should people with bad commutes get more leeway for lateness, bringing in snacks for coworkers, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Should people with terrible commutes get more leeway for lateness?

From a lively discussion at work today: Our office is downtown in a major city (Washington, D.C.) with terrible traffic. Some staff have regular hour-plus commutes each way. Commutes can also be variable based on weather, repairs on the subway lines, etc. So as a matter of course, there are staff members who are more likely to be regularly and/or significantly delayed (or leave early) because of issues with their commute. Our company understands this and extends a significant amount of leeway to those employees.

But for folks who don’t have commuting issues, and are here on time pretty much year round, should there be flexibility in arrival/departure times? Example: I had a dentist’s appointment this morning and arrived at 10:30 a.m. That’s going to cost me 1.5 hours of sick leave. A coworker arrived at the same time due to ongoing construction on the roads in her area; she’s not going to record any leave on her timesheet. Maybe this winter, that employee will leave an hour early because it’s supposed to snow. If I leave at the same time to mail a package before the post office closes, that’s an hour of annual leave.

One side says commutes are terrible and if you’re delayed trying to get to work, you obviously shouldn’t be dinged for being late (although a lot of companies do). Other side says, well, if it’s okay to be an hour late due to traffic, why not extend the same flexibility to others? What do you think?

It doesn’t make sense to offer people flexibility based solely on what method of transportation they use. Either the lateness is an imposition on the business and the workflow and so people need to be disincentivized from doing it (by having it come out of PTO), or it’s not that big of a deal and people shouldn’t have PTO deducted. But it’s really unfair to say “Jane and Fergus both walked in an hour late today for non-work reasons, but Jane has to use PTO and Fergus doesn’t.”

In general, employers should avoid making sweeping judgments on whether things outside of work are “good enough” reasons to accommodate or not. You still want to leave room for individual judgment, of course — because it does sometimes make sense to say “yes, we’ll make an exception to our vacation black-out days because of your wedding” or so forth — but I’m talking about wide categories of exceptions, like what your employer is doing with people’s commutes. That’s how you end up with, for example, people with kids given way more leeway on their work hours than people without kids.

2. Is it unprofessional to bring your own beverage to an external meeting?

Is it unprofessional to bring my own coffee (or tea) to external meetings with partners/clients? I feel like there’s a negative connotation to showing up to a meeting with a Starbucks or other coffee chain cup, although I really don’t know where I got that idea from. Is it better if I bring my beverage from home in a plain travel mug, or is that also somewhat unprofessional?

Hmmm, interesting. There aren’t hard-and-fast rules about this, but in general I’d say it’s fine to do once you have an established business relationship with someone. I wouldn’t do it at a first meeting, because it can come across as overly casual (or as anticipating that they won’t be hospitable enough to offer you a beverage). But once you have a working relationship established, I think it’s fine (and at that point it shouldn’t matter whether you’re carrying a Starbucks cup or your own travel mug from home).

3. How do I disconnect from my employees on Facebook?

I’m a new promoted head of administration/HR/logistics for a small company (less than 100 employees). I became friends with several employees when I started with the company 8+ years ago. Since my promotion, I’ve realized it’s probably time to unfriend these folks, but I’m not really sure how to go about it. In some cases, we’ve been friends for five or more years (and I’ve supervised at least one of these people for three years). Honestly, I turned off their feed when I became their supervisor, and forgot about it all together until this person came to me to ask why I never like their posts on Facebook. I explained that I don’t really go to the website very often, so I really don’t like anyone’s posts on Facebook. However, on reflection, I expect that it’s past time for me to unfriend everyone who works for my company (excepting my direct peers?) ASAP.

How do I explain this, given that there’s been a good amount of time between when I started supervising these employees, and now when I “unfriend” on facebook? And is any of this made more complicated by the fact that my adult children are personal friends with the spouses of two of my employees?

I’d send each of them a message — probably on Facebook itself — saying something like, “I don’t want to make anyone worry about their social media boundaries, so in my new role I’m disconnecting here from you and other colleagues. Just wanted to explain so it doesn’t look personal. I am still more than up for sharing cat photos in other mediums though. Happy Facebooking!”

I don’t think the fact that your adult kids are friends with your employees’ spouses complicates this in particular (although I can imagine it might complicate other things about your work life if you don’t have a firewall there).

4. Bringing in snacks for coworkers

I just got back today from a lovely vacation abroad, and I brought some snacks back to share with my coworkers. I have two questions about this: one, is this a common thing to do? When my partner asked why I was buying so many snacks to bring back and I told him they were for my coworkers, he was a little bit confused. I’ve always thought bringing snacks back was standard practice, and it has been in every job I’ve had, but he had no idea it was something people did.

Second, can I eat some of the snacks I brought, or is that rude? I usually have a mid-morning snack and there are still several left, but I don’t know if I can eat one of the treats without being tacky. What if I had brought in cupcakes that I made or something, can I eat one of those?

There are some offices where tradition holds that traveling employees will bring back local food items from their destination for their coworkers to enjoy … but that expectation isn’t a super widespread practice, just something you see here and there. It’s by no means weird that you did it, but in most offices it would be appreciated but not expected.

As for eating some of what you bring in: by all means, yes! It’s totally fine to share in whatever you bring in, whether it’s a vacation treat or just cupcakes you made.

5. Should I give feedback about why I turned down an interview?

I’m currently employed, but searching for something different. In the process, a head hunter reached out to me about an exciting opportunity. Even after talking with both the head hunter and the HR rep from the company, I didn’t get a good job description. I had wait until I talked with the hiring manager to know more about the position profile.

After our chat, I knew it wasn’t the position I’d be interested in. Nothing wrong with the position, it just wasn’t the career path I’m currently pursuing. And I respectfully replied back rejecting the offer for an on-site interview.

However, the HR now wants to talk to me to better understand the reason for rejection and use my feedback to improve their communication. Am I really supposed to provide feedback? I feel if the situation was reversed, I’d have heard nothing back.

You definitely don’t have to! You can say something vague like “I’m focusing on positions that seem like a better match right now” or even not reply at all.

But if you want to, it’s an opportunity to give feedback about a process that sounds a little frustrating. So if you’re up for it, you could say something like “After learning about the role, I realized it wasn’t quite what I’m looking for; I’m looking for positions that are more X than Y. But if you’re looking for feedback about the process, one thing that might be helpful to know is that I had trouble getting a sense of the position initially; Jane and Fergus were really encouraging but weren’t able to give me many details, and it wasn’t until I spoke with Cressida that I realized it didn’t make sense for me to pursue it. I hope that’s useful, and I hope you find someone great.”

But again, there’s no obligation here (although if you think you might want to apply with this company in the future, I wouldn’t ignore the email altogether).

{ 800 comments… read them below }

  1. Eric*

    #4, FWIW, at my company the expectation to bring something only really applies when you come back from work travel, not vacation.

    1. Just Employed Here*

      In my office, people tend to either treat their colleagues to baked good (from a store or bakery, not home baked) their last day before their main vacation time of the year, or bring back candy from their destination afterwards if they travelled somewhere.

      Some people don’t do this, and they may or may not get asked about it (in jest, though).

      Homemade baked goods are just for graduations or other major life events, or for when you’ve tried out a new recipe and made too much for your own family. It’s good to know the office locusts will always appreciate all that cake you couldn’t handle at home.

      1. Neeta(RO)*

        people tend to either treat their colleagues to baked good (from a store or bakery, not home baked) their last day before their main vacation time of the year

        How interesting, and possibly cute: offering sweets before going. Is this a kind of “thanks for covering my share”? I’m asking because I haven’t seen this anywhere in my ‘neck of the woods’.

        1. Just Employed Here*

          It’s partly a “I’m excited to have a multi-week long break from work, and want to share my excitement with those around me” and partly I guess a “sorry to leave you guys around to pick up the slack” (but we all have 5 weeks of vacation time a year, so what goes around, comes around, sooner or later).

          But mostly I think it’s just an excuse to eat something delicious: We also eat baked goods when we have signed a new, big customer, or when an existing big customer makes a new, big contract with us. If nothing else is going on, we might eat “just because baked goods”. Sometimes these things are paid for by the company, but more often by one or a few colleagues. Fancier things are bought for bigger occasions, whereas cheaper prepackaged stuff is fine for smaller things or “just because” situations.

          When I started working here and hubby started hearing about all the frequent offerings, he asked whether the company offers dental insurance (which doesn’t really exist here)…

              1. CM*

                Yet another reason to move to Finland!

                I definitely think there is a cultural aspect to providing snacks or bringing back gifts from vacations. I see Japanese colleagues do this as a matter of course, even in offices where many others don’t.

          1. Aitch Arr*

            Is this called Fika in Finland as well? It is in Sweden. One of my Senior VPs is from Sweden and has started doing Fika every few months. It’s fantastic.

            1. Just Employed Here*

              It’s called fika only when we want to be ironic, and to laugh at the Swedes a bit. (Even if there are no Swedes around to hear it.)

              But we do love laughing at the Swedes, almost as much as we love eating baked goods!

              We tend to take coffee breaks more spontaneously and individually, or simply grab a goody and enjoy it while working at our desks. AFAIK, fika in Sweden involves everyone getting together for a coffee break at the same time. (I once turned down a job in Sweden partly because the thought of this spooked me out.)

          2. Cat Herder*

            We have baked goods, breakfast casseroles, candy, veggies from coworkers gardens…and people often bring snacks from vacation. There’s a lot of food in our break room!

        2. AKchic*

          Baked goods can vary from company to company.

          At my current job, I would never bring these guys anything. Then again, my mother brings “her boys” a bunch of stuff (we work together).
          At my last place, if I had insomnia and baked, or went into a manic baking spree, yeah, I’d bring some of the baked goods in because I had way too much and I didn’t feel like overloading my kids up on the sugar for the week (seriously, who wants to give four kids over 300 cookies for the week?). Much better to spread it out amongst an admin staff of 30 and a local city staff of 100. If I went really overboard, I could donate to one of the programs and give the addicts a special treat, or depending on what I made and what allergies were there – I could supply frosting and sprinkles and donate to the kids program and let the little kids decorate the cookies as part of play therapy.

          (I never went on vacations so bringing back snacks wasn’t an option for me)

      2. MusicWithRocksInIt*

        I bake things to bring into the office now and then, and I ALWAYS eat a few of whatever I bring in. I would honestly be a little put off if someone brought in food and didn’t have a share of it. I used to have a coworker who would bake cakes and bring them in for everyone, but never even tried them herself, and it kinda made things weird. Of course she would wait until we were eating it and start talking about how bad gluten is and how she never eats it, so there was a whole other thing going on there. I always kinda feel like when you bring food, you are sharing your food with your coworkers, a breaking bread ritual if you will.

        1. Emily K*

          … what?

          I have a wheat allergy. I occasionally bake for my officemates and because we also have a vegan in the team (and I have a lactose-intolerant best friend) my signature move is finding allergy friendly vegan recipes with no eggs, dairy, wheat, or nuts and bringing them in. People are always surprised that allergen friendly baked goods can be so yummy (it’s pretty easy in the age of the internet, lots of moms of kids with allergies are blogging out there!) and our vegan team member is always so happy to be included when she usually has to pass on those sort of things.

          I can’t imagine baking stuff that even I couldn’t eat to bring in!

          1. Queen Anon*

            I can! I don’t bake any more, but I used to love it. Now I’m a T2 diabetic and don’t bother. But if I decided to take up baking again, I would definitely bake all the goodies I shouldn’t eat to share with the office, rather than the sugar free variety. (I went to high school with a girl who was a very brittle T1 diabetic and loved to make candy for Christmas every year. She wouldn’t eat a bite of it but truly enjoyed making it and giving it away.)

        2. Specialk9*

          I had a coworker like that. She baked a LOT, but never ate even a sliver. She was very thin and almost never ate, and I kind of started to feel guilty like I was enabling some disordered eating thing… But I mean, not my business, and her baking was really good! But it did have this subtle awkward thing going on.

        3. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night*

          I usually don’t eat the baked goods I bring in because I have plenty more of it at home. I have a family of 2.5 (daughter is away a college most of the time), so the standard recipe for 2 dozen cupcakes, cookies or a 9×13 pan of brownies is just way more than we want to consume. What I’m bringing in is the extra that I’m trying to get rid of, and as far as I know no one thinks it’s weird or off-putting.

          1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

            This makes sense to me though, I do the same thing! I feel like coworkers understand the “take my extra food” as you sharing with them, whereas bringing in something and shaming your coworkers for eating it is a completely crazy level of dysfunction.

          2. Lyman for President*

            I think it’s a little different to bring in leftovers/extras than to bring in a whole cake. If its the former, then it’s totally not weird to not eat any because the whole point is that you’re bringing in whatever you don’t want. But, if you make a cake specifically for the office and don’t eat any, that’s a little weird – not outlandishly so, but still a bit odd.

        4. the gold digger*

          a breaking bread ritual

          An engineer co-worker told me he always uses the word “company” when referring to the organization for that exact reason.

          (From wikipedia)
          Etymology
          The English word company has its origins in the Old French military term compagnie (first recorded in 1150), meaning a “body of soldiers”,[1] which came from the Late Latin word companio (“one who eats bread with you”), first attested in the Lex Salica as a calque of the Germanic expression gahlaibo (literally, “with bread”), relGerman]] galeipo (“companion”) and Gothic gahlaiba (“messmate”). By 1303, the word referred to trade guilds. Usage of the term company to mean “business association” was first recorded in 1553,[citation needed] and the abbreviation “co.” dates from 1769.

        5. toomanybooks*

          Yeah, my office totally has a food sharing culture! After travel people sometimes bring back little things like candy or postcards to their department maybe, but it isn’t expected, just a cute thing to do.

      3. Quill*

        At my last place of work, the Christmas to New Year’s week was covered only by contractors and the newest permanent hire, because of the PTO use it or loose it policy.

        We had a holiday cookie swap in the middle of that week and it was glorious. There were six of us, everybody brought in two dozen of whatever and left with four of each type, just about enough to share with a roommate or SO, or in my case, my parents.

      4. Dragoning*

        People usually bring treats from wherever they were here (even our coworkers overseas), but it’s not expected or demanded, and when people don’t, no one says a word about it.

        Which is how I like it, honestly.

        1. General Ginger*

          Yeah, that’s how it’s done here. If someone goes somewhere known for their Awesome Food Item, they might bring some back for us, but it’s not expected. We do occasionally bring snacks in during our busy season, as a pick-me up for everyone, as busy season is incredibly draining. People who bake will bring homemade goods, those who don’t will grab donuts or a veggie tray, but this is all strictly voluntary, not expected (and sometimes management will treat us to lunch or snacks during busy season as well).

        2. medium of ballpoint*

          My office does that well. It must be a regional things because I’d never seen it done at any of my previous jobs and honestly, it seems a little weird. When I’m on vacation it’s to get away from work, so thinking about bringing treats back to my colleagues isn’t on my list at all. Luckily, no one seems offended when I don’t participate so we’re all happy about it.

      5. Long Time Reader, First Time Poster*

        Hoo boy!! It’s bad enough having to get all my ducks in a row before my vacation starts, I can’t imagine adding “prepare and bring in baked goods for the office” to that load!

        1. Just Employed Here*

          That’s why it’s never something homemade just before a vacation, always store bought. So it only takes 5 or 10 minutes, including the all@ email to tell people there’s something waiting for them in the kitchen.

    2. Teapotty*

      #OP1, 1 worked at a company where I was late quite a few times in my first months due to trains being late or cancelled. I was told to find a way to get to work on time. In the end, I used to leave my house at 6.45am to walk to the bus stop and catch the 7.05am bus (which was hourly but the 8.05am bus was often late or too crowded so it didn’t stop) which got me to work at 7.55am – my day didn’t start until 9am and there was absolutely nowhere to go until the work gates were unlocked about 8.30am as it was a small dormitory town, no coffee shops to hang out in or supermarkets to browse (this was the 1990s). I didn’t drive then so I was dependent on public transport to keep the job and it was up to me to make it work.

      #OP4, I don’t make a big thing of it, but I’ll often bring back sweets or something small from trips to share with colleagues. I usually get them at the airport.

    3. Engineer Girl*

      This was optional where I worked, but we absolutely brought back yummy stuff from personal vacations. Turkish taffy, chocolate covered macadamia nuts, European bonbons.

      I also brought back souvenirs for my very close coworkers (coffee or tea). We used to joke about my Al-Shabaab coffee. The store was blown up by Al-Shabaab a few weeks after my last visit. Jerks.

      1. media monkey*

        we all bring back stuff from holiday. usually yummy stuff but sometimes weird stuff too! my team are pretty international so they particularly enjoy sharing their favourite treats from their home countries if they have been home from holiday

        1. Pollygrammer*

          I had a coworker who always brings the same thing when he got back from traveling to his home country and they were those little cups of lychee jellies (like little jello shots, but…wetter). I liked them okay, but there were several coworkers who would only smilingly choke them down because they didn’t want to hurt his feelings. I felt bad for them, but I kind of enjoyed it learning how kind many of my coworkers were. :)

    4. Naptime Enthusiast*

      Our group started this way, we would each bring back snacks from international work trips. However, it’s slowly starting to expand into any “extravagant” travel. Our new (young, junior-level) team member brought back treats from his honeymoon, and while we appreciated them, I let him know it was very generous but not to feel like he had to bring things back for us all.

    5. Emily K*

      In my office it’s common enough to happen a few times a year (for work and personal travel) but never expected – I’ve never heard any “where’s my snacks??” when someone returned from a trip without any goodies.

    6. Minocho*

      I haven’t worked anywhere in the US where this is an expectation at all.

      In Japan, failing to bring back omiyage (souvenirs – in a work context, usually a local prepackaged snack food) was _a_big_deal_. And not in a good way.

      1. Anon today*

        This has been a big thing everywhere I worked (always US), but I have a lot of international coworkers, so maybe that is why.

      2. miss_chevious*

        In my group it’s somehow become a ritual to bring back a souvenir from travel when you go on vacation. None of us are really sure how we started doing it, but it’s fun. And, of course, no one cares if someone goes and doesn’t bring something back, which is key to the “fun” part.

      3. Ennigaldi*

        Interesting! I work with a lot of people who will vacation to visit family back in Asia and they always bring delicious snacks for the office. It’s caught on so that just about everyone now brings snacks back from traveling abroad, even if just for a few days.

      4. bonkerballs*

        In the US here, an at my office I would never think of it as *expected* but it’s a common occurrence. Usually it’s when someone goes overseas. If you’re just visiting your mom in Idaho, no one really brings anything back – but someone coming back from France or Argentina would.

    7. Lora*

      At OldJob, senior management was in Germany and Switzerland, and if they did not bring something for us from the duty-free store, we got annoyed. Like, you are going to interrupt our workdays for the next few weeks, read over our shoulders and make us sit through update meetings for hours and you don’t even bring us candy?!?

    8. Crystal*

      I travelled abroad for vacay recently and brought back snacks for everyone. A coworker who’s vacation overlapped mine did the same. So it’s definitely a thing.

    9. Nanani*

      In Japan, the expectation is very strong for work travel and it would be weird if you didn’t do it for that, but it’s very common and normal for personal travel as well, especially international travel.

      I’ve never heard of this being a big thing in the west, though in a big diverse place any tradition can reach anywhere.

    10. TardyTardis*

      Although I brought back a box full of media goodies when I was gone for a week at ComicCon (though I saved the Gilmore Girls stuff for a particular workmate that I knew adored them).

  2. Villanelle*

    OP2 – or, 3rd option, take your travel mug to Starbucks/coffee place of choice and get it to take away in your travel mug for your meeting. Additional bonus – helping to save the planet by not using a disposable cup.

    1. Emily K*

      I’ve discussed this with others before, and we all agreed that somehow a travel mug doesn’t carry the same message as a disposable one. I don’t know if it’s because it looks more like something from home, and that you’d obviously need to tote around even after you finish the coffee to get the mug back home, or if disposable is reading as more casual, or more conspicuous consumerism (with the logo on the cup), or if it’s the subtle suggestion that people with disposable cups are bringing (future) trash into the office (and we saw in the “my coworker puts her tissues in my trash can when she has to wipe her nose when we’re meeting in my office” thread that people have slightly territorial feelings about other people’s trash in their trash cans). But everyone I talked to agreed they would barely notice someone carrying a travel mug that was just a plain color or design with no logos, but a disposable cup in hand would stand out.

      1. OhNo*

        The different connotation for disposable and branded cups may also have something to do with the negative view of people who “show up 5 minutes late with Starbucks”.

        Even if you’re not actually late, there’s something subtle about showing up with a cup from a coffee shop that some people read as “I could have been here earlier, but it was more important to me that I get my fancy coffee drink”. (I should note that I don’t believe that, but I’ve definitely had conversations with people that interpret it that way.)

        1. Allison*

          Or regardless if they’re late or not, it could also say “I didn’t have time to finish this before the meeting,” which could make you seem disorganized.

          1. (another) b*

            This is a real stretch. A lot of people here are seriously overthinking this. It’s a cup of coffee — not a big deal whatsoever.

              1. E.*

                I really don’t think these comments are a stretch, I’ve definitely had some of these thoughts before (especially the “shows up 5 minutes late with Starbucks”).

        2. Ashley*

          The disposable cup to me reads ‘I didn’t think to ask if anyone else would want anything.’ That gets into a mess of getting reimbursed and who should pay for what. Stick with a reusable once you get to know them.

          1. Jadelyn*

            Huh, that’s so fascinating to me – especially if we’re talking about an offsite meeting with a vendor or client or something, rather than meeting with one’s own team at one’s own workplace, it would never occur to me that anyone would expect us to be co-planning our beverages ahead of time!

          2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

            I actually had someone comment on exactly this way after a meeting. It never would have occurred to me to bring coffee for the other participants, although I would have been glad to do so, simply because I had no idea whether they even drank coffee, let alone what kind they’d like. I was really taken aback when my supervisor chided me later for not bringing coffee for everyone!

      2. Allison*

        I think it does look like you brought the coffee from home, or at least could have. Either way, it’s not glaringly obvious that you stopped for coffee on the way. I think having a branded cup, especially from a fancy place like Starbucks, might send the message that you couldn’t drink the swill being served in the meeting and you simply had to get something fancy and expensive, which may be true, but it’s not a good “look.”

        1. Pollygrammer*

          Especially if you’re coming in with something that’s obviously a super-sweet, blended icy something with whipped cream and caramel drizzle. There’s something a little bit childish about it.

          Even if Starbucks is fine (and as others have said, YMMV) I’d advise avoiding anything with a straw and a domed lid. Because, got to admit, I personally might judge you a tiny bit.

          1. Detective Amy Santiago*

            I don’t really like the implication that the way a person takes their coffee is ‘childish’.

            1. RUKiddingMe*

              I’m kind of astounded at all of the coffee hate happening here myself. Of course I live in Seattle and I don’t know anyone who has ever thought about (much anyway) someone bringing their own coffee to a meeting whether in a cup from the coffee place or a reusable one from home. Other Seattleites feel free to weigh in here.

              Or I’m just out of touch maybe? It also never occurred to me that buying my own coffee and then attending a meeting with said coffee wold read as me not thinking to bring coffee for others. I mean they’re adults who can presumably get their own coffee…right?

              1. Videogame Lurker*

                I live with my grandmother who is a coffee snob, and I don’t drink coffee (I dislike the taste and smell), and live a few hours west of Seattle.

                Neither of us would think negatively of someone bringing their own drink. Well, other than “coffee snob” or “doesnt drink coffee” (go caffinated Dr. Pepper to wake me up!)

                I admit to judging a lady last summer who came to class fifteen to twenty minutes late every class day and waltzed in mid lecture with an iced coffee, but she was constantly late, and in a class of five people.

