 hours per week. That’s the challenge.

            1. harryv*

              If they do the same function, then that’s a management issue. They need to review the workload between teams.

            2. LBK*

              Wait, I’m a bit confused – are these coworkers with the same function as your husband, or another team with a different function? Those are two separate questions. If it’s a separate team that does different work, the answer is that that’s how it is sometimes and it’s not reasonable to expect every function across the company to require the same amount of hours.

              If it’s one team and your husband is having to do work that his coworkers should be doing, then that’s something that needs to be brought to management. The issue there isn’t whether his coworkers are working the same hours, but rather if they’re completing their work. The number of hours someone works should be informed by the amount of time they need to complete their work – so their hours may naturally expand if the manager starts holding them accountable to actually finish their daily tasks, or they may not if they’re able to work efficiently, but either way the goal shouldn’t be to get them to spend more time at work. It should be to get their work done.

              You may also suggest to your husband that he examine the calibration on his “this must be done today” gauge. Mine is naturally extremely high. For many years, the phrase “that can wait until tomorrow” didn’t exist in my vocabulary, which resulted in working way too many long nights just for the ostensible satisfaction of checking everything off my to do list. Of course, that satisfaction was completely canceled out by the frustration of having to work late nights to accomplish that goal. Once I learned to prioritize better and let some things wait, I found my work/life balance much more enjoyable (although my manager still occasionally has to explicitly tell me to get out of the office and finish whatever I’m working on tomorrow).

              That isn’t to say that your husband is wrong about these things being urgent enough to require completion each day, but that maybe he should double check if they are, or maybe just prioritize the daily activities getting done and then letting the other things slide for a day or two (which may also be what his coworkers try to do, but then your husband swoops in and finishes everything before they can get to it the next day).

              1. Mockingjay*

                I had a variant of this conversation with my daughter yesterday. She is working her first, post-school “real” job (lab technician). They are really impressed with her; she’s received an increase already. She’s hourly, with frequent overtime (can’t stop in the middle of the chem work to clock out).

                She usually works at least 40 hours by Thursday, so she could take Fridays off. But she’ll tell her coworkers, “I have to be here.” No, you don’t, dear. Don’t get in the habit of overproducing because that will become the norm you are measured by, and you’ll be irritated and tired in 6 months. Also, you will be working for at least 30 years. Spread out some of that enthusiasm – you’ll need it 10 years down the road!

                1. kckckc*

                  Good on your daughter, Mockingjay, for being so successful and having a great work ethic! And great advice on not burning herself out. Balance is so important!

        1. Amtelope*

          Well, I think you have to look at results. Even if there’s no oversight on how many hours people are in the office, there can certainly be oversight on how much they’re producing. If someone’s having to “pick up the slack,” that’s a problem.

        2. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

          It’s a bit of trust…but because I have (or one of my leads has) weekly check-ins with the teams, it’s fairly obvious who is not getting work done.

          It’s a bit easier in a project based environment.

        3. OriginalYup*

          Timesheets, for one thing. My boss can easily see how many hours I’m putting in each week. I’m exempt, so it doesn’t really matter if I work 45 hours one week and 35 the next, and the timesheets are used for billing purposes rather than HR oversight, but that’s one easy way to hold people accountable. Also, just stating “you are expected to put in a full 40 hours every week” and then managing accordingly. When we work remotely, we have to be available on Skype and email so it’s pretty evident if someone’s just logged in but not doing anything.

          But I agree with everyone else that work product is more important than the numbers of hours. If someone is exceeding goals at 38 hours a week, why is it important that they reach an arbitrary number 2 units higher? I realize that this isn’t the case with your fiance’s workplace, where people aren’t meeting goals AND aren’t putting in the time. But I think it’s worth stating for anyone who’s reading this with a butts-in-seats mentality—which, frankly, belongs back in grade school.

          1. ThatGirl*

            We are salaried but with tracking sheets for projects, to help with budgeting, and are expected to put 40 hours worth of work per week on those. We also have set work from home days and flexible hours, so how that happens is up to us.

            It’s a little bit of a double standard as far as I’m concerned, though, because sometimes the work is done in 7.5 hours and sometimes it’s 9, and we’re expected to at least hit the minimum for the week. But I guess that’s a small problem – at least we’re able to decide for ourselves where and when those 40 hours get worked.

      3. the_scientist*

        Core hours are such a great idea. Many workplaces in my field have them, although my current employer doesn’t. My current company is extremely flexible, though- my job doesn’t require coverage so I’m free to plan my own schedule around meetings and my boss trusts that I’m getting my work done. And companies with this attitude really do attract great talent, so people still perform at a very high level with this flexibility.

      4. Annie Moose*

        My department has sort of informal core hours–there’s no official policy, but we all know that as long as we’re available in the middle of the day, attend the meetings we’re required at (project check-ins, for example), and get our 40 hours in, it doesn’t matter when we come in or leave. It’s fabulous.

        My mental clock skews late, so I like being able to sleep in and work 9 to 6 instead of 8 to 5, while some of my coworkers prefer 7 to 4. And we rarely run into a problem with not having enough time with each other, because there’s plenty of overlap in the middle of the day.

      5. Kira*

        Core hours sounds great. Working remotely is great, but it’s still different from working flexibly. I still enjoy the relative ease of working from my home, but my boss has a 9-5, butt-in-the-seat expectation for remote work as well.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I try to keep my hours close to what I work in-office when I work from home (which is infrequent). I’m usually here 8:30–4:30, but when I WFH I’ll sometimes start at 7:30 or 8:00 and then quit at 4:00 (taking a lunch break if I start at 7:30 so I don’t log off too early and miss something). Unless I have an appointment–but even then, I usually either come in late or leave the office early. The point being I never know when someone will throw something my way–it usually depends on their schedules.