                Whipped cream and all that fancy stuff? “Might Not Be Coffee, Expensive Fancy Coffee, or Prefers Sweet Coffee, But Is This Relevant?”

                tl/dr: A few hours west of Seattle, and meetings here often have people bringing their preferred drink. And Videogame Lurker judged a lady last summer for coming into classes late on a regular basis with an iced coffee, but doesnt judge on types of coffee regularly.

                1. Videogame Lurker*

                  *Add-on: Small Town. Our rush-hour is about five minutes, and currently does have the odd spike of twenty minutes, but that is due to construction on a bridge in town requiring a long detour to nearly the other cardinal direction side. Last summer there were no such constuction projects in town, and if from one of the two main towns on either side, you knew ten minutes in if you were going to be late (ninety minutes on the best of days for one town, half an hour to forty minutes for the other town).

                  The iced coffee was full when she walked into class, not sipped from as if she bought it earlier in her trip.

                2. Starbuck*

                  Sounds like you live on the Olympic peninsula too? Neat! How bout this smoke, huh? Anyway, people are really into the local roasters in the small town I live in, and if anyone got a side-eye for bringing in a cup of coffee it would be because they used a disposable, or *gasp* plastic cup, instead of a reusable one.

                3. Annoyed*

                  @Starbuck Yeah, the smoke right? Ugh! Also ash all ovver my patio. Husband said “like when the volcano blew.” I was like “not quite…” LOL

                1. Annoyed*

                  Cool. Just checking that I didn’t miss something. I mean *everyone* brings coffee/drink of choice everywhere…meetings, appointments, classes.

              2. Turtle Candle*

                Yeah, I was a bit puzzled that this was a question at all, because to me a coffee cup (of whatever kind–from a chain, brought from home, etc.) is functionally invisible. But I, too, live in Seattle.

                1. Annoyed*

                  Functionally invisible. Yes! Just part of the landscape.

                  A lot of the coffee hate sounds a bit like elitism to me TBH.

              3. Media Circus*

                I came here specifically looking for the thread of Seattle people saying, “Huh, isn’t a Starbucks cup just the body’s natural third appendage??” HELLO, FRIENDS!

                I don’t even *notice* if someone shows up to a meeting with their own coffee — in a travel mug, in a branded mug. And Seattle has city-wide composting, so disposal of a Starbucks cup isn’t an issue either.

                1. Annoyed*

                  ““Huh, isn’t a Starbucks cup just the body’s natural third appendage??””

                  Consider this phrase appropriated.

                2. Nicole Maria*

                  Hope this isn’t too off-topic, but I can’t imagine that Starbucks cups are compostable. Unless something changed very recently, they’re made of paper with a plastic coating.

              4. bonkerballs*

                Hello fellow Seattle-ites! Agreed on all fronts, a disposable coffee cup is about as ubiquitous as a pen when it comes to meetings. The idea that people would be judged as disorganized or late or really anything based on nothing more than having a cup of coffee with them is baffling.

                Also, no way I’m checking in with everyone else at the meeting and bringing some for everyone. This isn’t Grey’s Anatomy where for some reason everyone drinks the same thing (mochalattes aren’t real, people). Everyone has their own preference made up of half-cafs and almond milk and doubleshots and they can get that themselves.

                1. Chameleon*

                  Also a Seattlite, and “there was a long line at Starbucks” is totally a valid excuse for being late to a meeting at my work.

                2. RUKiddingMe*

                  @ Chameleon Absolutely a “long line at Starbucks” has as long as I can remember been a valid reason/excuse.

              5. Indie*

                I’m British and this astonished me. My Starbucks to-go mug goes everywhere I go. There are so many milk powder machines out there that I’m horribly intolerant to. Not to mention I don’t auto-expect people to get me tea or coffee!

                1. RUKiddingMe*

                  Exactly. I am a grown up if I want coffee (“if” I said “if” hahahaha) I will get it myself. Other than the fact that it’s no one else’s responsibility, they probably won’t get it right anyway. <—joking sarcasm, but just barely.

                  If for instance someone is on the way to wherever I am and they are like "hey I'm gonna stop at Coffee Shop on my way and buy you a coffee, what do you want?" I would be like, "grande latte, two sugars." Because that's simple and basic, and I'm not trying to make it more difficult/complicated for someone buying me a coffee, out of kindness as they are getting their own. If I'm getting it myself there are considerably more words necessary to get it the way I prefer.

            2. AKchic*

              My take? Show up with coffee for only yourself and I’m gonna be a little jealous. Because I didn’t think to bring my own. That’s it. Nothing further. I’m going to think you’re smart enough to have remembered your dang coffee whereas I wasn’t put together enough to have remembered my drink. You have your priorities straight (life-giving, life-saving caffeine).

              Now, had you called ahead to ask if we wanted anything? Oh… you, my bestest buddy ol’ pal ol’ friend… you are a superhero. A god amongst the dreck. We salute you. We may not take you up on that offer, but know that you have a special place in our hearts.

              (yeah, I’m laying it on thick. Caffeine is the lifeblood of my soul)

            3. bonkerballs*

              I definitely agree. I find it far more childish to make judgments on someone based on something so innocuous as how the like they’re coffee.

            4. E.*

              When it’s one of those sweet blended drinks (some of which don’t even have coffee in them!), it’s really not a question “the way a person takes their coffee.” I can definitely see how showing up to a meeting with one of those could come across as childish in some cultures.

          2. nutella fitzgerald*

            The baristas always suggest caramel drizzle when I’m redeeming my free drink reward!

          3. Observer*

            You’re seriously going to base employment decisions even a drop on how people take their coffee!? What else are prospective employees supposed to read your mind about?

            I would advise anyone who has a choice in the matter to stay away from employers who judge people’s capability and fitness based on what they eat and how they take their coffee.

            1. Pollygrammer*

              Lordy, this isn’t about “employment decisions.” The question is about “external meetings with partners/clients.” So yes, I’m going to say that a cup of coffee is going to look slightly more professional than a frozen sugar-bomb leaving condensation on the table. I’m going to hell.

              1. Observer*

                Oh, you mean you are going to based contract decisions and how you treat clients on this? Even if we exclude interviews, it’s still ridiculous. I don’t care what you like to eat and what you think about sweet foods. The idea that someone might make significant decisions based on things that are so irrelevant is just insanity. And expecting people to read your mind is even worse.

            2. Michaela Westen*

              How they take their coffee: Agree. But what they eat…
              I’ve seen people eat dessert food for dinner. I currently have a colleague who doesn’t eat lunch. She’s almost as thin as a skeleton, and not great with the work.
              If I was making hiring decisions, I would want someone who takes care of themselves by eating healthy meals and snacks. IME it makes a big difference in their abilities, not to mention their mood.

              1. Turquoisecow*

                Of for heavens sake! Are you hiring a nutritionist?! If not, stay away from my food decisions and worry about how I do the job.

              2. Dankar*

                That’s a one-way ticket to ADA violations. Are you really going to judge a diabetic coworker for grabbing a Snickers when their blood sugar is low? Or an epileptic coworker on a ketogenic diet that requires high fat-content foods? Bad idea all around…

                1. Michaela Westen*

                  Not as long as they’re eating healthy meals. If the only thing the diabetic is eating is the snickers, that would be so bad!

                2. Observer*

                  And who is to decide what a “healthy meal” looks like? I’m no fan of the ketogenic diet for most people, but it DOES make sense for certain people. The idea that someone needs to get your approval for their diet (and perhaps needs to disclose all sorts of sensitive medical information in the process) in order to get a job is both very bad business and an opening to ADA violations, at minimum.

                  Also, the idea that there is some significant correlation between diet and job performance is a figment of the imagination. Even in the case you mention, your connecting her job performance and her looks + diet says more about you than about the issue

              3. Ask a Manager* Post author

                You can’t do that; it’s illegal. Moreover, it would be terrible management to hire based on something unrelated to how someone actually works.

                But this is taking us off-topic since the letter isn’t about hiring, so let’s leave it here.

              4. Michaela Westen*

                The point I’m trying to make is, I’d want employees who eat whatever they need to eat to stay healthy and productive. I’m not saying they should/should not eat specific things like snickers. I would question if they ate one snickers for each meal and nothing else. :o
                The man who ate desserts for dinner was very moody and obsessive and didn’t even look healthy… The woman who doesn’t eat lunch also doesn’t understand simple concepts… I think a good employee takes care of themselves so they can be healthy and mentally competent.

              5. Indie*

                Her body, her food, her decisions.
                Food judging is way more unprofessional.
                I’m quite shocked.

              6. RUKiddingMe*

                There are lots of reasons someone might be “thin as a skeleton” and also “not great with the work.” They are not necessarily connected. Some people don’t eat lunch. Some don’t eat breakfast or dinner. Why are you the food/eating/diet police?

          4. Oxford Comma*

            I’m also a little mystified by this whole conversation. As long as people show up on time to the meeting, I don’t care what they drink. I don’t judge people on whether they opted for the caramel drizzle on the iced cap or the red eye.

            1. General Ginger*

              This. 9 times out of 10, I won’t even notice. I think the only time I’ve commented on a coworker’s branded take-out cup is when it was from a new place that opened nearby, so I asked how she liked it.

            2. A.*

              Yes, I agree with you. This conversation is very strange. We should stop policing what people put into their mouths. I always bring my own water bottle into meetings. Is someone judging me because I am suggesting they may be so inconsiderate to not offer me water? I never thought about it. I am always thirsty so I like to carry my own water everywhere.

              And if water is no problem, then why is coffee an issue? I personally don’t drink coffee but I do drink tea. I will also bring my own tea because I like it piping hot and usually when it is served, it is luke warm. I’m on time to the meeting and ready to go. That is all that should matter.

              1. skunklet*

                ^^^ THIS. I drink coffee in the morning and water the rest of the day (flavored crystal light grape) and it is brought with me everywhere… I’ve never given two whits to what ppl bring to a meeting for liquid, I mean, really??

              2. thirsty*

                Bwahaha. I’m in Arizona. Everyone goes everywhere with water bottles. I go to the mall, doctor appointments, grocery shopping, to work and definitely to every meeting with a water bottle. I have even taken it into restaurants on occasion because if you leave it in the car it’s boiling water when you come back. This is so very normal for people here that I can’t imagine seeing someone with a coffee cup would be any different. Though I’ll admit people look sideways when I’m carrying my water bottle around with me when I’m out of state. But it’s become such a habit I feel dehydrated without it.

          5. Jessie the First (or second)*

            “There’s something a little bit childish ”

            That is weird – the idea that preferring one’s coffee sweet rather than bitter is childish. Taste buds are childish? It’s oh-so-grown up to prefer a bitter drink?

            Seriously, you may want to consider toning down the judgment over something so completely, utterly disconnected from maturity level/your business/anything at all.

            1. JustaTech*

              It may be weird but it is common. It’s also got roots in some sexism; “real” men drink their coffee black and their whiskey straight, only “girls” put cream and sugar in their coffee, or have a cocktail with fruit juice.

              It also has roots in plain old physiology; in general children don’t like bitter foods, whereas bitter foods can be very popular among adults. It’s about the changes in your taste buds as you age.

              Is it right? No. Is it going away? Some. But it is still a thing.

              1. RUKiddingMe*

                Oh the sexism for sure. Interestingly enough in my experience (totally non-scientific, just observational) males tend to be at least as likely to make a frou-frou coffee as women..maybe even more than “at least.”

              2. Courageous cat*

                Agreed. I think it should be done away with (as someone who loves sweet foods), but there is some slight rationale to it.

          6. Joielle*

            Looks like you’re getting heat for this, but FWIW I agree. The kind of drink you’re talking about is basically the same as bringing a milkshake to a meeting, which I don’t think anyone would consider standard business behavior. A firing offense? No, obviously not, at least not on its own. But not a great look.

            1. General Ginger*

              I do not understand why what someone is drinking is at all relevant to the work they’re doing.

          7. Rusty Shackelford*

            I don’t even drink coffee, in any form, but I can kind of see a difference. A cup of coffee is a cup of coffee. It’s a caffeine fix. A giant whipped-cream-topped drink is… dessert.

            Now, my question is, would my giant iced chai latte (no whipped cream) be considered a caffeine fix, or dessert?

            1. Alton*

              It’s interesting how there seem to be some cultural assumptions at play about why people are drinking what they do, such as coffee being a “caffeine fix” and therefore something that people use as a work aid of sorts to help them stay alert. Even though in reality, someone could be drinking decaf or coffee that’s loaded with sugar.

              Caffeine has no noticeable effect on me except in large doses, at which point it causes anxiety and heart palpitations, so black coffee is more of a guilty pleasure treat for me than a fix.

              1. Rusty Shackelford*

                True, there’s probably no good reason to assume that someone is drinking coffee because they “need it.” And conversely, people might frown at me for “indulging” in a Coke when I do need some caffeine.

                1. Specialk9*

                  Whereas my disabled sister takes a hit of Coca-Cola when a migraine hits. Another reason for people to mind their own business.

              2. medium of ballpoint*

                Dietary restrictions/preferences are another thing to consider. I avoid caffeine for medical reasons and most of the offices I’ve worked in don’t have decaf options for coffee or tea. If I don’t bring my own I’m stuck with only water all day.

                And I think there’s an SES component at play, too. Portable drinks and reusable cups are pretty common in the middle class areas I’ve worked in, but I almost never see them in the working class area I grew up in. Carrying a resuable water bottle around is seen as kind of bougie there.

                1. MatKnifeNinja*

                  It’s popular for some of my older coworkers (I’m 54) to give their option on my Starbucks coffee. Why? Well why not.

                  I’ve started bringing my own secret agent man bland travel mug, just so I don’t hear how millenials are ruining the world with Starbucks. I’m not a millenial, but can’t reason with ignorant and obnoxious.

                  For all the dragging SB gets, it’s the ONLY place I can be assured 98% of the time of getting decafe. The Timmies and Dunkies in my area, it’s a flip of the coin if the person makes a pot of decafe, or just gives me regular.

                  I have a health issue where a decent amount of caffeine can spike my blood pressure to 180/100 in 10 minutes. I only like coffee and water to drink. I usually make my decafe and bring it in. Sometimes I’m human and run out of time, so I hit the SB for a hot drink.

                  If I DON’T put the SB in the secret agent travel mug, one from the peanut gallery does, “It must be nice to burn money” or some other comment on youth and sloth.

                  It takes everything in my power not to rip the lid off my venti decafe Americano, and dump it down their backs. (JK)

                  About men and frou-frou drinks. My SO is like a scene straight out of “Office Works”. 10 ozs of coffee, 6 sugar packs and 5 creams. He also likes all the sweet mixed coffee based drinks at SB too, as does all his table top gamer friends. I’m the weirdo who drinks her coffee just plain.

                  Where my sister lives it’s really bougie to carry anything reusable. My work place, it isn’t so much bougie, but look at the snowflakes “saving the world”.

              3. bonkerballs*

                Right, caffeine has no effect on me whatsoever. I drink coffee because I like the taste.

            2. smoke tree*

              I always think that it’s kind of fascinating how much professional life operates on the assumption that everyone needs caffeine to function. Maybe I’m just jealous because I’ve never experienced any positive effects from caffeine, but this can’t be that universal, can it?

            3. Jadelyn*

              A giant whipped-cream-topped drink is not dessert, it’s a caffeine fix with a sugar booster for extra energy. Also, it’s a caffeine fix that actually tastes good, which plain coffee doesn’t, to a lot of people.

          8. Totally Minnie*

            Sometimes when we’re meeting with external clients, we’re doing it in a coffee shop. I don’t drink coffee, and I didn’t even drink tea until fairly recently. This meant my options were a foofy non-coffee beverage with whipped cream or a bottle of water. When I would go the bottle of water route, it opened the door to a million variations of “are you sure you don’t want coffee? Oh, of course you’ll like it if you get used to it…” Getting the foofy whipped cream drink put a stop to that line of questioning. I don’t know if anyone decided I was unprofessional or immature for it, I was just glad to stop having to explain why I don’t like coffee.

            1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

              I don’t drink coffee and I always get a hot chocolate when I have a business thing at a coffee shop. Bonus is if you can order it without anyone around it looks like a regular coffee with cream once you get it. I also hate trying to be talked into trying coffee (or beer – ugh) so I know this dance well. It did get me in trouble when I realized the Biggby mellow hot chocolate was the most amazing thing ever and now I have to go there all the time – so now I am a coffee shop addict who doesn’t drink coffee.

              1. Tax Nerd*

                I’m not a coffee drinker, either. If I have a coffee shop meeting of any sort, I get mint tea. Hopefully not too childish, and I’d rather have minty breath than coffee breath.

              2. MCMonkeyBean*

                If you’re a hot chocolate fan, someone at my office recently got me hooked on Panera’s hot chocolate which comes with house-made chocolate-chip marshmallows. She has occasionally brought in a big thing of it for our team and it’s always an exciting treat.

          9. Jadelyn*

            Are…you actually serious? I’m honestly kind of at a loss to respond to that one, here. I mean, gods forbid someone decide to treat themselves to something other than straight black brewed coffee (which, as Everyone Knows, is the only Proper Adult Caffeinated Beverage(tm) for working professionals), or just have a preference for drinks you, personally, feel are “childish”.

            Just…that is such a bizarro thing to judge someone on, to the point where I’d consider someone judging me as “childish” for bringing a particular type of coffee drink to be a helpful flag that that’s not someone whose opinion I really want to hang a lot of weight on.

          10. UGH*

            Keep your eyes on your own plate (or cup, in this case). I haven’t read the entire comments chain yet, maybe this has already been said, but judging what someone else eats or drinks only reflects poorly on you. Mind your business.

        2. TardyTardis*

          Although my Betty Boop coffee cup is a lovely ice-breaker; I had a lot of fun with it at tax season.

      3. Miranda Priestly*

        Showing up at a meeting with a Starbucks latte? How udderly unpwafessional.

        We would never hire someone who did that at Vogue!

        1. Emily K*

          I’m not sure if I’m missing a reference here, but I wasn’t saying anything about hiring anyone. Just how interesting it is that everyone agreed they would not even register a travel mug, but they *would* notice a disposable cup, and how none of us could put our finger exactly on why.

          Most of the time I don’t think it matters. In a small number of situations where someone else in the room has a lot more power and status then you and you need then to think well if you, you may wish to avoid standing out that way in case the higher status person has a thing about it and would form a poorer impression of you as a result. Just like we dress more conservatively and rein in some of our goofier behavior for interviews, presentations, and often for client meetings, but don’t bother with on a day to day basis. Sure, we should be able to interview in business casual and in some industries you can, but if someone is writing in asking for advice, you’re doing them a disservice if you don’t acknowledge that there’s a standard that many people will hold them to. That’s all I was doing – acknowledging and being curious about the boundaries of the social convention, not justifying it.

          1. Fact & Fiction*

            This is a reference to The Devil Wears Prada, judging by the poster’s name and the reference to Vogue. :)

        2. Annoyed*

          Well tou need to brew the beans that you grew yourself on your organic, single estate, in the shade, watered with fairy dust in the pot you forged from the metal you mined yourself. Then drink it only in the mug you hand threw from virgin clay that you naturally sourced yourself and baked in the sun.

        3. AKchic*

          I laughed.
          I now have masticated peanut butter cheese crackers on my keyboard and screen.

          I love you.

    2. Amber T*

      For #2 – as a former receptionist who greeted guests and would get them coffee/tea/drinks, if someone came in with their own, it was one less drink for me to worry about. I would just say “I see you have a drink with you, please help your self/let me know if you’d like a refresh.” I only judge you if you expect me to be a barista.

      Even if you’re late to the meeting and you came in with Starbucks, you could have left with plenty of time, stopped at Starbucks, and then got caught in unexpected traffic. Our office is in a remote area where people travel usually at least an hour to see us, so this happens with some regularity. (We also get people showing up 45 minutes early because last time they were stuck in traffic for an hour and this time there was none.)

      1. Jadelyn*

        “Even if you’re late to the meeting and you came in with Starbucks, you could have left with plenty of time, stopped at Starbucks, and then got caught in unexpected traffic.”

        THIIIIIS. The whole “arriving 15 minutes late with Starbucks” thing drives me up a wall because I have the type of commute where it’s entirely possible to stop at a Starbucks for coffee with plenty of time, then get back on the freeway and between Starbucks and work hit a spot that’s badly blocked up with traffic, making me late. The Starbucks didn’t make me late, and I wasn’t being cavalier about punctuality, and it grates on me that people will assume that.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          Not to mention they could be someone like my mom who is most likely drinking the coffee she bought the day before.

          1. Clorinda*

            Or like me: refilling the disposable cup with coffee from home. I can’t have a travel mug because I lose them, so I’ll have a takeout coffee and then use the cup till it falls to pieces (or gets lost).

        2. UGH*

          Plus with mobile ordering, for many of us, Starbucks takes about 1 minute – pull up, run in, grab the drink from the counter which you already ordered and paid for through the app, get back in your car, and you’re on the road again in under 2 min.

          1. Amber T*

            I wanted to hate on mobile ordering for no reason other than it was a just another excuse for corporate entities to get our phones but man oh man I really do love D&D and Starbucks mobile ordering.

            1. Specialk9*

              Yeah, all of this. The times I’ve gotten in line, whipped out my phone, and then gone over to the pick-up area… Gold.

    3. Trisha*

      Tim Horton’s in Canada is so common, I don’t think anyone would even blink, let alone have a concern about coming in with a Tim’s cup to any kind of meeting. I think it’s just a shared experience / common heritage, accepted practice.

    4. Only human*

      I put the Starbucks coffee into my travel mug immediately. Because I’m a klutz, and the travel mug doesn’t spill if I tip it, knock it over, or even drop it.

      And if I’m in a meeting with someone whose coffee is in a tall narrow disposable cup, I’m going to sit well away from them so I don’t knock their cup over and I’m out of harm’s way if someone else does.

  3. KarenT*

    #2 My company has a rule against doing this with clients. It’s more the idea that if you’re bringing a Starbucks to a meeting, it’s kinda rude to show up without having offered to bring them anything. I think water is definitely an exception but not much else.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      I agree that if you’re hosting the meeting, bringing in better coffee for yourself than you’re offering to your guests is not good. If they’re hosting you, then it’s much more reasonable.

    2. Cordoba*

      I’ve only seen it be a problem when somebody shows up late and carrying a takeout cup.

      Even if they were on time when they stopped for coffee and then got delayed by unexpected traffic or something it still looks bad. At that point you’re better to pitch it or leave it in the car.

      1. MollyJ*

        Oh, I completely agree with this. Especially for coworkers that are habitually late for our weekly meeting, yet still waltz in with that take-out cup from the place that could only be from the shop 10 minutes away. If you’re 20 minutes late, you know it when you’re 10 minutes away. Don’t stop.

      2. blackcat*

        Oh man, I once had a student I called smoothie girl (but only in my head).

        She always rolled into class 10 minutes late, with a giant smoothie. She then proceeded to slurp loudly enough I could hear it in a class of 50 students.

        I told her this was rude and distracting to her fellow students. That didn’t stop her.

        1. Snickerdoodle*

          Could you kick her out of class?

          I had a professor who once told off a student for doing the crossword during class. I thought the professor looked worse by stopping her lecture to tell him to put it away or leave (he left) because he wasn’t late or noisy and nobody knew what was happening until she pointed it out, but I would have been extremely grateful if she’d told someone to put away their noisy drink or phone.

          1. Essess*

            We had a student sitting in our computer lab when our class started. The instructor let the person stay during our class to finish working on their class project. She was sitting in the front middle seat in front of the instructor (right next to my seat). Halfway through the class, she took a phone call and started talking right there in front of the instructor. It wasn’t anything urgent… it was a “hey, what are you up to” conversation. He stopped the class, stood and stared at her as she ignored him. I looked over and loudly told her “Put that away NOW!” She dared to give the the ‘shush’ finger at me. I leaned in towards her and repeated loudly to block out her ability to hear the phone conversation… “put it away, put it away, put it away…” until she finally got up and left the classroom to finish her call.

            1. Essess*

              I forgot to add, the university has a student policy that everyone must sign that students that disrupt class can be kicked out of the university, not just the class.

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          One of my college instructors might be your hero… first day of the semester, huge class, instructor is going over the syllabus and emphasizing his class rules, one of which is no drinks in class. Chick walks in 10 minutes late, carrying a giant cup. He points to her and says “No drinks in class. Go throw that away, please.” She wails “But I just booooouuuuught it!” He repeats “No drinks in class. And don’t put that in my classroom trash can, either.” If she’d shown up on time, he likely would have given her a pass. But shows up 15 minutes late with Starbucks was a meme for a reason.

          1. LJay*

            On the first day that seems harsh to me.

            Plenty of professors do allow drinks, so on the first day of the semester there is no way to know that it’s not allowed by this particular guy.

            And maybe she was late because it was the first day of the semester and she misread her schedule, or the classroom or building was a different one than she thought it was so she thought she had time until she showed up at a room that turned out to be the wrong one, or whatever else.

            The second day? Sure, she has the syllabus, she knows the rules, it’s not allowed, she’s in the wrong. (Or if it’s a lab class where she should rightfully expect there to be a no drink and no food policy).

            However, for the first day of a lecture or seminar class the professor just kind of comes off as a jerk in this story to me.

            1. Dankar*

              Yesterday was my first class of the semester, and we were encouraged to start 15 minutes late to account for the massive traffic issues the construction on campus is causing for our students. Since half the class showed up early, I encouraged them to get coffee and come back. I think professors who restrict students from having drinks in class are on a power trip and need to chill out. The exception being those running labs, of course.

              Hell, my professors in undergrad let students eat lunch in class. That’s a bit far for me, but we were in a building that smelled like baking bread morning, noon and night (above a sandwich shop), so maybe they considered the growling stomachs more distracting.

              1. schnauzerfan*

                God I feel old. When I was in college, while the dinosaurs roamed the parking lots, there was a hard and fast no food/no drink/no chewing gum in class rooms rule. But you could smoke or use chewing tobacco in the halls. Now we have a no tobacco campus and people think nothing of bringing food to class… and students resent the hell out of profs that won’t let them eat their breakfast in class.

                1. Dankar*

                  I think the no chewing gum rule lives on in most places. Especially since we’re spending so much money every year putting in brand new facilities.

                  Chewing tobacco, though… I can’t even imagine!

                2. NLMC*

                  When I was in college we could eat and drink in class but most people were respectful about it. However, we had one guy who would eat a bowl of Ramen noodles every now and then and it would drive me crazy.

              2. Snark*

                When I taught classes, I was okay about drinks….until people started coming 5, 10, 15 minutes late because, hey, gotta grab a latte before ecology class starts! No, you do not. Just because I am okay with drinks does not mean that your obtaining a drink is more important than me starting class on time and not being interrupted by you banging the door open.

                1. General Ginger*

                  This I absolutely agree with. Bringing a drink = fine. Always being late because you wanted the latte/smoothie/whatever, but couldn’t be prepared with it on time? Rude.

                2. Dankar*

                  I think if there’s a regular, loud offender, then I would need to have a conversation with them. Luckily, it’s never gotten to that point. But 5-10 minutes, eh. They’re paying to miss out, and it’ll be reflected in their grade at some point.

                  Today’s posts have shown me that I really am not into punctuality, as a rule. *shrug*

                3. Snark*

                  @ Dankar- Yeah, but it’s not just about them. Everybody else in the class has their train of thought run off the rails, everybody looks over, everybody listens to them zipping open their pack and getting out their laptop or tablet and and and. If it merely affected them, fine, whatever, but since it has broader effects I get a little touchier about it.

                4. Dankar*

                  @Snark That’s true. I don’t have a lecture-based course, but one that’s more full-class workshops and small-group work. There’s a lot going on throughout the class, so no one tends to pay much mind to late arrivals.

                  If you’re late for your workshop slot, though, it’s gone. And that tends to really hurt the chronically tardy.

              3. Amber T*

                My high school history teacher made me cry when my period showed up unexpectedly, my friend bought me a chocolate chip cookie cuz I left my lunch money at home, and he took it away (my “lunch” was at 10:15, class was at 12:15 or something) because of the no food in class rule. I was a teenager who was still getting used to hormonal mood changes (they were way worse back then than they are now) and it was literally half a life time ago, but I don’t think I’ve quite forgiven him.

            2. Rusty Shackelford*

              Eh, I think showing up late with a drink she’d just bought, and loudly whining that she’d just bought it, kind of negates any harshness. But my memory might be colored by how she behaved through that entire class.

              1. Totally Minnie*

                I don’t agree. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to be upset about having to throw away something you paid money for when you had no way of knowing you wouldn’t be allowed to have it. If her later behavior was problematic, then I get why you would have unpleasant memories of her, but I don’t think this one incident on the first day of class is proof of her awfulness and the professor’s justification in being harsh with her.

                1. Cordoba*

                  It’s not unreasonable to be upset, it is unreasonable to essentially tell the professor “but the $3 I just spent matters more than the specific policies and instructions provided by you, the person in a position of authority who teaches the class”.

                  Slurpee Girl can *feel* however she wants about the situation, but that’s not the same as how she *reacts* to it.

                2. Delphine*

                  @Cordoba: But he was providing those specific policies that day, were students meant to read his mind and assume he’d forbid drinks? A reasonable person would outline their rules on day 1 and only penalize those who failed to follow them afterward. The student’s response may not have been perfect, but the professor should certainly know better.

                3. Totally Minnie*

                  @Cordoba If she had known that was a policy, sure. But if it’s the first day and the school doesn’t have a specific policy about whether drinks are allowed in certain classrooms, it’s not reasonable to expect a student to know their professor’s preferences and policies in advance and penalize them for something they had no idea would be a violation of a rule. If I were the professor in this scenario, it would be “enjoy your beverage today, because it’s the last time you’ll be having one during my class.”

                4. Rusty Shackelford*

                  I don’t think it’s unreasonable to be upset about having to throw away something you paid money for when you had no way of knowing you wouldn’t be allowed to have it

                  I guess, at the time, saying you “had no way of knowing” was less true than it is today. Or maybe it was just my campus? Back in the day, it was never a surprise to come across the no drinks rule.

                5. Cordoba*

                  Her error wasn’t in bringing the drink to class, it was responding with “But I just bought it” once she had been informed of the class rules. Once he told her, then she knew. If you’re going to argue with the prof on the first day you need to bring a better case than “but I already spent 3 bucks”.

                  Also, “But I just bought it” is actually not a great thing to say as you roll in late, as it suggests that you were busy buying the drink when you were supposed to be in class. She’d be better off saying almost anything else.

                  So not only did she not say something convincing, she managed to say something that made her look even worse.

                6. A*

                  I agree. The only person being unreasonable in this specific situation is the professor. I had a lot of these petty tyrant profs in university, and the power trip they got from exerting extremely minimal amounts of power was, quite frankly, pathetic.

              1. Snark*

                If she had been on time and respectful about it, I might agree, but if you’re late because you’re getting a juice and then loudly argue about it, nah fam.

                1. Tara R.*

                  So many people are late on the first day of class though– I wouldn’t assume it was due to the drink. God knows I turned up late with a drink on the first day of term many times.

                  8:30 am, get to campus: I’m so early, ugh, I’m gonna grab a drink!
                  8:45 am, with coffee: All right, time to go find the class that google maps says is 5 minutes away from me!
                  9:10 am, slinking in with another 50 students in the same boat: Oops…

                  When I TAed I didn’t even bother starting my first lab of the semester until quarter after (it was a very difficult room to find within a building that was a total maze). I then told them that for the rest of the semester pre-labs would be collected anytime between 9:01 and 9:05, and if they weren’t there to hand it in, tough luck. Never had too many punctuality issues.

          2. General Ginger*

            Yeah, that professor and I would have words. I have a health issue that would absolutely conflict with that rule, but I don’t feel like any professor inherently needs to know about my private medical info that’s completely irrelevant to my ability to perform in their class. Let people drink their dang water/protein shake/whatever.

            1. Alton*

              I hope the professor’s rule was at least about disposable drink cups and not a total ban. I was a commuter student, so I always had my lunch and a water bottle with me. Most of the time, something like a closed water bottle should be fine, and if there is a real reason why that would be unsafe (like toxic chemicals or very sensitive equipment), that should be made clear.

              1. Rusty Shackelford*

                Oh, this was back in the stone ages, when we brought our drinks in deerskin pouches. Accommodations were not a thing. But if one did need accommodations, I assume they’d be a little more mature and proactive about the whole thing, instead of demanding an exception because “I just bought this.”

            2. Thursday Next*

              At my school, any health issue potentially requiring accommodations is the student’s responsibility to document with Disability Services. Then DS gives me a form with the accommodations I’m required to provide to the student (without disclosing the condition).

              1. General Ginger*

                Or you could just let people drink water, unless there is some extreme reason for why that can’t be done.

      3. Logan*

        I think this sums it up for me – I really don’t care what someone has with them, but I know that there is judgement on anyone who arrives late carrying a takeout cup (although I specifically saw this judgement applied to a much hated senior manager who arrived late for even the most important of meetings).

        My one personal exception to that rule is that I take the bus, and now that buses are all GPS’d I can know if a bus is running ridiculously late, so I can pop into a coffee shop during that gap in order to grab something to drink (so the drink didn’t cause the lateness, rather the lateness caused the drink). But I also know that it looks bad, and if I was late for a meeting then I would likely ensure that I could finish drinking it before arriving at my meeting.

        I work better with a hot beverage, so I often bring my own. No one has complained or commented, and I decided to bring one into a job interview and they gave me an offer. It might depend on the industry, as nerds don’t tend to be as picky about appearance.

        1. TardyTardis*

          That reminds me of our IT office, where caffeine in various forms and Skittles were coded as office supplies .

    3. I Herd the Cats*

      This was such an interesting question and it’s true in our office for external meetings — I guess it’s sort of a step in the direction of bringing your lunch, or a snack? My boss (the CEO) wouldn’t sit there taking a meeting with his Starbucks. And if you showed up for a first meeting here with him, toting your Starbucks, it’s just ….. no. Maybe it’s the informality of it? (If it’s an established client, nobody would judge.) We live in a place that’s really hot in the summer, though, and nobody would bat an eye if you arrived toting water.

    4. Kittymommy*

      See I came down on a hard it’s fine for bringing your own drink (but you can’t be late and have a to go cup). I think assuming that the place holding is going to have coffee, tea, etc is presumptuous. I’ve worked a lot of places (profit, nonprofit, and government) that don’t provide this to the office so anything being offered is probably coming from what the staff paid for. Is it right? Certainly not, but it happens.

      1. Snickerdoodle*

        I agree. I don’t care if somebody needs a caffeine fix, and a water bottle is a must in a hot climate; just don’t be late. I get that a commercial cup can seem too casual, but if it’s first thing in the morning and EVERYONE has coffee/tea/whatever, it doesn’t matter. I also don’t understand the stigma around what kind of drink it is. Somebody upthread complained about the sweet, blended drinks with domed lids looking childish. I don’t think so. It’s just a drink; it’s not affecting anything. People need to stop stigmatizing and judging other people’s choice of caffeinated beverage.

      2. Perse's Mom*

        There’s also no knowing if anything they DO offer will be to your taste (we have truly, truly terrible office coffee here, no tea, and our water from the fountain tastes like chemicals). And if you have any kind of allergy or sensitivity… sometimes it’s just safer – health AND taste-wise – to bring what you know works for you.

        1. Alton*

          True, yeah. I drink coffee sometimes now, but I didn’t for a long time for health reasons. I’ve been to a lot of meetings/events where they only had coffee, or where they had a token selection of tea that was pretty abysmal. Plus, if I’m drinking water, I’d rather bring my reusable bottle. It’s less wasteful and easier to refill.

        2. Michaela Westen*

          Please tell me you have access to filtered water somehow! Maybe even just those little Brita water bottles that filter?

          1. Perse's Mom*

            We have the water dispenser on the refrigerator, I suppose? Which also tastes bad to me, but my boss is fine with it, so clearly tastes differ! I may just be more sensitive on this topic because I don’t trust that random water/office coffee/tea will be anything I find palatable (and may find actively off-putting). If I bring my own, I know what I’m getting.

            1. TardyTardis*

              Our water dispenser had something nasty in the nozzle for about a week, and the local tap water is actually pretty good–I left that dispenser alone for a long time even after they swore they replaced the nozzle.

      3. Only human*

        Government employees are often not allowed to accept coffee or snacks from an external vendor or client. I would expect they’ll bring their own.

  4. sheworkshardforthemoney*

    LW4, This is interesting, I just got back from my vacation and several people half seriously asked if I brought back any souvenirs or food. (I was in a region known for their specialty food). It struck me as a strange expectation. For the record, I didn’t bring back anything for my workplace.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      In every place I’ve worked, no one expected souvenirs or food. I did work in an office where folks exchanged small souvenirs, but it was never an expectation.

      The expectation is totally different in my family (you’re expected to bring back food/souvenirs), but maybe that’s why I find the expectation so odd in the workplace? It’s a practice I associate with close friends/family or children.

    2. MK*

      That’s pretty rude, even if most people do bring something back. Also kind of childish;as in, did you bring me a present?

      Here it was a lot more common before airlines started being strict with the baggage allowances.

      1. Allison*

        Right? Bringing something back is a nice thing to do, sure, and I understand it’s the norm in some offices*, but that doesn’t mean it should be expected to the point where people who don’t are given a hard time. Personally, I would only consider buying souvenirs for my boyfriend, immediate family members, and maybe close friends, but not coworkers, unless it was made clear to me that I basically had to.

        *I really hope it’s only the norm in small offices, or at companies where teams are fairly small. I couldn’t imagine bringing something back for everyone I work with.

        1. Cassie the First*

          It rubs me the wrong way when people ask “so what did you bring me?” or “what will you get me?” (before the trip). Even when they’re just joking. I always answer “nothing”, and I bring back nothing for them.

          I know it’s really popular in Japan and Taiwan – well, it may be more of an obligation to the traveler, because back in the olden days, people didn’t travel much so if you were fortunate enough to travel, you’d bring back a little treat to share. It’s not intended to be expensive or anything extravagant. Maybe a bag of nougat candy left in the breakroom for anyone who’s interested – that kind of thing. $10 tops.

      2. sheworkshardforthemoney*

        Yes! I remember the one time someone asked for me to bring back lobster. You could buy it at the airport, it was cooked and was packaged for travel. It turned out to be a pain because it counted as a carry-on and our flight was delayed so I was stressed about melting ice and smells. I got it home and then had to drive an hour to deliver it before I went home. The person I did it for didn’t offer any payment. I had just assumed that they would pay me, big mistake. So no more souvenirs of any kind.

    3. Bagpuss*

      I think it depends on the workplace. Where I work, it is the norm to bring something back – usually pretty small – maybe a bag of sweets. For instance, my assistant had last week off and brought in a box of fudge.
      I’ve never head anyone comment if someone doesn’t bring something, though.

      It’s been much the same most places I’ve worked.

      I haven’t ever worked anywhere where bringing back souvenirs was a thing, although in a previous office (about 15 years ago) there was a tradition that people would send a post card to the office. The cards would be put up on a notice board in the break room, but again, I never heard any comments or criticism of people who didn’t send one. It gradually petered out, (maybe as fewer people send postcards so it would mean a specific effort, rather than just adding an extra card to the ones you were sending anyway?)

      1. Engineer Girl*

        We sometimes had challenges. We had a tacky challenge where people brought back the tackiest souvenir. The chocolate cow pie from Wisconsin won that one.
        One year people collected sparkler toys.

    4. Kallisti (OP 4!)*

      Now that I think about it, right after I started my boss gave us all bookmarks that she brought back from abroad, and I thought it was odd at the time, since I’ve only ever heard of people bringing back snacks.

      1. Ann Onimous*

        I actually did that a few times as well: brought back some cute novelty key chains from Japan for the people from my team. I was not exactly their superior, but had the most responsibility from them. The souvenirs were universally well received. If it helps though, rest assured that I agonized a whole lot about the ethics of it, eventually even asking one of the colleagues in HR for an opinion. Admittedly, it helped that we worked in a small startup, where team leads occasionally did stuff like this. :)

        1. Adjuncts Anonymous*

          I often bring back postcards for students and colleagues. I fill them out on the plane home and I hand-deliver them. For the students, it is a way of starting a discussion in English about traveling to different places (I am an ESL teacher in the USA).

      2. Oxford Comma*

        A couple of us bring stuff back from conferences or trips. For one conference, because my colleagues went above and beyond to help me with a big presentation, I brought back little gifts.

        No one expects treats or gifts though.

      3. Crystal*

        I just got back from a trip and got all my coworkers souveneir pens. I’m lucky because I only have 8 coworkers so it’s not too expensive and a little gesture goes a long way to building goodwill and you never know when you’ll need a coworkers help unexpectedly!

    5. Lemon Bars*

      I have always brought something back if I see something different or something special you really get good at that place or region, not just anything. Chocolate croissants in paris, Peaches from Georgia, Chicory coffee from new orleans (sadly the beignets would not have traveled well so I snapped a photo of mine) and oddly las month in Dallas I accidently gave my uber the wrong address and while waiting for another I found a chocolate shop that specializes in chocolate with bacon it was such a hit.

    6. Kittymommy*

      No one should expect anything, that’s certainly rude, but I don’t think it’s weird to bring something back. Don’t think it’s weird not to, just a nice little surprise. TBH, I don’t know if it would have occurred to be to bring anything back

      1. MsChandandlerBong*

        My coworker just returned from a vacation in China, and she sent me a lovely compact/mirror, a gold-foil bookmark, and a set of cat magnets from the Palace Museum. I certainly didn’t expect anything, but it was a wonderful surprise!

    7. NowWhat@25?*

      This has happened to me! I went to a friend’s destination wedding and was running around like crazy because I was the maid of honor. When I got back I was so drained, and was actively asked if I brought back any candy from the region. What’s funny is this is an expectation only for the assistants/support staff; not the rest of the team.

      To nip it in the bud this past time around when I went to Europe, I received multiple requests for cookies, biscuits, and certain condiments. I made a joke I would just bring back a keg of Guinness instead since it would take up less space than all the requests (note: no one offered to reimburse me; they expected me to buy them stuff). I bought chocolates that I did not quite like myself but figured it would placate the office. Apparently everyone hated them and I haven’t gotten requests for my subsequent trips!

      1. Indie*

        “this is an expectation only for the assistants/support staff; not the rest of the team” YIKES.

        All women?

    8. Just Me*

      At my tiny office, nothing is expected but we do have a habit of bringing back a magnet for the fridge of any new place that was visited. I’m not sure who started it, but it is fun (and cheap). The cheesier and tackier, the better.

      1. DivineMissL*

        I have a Road Museum in my office of tacky souvenirs, I’ve been collecting them for 25 years. The rules are:
        1. It has to be cheap/inexpensive
        2. It has to have the name of the place on it and be representative of the location, like the Roman gladiator bobblehead or cheese-shaped hat from Wisconsin
        3. It has to be the ugliest/tackiest thing you can find.
        Folks seem to get a real kick out of finding me weird souvenirs on their travels; I have bizarre items from all over the world. I put their item in the “Place of (Dis)Honor” on my desk for the new arrivals. But I never ask or expect people to bring them. I’d be happy if someone brought in treats from their travels, but I would never give them a hard time for not doing so.

      2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

        My BIL’s office does this. He had great fun finding the worst magnets at various truck stops when I took him to America for the first time.

        My husband often brings things back for his office but it’s small stuff, like a bag of candy or two. I don’t think anyone expects it though.

    9. Rosie the Litigator*

      My present business is a three-person partnership, so there’s a significant amount of coverage that we have to do for one another’s client load when one of us goes on vacation. We represent a lot of people through a court appointment contract with the state (the best general description is that we are a private businesses but ‘public’ defenders in a way), so our clients tend to get in trouble, a LOT, and at weird hours.

      We have been bringing back small things from vacations, like a box of chocolates to share or some coffee and tea for the break room, as a ‘thank you!’ for the partners in the office who are covering the craziness so we can take breaks and disengage for a bit. Not for a single personal day off, but for a week or more of missed office time, if we are traveling. I brought a bigger gift to one of them once, because she covered a MAJOR case emergency (on a scale of one to ten, it was “meth’d up hillbilly stealing a police cruiser” level) and it threw her entire workload off for a week.

      My prior office was super casual (honestly… it was the law firm equivalent of a frat house, with a keg room…) and I would usually bring my boss back something small and silly like a novelty wind chime or a bottle of liquor. That was mostly because his reactions were hilarious each time.

    10. you don't know me*

      In my area (a few hours drive from the East Coast) if you go to the beach on vacation you better bring back some salt water taffy for the office.

    11. Chris*

      I’ve never brought back anything from a trip for my colleagues. Some people do occasionally, but I don’t think anyone notices if someone doesn’t. That expectation would be really off putting to me. Honestly, I like to pack light and having more stuff to carry through an airport or fit into my checked luggage is really unappealing.

  5. Villanelle*

    OP4 – in every office I have worked in (UK) we do this. It’s really nice to sample food (ok, mainly chocolate or other sweets/candy) from around the world. And yes it’s ok to eat some yourself. Nobody cares that much and if they did, then they are the one with the issue not you.

    1. Chocolate Teapot*

      We do this in our office too, with the top of one of the filing cabinets our team “Snack Corner”. A box of Belgian chocolates holds the office record for how quickly it got eaten. (less than a day)

      1. Marion Ravenwood*

        I might have mentioned this before but in my previous job, we had one table where all the snacks went that we referred to as the ‘bird table’, because the second food was put on there people would descend upon it. And that was a very snack-heavy office – 40 people so lots of birthdays, plus leaving dos, holidays and the rule that if you were unintentionally in a press photo/TV clip then you had to bring food as a forfeit. I won’t lie that one of the main reasons I was quite glad to move desks in that job was because it was no longer in my direct eyeline…

      2. Persimmons*

        Several times at my work we have had sales people from Europe bring in Belgian chocolates with liquid centers, and they had eye-poppingly high percentages of alcohol in them! So, LW, just be aware of the ingredients list of whatever you’re bringing back.

    2. Mad Baggins*

      This is a thing in Japan too. As you say it’s nice to sample food from around the world, build relationships by chatting about where you visited, and also buys goodwill from people who covered for you/picked up the slack while you were gone (in Japan this is everyone but I think the sentiment stands).

      And I think it’s OK to eat some yourself, I often eat leftovers after I’ve passed them out because I only buy good stuff.

      1. Jemima Bond*

        Someone bought some amazing snacks back to our office from Japan. I remember one of them, possibly a biscuit/cake/cereal bar affair, was purple and described on the wrapper as a special secret cake or something like that.

        1. Janie*

          Could have been a limited edition item, those are big in Japan. If purple, probably sweet potato flavor.

      2. Daisy*

        I worked in Japan for a couple of years, and I love the theory behind it, but in practice lots of those pre-packed omiyage boxes are awful quality, they’re such a rip-off. ‘I went to Sapporo, here’s your dry dusty biscuit!’.

        1. Julia*

          Weird, in my Japanese office, Shiroi Koibito (a chocolate cookie named “White Lover” – they’re now expanding on to dark chocolate, you can guess the name!) was pretty popular, and I always loved when one of the higher-ups brought yatsuhashi.