    2. MashaKasha*

      Yes, that got me confused – why does OP’s letter seem to imply that WFH=unavailable? I just don’t get this whole line of thinking. Every day thousands of employers call their employees at home on evenings or weekends with something urgent that needs to be done asap, and nobody ever seems to have any issues about the quality of work done from home at nine PM or on a Sunday. But as soon as it’s WFH 9-5, it’s suddenly “oh no, no can do, you won’t be REALLY working, you won’t be available.” There is no logic in this reasoning.

      1. LBK*

        I can sort of understand it. If your work involves a lot of asking quick questions of people or checking in on things, it can be frustrating to have to do that via email/IM/phone when it would be faster to just ask in person if they were in the office. I have a regular work from home day but I go in if I have something that I know is going to require a lot of collaboration with my coworkers because while it’s not impossible to work around it with all the technology we have available, it’s just easier.

        1. OriginalYup*

          That’s actually an interesting outcome of the weekly work-from-home day at my job. My office is highly reliant on in-person conversations and pop-bys and quick questions. Which can be great for getting little scattershot things done, but it’s hell on big gnarly things where you need sustained focus. So with 99% of the office working from home on a given day, everyone (a) now has some uninterrupted time to get sh*t done, and (b) has to use their dusty skills for planning ahead, problem-solving, waiting to wait for a response, etc etc. Some of them don’t adjust well and go all omg-you-didn’t-answer-the-IM-I’m-going-to-text-you-why-aren’t-there panicky, but I think it’s good for them to have to re-learn how to operate without immediate gratification.

          1. LBK*

            Ha, yes, conversely I purposely stay out of the office on days when I know I have an intensive project that I don’t want to be interrupted, because it’s much quieter at home when people can’t poke their head into my cube.

            I think the biggest thing is just having an understanding throughout the team that this is all reciprocal, and that while you might be frustrated in the moment by not being able to get ahold of someone, it balances out on the days when you’re not in the office. We put up with those little things and plan ahead, work around, etc. as you say because ultimately it’s not a big enough deal that any of us want to give up the privilege of working from home.

          2. MashaKasha*

            Yikes, very thankful that my office is highly reliant on IM, phone calls or web conferences as a last resort. Stopping by in person to ask a question is very much out of the ordinary and hardly ever happens. Not gonna lie, I’d get none of my own work done if I had to field “in-person conversations and pop-bys and quick questions” throughout the day. At least over IM, people can say things like, “I’m finishing up something else”, or “I don’t have that information off the top of my head”, “give me a few minutes and I’ll get back to you”. You don’t have that luxury when the person is standing in your cube or office, waiting for you to fulfill their request asap. I’d be a nervous wreck in this environment.

      2. Augusta Sugarbean*

        “why does OP’s letter seem to imply that WFH=unavailable? ”

        I didn’t really see that in the letter. Several of the examples were staff leaving early to do other, non-work related things like taking parents to doctors appointments, picking up kids from the bus, going to their own doctors appointments. And, if a person is working from home because childcare fell through his/her attention is likely to be divided (depending on the age of the kids I guess). It’s a little uncharitable to read is this way since the OP said “I want to be as supportive as possible”.

        1. MashaKasha*

          I was going by this: “As a side note, scheduled work from home days and days off are much less of a problem. If we know when someone is unavailable ahead of time, we can schedule project assignments accordingly.”

          This reads a lot like, when someone works from home *or takes a day off*, in each of these two cases, they’re considered unavailable and their work has to be reassigned accordingly.

          This view of WFH could very well be coming from OP’s management, who are making OP enforce it. So, no judgment on the OP. Just a company culture that I find puzzling, since to me, work is work is work. I have colleagues who work remotely FT and are very much available and pulling their weight or more.

          1. doreen*

            That’s one of those things that differs from job-to-job. At some jobs, there is a fair amount of work that actually requires people to be in the office , and if Fergus is supposed to be in the office Tuesday and asks on Monday or Tuesday for a change, it’s going to affect other people. My job is one of those jobs. Maybe he was going to conference with his supervisor on Tuesday- now she has to rearrange her plans. Maybe he was one of the two people scheduled to be in the office in case of emergency and now someone else has to change their schedule/plans to be there. Maybe there’s a meeting Tuesday that Fergus is needed at which now has to be rescheduled. It doesn’t mean Fergus isn’t pulling his weight- it just means his last minute request is more disruptive than the same request would have been a week before, when it was possible to avoid scheduling the meeting/conference when he wouldn’t be there ( or at least there would be more time to rearrange plans) or for him to find someone to voluntarily switch the emergency coverage .

            It’s one thing to have to rearrange things at the last minute due to an emergency – it’s something else entirely to do it because people don’t plan ahead. ( I once had someone call me at 7:30 am to take the day off because her apartment was being painted. There is no way she didn’t know this at least a couple of days before)

          2. Augusta Sugarbean*

            I see what you mean but I read it differently: if WFH days and vacation day are scheduled ahead of time, the OP can plan ahead for work or projects for which employees need to be accessible to each other in the office.

    3. JMegan*

      Or the inverse – pick a day or two each week when everyone must be in the office, and allow WFH on the other days.

  2. Red*

    In my department (where probably half of us work from home full-time anyway), the rule is that schedule changes or absences that aren’t arranged before the end of the previous business day are subject to the “unexcused absence” policy, but the policy doesn’t kick in as a problem until one hits the fourth UA in a six month period. Like, if I want to cut out early on Tuesday, I can try to arrange that with my manager up until the end of the day on Monday, but if I leave it till Tuesday morning, her response is going to be “If you need to leave early, it’ll count as a UA. Your call.”