          It did irk me to have to bring back presents for my slacking, back-stabbing co-worker for “covering” for me, because she never actually did.

          Btw, I’m super glad this thread exists, because people in other countries doing this as well is one more thing on my list of things that Japanese people think are exclusive to Japan, but aren’t actually, like hospitality (wtf), seasons, or gift-giving.

          1. Just Employed Here*

            Seasons?! Do people in Japan not watch American movies (set somewhere else than California)?

          2. WS*

            I’m Australian and I understood the fascination with seasons – here you can have 25 degree temperature changes in an hour, or a 15 degree day in the middle of summer and a 28 degree day in winter, and that’s pretty normal. Japanese people worry if summer is starting a day or two late, and when exactly the cherry blossoms are this year. The seasons in Japan are *really* well defined – all my Japanese teachers in Australia would have to warn the new teachers not to put their winter clothes in storage as soon as it got warm, because it would soon get cold again. I suspect it’s not just Japan that’s like this but don’t personally know!

            1. TL -*

              Boston’s seasons are pretty well defined; they’re about 3 months each and it’s rare to get really cold days in summer or warm days in winter.

            2. Specialk9*

              Maybe the seasons one is partially ticket? I haven’t been to Japan, sadly, so grain of salt here… but I took a lit class with an amazing teacher, and I was really struck by how in-tune Japanese culture is with the seasons. She explained that permanent decorations are not as much of a thing, and so season related scrolls and such are a big part of decorating. I have lived near cherry blossom trees, and it would never occur to me to have a picnic, on a specific day, to celebrate the flowers. Though I adore the flowers!

            3. Logan*

              We have the expression “Don’t like the weather? Just wait two hours.” because we have the same issue as yours, which is high fluctuations in weather even within the day

              1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

                Honestly, everywhere I’ve lived says that. Desert, plains, seaside, mountains. They all think it’s unique to their area, too!

          3. Daisy*

            ‘You see, here in Japan we have four seasons.’ Aaaaaaaagh

            I also met two people who thought hay fever was a specifically Japanese malady.

            1. Specialk9*

              Oh wait, it’s not that they think they celebrate seasons more, it’s that they think the rest of the world doesn’t have them?!

            2. Janie*

              I just watched a Japanese TV show where the hosts wondered if people in the rest of the world get hay fever -____-

          4. LJay*

            I’ve found that almost every city I’ve been in thinks that bad drivers (and fast driving) and changing weather are somehow exclusive to them.

            I find it sort of fascinating, actually. Especially when you see the exact same memes going around Facebook with just a different city, state, or country name photoshopped over top of the previous one.

        2. Minocho*

          There’s a whole industry in Japan built around office omiyage at tourist spots. And yes, they’re mostly awful.

          I went along with my san nensei class and all their teachers on their class trip (the stop at the atomic bomb museum in Nagasaki was unspeakably awkward), and may I say that going to an onsen with your coworkers is really awkward for non-Japanese?

          >_<

    3. Akcipitrokulo*

      Same here at my office… we also have a place in IT dedicated to snacks that is almost never empty :)

      No-one would question if you didn’t, but yeah, everyone does, and our US colleagues keep it well filled when they visit!

    4. Engineer Woman*

      Yep, it’s been done at my previous and current work. Never an expectation that the vacationer will bring back treats but always welcomed.

    5. Jemima Bond*

      Same in our office. I won’t lie to you – it’s usually been bought at the airport before the flight home but nobody minds and everything gets eaten. Except American chocolate – it’s rather different from UK chocolate and is less to the taste of most brits (I suppose it’s habit). Our lot are complete gannets but I’m sorry to say the chocolate covered pretzels got binned! But red velvet Oreos and peanut butter pretzels which we don’t get here, went down a treat!
      It’s not expected; I don’t think people would remark upon it if you didn’t, but it certainly isn’t weird. And you definitely get to eat some yourself!

        1. Adjuncts Anonymous*

          Peanut butter pretzel nuggets are a thing we have in the States, though. I think the major brand is HL Anderson, but they became so popular that now there are many knock-offs.

      1. media monkey*

        ick – american chocolate always hangs around here too (also UK). it’s just not as nice as ours!

      2. Emily K*

        American here, and it’s only just your taste in the sense that lots of Americans have never had European/British chocolate and don’t know what real chocolate is supposed to taste like. Our chocolate is barely even chocolate – it’s mostly corn sugar syrup and very very small amounts of cocoa and milk. As a kid I liked it but once I tried real chocolate made mostly from cocoa and milk I couldn’t go back to that corn sugar taste. There are a couple of high end brands in America that do chocolate well but you won’t find those brands on the rack everywhere the way Cadbury Dairy Milks are in the UK.

        1. Lora*

          Hershey’s and Mars use butyric acid in their milk chocolate as a preservative, that’s what you’re tasting. It’s vile. I had an experiment where we were adding butyrate to a cell culture to prevent the cells from senescing and I went out of my way to find ANYTHING else that would work.

        2. JB (not in Houston)*

          These days are actually a lot of brands of good chocolate available here! But I agree with you that regular brands like Hershey’s aren’t that good. I don’t like UK chocolate, either, though. Once I went to a British import store and bought a ton of different types of chocolate bars to try because I’d heard good things. I hated almost all of them. I was so disappointed. And I’ve also been disappointed to find some mainstream brands from some other European countries aren’t that great, either. But on the whole I think better quality chocolate is more mainstream in Europe than it is in the US.

      3. Specialk9*

        “Our lot are complete gannets but I’m sorry to say the chocolate covered pretzels got binned!”

        What’s a gannet?

        1. Bagpuss*

          A gannet is a type of sea bird, but it is used to refer to people – specifically with regard to eating a lot/eating very fast.
          I think the connection is that Gannets (the bird) eat a lot of fish and can swallow largish fish whole. I think (although not 100% sure) that they catch fish which are quite large in comparison with the size of the gannet)

        2. Beehoppy*

          A large seabird who spends its time plunging deep into the ocean to scoop up copious amounts of fish.

      4. ThatGirl*

        We had a coworker from our UK office here last week and she brought a whole box of assorted UK chocolate which was a nice treat. While there are plenty of specialty/high end chocolates in the US, I think the ordinary grocery store chocolate (like Cadbury) is better in the UK for sure.

      5. Grated*

        American chocolate is just not that good. Well, you can buy Lindt here but it wouldn’t be a novelty because it’s everywhere in Europe, too! Ghirardelli is decent but not amazing for its price

    6. Batty Twerp*

      In fact, often (must be our stuffy British politeness!) if WE don’t start opening the packets, they can stay unopened for days! (thinks of the unopened bag of Ouzo candy that’s been sitting on one floor of our office for a while – person came back from that vacation in July…)

      1. Turtle Candle*

        I’m in the US, but the same thing happens here too! I have taken to always opening the containers and eating one of something so that everyone else knows it’s okay to do so/no one else has to do the ‘is this okay for me to open?’ dance. (I’m reminded of Miss Manners’s somewhat tongue in cheek suggestion that, to encourage your guests to actually use the guest handtowels in the restroom rather than leaving them pristine, you as the host should wash and dry your hands before they come so that it’s clear they’re okay to use. :D )

    7. Marion Ravenwood*

      Was just about to post that this has also been my experience here in the UK. Most people bring back sweets/biscuits – though we sometimes get savoury stuff too – and an email goes round the team saying, ‘I brought back [food] from [holiday destination], they’re a really nice treat with your lunch/coffee, please help me eat them all!’ People do sometimes say, ‘oh did you bring anything back?’, but more in a jokey way and generally only if the person a) hasn’t brought anything for a while and b) eats stuff when everyone else brings it in.

      Also I agree with Batty Twerp that often if you don’t open the packets then the stuff sits there for days, so I always figure I might as well do it, and sometimes I’ll take one for myself if I fancy it.

    8. Pandop*

      Yes, it is definitely a thing in a lot of UK workplaces (in fact we have a designated ‘biscuit table’ in the centre of our office), I don’t think any one would think less of you if you didn’t, but it is a nice thing to do, and people can build informal bonds discussing places they have been etc.

    9. londonedit*

      Yep, also chiming in to say it’s definitely a been a thing in most of the UK offices I’ve worked in. There’s no expectation, but people will usually bring some sort of sweets or biscuits back when they’ve been on holiday. And I definitely agree that the person who’s brought the sweets will usually have to open the bag/box before people will dive in – Brits would never just help themselves unless it’s obvious that someone’s already had some! (Last Christmas, when my family were all at my parents’ house, a box of chocolates sat on the table for DAYS because it looked like it hadn’t been opened. Turns out it had been opened, but no one realised, and for a whole weekend everyone had been walking past it, thinking ‘Ooh I’d really like a chocolate, I wonder when we’ll get to open that box’…)

    10. MsSolo*

      Yes, it’s super common here, and bonus points if you manage to get something with a name that’s amusing in English.

      (I mean, a case of Pschitt is probably too heavy, but who doesn’t love a nice bar of Plopp?)

      1. Kat*

        If you can’t find a fun pun, the other option is a really nice tin (preferably decorated with pictures of the country you’ve just come back from) which all of your colleagues will say they want to take home but no-one ever does

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          I recently brought back a royal-wedding-themed tin of shortbread for the neighbors who took care of my cat. It’s the same brand sold in the U.S., but where ya gonna get a Harry and Megan tin, huh?

    11. BWooster*

      Same. In my current office there’s an additional expectation of bringing in some snacks for your birthday and attend at least one social out-of-work outing a year. In all, I think it costs me about £100 a year to fulfill these various expectations. Considering I like my job, my co-workers and get paid relatively well for the job/area, I don’t mind it. However, it might be annoying for others.

      1. Bagpuss*

        That seems like a lot. I doubt I spend more than £25 a year – typically one lot of sweets-for-being-on-holiday and one lot of cakes because it is my birthday.

        On top of that, As I am one of the bosses I do also sometimes buy ice creams for everyone because heatwave, or bacon sandwiches (or alternatives of choice) for everyone who made it on a snowy day, but staff don’t and re not expected to do those.

        We do have some social out of office stuff but that’s optional and we normally pay for the base activity, so it doesn’t need to cost anything to attend.

    12. Deus Cee*

      My husband’s office does it – they descend like locusts as soon as anyone announces anything food-related, but there’s less expectation in my workplace – you can if you like, but no one’s going to complain if you don’t. That said, within departments there’s often a little sharing around of treats. My family just got back from a holiday in Japan so both my husband and I brought many flavours of Kit-Kat into our respective workplaces to share (believe it or not the wasabi ones weren’t the last to go!).

    13. Lynca*

      I’ve always brought chocolates/cookies back when I travel internationally and I’m from the US. I’m not expected to do so but I like my co-workers enough to do so. It’s not like I don’t do it for my family too. They have a terrible Tim Tam addiction now because of me.

      1. VioletCrumble*

        Here in SoCal – you can get TimTams in our local supermarket – Albertsons…
        My favorite – Iced Vovos from Oz – I’ve never seen here..

    14. Stephanie*

      I certainly hope it’s okay to do this as I always do and I’ve tried to encourage the rest of our team to do so (obviously no penalty if they don’t but sometimes people go cool places and it’s a nice thing to do!)

  6. Pam.*

    The only time that I can think of that that kind of flex/not flex would be if there was a difference between exempt/non-exempt. However, I have always allowed co-workers who aren’t exempt to use flexibility. Need to leave early and it’s not hurting the business? Fine, and we will have you make it up another day.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      Exactly this. Come in late, stay late. Or if you can’t then make it up the next day. As long as you make a minimum of 40 hours and are there during core hours.

      1. Cordoba*

        Where I work we don’t even care if you make 40 hours as long as your stuff gets done and are available when people need you.

      2. I woke up like this*

        In DC, it’s more like, Come in late, leave on time and make up the work at home. Because leaving even 15 minutes later than planned can result in twice as long a commute! And for hour-plus commutes, that can be brutal.

        I miss a lot about living in DC, but not the traffic!

        1. Emily K*

          My regular schedule on days I commute is to work for about an hour in the morning at home and then drive in after rush hour has died down and after I’ve handled all the time sensitive morning work I needed to do. Since I’m only in the office for about 6-7 hours (depending if I take lunch) it also means my dog doesn’t have to wait too long for me to get home for our walk and I don’t have to hire a midday dog walker. It’s a really nice arrangement and a big factor in them retaining me.

          1. nd*

            I have a similar arrangement and it works very well. It might look to others as if I am not working very much, but much of it is done at home and, honestly, the time saved in commuting is well worth it.

    2. Bagpuss*

      Yes, that’s how we operate. Normally it is on a trust basis but there have been one or two people where we have had to monitor them because they don’t make up the time, which is pain.
      There is one individual who we’ve had to specify that they need to ask explicitly, but that is because they were taking the p**s , (they have legitimate personal reasons for needing flexibility, which we have been happy to accommodate, but they were doing things like showing up 3 hours late but claiming they should only have to make up 30 minutes because the appointment they were attending was 30 minutes, and wanting to make up time in increments of 5 of 10 minutes, which isn’t practical in their role and which creates massive amounts of work for HR)

    3. Triplestep*

      In a perfect world, we’d all be treated like adults and have autonomy over our schedules as long as we are getting the work done.

      But I can’t help feeling that this can’t be discussed in a vacuum, and the the exempt/non-exempt issue would likely come into play. There are legal and financial reasons to have non-exempt employees track their time more carefully than the exempt employees do.

      And while I can’t speak knowledgeably for DC or DC traffic, where I live, it’s not uncommon to find people with specialized skill sets travelling further for work. That’s certainly the case for me – if I want to work in my field and earn what I earn, I am going to be hard pressed to find work within an hour from home. By the same token, employers might give more leeway to employees they had to court (or would have trouble replacing) when it comes to commute.

      On the flip side, there are many reasons why someone might have a short commute, but one of them is that the jobs they are qualified to do are more plentiful. If you have a choice between “Job A” and “Job A1” which require similar qualifications and pay about the same, you’ll pick the one with a better commute. I don’t have choices like that, so an employer who values my skills and is understanding about my commute is worth a lot to me. (My current one is not, which is one of the reasons I’m looking.)

      1. Emily K*

        I would say in most workplaces I’ve worked in, flexibility around hours has been more closely correlated with talent/value than any other perk. If your company wants to retain you, it’s an ideal retention tool because it’s free or practically free to the employer and more valuable than almost anything else but cold hard cash to an employee.

        It stops being free or practically free when you give the perk to low performers, and there’s not much fear of losing them.

        1. Triplestep*

          Agree – this is pretty much what I was trying to say. Only I would not say that it’s “low performers” who should not compare themselves to those who have the perk. Lots of people are good or great performers, but could still be replaced more easily than someone with a special skill set.

          Likewise, if they don’t like their commutes or how their time is tracked, many people without a specialized skill set – or with transferable skills – can find a job with a better commute or a better culture around schedule. I don’t think it does them any good to compare themselves to people who probably WISH they had a better commute don’t have options to work close to home.

          1. StlBlues*

            The counterargument there is that you DO have the option to move closer to work. Might it be more expensive? Otherwise inconvenient? etc? Sure! That might suck. But trying to ‘penalize’ someone who lives close to their work (as we can assume they choose to do) when you have the benefit of choosing where to live (even if it’s farther) seems like a huge double standard. You make different choices – so you have different pros and cons. I don’t see why your different choice should mean the business has to give you more flexibility.

            1. Triplestep*

              “Double Standard” implies that all things are equal, and they aren’t. Some skills are more sought after and harder to replace. Some people have more autonomy by virtue of the fact that they are exempt. We are not all compensated the same and we are not all given the same level of decision-making responsibility. Leeway around time in the office is no different.

              To be clear, I personally don’t see how a company benefits by NOT treating everyone the same with respect to time in the office. But if the company culture dictates it’s not equal, I don’t think the OP or anyone else does themselves any favors by coming to this argument as if everyone is the same.

  7. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, maybe I’m kind of backwards, but I find the idea of giving one person flexibility for their commute while making another take leave to be a really weird/arbitrary policy. If there’s construction on my route, I leave early so I’m on time to work (and I have some leeway because I’m not on a strict hourly schedule). Is the rationale that one set of delays are (possibly) unpredictable, while the other set is scheduled?

    1. Aphrodite*

      I feel even more strongly about this: absolutely and positively outraged. I’d be furious at the blatant unfairness of this. Policy should be the same for everyone. It doesn’t matter if a parent takes time off for childcare or someone is late because that person chooses to live in a desirable neighborhood that just happens to require major traffic to navigate to get to work (and weather in Washington DC), or if I want to take off early for any reason. If the company wants to provide flexibility for weather or traffic concerns then it needs to provide that flexibility for everyone to use as they need.

      This letter really frosts my cookies–and I don’t work at such a company.

      1. TL -*

        Weather I’m okay with, actually, as long as it’s only a couple of days a year and true emergencies – ie, if it snows regularly, you can leave early for blizzards but not for normal snowfall.

        In Boston, the majority of my commute was either underground or on raised tracks, so as long at it was safe to walk, I was okay. People who took aboveground trains, cars, bikes, or buses were much more careful about blizzard days. They’d leave early (which was generally a huge hassle for them) and my manager would make sure I could get home okay and I’d stay (and sometimes wrap up their work if the weather had turned unexpectedly.) But when I lived in Texas and had a long drive, I could also leave early if a really bad downpour was predicted – we’d get one or two a year that made it dangerous to be on the road.

        One time I did have to dump an entire experiment because the trains were shutting down, though, and that was the pits. I lost a week’s worth of work (and another week waiting for the trains to be reliable enough to make it into work regularly enough to restart.)

        1. A username for this site*

          When I lived in Boston, I typically had a 45 minute commute but I lived on the Green Line, so I would leave an hour before I needed to be at work.

          So 95% of the time, I got to work 20 minutes early. And 3% of the time, I was exactly on time, and 2% of the time I was 20 minutes late, because a train broke down in the tunnel, or someone accidentally turned off power to the entire T system (this happened!), or my train got held for a medical emergency, or there was a truck stuck on the tracks currently, or my train became disabled, or there’d been some delay earlier and 4 trains ran express past my stop and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it but stand there tapping my foot in frustration because it’s still faster to take the slow delayed train than it is to walk 5 miles.

          1. roisin54*

            I’ve lived on the green line for the past 14 years so I know what you mean. I currently leave for work about 70-80 minutes before my start time and I’ll get to work anywhere from 40 minutes early to barely on time depending on the whims of the T.

            The most bizarre experience though was during the Horrible Winter of 2015, when for about two weeks every line BUT the green line had epic delays every morning. I was routinely the first one in for my department and on some days I was the only one there at the beginning of my shift. It was weird.

            1. Damn it, Hardison!*

              Oh, I still have nightmares about that winter. The first day I was able to talk the T in to work (Red Line, south of the city) it took me 2 1/2 hours in the am and 3 hours in the pm, which included walking a mile each way because the buses weren’t running and our streets were no longer being plowed. My manager told me to work at home until things were back to normal, which was almost a month.

          2. Another HR Person*

            I was wondering when the Bostonians would comment!

            I’ll never forget during Snowmageddon, when my roommate and I waited an hour for a shuttle bus to come, and then it didn’t even stop because it was too full.

            I get how it’s unfair to give leeway to people with tough commutes, but it’s tough when your main mode of transportation is completely unreliable and unpredictable! A couple weeks ago I was on track to be early to work, but ended up being 30 minutes late because I was stuck at Park waiting for a train. But that’s easily remedied by just making up the time elsewhere. Unless your job is shift-based; then it just sucks all around.

      2. Mad Baggins*

        If I was OP, every time I had to swing by the post office in the morning, there would mysteriously be a tooooon of traffic.

      3. PB*

        I completely agree. I think it’s reasonable to offer a little flexibility. It doesn’t make sense to make someone stay late/use PTO if they’re five minutes late once. But the OP’s example of someone coming in at 10:30? That’s ridiculous to me. In my last job, I ended up coming in super late once because my boss broke down, and they had to send a new one to pick us up. Everyone was supportive and understanding, but I did stay late to make up the time. I wouldn’t have expected or wanted them to just hand-wave it.

        1. Pippa*

          My boss has never actually broken down, but he’s really unreliable and I wish they’d send a new one :-)

        2. bonkerballs*

          That happened to me once, too, but I wasn’t expected to make it up. It was once, it was an emergency situation.

          And honestly, I think that’s where I fall on this issue. It makes sense to me to be flexible on lateness when it’s something unforeseen (like a broken down bus or traffic caused by a big accident or something) vs. a doctor’s appointment I scheduled ahead of time. Though, it makes a difference if the person is late basically every day because at that point it’s not unforeseen anymore, it’s someone not realizing how long their commute actually takes.

      4. There All Is Aching*

        As an aside, does anyone know why “frost my cookies” means the person’s upset? Wondering because a frosted cookie sounds so nice/sugary/special, vs. say a phrase like “gets my goat” or “panties in a bunch.”

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            And I’m now deleting responses to this that came in after my note here. Regular commenters in particular: Please be more aware of this rule — y’all are the ones who tend to break it!

            1. Courageous cat*

              I think a lot of people see this rule and brush right past it, with a default thought of “oh I’ve seen this rule and it doesn’t apply to me, it applies to someone else”. I’m sure I’ve done it before myself. So if it gets to the point where it’s truly excessive (kinda seems like it might be?) it might be worth re-hashing out this rule in a top comment or something to get people to actually think about it before they write something out.

              Basically I’m getting tired of the long unrelated threads too.

    2. T3k*

      Yep. One of my previous jobs was, at minimum, a 45 min. commute and the only way to get there was by using 2 major highways which saw some form of delay about 50% of the time, typically causing 15 extra mins. I learned to just leave earlier so at the very least I’d arrive on time (or arrive early). My boss even brought it up one time how I tended to show up early despite my long commute to a coworker who lived not even 5 mins. away but was consistently late.

      1. Tribbles for Days*

        I fully confess to being That Coworker who lives 10 minutes away and yet shows up 5 minutes late.

        On-topic, DC commuting is terrible, but if they can be flexible for some people, they should be flexible for everyone. If people can show up two hours late because the Metro caught on fire again, you should be able to show up two hours late due to a dentist.

        1. Emily K*

          Which brings up another issue adjacent to this: Employees should be granted enough paid sick leave to cover at least 2 dentist appointments, 1 annual well checkup, 3 additional appointments (eye doctor, testing, follow-ups, etc), and at least a week of illness on top of that – but ideally two because so many employees are also caregivers and they don’t always get sick at the same time as those they care for. That would add up to an 8 day hard minimum (assuming you could take half days for most of your pre-planned appointments) and a 13-15 day best practice.

          We are supposed to go to the dentist twice a year and get annual checkups, and it’s common to also see an eye doctor or get a root canal or go somewhere for follow-up testing a couple times a year, and one bad illness can knock out almost a week of sick leave easily.

          Employees should be able to get minimal preventive care and be able to get sick occasionally without worrying they’re going to run out of leave.

          I accrue 13 days a year and never use anywhere close to that much. I would never even stop to think about the different I treatment of people coming in late due to traffic vs an appointment because in my mind sick leave is an effectively limitless resource. I’m not worried that taking a half day for the dentist is going to cause me to run out. Logging my sick time to claim the PTO but not logging late arrivals to claim PTO is something I view as just a finance thing the company needs me to do, not as giving up a scarce resource that I want to be able to hang onto if I can.

          1. Beehoppy*

            One of the best things about my last job was that for any time out of the office less than 4 hours you weren’t charged PTO. Obviously you couldn’t abuse it, but it was great for medical appointments, needing to be home to meet a repairman, etc…

            1. Blue*

              That was the rule at my last two jobs, which is great! And at my last office, we had the kind of commuting flexibility OP describes. If my bus was late, I didn’t even bother to alert my boss unless I was going to get in more than 20 minutes later than usual (and that was my own rule – he didn’t care unless I was going to miss a meeting, and that never happened).