    1. CMT*

      That seems reasonable. If it’s truly an emergency, it’s worth it for the employee, but if not, they’ll think twice. What happens when you hit 4 in a 6 month period?

      1. Red*

        I haven’t called in since I started two years ago, so looking at the policy …

        An occurrence is one UA or sequence of consecutive UAs up to 5, day 6 starts a new occurrence. At four occurrences in 12 months (not six, my bad) it’s “action level 1,” 5 is level 2, 6 is level 3, 7 is termination. At level 3 you’re not eligible for internal job transfers or (I believe) performance based raises, level 2 is a PIP, and level 1 is a written documentation of the performance discrepancy.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          That takes a lot of necessary judgment away from the manager though. I want to be able to tell you “yes, cut out early to go see that Rick Springfield concert since you worked so late this week” (why, yes, it is 1985 in my head) or “you look like you feel horrible — go home” without you being penalized for it.

          1. Red*

            I believe, strictly speaking, whether a manager actually does tag an absence or early out as unauthorized is up to their discretion? But that would leave OP back in the same boat they’re currently in.

            Like I said though, our department is a little different that what the LW is describing as something like 60% of our department is fully WFH with flexible schedules that amount to “work 7.5-10 hours a day, on 5 days a week that have to be M-F unless given special permission, and don’t go over 40 in a week.”

  3. erica b*

    I agree that it needs to be brought up to the team in regards to how its affecting the work/productivity. Does the team know individually what other team members are requesting? Probably not. They may not realize that cumulatively its creating a problem when they are only considering their on jobs/duties.
    There should be some sort of compromise that regular short-notice givers could do. Mayne the mom gets her kid off the bus only on mon and tues, and someone else can do it other days, for example. And with dr. Appointments maybe they can try to schedule them as early or as late as possible to have lesser impact on their work day.
    I do appreciate that you believe in having flexibility for your team b/c that is very important for some employees, like myself. I have been at my job for 12 years now and have stayed b/c it is so flexible for life and kids. If I only needed money I would leave, but for me the flexibility is more important. Kudos to you!

    1. KR*

      I agree that the employees probably don”t realize it’s become a problem because they’re not aware that other people are taking last minute time off or work from home days. I also think it’s fully okay for the manager to tell Wakeen that he can’t leave early today to pick his kids up because OP already approved Margaret to work from home to drive her mother to the doctor.

  4. LawBee*

    “That last part is important, though; if they are having to bear the brunt of their coworkers being away, then you need to take another look at the question of impact (because that very much counts as impact).”

    YES THIS. Just an acknowledgement that their work is possibly being impacted will go a long way with these employees. They may not be saying anything because no one wants to be the jerk who whines about someone else’s sick mother, but I definitely recommend looking into this closely.

  5. Juli G.*

    This is probably going to be unpopular but when you’re the boss, you have obligations to your employees and to the business. You have to find the right balance. If project schedules are being impacted, you’ve possibly shifted too much to the employees.

    I’ll also say that even in emergencies, the employee might not be the only option. I do the brunt of child related emergencies because I can work from home or work at midnight or whatever. But when I absolutely can’t leave work because of a deadline/issue, my husband can cover it. It sucks because his time is unpaid but his boss is okay with emergencies. I’m just usually the one because I have more flexibility. My point is that if there’s something urgent you need and they MUST be in office, it’s okay to pushback a little and see if there are other arrangements.

    1. NK*

      Your second point is a good one. I’m typically a little more willing than my husband to ask to work from home or get in late/leave early for issues that come up at home. But if I get to a point where I feel like too much is coming up at once, I push on him more to do his share. If there is a precedent of lots of flexibility at OP’s workplace, the employees may be requesting schedule adjustments when a partner, care provider, other family member, etc. could be stepping in. Just by having a conversation that this is becoming an issue may cause people to re-think whether they really need to be the person to raise their hand when an issue at home/with family comes up, or whether someone else can handle it too.

      1. A Non E. Mouse*

        I agree re: can someone else handle this. Knowing who’s “turn” it is between my husband and I, and what weeks he or I will have to cover because of something going on at work, really helps.

        It also can help to push back a little and make sure people are prioritizing time off – not taking off for the school’s Valentine party if it’s a busy week, consolidating appointments (for example I try to get all the kids and myself into the dentist for a cleaning the same day, which means ONE day, not 4, off work), that sort of thing. Once your doctor/dentist/kids’ school/caregivers know that it’s imperative you minimize the time you miss work, they usually can accommodate fairly well.

        As for childcare itself: I’ve tried several types of childcare, and the cheaper it is the more frequently it falls through. It’s just a Known Quantity that if at that point in my life I need solid childcare, day in and day out, with as few emergencies as possible, I need to pay for it. Once your employees with kiddos get the message that emergencies must be truly that (and not the sitter wants off early again, or the child’s friend’s Mom that’s been doing them a favor can’t that day), they should be able to get childcare lined out – fair warning that it might take a few weeks though, so if they come to you with it as a problem, give them some leeway to solve it.

        I wouldn’t go back and say “no more flexibility”, but instead throw it to the group as a problem we could all solve together. People usually take what they are given, so just explaining it needs to tighten up a bit should help.

    2. LBK*

      I agree, but I think you have to be careful how you approach it. You don’t want to get into the dicey situation of judging the validity of someone’s absence, so I think you’d have to come up with very soft language along the lines of “I’d appreciate if you can reschedule or find a way around that because we really need you in the office today, but I understand if that’s not an option.” Something that doesn’t feel like it’s pressuring the employee and leaves the judgment about whether this is really absolutely necessary in their hands without having to explain themselves to you.