              However – and I think this is key – it also applied across the board: doctor’s appointments, picking kids up from school, etc. It doesn’t make sense at all to pick and choose which excuses are valid – either people need to be there on time or they don’t.

          2. MsChandandlerBong*

            That would be amazing. I get 10 days of PTO per year, with sick, personal, and vacation all lumped in together. That’s it. No paid holidays, no separate sick time. I’ve already used all 10 days for this year because I had dental work done in May and then ended up in the hospital last week. Now every time I have a doctor’s or dentist’s appointment, I’m going to lose money because I have to come in late or leave early.

        2. Penguin2*

          Interesting…I commute in DC daily and have for years. I think I’ve been late maybe 3x in the past 10 years. Proactive planning and leaving for work early when there are issues seems to solve the problem.

      2. Clare*

        Exactly, every city has terrible traffic and crowded trains during rush hour. It’s okay to be late on rare occasions when something truly out of the ordinary happens, but commonplace delays need to be accounted for by leaving earlier to give oneself buffer time.

        1. I woke up like this*

          Oh DC wishes it’s only metro problem was crowded trains. But our trains tend to catch on fire, which is harder to plan for!

          1. Frozen Ginger*

            See, but when the trains catch on fire, people get concerned.
            I was in Boston and one of the trains caught fire and everyone just seemed really blasé about it??

            1. Quackeen*

              I’m from Boston and we’re so used to really stupid train delays that nothing phases us anymore. Sadly, even a person jumping in front of a train gets a shrug and a “Why did they have to pick rush hour to do it?!” from a lot of jaded commuters. (Not saying I feel that way, but I do hear such comments).

            2. roisin54*

              Yeah, track and train fires are old news these days. There was even a period time when we were getting so many (minor) derailments on one line that I was basically like “Again? Oh well.” When no one gets hurt or dies pretty much any kind of delay is boring to me.

        2. I woke up like this*

          And DC has particular traffic problems that other cities don’t (at least as often): motorcades and unpermitted protests shut down streets frequently but also totally unpredictably.

          1. Kat in VA*

            See also: Paying extra for the EZ Pass, only to discover that not only is the toll higher than usual, but the accident causing that higher toll is *in* the EZ Pass lanes…so you’ve paid extra to sit in traffic.

            Corollary: Sitting in the EZ Pass lanes watching traffic merrily whizz by you on 95 because of aforementioned accident in the toll lanes.

            Harrumph. Back roads 4-EVA.

          2. hermit crab*

            Today I have to leave work early so I got up early to take an earlier bus. But of course everyone and their brother is taking the bus this week because the orange/blue/silver lines are essentially shut down, and the earlier bus was so full it just drove by without taking on any more passengers. Hooray! Guess I’m getting in at 9:15 after all.

            1. Kat in VA*

              Oof thanks for reminding me. I have a job interview on Friday and the company is located in the Crystal City Metro stop building. I’ll have to build that in for the commute!

          3. Guacamole Bob*

            DC also has more major track work during rush hour on the Metro than most other cities.

            I haven’t seen anyone else from DC chime in on this, but right now we’re in the middle of two weeks of a combination of huge track work projects that means that Metro itself is advertising that commuters should only take Metro if they have no other option. I think it falls in a gray area between “your regular commute is just like this and you need to adjust” and “there was a one-off delay you had no way of foreseeing”. For the first couple of days no one had any idea how much extra time to leave for their commute. And switching to driving for someone who regularly takes Metro means some pretty massive parking costs and also a lot of uncertainty about how much time it will take. It’s a massive headache for people with child care drop off or pickup, second jobs, and other time-sensitive responsibilities, so I think it’s good for companies to be flexible where they can. That flexibility should apply to everyone, though, for a variety of issues.

            I’ve been getting to work a few minutes late most days for a couple of weeks (I’m in an area where I’m more moderately affected by a longer track work project) and making up the time at lunch. But my company is also pretty flexible about hours in general.

            1. always in email jail*

              I’m from the DC area and it’s not a city that is built to accommodate the traffic it deals with every day, so there are huge regional pushes toward encouraging people to use public transportation. However the VRE/MARC trains sometimes get delayed, and there’s the infamous metro issues, and you really can’t predict or account for that.
              There are commuting routes from Virginia where entire stretches of the Interstate are 100% toll lanes, where the toll can be as high as $25 each way. Most people can’t afford to pay $50/day in tolls to ensure they’re not late.
              I think flexibility around commuting issues is justified, BUT if the business can accommodate flexibility for that reason, it should consider being flexible as a general policy.

            2. Nonny*

              Predicting the transit delay in Toronto also seems impossible. Most of the time if I leave 10 minutes early I will be early or on time for work. However, once every 3 months or so there’s an unplanned transit issue that isn’t communicated and causes a big 40-minute delay–the kind of thing you only realize after you’ve been waiting for over 15 minutes and there are now 100+ people waiting at the stop. It happens often enough that it’s not really THAT exceptional–but I just can’t make myself leave 40 minutes early every day to avoid the possibility. And I *have* been fired over it! I honestly have no idea how anyone is on time every single day in this city.

            3. KatieZee*

              Speaking as a DCer who commutes on Metro… I’m very glad my workplace is being flexible about my schedule during this period. My commute is normally about 45 minutes… this morning it took almost two hours. Last week I made it in an hour one day, though, in the same construction circumstances. It’s hard to predict when you have to make two transfers, and each of those could take either 0 seconds or 20 minutes. And that supposedly all this work was supposed to have gotten done last summer. *eyeroll*
              That said, I make up the hours by either staying late or working from home in the evening. It would absolutely not be fair or acceptable for me to just blow off those hours of work.

            4. Genny*

              The commute also sucks for those of us who take multiple forms of public transit. To get into work I have to take two buses or a bus and the metro (in addition to walking and driving part way). The delays between the buses can be unpredictable as is traffic across the bridge into the city. Normally, I’d just take bus/metro in the morning to avoid all that, but right now it’s 20 minutes between trains, so you’re screwed if you miss the train.

            5. peachie*

              I recently moved away from the DC area and I sympathize with both the LW and the late commuters. I took the bus rather than the Metro (and was therefore not directly impacted by track work) but, even though I lived only maybe 3 miles from my workplace downtown, my commute could be anywhere between 20 minutes and an hour, sometimes more. It was VERY hard to plan for. At least twice a week, my bus just didn’t show up as listed (as in, on the app/tracker, not as on a printed schedule, because haha that was never going to happen), and probably once a week otherwise, a bus would exist but wouldn’t stop because it was full–sometimes because of other commuters affected by track work.

              All that said, I was lucky to work in a place where showing up early meant leaving early, so as long as I was in by a certain time, I was fine. I do think that kind of flexibility should be extended if at all possible. It’s definitely doable to plan to get there by x time given the worst possible circumstances and in actuality get there 30-40 minutes earlier most days.

              1. Michaela Westen*

                You all are making me so glad I live in Chicago! I’ll never complain about delays here again.
                The CTA has an email/text list where you can get delay notices for the trains. They send updates for weekend and weekday changes for planned maintenance, etc.
                Maybe the DC system has something like that?

      3. media monkey*

        i have found over the years that people with the shortest distance to travel are generally the last to arrive/ often late!

        1. Early Person*

          Totally this!! I have one regular commitment once a week. I live the furthest away, and I am often the first one there. But even if I didn’t live the furthest away, I know I would still be the first one there as I was when I once house sat for a friend who lived just about the closest. I worked at one company for 28 years, and only once in all that time did I get paid for not showing up due to weather, only because probably half the staff or more couldn’t make it in (very large company, occupied 28 floors of a building.)

        2. Pharmgirl*

          I’m glad it’s not just me! I moved states for a new job, and went from a 25min commute to a 10 min commute. It’s almost as if the closer you live, the more likely you think “Well, it’ll only take 5/10/15 min, I don’t need to leave right now.” And now I’m realizing that I’ve gone from being 5 min early at my old job to 5-10 min late to my new job. Although to be fair, I had to open up at my new job so I couldn’t afford to be late, whereas it’s not the case here and everyone’s got some leeway.

        3. RegBarclay*

          Oops, that’s me! I think it’s that the people who live further away are more careful. In my defense, though, we’re not allowed OT and the way my job works, it’s much more likely to be busy after my end time than before/at my start time. So coming in a bit late and staying a bit late has never been a problem, but I ask for formal permission to leave even five minutes early.

        4. Kelly*

          It’s like that in my office. The ones who are always late are the ones that either live the closest or have kids.
          One person lived less than 2 miles away, about 10 minutes by car, but was almost always at least a half hour late on her better days. Another person lives fairly close and it’s a struggle for him just to be on time. It’s been more noticeable this year because of construction work, but it was scheduled major construction that had been delayed several years already. There’s also another area of active road work but that’s short term and easy to plan around by leaving earlier.

          Meanwhile, I rely on public transit and live the furthest away but have only been late once in the past year by more than 5 minutes. That was because the bus broke down and we had to wait for a replacement bus.

        5. SheLooksFamiliar*

          Funny you said that. I’m 38 miles from my office as the crow flies. I live in the Chicago area and can’t take Metra to work, which means heavy traffic and road construction are a given. But I’m usually one of the first people in the office – I leave my house at 6 am to avoid most of the morning rush hour, usually in the parking garage at 7 am. My direct team and many colleagues live closer to the office and typically arrive between 8:45 and 9:30 am.

          The evening commute is another story…

        6. NutellaNutterson*

          I had a super short commute, but with lots of stop lights. The time my trip took would double if I happened to have the lousy luck of catching all those lights!

          Supposedly optimists are often perpetually late. I remember reading that it’s really a tricky mental block to account for the slowest times, rather only remembering the one magically speedy day.

        7. Gatomon*

          That’s me!! I am chronologically challenged… I am ALWAYS either late or very, very early (but only because I panicked about being late). So I live super close. In effect, I am running late every day. But sometimes, due to being so close to work, I can make up that 1 or 2 minutes if I’m lucky. Usually I’m late anyway, but with the short commute it’s less likely to be compounded by normal traffic problems.

          If anyone knows of a cure, PLEASE point me in its direction. I would love to be a punctual person.

        8. Humble bragging*

          I live literally five minutes drive from work (20 minute walk). I’m always the first or second person in the office. Because I do bother to add in time for the unexpected, always.

      4. you don't know me*

        I once worked with a lady who was 15 minutes every day. And everyday she’d come in all flustered and complaining about how bad traffic was. Finally one day I’d had enough and said “maybe you should leave 15 minute earlier then!” It worked for one day. She left her house earlier and arrived at work on time. But then she went right back to the previous behavior. One of those things that i shouldn’t have let bother me but it did. :(

    3. Batty Twerp*

      I get the impression that e.g. subway delays are, not exactly scheduled, but happen with enough frequency that they should be accounted for – if there’s no delay on your day and you arrive at work early, go get a coffee.
      Truely unexpected delays (road collapsed because the underlying sewer collapsed and no work was actively taking place at the time – genuinely happened to me, and there are literally only two roads between my home and my office, more than 50% of the workforce that day were delayed) should certainly be given more leeway because they are so rare no reasonable expectation could be made to account for it in planning the commute.
      Actually, I think that’s the key point – if it could be reasonably expected (by historical norms or whatever) that your commute will make you late, you should be made to make up the time, or plan your journey better.

      1. ceiswyn*

        How does one get a coffee when the office isn’t open and there are no shops anywhere near the business park?

        I have frequently worked in places where my commute was about an hour, but every couple of weeks something would happen that meant it took over two hours. If I had accounted for that delay in every commute, I would have been sitting in my parked car outside the office for an hour 9 days out of 10.

        Is that a reasonable expectation?

        1. Nancy*

          I know where you are coming from, my commute consists of a 45 mile highway drive and two types of rail systems. I could literally leave for work at 5:00 am and have something happen (huge accident, construction, train delays) that will make me late.

          I do stay to make it up however. On truly horrific days I have been halfway to work, encountered a highway incident, called in, got permission to turn around and work from home, and been home and logged on practically at 9:00 am. (Full-time telecommuting is not an option)

          And before anyone brings it up, yes it is very well paying and no, there is nothing closer (it is a very niche job).

          1. Genny*

            I’m with you. If the company isn’t paying me to sit in my car and twiddle my thumbs, than I’m not going to do that just so that I can avoid any possible delays that might pop up that day. You’re asking me to dedicate time to work that you’re not willing to pay me for.

            If you’re an employer in a major metropolitan area, you have to accept that people’s commutes will be affected by traffic, public transit delays, construction, accidents, etc. You also have to realize that the vast majority of your workforce is going to have lengthy commutes because they can’t afford to live closer to the office. As long as the work is getting done, you should be as flexible as possible or you’re going to have a high turnover rate and low morale.

        2. WS*

          If everyone else has to be on time every day, then yes, it’s a reasonable expectation: you chose to take a job an hour away on a difficult route. But a much better option is for workplaces to be flexible with everyone’s commitments whenever possible, so that delays aren’t divided into “acceptable” and “unacceptable”.

          1. ceiswyn*

            I chose to take a job, yes. I didn’t ‘choose’ to take a job an hour away; I chose one of the very few jobs available in my speciality.

            I also chose to live centrally between the locations in which those jobs were generally based, directly on the main north-south and east-west arteries (not at all a ‘difficult route’), and within walking distance of a train station. I find it hard to see what else I could have done to improve my commuting options. Rush hour in the SE of England is just Like That.

            1. Nancy*

              This is word for word my situation, except, until you got to the SE of England! And moving is not really an option when you change jobs (this position tends to last only a few years at a company until it is no longer needed) on a regular basis with a house, kids in schools, two dogs, etc.

          2. always in email jail*

            In my experience, organizations in the DC area who are not understanding of commutes and the issues associated with them quickly lose valuable employees and have high turnover rates.

        3. LJay*

          If it happens every couple of weeks, yes. If I had an employee who was an hour late every couple of weeks, there would be a problem.

          I would expect them to deal with it on the days they got there early. Sit in your car and listen to a podcast. Knit. Write letters. Sit on social media. Make fancy coffee in the breakroom. Whatever. Not my problem. You chose to live where you chose to live, and you chose to take the job knowing what your commute and your hours would be like.

          If it was less than once a month it goes into the “shit happens” category and I wouldn’t worry about it. Or if it were 5/10 minutes here and there. But an hour or more late once every two weeks? No way.

          This is all dependent on what type of work you do and how your team is structured, too, though.

          In the positions I manage, if one person isn’t there for an hour, my other employees are stuck picking up the slack. And staying for an hour at the end of the day doesn’t help, because the things that need to be done happen during business hours. If someone sits there from 5pm-6pm to make up time it doesn’t help me or their coworkers out the way them being there from 9am-10am would.

          If you work independently and the projects you worked on were less time sensitive or ahead of deadlines then it wouldn’t matter to me nearly as much. But then that would apply whether the reason was commute or whether it was just that you liked to sleep in for an extra hour every once in awhile.

        4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I think it’s a reasonable expectation, even if it leaves you in a less than ideal situation. When I had an unpredictable commute with a similar work environment, I brought a book and read. Or materials to edit/review. Now that there are smartphones, there’s a pretty wide array of busy work I can do on my phone.

          But the downside of having to commute long distances is that you may lose time during your commute, either by having to wait when you arrive early or to wait in traffic/transit during delays.

          1. ceiswyn*

            I disagree that it is reasonable to expect someone to sit in their car for an hour, including in freezing temperatures in January, on nine days out of ten.

            When multiple staff are likely to have this sort of commute, then clearly the issue is more structural than individual choice, and a decent workplace would work with staff to find solutions that don’t involve expecting a significant proportion of their employees spending hours sitting in their cars. I would also, however, expect those solutions to apply overall, not just to people with bad commutes.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Did you want people to tell you if they agreed/disagreed, or did you want a foil so that you could reiterate your position?

              1. ceiswyn*

                I thought I was asking a rhetorical question, and am genuinely astonished to discover that there are people out there who think that sitting in a car for an hour in freezing temperatures 90% of mornings is a reasonable expectation.

                1. Videogame Lurker*

                  Wild Mass Scenario Speculation: Let’s take those frozen January mornings, and throw the job field as… Education (okay, it is what I work in).

                  Way up in the comments section, I outed myself as being in a region where frozen weather is Not A Big Issue, so I am basing my information on Friends and Family reports of weather.

                  You are expected to clock in by a certain time. If schools are late or delayed, in my state we have regulations as to when those reports are in and parents/staff are called about the delay (usually between 5-6:30 AM) at latest.

                  Knowing what the weather is and that it is not on a Delay or Cancelled day, one should know the history of where they work. And generally, knowing something about the area around work helps too. Is there a grocery store you can wander through and find something to add to your lunch while you wait and find that it is Way Too Early? Do you have the keys to let yourself into the building amd turn off alarms (and then call your building Secretary/Security/Principal/WhatHaveYou to say you let yourself in instead of freezing in the parking lot. If yes, is there some minor thing you can do to wait (Facebook, tweaking lesson plans, sharpening pencils, scrubbing off some of that stubborn glue that the Janitor missed, shelving classroom books left in disarray, checking to see if all your tech stuff for your/your teacher’s lessons will work, checking phone messages from parents, dishes in the break room, the break room refridgerator, brainstorming ideas for future lessons or looking into supplies to see if those ideas are implementable, printing off and copying forms needed, sifting through crayons and finding nonfunctional ones for other use, identifying dead markers, stuff you might otherwise assign your aide to do…)

                  If no key, drive around the area and look at the frozen landscape. Who said you have to stay in the parking lot? Go for a walk (safely!), coffee shop for hot cocoa/coffee and stay inside the shop sipping at your drink and browsing your phone.

                  I am reasonably sure there are open coffee shops at seven in the morning (assuming work starts at seven-thirty or eight), and if waiy time is longer than an hour, I am sure people can and will find something to do for an hour plus that isn’t just “sitting in a car”. Listen to that album you were meaning to listent to, read (or listen to) a book, if you can go inside, sit in your deskplace, set your alarm, and take a nap if you can.

                  A car that was running is certainly warmer than outside anyway.

                2. Videogame Lurker*

                  *Addon to my post, I don’t drive and do live in a Large Town with a nice bus schedule, and due to busses, I have shown up to work over a half hour early and was allowed in by the custodian, so some of the stuff I suggested, I did because it was extra or busywork that wasn’t part of my day’s job, but did to be kind to those around me and to keep busy. Before I was let in? Had my work ID on, and walked the playgrounds to look for anything that would need to be Disposed Of By Janitor, lost/left behind toys, unlocked Playground Shed, or even tally up Abandoned Coats and looking for Dog/Animal Gifts of Stink.

                  At seven in the morning. In upper 30 to 40 degree weather (Farenheit).

                  Did I mention we do get th

                3. Videogame Lurker*

                  *the occasional wild animal? Deer are fun to spot, keep an eye on, and then when can get inside, report they are in the playground or area.

        5. kc89*

          yes

          it’s unreasonable to be over an hour late every couple of weeks unless you work somewhere with flexible hours

          1. ceiswyn*

            And that is one reason why I never worked for places that didn’t have flexible hours. Their loss :)

      2. Tribbles for Days*

        Your comment about the sewer collapse and the only two roads made me think of a time around here when a ferry got stuck. Here, you can take the Beltway to cross the river, or…. you can take White’s Ferry, twenty miles upstream. There’s no other crossing points. The ferry is on cables, and one time one of them snapped. People had to tell their bosses to check the news because it’s such an unbelievable reason, but there’s literally no other way to go.

        1. you don't know me*

          I had to tell my boss to check the news one time. She didn’t believe me when I called to say I couldn’t come in because the bottom of my road was closed due to flooding. Meanwhile the news vans were on the hill on the other side of the road filming it and telling everyone to stay away. I was like, no really, there’s one way out of here and it’s currently under 4 feet of water. I’m not coming in!

    4. Dram*

      I was surprised by how the company comes down — I’ve worked places that went the opposite way and were ruthless (near-zero flexibility about arrival time, regardless of nightmare commutes like those described in the letter). The approach also almost invites commuters to take a later bus, stop for coffee.

      (Who would know? Well, if you’re routinely coming in 1.5 hours late even in DC traffic, there are probably at least a few coworkers who suspect it’s happening. I mean, with that kind of travel time, you could have flown from DC and landed in Boston or Detroit or Nashville or Atlanta for work.)

    5. media monkey*

      i have a long commute and i think the difference is/ should be between a scheduled long commute and unscheduled delays. i choose to live a distance away and normally get into work early to give myself a 15-20 minute buffer in case of delays. but if i get totally stuck because of a major train issue, i would be very resentful to be expected to make up that time. in London, a major issue is unlikely to only affect one person though so we normally know about those.

      however we also don’t make people make up time for medical appointments or have the sort of allocated sick leave you see in the US. most of us will work through lunch or late when required, or come in early for meetings if needed so we would expect that kind of flexibility in return.

    6. OP#1*

      OP#1 here — I’m enjoying reading the comments! Yes, I *think* the idea is, well, the commuting delay was unpredictable and unscheduled, so we’re not going to ding you. Whereas the other lateness is scheduled, so use your PTO accordingly. The problem with that is (shoutout to DC and Bay Area commenters!) if you live in a place where commutes are bad enough, you’re going to wind up with this disparity as a regular occurrence. If we lived in a place where most people had short, predictable commutes and people were seldom late (due to a flat tire or something?) it wouldn’t be noticeable or regular enough to become an issue.

      1. minuteye*

        I think you’re right that it’s the frequency that really brings the issue to a head. I’ve lived in cities with much easier travel times than DC, where the unstated rule was “If there’s a big enough outage in transit that it makes the paper, we won’t dock anyone who’s late that day”… but that’s less than half-a-dozen times a year, and it’s the same day for everyone.

      2. Washi*

        Are people allowed to leave early if they arrive early? If people can make up time by staying late, but can’t leave early if they arrive early, there’s basically no incentive for them to make consistent adjustments to the schedule to allow for potential delays.

        (I’m also in the DMV and used to commute from the inner suburbs to downtown on public transit until very recently. People are talking a lot about fires and stuff on the metro, and but in my experience, there was an issue significant enough to significantly delay me only about 1-2 times per month, which is pretty far from “always late” territory. If your coworkers are very late multiple times per week, they probably just aren’t leaving enough time)

        1. ChachkisGalore*

          So much this! I’m not in DC, but in NYC and we’re having our own public transportation meltdown. If I leave my house at a reasonable time to get to work, I’m probably going to be late a third of the time. Is that enough to make it necessary to leave early the rest of the time? Depends on the job (thankfully in my current role there is no business need for butts in seats, so it doesn’t) – but I’m definitely going to be pissed if my day is longer than necessary (and I’m not getting compensated for it) two thirds of my working life.

      3. Ali G*

        Fellow DC’er here so I get what you are saying. I still think the problem is the people with the commuting issues are not expected to make that time up, or use PTO. And really the commutes around here are so bad that you should be building time in on a regular basis. Like your co-worker with the construction? That’s not a good excuse. The first day, maybe. But after that, you know that lane on the GW Parkway or whatever is going to be closed so you build in extra time, you don’t come late everyday for a month.
        Metro – yes sometimes you get to the platform at your usual time, but 3 trains go by before you can get on one. Again, build that time in. Orange line shuts down because a car caught on fire? OK, well everyone will know that’s the problem and the reason why you are late.
        But if you are late, and don’t have to use PTO, you should be staying late to make up the hours. Or if you still have to leave on time to get your kids, walk your dog, whatever, then you should have to use PTO time, just like you did to come in late for an appointment.
        Just my 2 cents as someone who has commuted across the river for 10+ years!