      1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

        I’m conflicted on this. I understand the instinct, but I’m not comfortable with the assumptions behind.

        For instance, my spouse is a dedicated stay at home. 9 times out of ten, when something comes up, he’s got it. But every once in a while, he has an appointment or other commitment since he has his life, too, and I cover getting our boy to school, being here when he gets home, taking him to an appointment, or whatever.

        While my husband can typically hanlde most things, if I’m telling my boss I need the day off to handle it, I wouldn’t appreciate the assumed push back that husband can do it. If he could, I wouldn’t even mention it.

  6. BRR*

    Reiterating a lot of what Alison said but I think:
    -You should be as flexible as you can with people because that’s how you get and keep good employees plus it’s remembering everybody is human (sounds like you’ve been great at being considerate of your employees’ lives). But since it’s disrupting output, I think your policy will need to be adjusted. I’d be very clear about how it’s productivity related and that it’s changing. You could also ask everyone to weigh in on the subject in case they can think of other solutions and it will help damper any ill feelings about the changes.
    -I’d factor in how much your boss approves of how you handle it because it reflects on you. Don’t use your boss as a scapegoat though i.e. “Boss says you can’t have flexible schedules.”
    -Take a look at if it’s multiple people or just one or two team members. If it’s just one person causing 90% of the issues, a blanket policy isn’t the best solution.

  7. The IT Manager*

    I would note that “work from home” should mean not in the office and not getting their work done. If someone working from home caould accomplish their tasks on time except for the fact that they are at a medical appointment that should be considered time off and not work time. Working from home because child care fell through is hard to do if the child is of the age that active engagement with them is required. Some of these situations may require time off not WFH time.

    Other than that, though, “I want to meet my kids at the bus” is not an emergency (unless a person normally doing it fell through) and certainly shouldn’t be a last minute request. Maybe this can be scheduled only for their normal work from home days or simply regularly scheduled a few days a week so its not last minute. The same goes for medical appointments scheduled in advance; not all of them are obviously but many are not last minute and can be planned to coincide with scheduled WFH days.

    1. DoDah*

      I agree with this. We’ve got team members who claim to be WFH when they are actually stay-at-home parenting. Meetings are a nightmare and the rest of the group takes the hit.

    2. The IT Manager*

      I think I have a typo in my first sentence, but upon rereading the question you note that these last minute requests are both WFH and time off so my answer is a bit off. I still maintain, though, that some of their requests don’t sound like they’re really last minute or an emergency. As a manager you might need to start telling people “no.”

  8. Adonday Veeah*

    “Also! Don’t ignore the fact that you and your boss have different viewpoints on this. If your boss wants everyone in the office for eight hours a day unless they’re sick and you’re more flexible, then you need to talk with your boss.”

    Very this. I almost got fired one time because my boss gave me permission to shift my work hours, but his boss, the VP, wanted to fire me for coming in late every day.


  9. eplawyer*

    Doctor’s appointments should not count as last minute schedule changes. Those things are set well in advance, unless in a real emergency (fell the night before, need to be checked out by own physician today). If you are finding out on Tuesday morning that someone needs to drive Mom to the doctor’s that afternoon, that appointment was known about well before Tuesday morning.

    You can be accomodating by letting people know they have to tell you in advance of any appointment times they need off. That way you can balance better. It’s easier to plan if Fergus is going to be out on the 18th in the afternoon, if you know on the 2nd. It’s a lot harder to juggle if you find out on the 17th or even the 18th. You can move the day working from home, or whatever. Consequences if they don’t tell you in advance, like “sorry you need to be in the office, we planned the work flow based on that. If you had told me in advance we could have shuffled.”

    1. calonkat*

      Well, with aging parents, it’s really NOT known all the time. I got a call two days ago that my mother was having breathing problems (again) and was finally ready to go to the walk in clinic. It was NOT an ambulance sort of thing, but it was a “do we really want the 85 year old with afib driving herself when she’s having trouble breathing?” sort of thing. I’m fortunate that my boss (and agency as a whole) understand these things happen and the response is always “what are you doing here, go home and get your mother to the doctor”.
      (And the current diagnosis is GERD, so hopefully this will finally work.)

      We’ve also arranged that my sister will take mom to a specific appointment, then my sister is called out of town or is ill and it suddenly falls to me (and no, we never get quite the whole story when mom goes on her own. Neither does the doctor, mom is of the age to not want to bother the doctor too much.)

      1. Colette*

        Medical conditions can happen with anyone. When I left work two weeks ago, I planned to be in on Monday, but I haven’t been in since. So “having trouble breathing” would fall under the emergency criteria, but a follow up in a month could be planned in advance.

      2. Judy*

        I was going to say this. Even though it seems like it takes forever to get doctor’s appointments, I’ve also been in situations with my parents, kids or myself, that things moved rather swiftly. I remember once I went to an appointment for something that was bothering me, it took 2 weeks to get that appointment, but I ended up seeing specialists at two separate doctor’s practices later in the day and the next day.

        They can move fast if they need to, that’s why it seems so slow for the rest of us.

      3. Rater Z*

        It’s not just an aging parent but a spouse with specific medical problems which cannot be planned for but always in the back of your mind.