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Agreed. The approach is totally odd, and to be honest, some commute delays can be anticipated (i.e., “I don’t know what will happen on BART today, but there’s been an increase in track suicides, so I should take an earlier train.”). But I think the way to equalize the flexibility is to have folks make up hours and to be flexible with everyone.

          1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

            The casual way you said that makes me really sad… Suicides as a commute delay often enough for people to get jaded about them? (no offense meant to you!)

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              I didn’t mean to be cavalier/casual about it, but there’s been a significant uptick in track suicides over the past 3 years. It’s gone from a fairly rare to a fairly regular experience on many lines. :(

            2. Mad Baggins*

              Japan :( I’ve heard jaded commuters say some really callous things, and it’s not always suicide (sometimes it’s an accident)

      4. Liza*

        Hi OP1! I hope you don’t mind my asking, but what exactly is happening in practical terms with regards to these “dings” and “leeway”? When I first read your question I was imagining a like-for-like scenario where commune distance was being factored in with regards to disciplines in cases of lateness. For instance, if somebody lives a mile away and walks to work, they might be more vulnerable to warnings/firings for lateness (on account of any lateness being pretty much on them), but a person with a long drive or multiple public transport connections would be let off due to unforeseeable disruptions. A doctors appointment would be different in terms of being anticipated and pre approved but do they not handle it in the same way? You mentioned used paid time off to make up the extra time, but is there not an option of forfeiting the pay for those missed hours or making up the time later? Or is this the leeway you mentioned that is only being offered to the late commuters? If latecomers aren’t being disciplined, how are their missing hours being handled? You mentioned your late colleague not recording any leave on her time sheet, but does that mean she logged her arrival time as if she had arrived earlier. Isn’t that illegal? I’m a little confused as to what’s going on.

        1. OP#1*

          Clarifying (based on others’ comments) — I consider my office leave policies pretty generous, and nobody’s monitoring them closely. We’re all salaried and exempt. I think what has happened is that, over time, people have just gotten used to the idea that if you’re late to work because of a commute fail, you don’t have to record it as PTO. And that IS nice, no complaints there. However. Is it “different” if you’re missing the same (or less) time from work for a scheduled something? In our office, yes. Our office treats it differently. If you’re late or leave early for a doctor’s appointment, that’s sick leave. If you’re late because you had to swing by your CPA’s office, that’s annual leave. No, you’re not given the option to just make it up elsewhere. Maybe a lot of this could be gotten around with a general policy of: if it’s less than half a day, you just make up the time somewhere else.

      5. Smithy*

        I just moved to NYC from DC last year – and my two cents is that in DC that safe tracking ended up building up a rather epic dynamic of travel woes. It created a context where “I’m an hour and a half late due to Metro” became more and more regular and then spread to issues of road traffic and light rail delays.

        As someone who lived in the district and had a far more reliable commute to work – I am entirely sympathetic with the OP. However I do think that DC has a particular blind spot to traffic flexibility vs other flex needs. Not saying that the OP shouldn’t push back on this, but I do think that some DC work places where there might be other dysfunctional dynamics may be inclined to see traffic with long commutes as different. Not that it should be, but rather just in the same way that other places prioritize parental needs over other work-life balance needs.

      6. Turtle Candle*

        Yeah, at some point if an “unpredictable” delay is frequent enough, it becomes… well… kind of predictable? To use your flat-tire issue, it’s like the difference between “I was late because flat tire” and “I am late on the regular because my car is a lemon and frequently decides not to start.” The latter fact sucks and isn’t your fault, exactly, but if your car is always like that, then that’s not a random factor anymore, it’s predictable. Same with commutes, IMO.

      7. FannyPackOptional*

        DCer here. I live about two miles from my (K Street) office. I pay a lot of money to live in a shoebox. Most of my coworkers pay the same or less to live in much nicer, larger spaces. I get that sometimes people don’t have much control over where they live, but when you take a job, you know (or you should research) what the commute will be like, so if you choose a job where the commute will take more planning, the downside is you may sometimes arrive early or very late, and you should be prepared to take time off if your office doesn’t permit flex time (e.g., permissible, shifting arrival and departure times as long as you’re in for core hours and work 7-8 hours total). I actually think informal “flex time” (as OP#1 describes it) should be granted formally or informally based on job role, performance, and tenure (in that order), NOT based on the reason for arriving late or leaving early (e.g., commute, childcare needs). For mid to high level people who are good performers (and have worked in that company for awhile), and whose jobs do not require time sensitive client responsiveness (e.g., receptionists), good managers should not police hours and disregard 20 minutes late here and there if someone is answering emails after hours or doing other things above and beyond their requirements. There is lots of research on this – the best managers do not unilaterally require “butts in seats” for 8 hours every day and 40 hours every week – doing so is a great way to kill morale.

    7. EPLawyer*

      that caught me too – construction in the area. That’s a known quantity. Plan accordingly. You know construction is going to delay your trip, leave earlier.

      Now Metro is a whole other story. You don’t know if your line is going to catch fire (literally), break down or actually get you to where you want to go in a reasonable time — at any given time of the day. The line could be running fine when you leave your house and then catch fire just as you get to the station. You could be ON the train and the one ahead of you breaks down and you are stuck sitting on your train with no evacuation and no announcements for over an hour. Yesterday, the computers broken down and they lost the location data on every single train on one line. Had to halt the entire line. So if someone is metroing in, you just be grateful they got there alive whenever they show up.

      Flexibility for all is key though. Otherwise you get resentment and low morale.

      1. Snark*

        “You know construction is going to delay your trip, leave earlier.”

        Oh, I so very do not agree. Just this very morning, I got delayed 5 minutes because the state police had set up a weigh station on the road I drive in on. One doesn’t actually always know when the pothole crew is out, when a lane randomly gets shut down to replace a guardrail, or when there’s some other closure or construction happening. Living in a high-altitude area with harsh weather, the surprises are endless. Of course you can plan around a known major project, but otherwise, I think people should get leeway.

            1. Detective Amy Santiago*

              I mean, I live in Pennsylvania, so I have no idea what this “pothole crew” is that you speak of, but since our state animal is the Orange Construction Barrel, I am well versed in the concept of unending roadwork. The best is when they close a road and then also close the road that is the best alternate route.

              But, unless those are unplanned closures, the massive inconvenience isn’t an excuse for being late for work.

              1. DCompliance*

                Saw a biker almost go down after misjudging the size of a pothole today. The Orange Construction Barrel must have left his nest.

              2. So long and thanks for all the fish*

                Seriously, what is up with Pennsylvania? I travel semi-frequently between western VA and NY, and going through PA is always the worst part of the trip for what seems like no reason at all.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            Near me, we have weeks of signs warning e.g. “UPCOMING CONSTRUCTION 7 AM TO 4 PM SEP 8-15” for weeks beforehand.

        1. Dankar*

          Or you end up with a sign that says “Construction from 8/9 to 8/16” that you plan for. Arrive early all 5 days, no construction during that time. On 8/17, the crews are there, along with a new sign. “Construction Ahead, Expect Delays.” No end date. Yeesh.

    8. Snark*

      I agree, insofar as it’s really the best policy to give everybody a little leeway, because construction, forgotten badges, blocked driveways, and other random delays happen to the best of us, whether we’re good about planning or not. I think one should have 15 minutes of leeway on either end of the day just because we’re all human beings with lives.

    9. Arjay*

      I think I’m the odd one out on this, but I do see a difference between “I’ve been actively engaged in commuting to work for 90 minutes longer than usual” and “I’m actively engaged in personal things that will make me 90 minutes late for work.” I assume that the folks with the bad commutes still have to take sick leave or PTO for their medical appointments, kids’ plays, and whatnot.

    10. Trisha*

      For me, if the delay is truly unpredictable (i.e. something that happened that day), it’s one thing to not ask for leave but for ongoing issues, no. I had a couple of people who take public transit and the subway shut down (they were quite literally stuck), there was no way for them to anticipate that delay; same as I had a few staff that were stuck behind a really bad accident on the highway, they were all late and arrived within a few minutes of each other – not really something they could plan for. On the flip side, we had a chunk of our main road under construction for a while which required people to park in different places – after 2 days, my patience ran out and there was no more flexibility on being on time (we’re attached to a call centre and a processing centre so times aren’t really flexible). If you know that there’s something that’s going to impede your ability to get to work, plan for it and adjust your schedule.

  8. AcademiaNut*

    In #1, it sounds like the people with long commutes are essentially getting more PTO than those who live closer (ie, the talk about time sheets). If that’s true, and the commuters aren’t expected to make up the missed time later, then it’s actually much more unfair than simply allowing flex time for some people and not for others.

    For #4 – this is standard in East Asia, but more for work travel than vacation. You also need to bring a similar gift to the colleagues you are visiting.

  9. Jen RO*

    #4 – It’s very common here (Romania) to bring back something (usually candy/sweets). It’s also not frowned upon to eat the stuff you brought.

  10. Audenc*

    OP1 – I also live and work in DC (with a short commute), and this dynamic drives me nuts.

    I’m not bothered if the metro breaks down unexpectedly and you’re late because of that. But if you’re ~30 minutes late on a daily basis because of your commute – well maybe you should just be leaving your house a bit earlier.
    Why are the rest of us held to higher standards, just because we chose not buy a McMansion in Spotsylvania County or Leesburg?

    1. Zona the Great*

      This exactly. I had shift employees who would try to say, “well the bus either has me here 15 minutes late or 30 minutes early!?” Um? Early!

      1. MollyJ*

        I did work at one pretty decent company in uni that changed the start/end time by 15 mins each way when the city changed the transit schedule. It would have meant an hour early each day AND an hour wait late at night in a relatively sketchy area. If it can be done, changing a start or end time to accommodate transit schedules is a kindness.

      2. DreamingInPurple*

        I see what they are saying, though. If they are shift workers it’s not likely that they can clock in early, so that’s half an hour that they’ve lost out of their day, on top of the fact that buses tend not to be a fast mode of transportation. Even though there may be non-negotiable business reasons for them to be at work at that specific time (thus requiring them to take the earlier bus anyway), being dismissive about their time is kind of punching down.

        1. Dankar*

          My employer is being flexible with my schedule so that I can teach part-time in the mornings, and I’m still not going to be regularly showing up 15 minutes early on my other days. My main job is hourly, non-exempt, so if I’m in my office, I’m getting paid for it.

          It’s probably different if you’re salaried and (theoretically) have more flexibility in your schedule, but for those who are showing up and waiting to clock in, I totally understand refusing to give up 30 minutes per day. By the end of the week, that’s 2.5 hours you’re spending at work, waiting to be able to start working, and not getting paid for your troubles.

        2. Ali G*

          I think that’s a big issue though – this problem disproportionately affects hourly workers. With the job market being as it is (I am currently working hourly, but not on a rigid schedule) many people have to take hourly positions to get by. This is just another ding against those that can least afford it.

          1. Genny*

            Yes! The assumption that people can just move closer to work is also really irritating. I commute 90 minutes to work in the morning and 2 hours in the evening. I live where I live because that’s what I can afford on my salary. I don’t live there because I just loving spending 3.5 hours every day commuting. Companies should be as flexible as possible as long as the work is getting done (or 40 hours are being clocked). It’s not like most jobs require you to be in your seat at 8:30am precisely.

      3. you don't know me*

        This was my exact situation. The way the buses run I could be 30 minutes early or 15 minutes late. I opted for early and took the time to take a slow walk around the area or get breakfast somewhere.

      4. Lucille2*

        I had that option when I worked in a restaurant. So I opted to show up early. My boss seemed annoyed that I showed up early and would not allow me to start my shift until my scheduled start time. So I sat in the kitchen doing nothing until the start of my shift. Going to get coffee or something before the start of my shift was simply something I couldn’t afford to do on my meager wage.

    2. MK*

      Human nature being what it is, many people will not be as vigilant about being on time if they know their commute gives them flexibility. As in, they will not take the earlier bus/train, even if they know the one that supposedly gets them to work on time is late one third of the time.

    3. Daisy Steinder*

      I think that’s a little unfair – in my experience it’s often that people live further away because they just can’t afford to live any closer.

      1. Clare*

        For some people that is true and I do have more sympathy for them- they have fewer options of where to live and are more likely to live in parts of town with less reliable transit. But there are also plenty of well off people who choose to move to ritzy suburbs; they can suck it up and deal with their chosen commute.

        1. Nonny*

          Enh, I try not to begrudge the flexibility to people living in rich neighbourhoods either. I don’t know their lives and don’t want to be in the business of making morality judgements to allot flex time anyway.

        2. Mike C.*

          Why not take Alison’s advice and look at the issue from a business perspective rather than judging people for the neighborhood they live in?

        3. Lissa*

          I mean, I can see this as a general belief, but I think it would be impossible to apply in any way unless you intimately knew the finances and history of every single coworker! It’s not like there’s ever going to be a rule that says it’s OK to be late if you have to live far away but if you chose it, just deal with it.

      2. I woke up like this*

        Totally. And it’s often people with families who move pretty far away. It’s hard to squeeze four people into a studio apartment in Columbia Heights!

        BTW, I know I keep posting emphasizing the weirdness of DC commutes, but I totally agree with Alison and others. My spouse’s DC workplace had flexible hours and telecommute-in-emergency-situations for EVERYONE, which obviously helped the commuters and non-commuters alike.

      3. caryatis*

        But if everyone makes about the same salary, and some people have a 15-minute walk while others drive for two hours (my situation), well, then, it’s obvious that the longer commutes are just a lifestyle choice = people wanting McMansions and not wanting to be around poor people.

        1. Roscoe*

          I think that a very cynical view of things. It is a lifestyle choice, but to say its not wanting to be around poor people is a bit much. Maybe its a choice to put their kids in better schools, or to be near a sick relative, or to be near their partners job.

          Again, I’m not really saying there should be a variance in tolerance. But it is also not as cut and dry as you are making it.

        2. A username for this site*

          And if all of those people made walking to work a priority, soon rents in the area around your work would skyrocket and all of the “poor people” would be out in the burbs, trekking 2 hours to a minimum wage job because the affluent folks are willing to be able to pay triple rent so they can get to work in 20 minutes or fewer.

        3. Delphine*

          That doesn’t really make sense–people tend to move further away from big cities because they’re being priced out, not because they’re rich. For example, in Boston, the people with the shortest commutes are the ones who have the luxury of paying top dollar for housing in the city.

          1. seller of teapots*

            Exactly! The days of wealthy folks fleeing to the ‘burbs is largely a thing of the past. It’s lower income families that are getting priced out of all cities and public transportation access.

          2. shep*

            Yes, thank you! My parents have done a horrible commute for the last 25 years to the city–where I’m sure they’d rather actually live–from a far-off suburbia.

            The vast majority of people who work in my city–especially in my field–simply can’t afford to live here.

            I’m lucky in that my partner and I can afford to live relatively close to the city center, but we had to hunt for decent rent and a place that wasn’t an absolute dump for a LONG time, and places go FAST. I certainly couldn’t afford to live in the city on my own.

            1. shep*

              Also, FWIW, my mom is absolutely never late. NEVER. She gets up at 4:30 to get to work by about 6:20, but she’s not technically on the clock until 6:30.

              I don’t know how she does it.

        4. seller of teapots*

          Well, that’s not true at all. Because, for starters, everyone rarely has the same salary at a given company. But even more so: your rent/mortgage budget is based on many, many factors, not just your salary. Examples include:
          *Are you splitting the cost of rent/mortgage with roommates and/or a salaried partner?
          *Do you have child care costs? Student loans? Medical debt?
          *Do you have need for more space because you have children, elderly or sick relatives, etc.
          *If you are partnered and your partner works, where do they commute to?
          *Etc.

          My husband and I chose to live in our city for almost a decade; we lived in a 550 sq foot apartment for the majority of that time. Then we had a kid; we could not fit him in that tiny (lovely) home nor could we afford a larger place in the city. So we went from a 20 minute commute to 1 hour+.

          Both our workplaces have flexible schedules for all, so this broader issue doesn’t apply directly. But, man, I don’t live in the suburbs for any of the reasons that you claim; I live in the suburbs because I cannot afford to stay in the city.

      4. Ali G*

        While that is definitely true, it doesn’t change the fact that your commute is a known quantity (even if it sucks) and you should be making every attempt to get to work on time.

      5. Kelly*

        That’s becoming increasingly common in the US in multiple areas, including Seattle, Denver, and the San Francisco Bay area. Many people who work in those cities are being priced out of both buying a home and renting apartments. That’s starting to happen where I live and the main reason I had nearly a 45 minute commute by bus each way for almost 5 years. I couldn’t afford to rent a one bedroom pet friendly apartment closer to where I worked downtown on a college campus because of how high rents have gotten.

        1. Nonny*

          Same in Toronto. When our office moved from an affordable east-end suburb to a pricey west-end suburb I couldn’t afford to leave my apartment to be closer. So I commuted 3-4 hours on transit for the 8 months it took me to find a new job.

          1. Michaela Westen*

            Your office was making a choice there. Like the jobs I briefly considered in suburban office parks – It was not worth my time to commute to and deal with an area that was built for cars, not people. If they wanted employees like me, they would have located in a more people-friendly area.

      6. OhGee*

        This. I bought a house about 50 miles from Boston because I couldn’t even afford rent closer than that. My commute is 90 minutes each way via public transport *if* I work 8-4, potentially longer if I drive. The people with money are able to afford the cost of housing within the bounds of the subway lines.

      7. Treecat*

        Yeah, this is my situation, and a lot of the comments here about the commute thing are really stinging. I would love to live in the city proper–like my older colleagues, who bought their houses 20 years ago before our local cost of living went nuts do–and not have a 60+ minute commute each way. But unless my org wants to give me a $40,000 raise, I can’t do it. I don’t think the policy the OP described is fair (they shouldn’t have to take PTO for a dental appointment) but, ugh, I “choose” to live where I live because of financial constraints.

    4. Kallisti (OP 4!)*

      I grew up in Spotsylvania, and when I got my first job in DC I was told in no uncertain terms that if I wasn’t clocked in by my appointed start time (7:30), then I would be written up. Leaving my house at 4:20 to catch the 5:05 VRE was the PITS, but I did it because if there were delays on the 5:15 I wouldn’t make it. Even now, when I have a much shorter commute and a later start time I usually show up about an hour early if I take metro instead of biking — because I KNOW metro is the pits, and I assume it’s going to be late. I get a lot of reading done hanging around outside my office in the mornings.

    5. OP#1*

      OP#1 here — hehe you’ve touched the third rail — why do some folks live so far from their jobs? There’s the full spectrum in my office: folks who live in the city (could walk to office), and folks who commute from the boonies. I don’t judge the folks who live far away; I just chose differently because that kind of commute would kill me. Also BTW I’m in the third group — inner suburbs. Not close enough to walk, but close enough to take an Uber if the Metro’s on fire.

      1. I Love Thrawn*

        I love the way you put it… so casually…. meh, the train’s on fire again! I can’t even imagine.

        1. EPLawyer*

          We have to become that way. It is literally a regular occurrence. Maybe not daily, but close to it. You just never know when or which line so you can’t plan that “hey it’s Thursday, the red line will catch fire today let’s leave early.”

          There are twitter accounts devoted to documenting Metro’s woes.

          1. SinSA*

            I agree re: the commute (I also work in DC but live in Arlington). In order for me to get to work on time taking public transportation – I don’t live near or work near a metro (literally live 7 miles away from my office) I learned that I would have to leave my house at 7am to arrive at work (sometimes) at 8:30. I was late too many times being stuck on one of two buses, or waiting in a group for the bus that transfers me to my office only to watch it blow us by for no real reason. Now I take Uberpool or Lyft Line in the morning.

          2. I WANT MY PREVIEW*

            True, but you CAN plan “hey it’s Monday, the red line is going to be a mess” or “hey it’s drizzling, the red line is going to be a mess.” (Guess who used to commute via the red line? I’m so glad to be able to walk to work now.)

            1. EPLawyer*

              well yes, “It’s a day ending in ‘y’ the Red (blue, orange, yellow) line is going to be a mess” but you don’t know how MUCH of a mess so it’s tough to plan in enough buffer.

              So glad I live AND work in the burbs.

          3. Red 5*

            Yeah, seriously, when ismetroonfire.com actually exists, you know this whole system is just too messed up, and we’re all messed up by the proximity to it.

            You get better information about what’s going on from following all the people complaining in the #wmata hashtag on Twitter than you ever will from WMATA themselves.

      2. Marie*

        That’s a little elitist! Not everyone can afford to live close to work and many lower cost of living areas don’t have solid work opportunities. I live far from my job because I get a two bedroom apartment at the cost of a bedroom in the city I work in.

        1. Frozen Ginger*

          It really depends on the city you live.
          For DC, if you look at housing/rent heat maps, closer areas (like Springfield, Bailey’s Crossroads, Capitol Heights, Hyattesville) are much more affordable than further-out burbs to the west (like McLean, Great Falls, Potomac). And (anecdotal evidence) usually the groan about commute times is coming from people living in those western ‘burbs.

          1. Washi*

            It’s true that there are people who choose farther, more expensive areas over areas that are both cheaper and closer to the city, but I don’t think that changes the advice! Either way, the business should decide if it’s ok with people to flex their hours or it’s not, and have a consistent policy for everyone.

          2. Smithy*

            I know that where I used to work – those with the greatest complaints about commutes and “arrive on time” issues also happened to be at senior levels. They lived in those particularly expensive/further away suburbs. So the dynamic of being flexible for travel delays largely benefitted the most senior/highest earning staff.

        2. Antilles*

          Agreed. While there are some people who specifically choose to live in far-flung suburbs when there are more practical options, I’d really guess they’re the minority…and far outweighed by the number of families who have a long commute simply because there’s no practical better option due to some combination of cost, space, safety, conflicting commutes, and school systems.

          1. LJay*

            But commute, and actually getting to work on time, is something that you need to consider in the matrix of cost, space, safety, and school systems.

            If having to leave extra early in order to make it to work on time most times is undesirable, then that should be higher on the list of considerations when choosing where to live.

            It’s probably why most of the people who pay more and live close to work chose to pay more. So they could get to work on time and not have to wake up at 4am.

            Going, “Well, I chose to live where I did because it was cheaper and more practical. But my commute is terrible so people will just have to deal when I’m habitually late,” are getting the advantage of living someplace cheaper without dealing with the reality of why it is cheaper.

            1. Antilles*

              Don’t get me wrong, the commute time certainly should be a factor in your housing decision along with everything else…but to just dismissively write off people with long commutes as “oh you chose to buy a McMansion in Spotsylvania County or Leesburg” is way too simplistic. There are a LOT of people who have awful commutes but don’t really have a practical choice in the matter.

              1. Another HR Person*

                +1

                “If having to leave extra early in order to make it to work on time most times is undesirable, then that should be higher on the list of considerations when choosing where to live.”
                This only works though if your (the commuting employee) concerns/considerations are the only ones that matter. I can see someone personally wanting commute time to be a major factor in choosing where to live, but if you have a children, or a partner with an equally demanding commute, or a sick relative, or whatever, you need to take that into account. Having a good commute may be important, but sometimes other things are more important. And those other things could also contribute to lateness, not just commute (thinking of all the time we were late as kids because my brother refused to get out of bed in the morning…)

                1. media monkey*

                  totally. i work in central london and have a 90 minute each way commute. my husband works 50 miles away. we have a daughter who is not old enough to fend for herself before and after school. living in between our workplaces would mean both of us commuting and would cause a childcare issue with us not always being able to collect our daughter on time. so we live near his work, which is considerably cheaper and has better school options than anywhere we could afford near my work. and with house prices in london being what they are, we would need to spend upwards of £600k (that’s close on $800k) for a 2 bedroom flat in a less than ideal area which would give me a commute time of 45-60 mins, and him a commute time of at least an hour.