        I work some third shifts in a convenience store attached to a big box store. Three years ago, I answered the phone at 3:30 am and found my neighbor (a hospice nurse certified for ICU) telling me “It’s Barb, your neighbor, don’t let this worry you but you may have to run your wife to the emergency room.” She had cut her toe while clipping toenails and started bleeding. Great, She’s a free bleeder on a blood thinner. A quick call to the store manager at the moment (he knew my situation) and I was home in about 20 minutes. They went thru 15-20 gauze pads before calling me. After some brainstorming between the three of us, we tried the pen that guys use when they cut themselves shaving and that worked. It could have been worse, tho. In 2009, she woke up with a nosebleed and came home from the hospital six days later after they finally got that one stopped. It was the week before Thanksgiving–put a damper on that holiday as I got to do the cooking for her; nobody was coming anyway as I was working the third shift all week.

    2. CMT*

      I think you’re sweeping with too wide a brush here! I’m a young, healthy person and even I have had last minute doctors appointments.

      1. Colette*

        There are two types of doctors appointments. Things that are not urgent (regular checkups, minor issues, follow up appointments) you can plan in advance and, if they say “how about today”, you can request a later time. Urgent issues (even if they’re not life or death emergencies) need to happen ASAP. The manager may be able to accommodate less notice for urgent issues while still requiring X days notice for non-urgent issues.

        1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

          It’s not black and white. I injured myself a couple weeks ago and it wasn’t urgent, so I continued to work. After a couple days, the pain was worse. It still wasn’t urgent, but needed attending. My doctor happened to have an appt that day. I took it. Sure, it was hell making the arrangements at the last minute, but it turns out I really did need medical care.

          My boss doesn’t own my or my body, he simply pays for a portion of my time. When I need to take care of medical issues, I don’t care about the manager’s opinion – I’m going to that appt regardless of agreement. and will deal with the consequences later.

      2. short'n'stout*

        I have had a specialist appointment, for which I had been anxiously waiting for several months, scheduled on me with less than twenty-four hours notice. (And by “anxiously”, I mean multiple weepy phone calls to their secretary). I would have been fine (physically and emotionally) seeing them in a week, or a month, as long as I had a firm appointment, but that’s how it shook out for them. Ain’t no way I was going to reschedule that.

      3. different pseud for this*

        Same! I’m generally quite healthy and can schedule most of my appointments in advance, but I’ve had some “women’s health” type stuff where they needed to see me at a very specific point on my cycle… and the only way I could tell was to do a test daily and then make an appointment for that day or at most the day after when it came up positive. Fortunately, my boss was fine with a “oops, I have to go to the doctor’s at the last minute” thing without pressing for details…..

    3. super anon*

      It’s not always true that doctor’s appointments are set well in advance, especially with specialists appointments. It might be different in the states, but in Canada you end up on months long waiting lists to see any kind of doctor who isn’t a family doctor (GP in the states I think?). You also don’t get to choose the date & time of your initial specialist appointment. I’ve had appointments scheduled for as far out at 10 months in advance, but I’ve then had the office call me in the morning to ask if I can come in at 3:00 for my appointment because there was a cancellation, meaning my 10 month doctor wait was 3 months instead. And very often, if you can’t take that last minute cancellation appointment you’re offered, you’re taken off the cancellation call list completely and have to wait the full time for your original appointment.

    4. LBK*

      I mean, I guess it depends what we’re considering “last minute”. I just scheduled a doctor’s appointment yesterday for tomorrow, so it wasn’t like I had to call my manager as I was on the way to the doctor’s office but it still isn’t something that was planned weeks in advance.

      1. Kelly Kelly*

        When youre sick or injured, you sometimes have to make “last minute” appts. Core appts, the usual checkups, are scheduled but sometimes, life happens.

    5. Augusta Sugarbean*

      Wow, I’m dying to know what insurance program y’all have that you are getting “later that day” or “day after tomorrow” type appointments. I am subject to a giant, bureaucratic HMO. It takes ages to get in to see someone. Three weeks for medical and three months and a drive to the other side of town to get a dental check up – and they only schedule six weeks in advance! They tried to get shirty with me about not coming in more often – I politely let them know they should not go down that road with me.

      1. Judy*

        I believe at the time of my fairly urgent issue, I had a PPO. But remember, in more than 25 years post-college, I’ve had one doctor’s appointment where the doctor walked back in and said “I got you in to [specialist1] at 3:30 today, go to [lab] for x tests on the way”. Later specialist 1 walked back in and said “I got you in to [specialist2] at 9:45 tomorrow, we need you to go to radiology now and make sure the reports are sent to all of us”.

        When the doctors are rushing that way, that’s not a good sign. Luckily, mine was handled by an in-office procedure that next day, so I didn’t even have time to freak out about it.

        As my parents age, I see it happen moderately often, right now about yearly, as we are heading into their 80s, it is increasing. (It was 9 years ago, that my dad had a colonoscopy, two days later he’s already met with an oncologist and surgeon and scheduling surgery for the next week.)

      2. LBK*

        I have a PPO, which works really well in a city with tons of in-network coverage options but I imagine it wouldn’t be so great in the suburbs.

        1. JeJe*

          I pay extra for membership to a boutique medical practice. They have appointments within the next day or two for when you’re sick, but not ER sick.

      3. doreen*

        I don’t think it has to do with the insurance as much as the doctors- unless you have one of the HMOs where the doctors work for the HMO. My PCP accepts a number of insurance plans, including some HMOs and no matter which insurance plan I have I’ve always been able to get in by the next day if I’m sick. Even if I’m not sick, I have never had to wait more than a week.

        1. Augusta Sugarbean*

          Yeah, we are stuck with an HMO. And really only one choice. I appreciate that the (non-profit) agency is trying to keep costs down for employees but it’s to the point where no other HMO or PPO wants to take us on because the agency won’t agree to higher costs.

      4. Dr. Johnny Fever*

        HDHP plan here. I’m fortunate to have access to one of the best medical centers in the country, so I go there.

        Once I had to pay everything out of pocket up to a certan amount before any discounts kicked in, I decided I might as well get my money’s worth for the care I receive.

        It’s shame this opportunity isn’t available for more people. Personally, I’m ashamed that we worry about this in the US at all.

  10. Meg Murry*

    I think another major piece of this flexibility is that employees that ask to work from home are actually able and actively working. So for the employees that are working from home due to childcare falling through, getting their kids off the bus or taking a parent to an appointment – are they having a day that is nearly as productive as an average in-office day? Or are they super productive on the days they are in the office so that 1-2 slow days still keeps them average or above average? If working from home means that they are truly able to get work done but possibly on a shifted schedule, then that’s one thing – but if they are “working from home” while watching kids and interpreting that as “checking my email every hour or two and only dealing with the most emergency of situations” – that isn’t really working from home, and the employee should account for it by taking a full or partial PTO day, or working earlier or later another day if the workflow allows for it.

    I think it’s also important that you let your employees know the optics of the situation. As in “Look, I know you are a hard worker who is able to accomplish a lot on your work from home days, and I’ll go to bat for you on that. But Big Boss is an old fashioned, butts-in-seats equals productivity kind of guy, so you should be aware that you may not be able to maintain a stellar reputation with him in the long term and that could negatively effect your long term career prospects here at Company. Like I said, I will have your back as long as you keep doing the stellar work you are doing, but it’s only fair that you know the optics of the situation.”

    And then OP should continue to sell her boss on which of her employees are doing excellent work and let him know that a system that allows for reasonable WFH can and does work.

    1. Mike C.*

      This is really crazy to me – most places I’ve seen with WFH policies state that you need someone else there to take care of any children.

      1. Cat*

        While that’s true for regular WFH arrangements, I think it’s pretty common for people to, say, work from home for a day here and there when their kids are sick or when childcare falls through or when schools are cancelled due to snow but offices aren’t. It’s not as productive as a normal work day (usually), but is, perhaps, preferable to the employee taking the entire day off, which would be the alternative. So I don’t find that unusual.

        If it’s happening all the time though, that’s different. And the frequency the LW describes for a staff of 6 does sound high.

    2. LBK*

      I sort of agree, but I also don’t think there’s any real reason that work needs to be performed in a consistently distributed manner across each day of the week as long as it’s all done before the deadline. I don’t think there’s necessarily anything wrong with stacking your tasks to get them all done on a certain day so that your WFH day can be a little more laid back, as long as you’re still easy to contact and are able to complete anything that does need to actually be done on your WFH day. Although I will say that I specifically agree about people who regularly use WFH in lieu of childcare, but I can’t point to whether that’s just a pet peeve or a truly different situation.

  11. ReluctantBizOwner*

    The impact on the employees left covering is a huge impact. Many of the things you list are things that can be scheduled in advance, or happen far enough ahead to give you at least some notice. (I count last minute as day-before and day-of.) Non-management employees can get tunnel vision and not even think of what the collective impact of multiple last minute call-outs will have, nor the impact of their coworkers call outs added to theirs. The added effect of this will cause a loss of goodwill and resentment among employees who are able to be reliably there. And they won’t say anything because they know it will sound bad. Especially if they also have children or sick family members they care for.

  12. AnotherAlison*

    I think this is a case where fair treatment isn’t necessarily equal treatment. If you’re dealing with a chronically ill family member or a funeral, that’s a different situation than meeting a child at the bus stop. It sounds like the OP has allowed the flexibility for the small stuff, and now it’s biting the team’s productivity in the rear. People are not finding other arrangements because it’s been allowed. I would personally tighten up the rules, and most people will find a way to deal with it without complaining.

    FWIW, we recently went through this, location-wide. People were “working from home” too much. It’s not an option that’s officially allowed as a schedule or flextime option, but people were doing it in lieu of PTO. The flexibility is still there for emergencies, but it’s shifted so that it’s for the situations like meeting the repairman tomorrow because your furnace broke in January, rather than people calling out at the last minute for an “emergency” furnace preventative check-up that could have been scheduled out a few weeks, allowing for notice.

  13. BetsyTacy*

    I think people forget that WFH is both a privilege and a perk, not something that everyone gets to do whenever. It’s also not a substitute for sick time or personal time or childcare.

    It sounds like it’s time to review your company’s personal time policy with your boss, and probably send some guidelines out to your team. I think Alison’s approach of reminding people that last-minute requests are for emergencies only, and possibly setting up a deadline that WFH dates need to be on the calendar (say, by COB Friday for the following week) might remind people. It doesn’t sound like your staff is intentionally trying to shirk their duties, but rather that the culture where last-minute WFH is totally cool has slowly developed.

    Sincerely, someone who has to work from home many days, but must also count any time out of the office as vacation/personal/sick. Including the day I spent 9 hours on conference calls when I was across the country attending a funeral. People- if you are allowed to WFH, recognize that it is awesome and you are lucky!!

  14. Meg Murry*

    Oh, and as far as the shifts and delays go – is OP doing all the project planning as if she will be 100% staffed every day, and making schedules and promises based on that? If so, she needs to take a step back and look at the fact that that isn’t realistic, even without employees in the middle of sick parent emergencies, etc – all the employees get PTO, everyone gets sick from time to time, complications and mistakes happen, etc. So if OP can build a little bit off a buffer into her planning (either by adding a couple of days extra to the project, or by treating the situation as if she will be 75-80% staffed for each day instead of 100%) that will also make a big difference.