            2. Le Sigh*

              Right, but I think it’s important to remember that increasingly in a lot of cities, the choice to live closer doesn’t exist for a lot of people. If you make $35,000 yr and have a kid in DC, you almost certainly have to live further out. But where you can afford to live may not have many job opportunities, so you have to take the $35K/yr job and navigate DC transit, which is predictably awful, but you never know which day it will be awful or what level of awful it will be (driving is no better and very expensive, even if you have a car).

              That doesn’t mean people don’t have an obligation to make it to work on time. But it’s important to remember that wages are stagnant and cost of housing is soaring in a lot of places–so people on the lower end of the income spectrum aren’t really getting an advantage by living further out. They have to live further out of lack of choice.

            3. Cat Herder*

              This is what my partner and I did when we bought our house (very close to our employer): we could have had a lot more house and land for the same price, but valued a short commute. Now however our neighborhood has become more desirable (because of the location, mostly) and we could never afford it. My young colleagues have long commutes in order to afford their rent.

      3. ceiswyn*

        People also don’t necessarily choose where they live for the sake of a single job.

        I worked in an industry where I could expect to change job every couple of years; no sane person would go through the hassle of house selling/buying, conveyancing and moving every couple of years.

        So I compromise by living within about an hour’s commute of all the major urban centres where jobs in my speciality might come up. Which was also about as close to most of those places as I could afford.

        1. SarahTheEntwife*

          Moving is a hassle no matter what, but if I knew I was going to be moving every two years, why on earth would I buy a house every time?

          1. Antilles*

            You wouldn’t…but the overall point still holds. Even if you’re just renting and not buying a house, it’s not really practical to move every two years.
            Especially if you have a family since it’s not just my commute, but also my wife’s commute to her job, school districts, and so on.

            1. LJay*

              Sure it is. In fact, I would bet that most renters do, due to the rate hikes that kick in when you go to resign your lease after being there a year.

              In the past 6 years I’ve lived in 5 different places. (4 apartments and a house). This current year is the first year that we’ve actually resigned a lease, and that’s only because despite the rent hike of several hundred dollars a month it was still the cheapest places in the area.

              (Plus plenty move due to changing family needs. New job, having a kid and needing more room, having another kid and needing even more room, deciding to get a dog. New job that’s too far of a drive. Whatever.)

              Most of my friends that don’t own houses at this point are in the same boat.

              I mean, I hate moving, and that was another large consideration in why we didn’t this year. I would love to not move every year or every couple of years. But doing it has been reality for me and pretty much everyone in my age group that I know so it’s not that wildly impractical.

              1. Browser*

                In no way do “most renters move every couple of years.” That’s insanity. Moving is expensive, and landlords are most likely to raise rents when changing tenants, so where’s the cost savings? Plenty of places do not automatically raise rents every year because they value good tenants over a small increase.

                Just because you’re nuts enough to move all the time does not mean that “most people do.” Most people do not, you’re just only noticing the ones that do.

                1. Dankar*

                  Depends. I’ve moved three times in the past eight years, and that’s par for the course in my social group.

                  I’ve also never had a year where my rent wasn’t raised. Sometimes that was insignificantly ($15 for the year), sometimes ridiculously ($50 per month). Landlords absolutely do not value good tenants over yearly increases when you live in areas with rapidly increasing rent.

                  When I moved out of my first apartment, they checked my lease against current rates. I was paying less for a 2 bdr/2 bath than most people were for a 1 bedroom. The leasing agent straight up told me that it was costing them money to have us there, and if they’d have realized, they would have increased us to market rate the next cycle. (That leasing company was the most disorganized we’ve ever worked with, and that was part of why we moved.)

                2. bonkerballs*

                  I’ve lived in 6 different apartments in the last 10 years. All those moves were either because I changed jobs and was living on the other side of the city and the commute was going to be awful or because rent was raised in my building and I could find somewhere cheaper. I’ve also never lived anywhere where rent wasn’t raised annually. This is roughly the same for basically everyone in my social group as well.

                  I think moving frequently when you’re a renter is more common than you think.

          2. ceiswyn*

            To get/stay on the housing ladder.

            Houses in much of the UK increase in price at WAY above wages and inflation. My previous house increased in value by 60% in the ten years I owned it, and that was relatively rural and in a bad neighbourhood.

            I have friends who could afford to buy a house fifteen years ago, but decided to wait for prices to go down. They now cannot afford to buy a house, even a much smaller one, and do not anticipate ever being in the position to own their own home.

            So choosing to sell up and return to renting would basically be choosing to take a massive and ongoing financial loss.

        2. ThatGirl*

          Yeah, when I first moved to Illinois I chose an apartment ~10 minutes from work. Then my job moved ~45 minutes away. Eventually I moved to be closer to that location. Then I got fired and my next job was another 45-50 minutes. I then decided what my max commute tolerance was, and to try to live in a fairly central location where I wanted to live, instead of deciding based on my job.

          1. JHunz*

            When I bought my house it was literally a ten minute walk or a two minute drive away from my job. Less than a month later, I was laid off. Luckily public transit options were also within a reasonable distance.

          2. Michaela Westen*

            I don’t like owning a car so I live and work near train stops. I only apply for jobs that are reasonable commutes by train.

        3. Oxford Comma*

          Yeah. I mean I know people who choose where they live based on multiple factors: school systems they have partners who have careers an hour in the other direction; they need to be close to family because they are caregivers; costs; etc.

        4. A username for this site*

          Also, the calculation changes once you’re married. You now have to live somewhere that works for two jobs, possibly in two entirely different sectors, possibly with two different levels of job availability, and then if you own, pretty much no one can afford to sell their home every two years because someone’s job changed either. Add in kids to the mix, and you’re talking about disrupting a child’s education every time Mom or Dad changes jobs. It’s not practical long-term.

      4. Triplestep*

        … why do some folks live so far from their jobs?

        You were probably asking rhetorically, but *I* live far from my job because I have a skill set for which few employers near my home are hiring.

        It wasn’t always this way; it was not this way when I was choosing where to buy a home, where to raise my kids, and I certainly didn’t choose where their extended family would be. But now I have skills that would be considered odd to find in-house, and I’d have to take a huge pay cut to consult. Moving is not an option, and choosing to earn less (if I could get another field to consider me – I’ve tried) would not be a responsible choice right now. You choose differently because you CAN choose differently. I did not think I’d be in this position 30 years ago, and I would not have chosen it.

        There’s some discussion about this above (you can search on my user name if interested) and I don’t know what your particular situation is (other than a short commute, that is) but I tend to think there are few professionals who could find an equivalent job near their homes and would still choose the long commute.

      5. Windchime*

        I live so far away from my job because I can’t afford to pay a million dollars for a house in Seattle. I have a modest house in a suburb that’s around 25 miles north of Seattle; if I had to buy it today, I couldn’t afford it because of sky-rocketing real estate costs. I’m lucky; I make a nice salary so I can afford to drive in and pay for parking, but people with lower salaries have no choice but to suck it up and ride the bus for an hour or more. It’s impossible to pay $2500 for a studio apartment when you work at Subway.

        1. Epocene*

          Another Seattleite here, currently living with 6 people in a house to be able to afford rent. I’m lucky I have a job downtown which is pretty much the only way to ensure a less than 1 hr bus commute. Even a few years ago when I lived in South Seattle and worked in Central Seattle my commute was 1 hr 20 minutes by bus. How much closer can I even get?

          That said I was still on time 95% of the time, and if something came up and the bus was really late, I didn’t get penalized for being late but I DID have to make up the time at the end of the day which I think is a fair solution.

          1. Cat Herder*

            This sort of thing is true in other locations as well. I was fortunate to move to my location many years ago. My mortgage payment (refi) for a 3 bedroom house is about 75% of what you get colleagues pay for a one bedroom apt 25 minutes away.

      6. Kelly White*

        I live pretty far from my job- about 30-40 minutes by car- and I have to cross a river so my bridge options are quite limited. When my husband and I bought our house it was about halfway between our respective jobs (his was on that side of the river, mine wasn’t). He has since been transferred and now we both live on the “wrong” side of the river.
        At this point, if we were to consider moving (which we wouldn’t as our kid is pretty happy in her school and only has a couple of years left), and we went to the “right” side of the river, I’m not sure it would help based on where we work- I travel north and he travels south.

        So, what, now, looks like we are living in the wrong area, 10 years ago made much more sense.

      7. Polymer Phil*

        I have a lot more sympathy for someone who changed jobs and didn’t want to move, or someone who wants to stay in their remote hometown, than I do for someone who just had to have a 5,000 square foot McMansion in a lily-white school district.

      8. Silicon Valley Girl*

        I’m in the SF Bay Area, where people may live 10 minutes to 3 hours commute from their jobs. It’s all because of a horrific housing crisis that’s been going on for decades. Good jobs are easier to find than decent housing (rent or buy) near those jobs :(

        That said, most places I’ve worked, people with longer commutes add some buffer time for traffic, because there’s always accidents, construction, delays, etc. Or if they’re late to work, they work later on another day or take work home. I haven’t seen the kind of getting extra PTO described in the letter.

        1. Polymer Phil*

          SF is a fun yuppie playground for those making 200K a year, while everyone else gets forced to live 2 hours away and still blow their entire paycheck on housing costs. I would expect the misery this generates to counteract the effect of any magical creativity/innovation fairy dust from being in a hip location.

          1. zora*

            Some people live 1 hour away from work by choice, some because there is no housing stock in Mountain View for the amount of people working in Silicon Valley (no matter how much money you have), and some because they want to live in a cooler, more fun neighborhood. But most of the tech companies understand that commutes are often unpredictable and are flexible with people, since they are expected to work 60+ hours a week anyway.

            I’ve had really annoying clock-watching managers which necessitated taking earlier transportation and spending 20-30 minutes hanging out at a coffee shop with a book most mornings because the later bus would make me 10 minutes late once a month.

            I am so relieved to have a better job now, even though I’m non-exempt, my boss has a long commute herself and if I’m 20 minutes late once in a while because of bus issues, she doesn’t even notice.

      9. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

        Boston-metro here: I live only 20 miles from my job and the driving commute during the morning rush hour, in the car-pool lane, takes an average of 1.25 hours. I am rarely late–perhaps once every 3 months or so–but I leave early enough to include a cushion of extra time for moderate traffic delays. OP’s co-workers with long commutes should still be on time–they need to leave earlier, if necessary. OP’s company policy is unfair and out of whack. OP said that they are all exempt salaried employees in a follow up post, so I am even more perplexed why OP needs to use sick time for an appointment, when that short time could be easily made up.

        1. Another HR Person*

          From what I understood, OP’s coworkers were late because of public transit issues, not they misjudged their driving commute time (it’s kind of unclear). I grew up in the Boston-metro area, so I agree that when driving, you should be able to figure out your commute. But if you’re relying on the MBTA, it gets a lot trickier.

    6. Ann*

      I live in the DMV as well and wholeheartedly agree! Big, uncommon traffic incidents may get people a pass but that is a once or twice a year dea, not a regular thing!

    7. Kat in VA*

      I’m in Manassas. Even a short (quote unquote) drive to Herndon could be 45 minutes one day, 1.5 hours the next. I aimed for the middle, but it was impossible to predict. I’m now looking at two positions in Fair Oaks and while the distance is shorter, the main attraction is there multiple ways to get there. From here to Herndon, you can either take 66 to 28, or take 28 all the way up. Back roads (like through Clifton) were just adding length onto an already lengthy commute.

      I’d say the very first thing I ever look at before applying to a job is mapping where it is and checking the commute. The husband works in Alexandria and has the choice of going VRE/Metro/mile walk to his office, sitting in traffic on 95 for upwards of 2 hours each way, or paying $600 to $700 a month for EZ Pass. Living closer in was not an option because we have a large family.

      We all make sacrifices, one way or another. But a consistently 30 minute late commute? Yeah, you’re gonna have to get up earlier. No way around it.

      1. Ali G*

        Agree 100%. There are all sorts of reasons you lay out for people choosing where to live around here. When my husband and I were house hunting, he worked in Old Town (still does) and I worked in Bethesda and we ended up in Falls Church. At the time, my commute got longer because I was in Arlington before we got married. I left my job about 9 months after we moved in and my husband still teases me about not considering Del Ray (my commute would have been over an hour on a good day, while his was 10 min).
        But let’s say we had ended up in Del Ray? I still would have been at work on time – I would have just gotten up earlier (and my husband would have been 100% responsible for the dog!).

        1. Kat in VA*

          I can get far more house for my large family in Manassas than I can closer in. His original job that brought us here from Idaho was in Vienna/Tyson’s/McLean (I can hear you rolling your eyes and groaning from here). Not from the area, we totally thought a commute from Manassas to the Mixing Bowl would be fine.

          (Narrator’s voice: “It was not fine.”)

          While the Alexandria commute for him now is only 45 minutes, it’s considerably more expensive. I’m hunting jobs closer to me because while I could make considerably more in DC, the commute would likely eat 3-4 hours of my day and I’m just not willing to do that.

      2. zora*

        Agree, in the SF Bay I have passed on promising sounding job opportunities completely, because there was no way I could handle the 90 minute-2 hour commute, whether I drove or took multiple public transit legs. It sucks to have to make career decisions based on bad infrastructure.

    8. checkert*

      Or *gasp* both spouses have careers and one isn’t in DC! I know it’s hard to believe that not ALL jobs are in DC, but it happens. We chose a place closer to the job down south both due to housing prices and because the express lanes ease a lot of the commute time burden. Imagine for a second if everyone you worked with actually did live in DC? Where would they all even go?

      1. Kelly White*

        Oh sure!
        My husband has at least a 45 minute commute- and mine is between 30-40, and that’s tolerable for both of us. And his job is more picky about being on time so he leaves about an hour and 15 minutes before his start time, just to be safe.
        When he took this particular position it did take some re-adjusting of our schedule- I started doing more morning things so he can pretty much get up, get ready, and leave.
        He has more PTO than I do, so he took on more of the “I have to leave early to get my kid to the dentist” stuff. It took a while to find a comfortable routine- but we managed. And had it really not worked for either one of us, we would have figured something out.

      2. Girl please*

        What an odd philosophy you have on this issue.

        Odd, and flat-out incorrect. (Do you really still think the suburbs are where people with money are going? LOL.)

        1. Grapey*

          There’s a difference between ‘money to buy a condo downtown’ and ‘money to buy a house with a yard in the ‘burbs’. There are still plenty of people moving to suburbs. You can’t buy a McMansion in downtown Boston.

    9. BlueWolf*

      I live in the inner suburbs in what I consider an affordable (for DC anyways) apartment. We have a shuttle to the metro, but it only leaves every 30 minutes, and with the Orange/Silver line nonsense right now I can wake up 30 minutes earlier and basically arrive to work an hour early because that’s just how the train timing works, or leave at my usual time and just barely make it to work on time. Honestly, I prefer the extra 30 minutes of sleep and at most I’ve been 5 minutes late. But it’s only two weeks of this. I feel bad for the Red line commuters.

      1. BlueWolf*

        Also, I will note that I am almost always on time. All of last week I was getting up 30 minutes earlier, and I just decided that I didn’t want to bother with that this week. I agree that there should flexibility for everyone or no one. My department is non-exempt with set core hours that we have to be in the office. If you’re late (no matter the reason) you either have to use PTO or make up the time that day. We don’t have any flexibility.

    10. smoke tree*

      I think this whole discussion of reasons for a long commute supports Alison’s point that an employer really shouldn’t be getting into the weeds of trying to adjudicate whose reasons for being late are the most valid.

  11. Mark132*

    @lw1 what would happen if you just “presumed” the same flexibility? Take your “snow day” in July. Or simply schedule your dentist appt in the morning and walk in 2hrs late cursing the awful traffic(while drooling from the novocaine). And don’t take the time off?

    1. OP#1*

      OP#1 — well, that’s an interesting question, and one I plan to bring up with HR. Basically — if we’re going to be out, we’ve scheduled our PTO in advance and noted it on our timesheets/with our bosses. It’s already planned and noted. I don’t show up two hours late and announce I’ve been at the dentist, my boss knows where I was. But yeah if you roll late in noting your commute was hell, it’s excused. It just doesn’t wind up recorded. And I’m assuming you’re being facetious but I’m not going to lie about what I was doing to get out of using leave.

      1. doreen*

        What would happen if you were late for a reason you couldn’t schedule in advance? Would you have to use PTO if you called one morning and said your car wouldn’t start and you were waiting for a tow? Or that you were going to be late because you had a tooth ache and got the dentist to agree to see you first thing?

  12. DEJ*

    #3, another option is that you can stay friends with them but change the privacy settings so that they cannot see anything that you post.

    1. Just Employed Here*

      I thought of this at first, but it would not avoid the appearance (in the eyes of others) of favouring these team members.

      As a side note — uugh at people policing your likes or lack of likes!

      1. Daisy*

        ‘This person came to me to ask why I never like their posts on Facebook’ is the neediest thing I’ve ever heard. How could you live with yourself after asking someone that

        1. Dragoning*

          If someone came up and asked me that, the response would be, “I’m sorry, WHAT?

          So much angst over FB!

      2. Naomi*

        I found that strange too! I wouldn’t even notice if a particular person never “liked” my posts, and if for some reason I did, I’d assume they just didn’t use Facebook much. It seems really tacky to go up to someone IN PERSON and put them on the spot about not giving you enough “likes”.

        1. Just Employed Here*

          And not just anyone, but your *supervisor*. Of all the people you could pick!! (Or maybe they do this to all their FB friends who aren’t liking their posts “enough”.)

        2. Kelsi*

          Yeah, that seemed wild to me. Even when I was using FB regularly and enthusiastically (which I admit is no longer the case), the only time I would have noticed a specific person not liking a post was if I had tagged them in it and they never responded/acknowledged. And even then, I would be like, oh well they just didn’t see it, no big deal.

    2. Mad Baggins*

      This is a good suggestion. I also think it would be fine to just unfriend them and not say anything unless directly asked (they won’t be notified on Facebook). Many people, including myself, do a regular culling of Facebook contacts so this is a normal thing. I think it’s very odd to ask anyone, especially your supervisor, especially the head of HR, why they don’t like your posts on Facebook.

    3. Nom Nom*

      Except when Facebook does another one of the ‘privacy upgrades’ and defaults back to sharing everything with everyone like has happened before.

    4. Triplestep*

      This is how I would handle it – the settings are there for you to use, and it’s drama-free. (Alison’s script – even in it’s attempt to be breezy – will create angst for some people. It’s unavoidable.)

      We should all be cognizant of our privacy settings anyway – let the employees take care of their own, and OP, you take care of your own. Maybe throw your entire friend list a bone once in a while with a family photo or something, but your go-to response (should anyone ask you – they probably wont) is that you’re just not on FB that much anymore. Lots of people aren’t.

    5. JerryLarryTerryGary*

      It’s (probably) less what she posts and more the idea that their HR person can see everything they do- and unfriending could be tricky. She’s doing them a kindness just removing herself from the equation.

    6. Wendy Ann*

      What’s the point of being friends with them at all then? The OP has unfollowed them so she sees nothing they post. She changes the settings so they don’t see anything she posts. At that point, what is the point of remaining FB friends?

  13. SFSAM*

    I’m in the Bay Area, so everyone in my office commutes for at least an hour and no one drives. Our managers are good about giving us a break if someone’s commute is unexpectedly long. Just like they’re flexible and understanding if someone’s dentist appointment runs long. But we’re all expected to be in by 9:30, unless something is previously arranged.

    To me, the issue isn’t so much that commuting is the problem (although I know commutes in DC are legendarily bad), but that people take advantage of the bad commute as a reason to show up late. And that’s super annoying and you have my sympathies.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      Many of us drive in the Bay Area becaus mass transit is so very awful. That said, commute times are highly variable. Mine took anywhere from 30-90 minutes depending on what was going on. If I had an important meeting I made sure I was at work a good hour ahead of time.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        Many of us use transit because the driving is so bad. :-)

        Me, I base my employment choices on whether I can use transit because I just hate driving in traffic that much. I will happily have a longer commute on transit.

        (And SFBA is such a big place. Lots of the local bus systems are crap, I agree. But I still wouldn’t use “awful”. I’d save that word for places that have, say, a few bus lines that only run during commute times and nothing else.)

        1. Engineer Girl*

          I use the word awful because:

          – I can’t use transit to get to the airport. The buses don’t start running until 5:30. That isn’t early enough for a 6:30 flight

          – I can’t use transit to get to work early enough. Again, the buses don’t run early enough

          – I’m scared to work late because the buses only run once per hour at night

          – I can’t use mass transit to get to church on Sundays. The buses don’t get there until 9:30.

          In most cases Google tells me to leave the night before and spend the night at the transit center (I’m not making this up!). I have to use Lyft if I don’t drive.

          Awful.

  14. i need a better anon name*

    #1: This annoys me so much because those employees chose to live far away from their office and have a longer commute. I’ve seen the other side of this where, because I choose to live in the city, I’m expected to work later hours or come in during severe weather and not get the same flexibility because I live in the city and can just grab a cab or take the subway home. Or where long commuters can work from home, but people in the city can’t. It’s infuriating. Everyone should get the same flexibility.

    #5: I was once asked for feedback when I withdrew after an in-person interview. HR said they’ve never had anyone ever withdraw or reject them before, so they wanted to understand what happened. I told them one of my interviewers made a homophobic comment (of the “LGBT people shouldn’t share hotel rooms with straight people because they might be checking out their straight colleagues and making them uncomfortable” vein). They really were not happy to receive that feedback and denied the comment being offensive. Bullet dodged!

    1. My boss is dumber than yours*

      Yeah, I completely share your frustration with #1. My last job, I had a coworker who lived 60 miles away in a mountain cabin and would *always* call in that he couldn’t make weekend/late commitments. Boss would then tell me I had to cover, but not pay me extra nor comp time even though coworker wasn’t charged PTO (this included once calling me seven times in a row at 9:00 PM on Valentine’s Day—while I was out to dinner with my longtime gorlfired—to tell me he had scheduled me for an 8:00 AM shift the next morning to cover for this guy, and would fire me if I didn’t come). I finally called coworker out on this crap during a meeting, and he openly said in front of our boss that part of his reason for moving was to “create boundaries” and not have to work outside 9-5 unless boss paid him $100/hour (about three times our salary). Boss was an idiot and told me he “had to respect where and how people wanted to live” and that since I lived in the city and was unmarried, it was only fair that I cover for him.

      1. WS*

        See, I respect your coworker for setting work boundaries, because that boss obviously needed them set…it’s just a pity that the boss then took it out on you rather than learning anything.

        1. Nom Nom*

          I agree re the boundaries. It’s also true that different people will have different bargaining power. If you get stuck in a situation where someone else has negotiated terms that impact negatively on you and you can’t negotiate a satisfactory outcome for yourself, sometimes you just need to weigh up whether it’s time to start looking for another job or whether the experience is worth a temporary hit for a while to put you in a better position next time you are looking for a job.

    2. Susie Q*

      #1: That’s an issue with your company not your coworkers. Often people buy where they can afford to live.

      1. Tribbles for Days*

        Yeah, especially in the DC area. A 10 minute shorter commute could be an extra $500 a mo in rent.

          1. glitter writer*

            Add a zero. :-/ We can’t afford to buy where our apartment is — a good commuting distance with several options — because the housing prices are all over $1M, even the tear-downs, and we have to leave the apartment in the next 12 months because they’re gut renovating. Commuting is going to become a major, major issue for us in the next year.

            1. Kat in VA*

              Good point. I got my house for $725k – a comparably sized house with property (I have ten acres, although most of it is useless) would be likely double or even triple that price closer in to DC.