    Depending on the employee’s level of work and how it flows within the office, OP can also put a little bit of this back onto the employees by giving them a little bit more ownership. So rather than the employees just saying “can I leave at 3 today boss?” and leaving OP to deal with the slack, OP can push back and say “well, your teapot designs are due to the next team by close of business tomorrow. If you leave at 3, will that still happen?” Sometimes the situation will be an emergency where the employee really does need to go, and OP will have to hand off the work to the remaining employees or cover it herself – but often when presented that way the employee can make the call as to what it will take to get the project done and still leave at 3 pm that day.

  15. INTP*

    One thought: People might be requesting schedule changes so much because you have been so flexible that they think it’s nbd more so than because they absolutely need them. I don’t mean that they are taking advantage or being lazy or duplicitous, just that because you always say yes, they don’t look for alternatives because they don’t realize the impact it has on their coworkers or project timelines. I think a lot of them would be able to find other options for childcare or schedule more appointments on their given WFH days if it were understood that last-minute changes are for major emergencies only.

    (Again, not demonizing these employees in many ways, the OP just seems to feel that she would be majorly disrupting their lives and responsibilities by requiring more reliability in the office and I bet that is not the case to the extent that she thinks.)

    1. NK*

      Yes, this. I commented something similar in response to someone above before I saw this, but this is exactly what I was talking about.

  16. AnotherAnon*

    I received so much grief from trying to schedule a few late afternoon medical appointments that would require me to leave maybe an hour early two times over the course of 6 weeks. I had made these appointments at least a month in advance, as late in the day as possible, and informed my manager of these schedule requests as soon as the appointments were made (though the manager had not yet even drawn up the schedules for those weeks at the time I emailed her).

  17. Isben Takes Tea*

    When contemplating impact on the workflow, I would also encourage you to consider the stress levels in the office. Even if everything ends up getting done, creating the expectation of “probable-yet-unknown-last-minute schedule changes” can be a huge energy drain / morale lowerer on a team, increasing exponentially the more interdependent the roles are. In my experience, people on the whole will be less motivated to plan or keep to deadlines, because “the whole thing will be messed up anyways.”

    Perhaps presenting it to everyone as “this will actually benefit your workflow in the long run” could help the medicine go down, as it were.

  18. The Ghost of Roose Bolton*

    At my company “lack of child care” is unfortunately a problem for the employee not the company and therefore you’re not allowed to telework from home because of it. you must take PTO. Their reasoning is that if you’re working you can’t focus on that and the child

    1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      That seems entirely reasonable to me. Working from home is intended to be WORKING from home, getting essentially the same work done as you would have were you in the office, not fitting-in-a-couple-emails-around-taking-care-of-the-baby.

      I’m not a parent, so I obviously don’t know how parents handle juggling work and kids. But I just got a puppy, and I’ve found that I can’t even really work from home with the puppy, let alone an actual human child – too much of my attention is focused on her. (“Don’t eat that! Oh, do you need to go outside? Stay in this room please. Here’s a chew toy, please don’t use the chair leg for that purpose. Is that a squat? Don’t squat, I’m coming!”)

      1. Sarianna*

        Also not a parent, but have spent time around friends’ kids. I would suggest that age is a factor here. My understanding is that where I live, kids can’t stay home alone until age 12. However, an eight- or ten-year-old might be happy to sit watching cartoons during a snow day, whereas a toddler bent on exploring couldn’t be left (mostly) alone for hours.

        1. Turtle Candle*

          Ha, yeah–I remember this distinction from my babysitting days! As a babysitter, I knew that a job with a toddler would mean constant hands-on running around (at least until the kid went to bed), whereas babysitting for an eight or nine year old would often mean that the kid would do their homework or play a game or watch TV or otherwise entertain themselves for much of the day (I mean, I played with the kids if they were interested, but at that age a lot of them just wanted to be left alone to read or play Gameboy–I’m dating myself, aren’t I?–or whatever). I was basically just supposed to be there to warm up their dinner and tell them when to go to bed, and in case something unusual went wrong.

          I could easily see one of the latter age group of kids being something where I could work while ‘watching’ them, since they didn’t need constant supervision, just someone to be there in case the house burned down or whatever. A toddler or other young child, no way.

    2. LawBee*

      That’s pretty common, actually. And honestly, lack of child care ISN’T the company’s problem or responsibility. It’s the parent’s, and hopefully the company is understanding and flexible. And no, a parent probably can’t be focusing on a kid and work to the same extent that would be achieved at a full on PTO day or in-office day.

  19. Lauren*

    I once interviewed with a company here that required eight hours a day in the office but was extremely flexible about the times you took them. You could come in as early as 6:00 am or as late at 10:00 am. You could take anywhere from a half-hour to two hours for lunch. Your arrival/departure/lunch times could change every day as long as you put in eight hours each and every day at the office unless you were on vacation or sick leave.

    If this is something that would work for your organization, maybe it might be worth considering.

  20. Original Poster*

    Thank you all for sharing your take on this and offering insightful solutions!

    I would love for everyone to have a scheduled work from home day, but my boss has very directly stated that it’s not an option for our department at this time because our group is not “mature” enough. I think she meant that we’re not developed enough in terms of strategy, tactics and operational complexity but she could also be speaking in more general terms.

    (For a bit of background, our department is trying to advance in a new industry for our company and my boss was recently brought in from a front-running company. There’s a whole host of things this impacts, in both positive and negative ways.) I will definitely work with her before establishing any new policy or communicating anything official with my team.

    I think the idea of core hours could work for us as a way to allow for flexibility while still having a standard. (Thank you @OriginalYup!) I don’t mind coming in early every now and again to keep the group on their toes, and I generally stay late so I would know if anyone was bouncing out early.

    @Red – Do all last minute requests fall into this policy including illness, emergencies, etc? Also wondering what happens when you hit 4 in 6 months.

    I can see how I inadvertently made it seem like last minute schedule changes are no big deal. In trying to be supportive, I may not have accurately communicated the problems that these requests cause. They definitely impact the rest of the team, particularly our project coordinator. I’ll make sure to communicate the full effect of these types of changes and how keeping them to a minimum is good for the whole group.

    1. Meg Murry*

      Good to hear to you got some advice that will help.

      Can I also add that if your boss is or company is really into policies and procedures it is probably best if your employee with the sick relative gets FMLA paperwork filled out – so even if he doesn’t start taking unpaid days or anything like that it is clear that he is being allowed more flexibility as an accommodation, especially if you start to get pushback from your other employees if you tell them “no, you can’t rearrange your schedule”. It is much easier to get FMLA paperwork completed and on file in case in case the situation escalates than to wait until mid-emergency when the employee is out of PTO and needs forms signed. Usually it’s just 1-2 pages that the doctor has to sign saying that the family member has a condition in need of recurring care, they don’t even need to get into what the condition actually is or any of those details.

      1. Almond Milk Latte*

        Yep, agreed 1000%. I had an incredibly flexible schedule and super-chill managers at Old Job, but when I moved to a new department, I was glad to have it on record that I needed accommodations to care for my folks. Taking care of FMLA paperwork in a time of non-crisis gives you one less thing to worry about when stuff gets gnarly.

  21. Kassy*

    One thing that might be happening here is that your team is using the flexibility because it’s offered. They may have other options/alternatives, but don’t feel they need to use them. Example: If my daughter got sick at daycare and had to come home, I do have relatives in the area I could call to get her. I would prefer to take care of her myself, my work is never behind (I work in training for my agency and we are currently subject to a hiring freeze, sooo….), and my boss has never denied a request or acted like it would be a problem. There are, of course, times when we are busier and my absence would have more of an impact. During those times, I’d probably call my mom or someone to pick up the little one until I got off work. But I don’t see anything wrong with utilizing the flexibility that’s offered.

    TLDR: your employees may just need to be told “hey, this is starting to be a problem” and they may say “oh, sorry, didn’t know, we will do our best to minimize it in the future.”

  22. animaniactoo*

    Question: When you’re approving these last minute requests, are you reviewing what they’re working on and where they’re at with it?

    I’m curious because you say that it’s causing delays and project shifts, and I’m wondering if there could be more focus on avoiding those even when doing last-minute schedule changes.

    I did partial day WFH for the past 2 days to take care of my very sick husband, but part of doing that as opposed to taking the time as PTO was that I had to make sure that certain portions of my projects were finished or passed off by a certain point in the day so that it didn’t affect the overall project deadline.

  23. newlyhr*

    Sorry, I think this manager is being taken advantage of. There are only six people and they’ve had 14 situations in the last month that couldn’t be planned for in advance? I’m not buying that.

    For me, the key line in this letter is about the “boss” who expects everyone to be there 8 hours a day every day. I think the team doesn’t like that, has “smelled an ally” in this new manager, and they are testing the limits of this potential new paradigm.

    Sounds like it is time for the OP to clarify the policy/practice about work from home or flex time with “the boss” so that it’s clear how much flexibility is allowed. Otherwise it’s going to be the OP who winds up in trouble.

    I do think the OP can be an advocate for more workplace flexibility–I also think the butts in seats management approach is archaic—but in the end, the OP has to uphold the standards set by his/her management.

    1. Rater Z*

      Butts in seats is not necessarily archaic. In my convenience store, the company policy is two people there between six AM and 10 pm. Third shift is one person but we lock the door and everything is handled thru a revolving window. If somebody calls off for any reason, the big store has to send out a cashier to help us and they don’t always know what we do out there. Our registers are different, the lottery machine, even the mundane things like making the coffee and greeting people at the gas pumps. At the same time, that impacts the big store as well as they are missing a cashier at a time when they may have had call-offs of their own. It’s a safety factor since they feel it cuts down on the risk of a robbery. In this city, kids have been known to shoot cashiers in the head over a carton of cigarettes. I do feel safe out there on third shift because of the locked door.

      1. KR*

        What you’re talking about is different from butts-in-seat mentality. When you’re talking about a retail environment, you’re talking about coverage for customers and safety in numbers. When someone references a butts-in-seat mentality they’re usually talking about a preference to have employees physically present in the office even if their work could be done from home.

  24. Attack Sheep*

    I just want to note that meeting the kid at the bus stop is not always “optional”. My 6 year old takes the bus and does not attend daycare. Her bus arrives at 4:30pm. I generally work 9:30-5:30 so I get her on the bus in the morning and spouse meets her at night. He has his own business and sometimes unexpected urgent situations arise that keep him from meeting the bus, in which case I do have to go and it’s urgent.

    In my workplace all those situations are not unusual and generally don’t stop us from doing our work, though (in fact, we don’t generally have to ask unless it’s more than an hour or two and we are completely unavailable and don’t have cover off). Generally speaking my desk phone is forwarded to my work cell when I need to leave, I call into meetings, and work continues to move forward in any of these situations (and I make up any time in the evening if need be).

    It seems like you’ve just had a sudden influx (funerals, etc.) all at once that you, OP, should monitor to make sure it isn’t getting out of hand, but don’t overthink it unless it IS slowing work down or urgent stuff can arise that needs to be handled in the office. I’m a high performer but I also only take jobs which have a certain amount of flexibility – I’ll work til midnight when I have to and I work hard and efficiently but I’m not a rigid person and being able to deal with personal stuff while keeping on top of my work is important to me.

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