          2. I woke up like this*

            We bought our house in the district (not a hip part of town but in the district nonetheless) five years ago at $425K. We sold that same house, having done no work on it at all, two months ago for $649K. The market is out of control. We wouldn’t be able to move back to the district if we wanted to, even with two good jobs and free preschool. Which is too bad, because I loved living in DC.

      2. Pollygrammer*

        I live in the city and relatively close to my work, but with a commute that requires changing train lines. It can take me a loooong time to get in some days and it’s totally unpredictable. But I moved in long before I got the job and will live there after I find another position. My office is pretty understanding, and I usually just work through lunch if I come in late. So even thinking you live somewhere practical doesn’t always work out that way–cut people some slack.

    3. OP#1*

      OP#1 here — when I was much younger I lived downtown, six blocks from my job. There was a legendary blizzard — DC was shut down for almost two weeks. Guess who was literally the only person in the office for most of that? I basically ran that place via the phone. I don’t recall any special compensation; I’d probably ask for PTO compensation at this stage in my career.

      1. Red 5*

        Oh man, I remember that storm. The streets in DC were a nightmare for weeks, even after they started to open back up. It was like they plowed the width of a motorcycle and then gave up and let the rest melt on it’s own. Anybody who made it in during those two weeks should have been given a bonus or something. I probably would have been like you at that stage and not said anything but now I definitely would be asking what they’re going to do to make it up to me for bailing them out.

    4. cncx*

      something similar happened to me when i quit a job, HR reached out to me (exit interviews were not standard practice there) and asked why i was leaving. I kept it neutral but i said why, based on an incident with a manager, and HR literally dug in and told me i was lying, that the incident never happened and doubled down in an email for the paper trail. Yup HR that’s why i am leaving too.

      1. WellRed*

        “If you aren’t going to believe me, why did you bother to ask?” I cannot fathom someone digging in their heels and tell me I am lying.

    5. Dr. Johnny Fever*

      I didn’t choose to have a longer commute for 5 years. I was moved to another corporate building with my team and had to deal with a roundtrip of 80 miles per day. For 5 years, I spent 2.5 hours a day simply driving to and from my home. Podcasts became my friend.

      Don’t assume that every person who lives in the ‘burbs chose to live that far away.

    6. Ennigaldi*

      People don’t always choose where they live. If you’re a shift worker a year out of college and can’t afford your own apartment yet, you’re going to live with your parents in the suburbs of the major city where the jobs are. I think you’re referring to people who own homes/condos, which is really not the norm around major urban areas.

    7. Hamburke*

      I used to live in the dc suburbs – hubby’s commute was about 10 miles – that was regularly an hour+ commute. It’s not like we lived in a huge house – we had a 1300 sqft townhouse and lived as close in as we could afford. Everyone except hubby’s co had flexi / core hours to help with this.

      We moved to Richmond (2ish hours south), doubled the distance / halved the time.

  15. Former Computer Professional*

    #2 A lot of coffee shops, like restaurants, get disgruntled if you bring in outside food and beverages. If you’re bringing in a re-usable cup to buy their product, that’s one thing. But if you’re bringing in your own drink, outside of a food/drink allergy, a lot of places will ask you to throw it away, take it outside, or leave the property.

    If you must do it (for an allergy or something), I might consider apologizing to the staff, explaining why you can’t consume their products, and then leaving a tip. It may smooth things over.

    1. Someone Else*

      I did not get the impression from the letter these meetings were in establishments that serve food and drink? I thought she was describing walking into the client’s office, beverage in hand.

      1. Former Computer Professional*

        oh, FLUFF! I read “showing up to an external meeting AT a coffee shop […],” not “WITH a coffee shop […].”

        I need new glasses. Sorry!

    2. OP2*

      OP2 here! As Someone Else mentioned, these are meetings at an office – for a coffee shop meeting I always buy a beverage from the establishment. (Although then that gets into my further questions of, does each person pay for their own beverage? Does the answer change depending on who has company money to pay for drinks? If I arrive first should I order my coffee right away, or wait for the person I’m meeting so we can order together? Help, I cannot workplace etiquette.)

      1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

        How casual are the meetings?

        For formal meetings, it’s probably best to leave the fancy cup and drink what is offered, if it’s offered.

        For informal meetings, coffee as you like!

        My only advice is not to walk in late with fresh coffee.

      2. Jennifer Thneed*

        You should order when you get there, as a courtesy to the establishment. At least, if you’re going to sit down you should. That has the added advantage of avoiding the “who pays” question. (I think that’s an issue for meals, not coffee.)

  16. WS*

    I live in a rural area with notoriously badly maintained roads and thus people are sometimes late even if they leave in plenty of time: part of the road washed away and they had to go around the long way, a bridge was closed, cattle got on the road, a tree came down etc. It’s not a big deal occasionally – and this year there was a natural disaster meaning some people couldn’t get to work at all for several days – but when a bridge was closed for months, the one staff member who used that road then had a 90 minute commute instead of a 15 minutes commute and that was something she had to deal with. If a workplace is flexible for one kind of lateness they should be flexible for all; otherwise work hours should be set with leniency for occasional, genuinely unforeseeable problems.

    1. Mad Baggins*

      “work hours should be set with leniency for occasional, genuinely unforeseeable problems”–This exactly. I am given leniency if my train is delayed (rare) but not if the Starbucks line is long. And if certain lines are delayed/streets are crowded frequently, I would expect people to “expect delays” and leave earlier to make it on time.

      But I’m curious how others feel about leaving work early due to incoming inclement weather. For me, if my company decides to let everyone out early it doesn’t come out of PTO, but if not then I have to use PTO or flex time (and make that up later). I think it’s treated differently than mornings because it’s preventative/the direction is different, ie there’s no penalty for getting home 2 hours late. I wonder if others treat this differently.

      1. Rebecca*

        I live in central PA, so we do have snow/ice issues in the winter time. Most of our office is non-exempt. If we have a snow or ice event, we’re given the option of leaving when we feel comfortable, so maybe an hour or 2 early – and we can come in early/stay late that week to make up the time. If this occurs on a Thursday or Friday, though, and not enough time to make up the time missed, we can take PTO or take the time unpaid. The same process happens in the AM, sometimes we have to wait to be plowed out, so again, if we’re late, we can make up the time. If it’s bad enough, they will close the office, and we have the option of taking the day without pay or using PTO. Only once did we get paid for a storm closure.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          This is a reasonable policy with the caveat that if there is a governmental state of emergency declared, you should not penalize your employees.

          1. Kat in VA*

            This is one of the reasons I have the OPM.gov website bookmarked. If the feds don’t have to go in due to weather, neither should I! (Excepting essential personnel, of course, but that’s a whole ‘nother ball of wax.)

            1. behindbj*

              Keep in mind, though, that one of the factors used in determining whether or not to shut down Federal offices in a particular metropolitan area has to do with keeping a large block of commuters off the road in one fell swoop (announcement) in order to assist with the clearing of the roads. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the travelways are impassable. Decisions to shut down Federal offices are done in conjunction with local authorities.

              At least, in the metropolitan area in which I live (worked with the FEB for a good bit). Our Agency even opted out of the Federal board decisions because our Commander thought they closed too easily. So we have indeed been open when every other Fed is closed.

              On another note: I walk a few blocks to work. Moved where I did so I could do so. Battling the foolishness of living Downtown is more tolerable to me than dealing with the commute on 95 through the tunnels. I had to IMMEDIATELY shut down the “behindbj lives right near work – she can come in for all of the weekend emergencies for us.” No. No, I can’t.

              1. Kat in VA*

                Part of that reason is the husband contracts for the PTO – so if they’re closed, he can’t really work. (Although he’s considered essential personnel. It’s confusing.)

                At least these days, telework is an option, even if it’s not normally allowed on a regular basis. Better than having to get chomped on PTO or spend all day doing nothing.

        2. Ali G*

          I’ve been lucky that I’ve worked for companies that have some sort of telework policy (I’ve always traveled a lot so I have all the necessary equipment to work from anywhere). Typically if I decide I don’t want to drive in the weather, I can work from home (as long as I have electricity). One time the roads weren’t that bad, but I walked out my front door, slipped on ice, fell, spilled my smoothie all over me and bruised my hip. I pretty much got up, walked back into the house, changed clothes and emailed my boss to tell her I was working from home.
          Many times, if bad weather is coming (especially if schools have closed early), offices will close too and not charge employees PTO if they decide to leave (but you don’t get anything extra if you stay).

    2. Kittymommy*

      Yeah, I mean I don’t line in a rural area but the roads and my commute are such that it an accident is blocking a lane everyone is essentially blocked. And access to alternate route once you’re there isn’t possible.

  17. Teapotty*

    #OP1, 1 worked at a company where I was late quite a few times in my first months due to trains being late or cancelled. I was told to find a way to get to work on time. In the end, I used to leave my house at 6.45am to walk to the bus stop and catch the 7.05am bus (which was hourly but the 8.05am bus was often late or too crowded so it didn’t stop) which got me to work at 7.55am – my day didn’t start until 9am and there was absolutely nowhere to go until the work gates were unlocked about 8.30am as it was a small dormitory town, no coffee shops to hang out in or supermarkets to browse (this was the 1990s). I didn’t drive then so I was dependent on public transport to keep the job and it was up to me to make it work.

    #OP4, I don’t make a big thing of it, but I’ll often bring back sweets or something small from trips to share with colleagues. I usually get them at the airport.

  18. Becky*

    #3 When I still had a Facebook account, I had a hard and fast rule about friending co-workers–if I didn’t associate with someone outside of work, I didn’t connect on Facebook.

    1. The Original K.*

      I don’t friend coworkers at all, and I say so if asked. Coworkers can be LinkedIn connections but not Facebook friends. If we feel like it we can be Facebook friends when we no longer work together.

    2. Jaid_Diah*

      I’ve friended three co-workers. One is retired, one I friended only because of Pokémon Go (I invited her to join a group run by a friend’s nephew. She still plays hardcore, but I quit), and the third is my best friend, my sister from another mister.
      I’ve gotten friend requests from others, but I ignore those.

    3. lnelson1218*

      I have also made it a rule that I don’t friend co-worker (until one of us leaves the company). LinkedIn is fine.
      Don’t care who asks. Previous job the CFO friended a few people. Ended up being used again him in a law suit.

    4. Dr. Johnny Fever*

      When I switched jobs, I culled my FB account of work friends and acquaintances that I knew I didn’t want to keep. I kept close work friends. No one has asked me what I did, if they even noticed.

      I kept those people on Linked In where that was the more appropriate platform.

    5. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I worked at OldJob when FB first came out on a mass level, and I admit we all got a little Facebook-happy. I had close to 50 coworker FB friends at one point. And then you cannot unfriend them, because they are coworkers and it might create tension! Which becomes double awkward if a FB friend is (or becomes) a coworker in a position of power. At one point I had a list created that I called “HR and management”, that I restricted from seeing most of my posts. Never got any complaints about it. After I left OldJob, I gradually unfriended most of them (or they, me).

      Back in those FB-happy times, we had one HR person who refused to friend anyone. She’d just say “sorry, I do not add anyone from work on Facebook”. We thought it was weird! Then, 2-3 years later, we were all “what a wise woman! We should’ve done the same.”

  19. Akcipitrokulo*

    I have no issue at all with leeway for commutes… but big issue with not treating other reasons the same.

    We don’t lose anything for doctor/dental appointments but are expected to get first or last appointment of day where possible.

    1. Red 5*

      This is exactly the root of the issue here. The commute is kind of a smoke screen (and it’s a standard smoke screen around here to be sure) for unfairness and bad policy and presumably a manager not wanting to do the harder part of their job to ensure that their team is actually performing.

      D.C. commutes are weird and annoying and unpredictable, but there’s a lot of things in life that are that way. Employees should be treated more kindly and fairly overall.

  20. Cordoba*

    I don’t have much sympathy for people with bad or long commutes, and would not extend any special privileges or additional flexibility simply because somebody has one.

    Sure, you can cut somebody a break due to one-time unexpected issues that throw their schedule off. But if it’s a recurring thing then they need to figure out a better way to handle their travel.

    If I found myself in the same office as people who were frequently getting special treatment because their commute is unpredictable I would absolutely just help myself to the same flexibility and then call the question if anybody complains.

    1. ceiswyn*

      So what would you consider a ‘better way to handle’ the major traffic artery that is the one route from east to west?

      1. Mad Baggins*

        It feels like you’re rejecting general advice/comments with difficulties from your very specific situation. Like I feel like if I said “get there early, sit in your car and read a book” you’d say “well what if I don’t like books or can’t read”.

        I agree with Cordoba that in general, people shouldn’t get special privileges based on the length of their commute, and of course random delays happen but recurring lateness is not OK.

        1. Nom Nom*

          I didn’t read it that way, I think ceiswyn makes a good point that having to show up an hour early 9 days out of ten so your on time 1/10 is actually quite onerous especially if there isn’t any alternative routes. An extra hour a day when you’re already commuting 2 is quite significant. I’m lucky that we get excellent flexibility and are encouraged to stagger – after all it does help cut down on the travelling times for everybody if arrival times can be staggered

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            If traffic makes you late 1/10 days, and other people have to use PTO for being late for other reasons, traffic shouldn’t be an exception.

            1. Turtle Candle*

              Right. I’m cool with ‘everyone should have flexibility if your office can support that’ (i.e., there aren’t coverage issues). But if something is as predictable as once every two weeks, I don’t see how it’s different than other semi-predictable Life Happens issues, like dentist appointments or needing to go to facilities with limited business hours. To me it isn’t “let’s punish these people for their commutes” so much as “let’s just not punish anyone for Life Happens events.”

              1. ceiswyn*

                And that is why flexible hours are also the norm in my industry. Instead of sitting in a car park 9 days out of 10, employees make up for the lost time 1 day out of 10.

          2. Positive Reframer*

            Any less onerous than what your company and coworkers are experiencing? More or less onerous than choosing to live closer?

        2. ceiswyn*

          But my situation isn’t ‘very specific’. It is in fact the norm in my industry due to the spread of employer locations and the traffic infrastructure.

          1. Mad Baggins*

            Oh, then you should have led with that. I didn’t realize you were talking about industry norms, not just why you should get an exception. I think we (and Cordoba) agree that employers should allow flex time whenever possible, and we’re just quibbling about what is a reasonable burden to put on employees.

      2. Cordoba*

        The best option is for employers to embrace flexible schedules so employees don’t have to sweat getting in at a certain start time, but I do not agree with only giving flex schedule privileges to certain employees based on their commute.

        If you have a rigid start time and your commute currently involves a long drive through a congested road it may be reasonable to consider whether another job or residence would be a better choice.

        If the job reasonably expects an employee to show up on time and the other circumstances of the employee’s life (to include the location of their residence) prevent them from doing this then maybe the job is not a good fit for them.

        Yes, I know that changing jobs or houses is difficult and expensive, and that it is possible/likely that the housing near the job will be more expensive or less appealing. This is a choice and a problem that virtually every working person has to face. “I’ll just show up late and nuts to the people who live closer” is not a reasonable way to resolve it.

    2. Coral*

      In my office, when I am going to be late because of a scheduled doctor or dentist appointment, something I’ve planned in advance, I am expected to either make up the time or to use my own PTO.

      I’ve also been 90 minutes late because the subway went down, something unexpected, and my manager assured me I wouldn’t have to make up the time.

      I always leave early enough so that if a small delay happens (15-20 minutes) I can still make it in on time, but for the really bad delays you can’t predict, leaving earlier in the morning isn’t feasible every day.

      1. Cordoba*

        There’s a difference between “unexpected special-cause issue that makes me late once or twice a year” and “I’m going to be an hour late twice a month because traffic”.

        I submit that the first one is reasonable and should be accommodated be an employer even in time-sensitive jobs. The second one is not the employer’s problem and is the employee’s issue to resolve.

        1. LJay*

          This exactly.

          I think if the special case is once every 3 months or so I can deal with it.

          Or if it were 10/15 minutes once or twice a month.

          But over an hour every two weeks isn’t something I could just live with. It’s too onerous to expect my other employees (who may be paying more for their apartment so they can live closer to work so they don’t have to deal with a crazy commute) to just cover for. They’d be resentful, it would cause morale problems, etc.

          And it’s not really my problem or my business how my employee chose to structure their life outside of work.

          It’s my business whether they show up to work on time and ready to work. I don’t care how they accomplish that. They can live nearby and walk, they can drive in every day and sit in their car for 45 minutes some days, whatever.

          They knew what the start time was when they took the job. They knew what their commute was like when they took the job. They agreed to it when they took the job.

          I can provide flexibility for some positions. I can give leeway for emergency situations in pretty much all cases.

          When something happens multiple times a month it ceases to be an emergency.

  21. Not Australian*

    OP#4 – if you *don’t* share in the snacks you brought, there’s always going to be some smart*rse either asking what’s wrong with them or assuming that what you brought in was of lower quality than what you’d choose for yourself. Believe me, I’ve had both those responses. (Also, when the gift was ice-cream, a blank refusal to engage and the presumption that ‘someone had left it out by mistake’.) I usually go with “OMG these are brilliant, please help me eat them all!” – depending on the occasion…

      1. pleaset*

        “Yes, its very suspicious to provide food you aren’t eating yourself.”

        Are you joking? Or would you really notice that and be suspicious about it?

        I would rarely notice something like that, and even if I didn’t I wouldn’t care. I assume these are joke comments.

        1. Positive Reframer*

          Not at all, a societal construct where the default would be that the person who prepares the food doesn’t eat the food seems bizarre. There might be exceptions, I don’t think people should be forced to eat what they bring. But yeah, if someone wanted to truly do damage they wouldn’t bring a gun to work and start shooting they’d bring free food. The general expectation that the person who brings it would “break the ice” and take the first piece seems like a more logical norm for many reasons. No I probably wouldn’t notice, I’m one of the fools to busy dropping everything the moment the “there’s leftovers” email goes out.

          Kind of a “don’t trust a skinny chef” thing.

          And yes yes of course, but proverbs aren’t ALWAYS true.

      2. bonkerballs*

        I don’t know, I’m usually the person bringing stuff in and there are lots of reasons why I might not eat any. 1) It’s someone’s birthday and they wanted a chocolate cake, but I don’t like chocolate. 2) I’m bringing in leftovers from an event I baked for this weekend and have already eaten just about as many cupcakes as I can stomach. 3) This recipe I’ve made made less than I was anticipating and I want to make sure everyone else gets one.

  22. DCGirl*

    Another DC area resident here, and the situation OP#1 describes really frosts my cookies. Two jobs ago I commuted via the Virginia Railway Express (commuter rail) as did a number of coworkers, since our office was about two blocks from Union Station. Our hours were 8:30 to 5:00, no exceptions. One coworkers walked in at 8:45 every day and blamed the commute. No, it wasn’t the commute. It was the fact that he took the train that arrived at Union Station at 8:39 instead of one train earlier that arrived at Union Station around 7:45.

    He had chosen to buy at house at the end of the line, which meant being at the train station around 6:35 every morning, and he just didn’t want to get up that early every morning. The train he was taking departed his home station at 7:20 instead. I lived closer to the city and a shorter commute, but I took the train that arrived at 7:45 and just sat in the break room reading and eating breakfast. He also routinely ended his day early to be sure he got on the 5:05 train home whereas there was a crowd of company employees who were on the 5:30 together.

    He got away with it for years and was universally loathed for it.

    1. Roscoe*

      But again, that is one of those things where you should be mad at the boss for letting him get away with it, not him. That is of course unless his being 15 minutes late was affecting you. But if it wasn’t, you were loathing the wrong person

      1. paul*

        Why can’t you be mad at the both of them? Bad behavior is bad behavior, even if your manager isn’t on the ball enough to stop it.

  23. Ann Onimous*

    In my experience, bringing snacks to work tends to be based on the company itself, and how tight-knit teams are.

    After business trips: 90%
    In 11 years (5 companies), there was only one single company where this didn’t happen. But then, there were plenty of other less “formal” opportunities where people DID bring sweets. Basically, more often than not, we had sweets in the kitchen. :P

    After holidays abroad: depends on the destination and/or company
    In some of the companies people always brought back a little something.
    In other companies, it was dependent on the destination. Eg: I brought back plenty of snacks after my trip to Japan, but nothing much from Germany. The idea being that Japanese snacks were different enough to be considered a novelty (yes, they were very popular).

    Birthday/Last day in company: yes.
    This was the one constant at every place of work. The type of snacks differed from person to person: some would bring cakes, others would order pizza for lunch, and others would just buy a few snacks to share in a particular office. But there would always be … something.

    For reference, I am from Europe

  24. Julia*

    OP2, could you bring your own coffee or tea in a thermos you can store in your bag, so that people can’t see it unless you take it out, and you have your hot beverage of choice in case you need it?`I’m assuming you don’t like the drinks you get served, or you anticipate not getting any, and that’s why you want to bring your own?

    I have a really great 0.5 liter thermos from Tiger that doesn’t spill ever and keeps drinks hot for hours. Seriously, I’ve burnt myself several times last winter. It’s also great for keeping drinks cool in summer, especially if you put some ice cubes in first, and you can drink from it directly. Mine looks like the one in my name, but there is probably also a model for your country. You may need to put attention to whether you’re allowed to keep milk or lattes in there.

    1. OP2*

      OP2 here! Yeah, this would be for meetings where I don’t anticipate that there will be drinks available – or in the specific instance that prompted this question, a morning where I woke up with a kinda sore throat and really wanted my favorite tea with a ton of honey in it vs. coffee or anything else. I have a hard time trusting that thermoses or travel mugs won’t spill in my bag after some bad experiences in the past, but I should probably learn to get past that trauma. :)

      1. Wirving*

        Contigo or Zojirushi travel mugs! I have one of each, and I’ve never had a leaking incident with either. They’re god-sends.

        1. Julia*

          Zojirushi is another great Japanese bramd, as is Tiger. My Tiger thermos is seriously great, and I love that bringing it instead of buying stuff helps my budget and the environment. It was only like 25$ as well.

  25. BWooster*

    The timing on the beverage question is funny. I never considered it to be unprofessional to bring in a mug or a travel mug or a bottle or can of soft drink into a meeting but then I had a meeting to which a colleague brought a personal carafe of tea and a teacup and for me that’s where the line was drawn. For reasons I can’t clearly articulate, it looked completely ridiculous every time he went to pour himself some tea from his personal little teapot that I now think that if your drink requires more than one vessel to enjoy, it doesn’t belong in a meeting.

    1. Rosemary7391*

      Really? I wouldn’t do this in an external meeting, but if I bring a cup of tea to an internal meeting it comes in my individual teapot. I’m less likely to spill it en route and it brews on the way. It does only hold one cup of tea though, and it stacks inside the cup until I pour it/after I’ve drunk it. The only comments I ever get are about how British I’m being or how pretty the teapot is!

      1. TL -*

        I do think that’s the kind of thing people are unlikely to comment on, though, if they have a negative impression.

        1. Rosemary7391*

          That’s true – but I genuinely think they don’t care. I mean, it doesn’t disrupt the meeting in any way, I usually pour it before the start so it just sits on the table.

      2. Magnet*

        It’s funny that you get comments on being British. In all the offices in Britain I’ve worked in, I’ve only known one person to do something similar and it was unusual enough that his office nickname was Teapot.

        1. Rosemary7391*

          Drinking tea is unusual enough in my office to get me marked as British! It’s a very multinational office. We do have another teapot user though.

      3. BWooster*

        I fully admit that I am not really sure why this came off so wrong to me. And while not British, I now live and have lived in the UK for a great number of years so I’ve fully come to terms with British affection for tea.

        Nevertheless, it was a team meeting and every time, no matter how quiet or discreet he attempted to be, when he poured out his tea, it brought a meeting to a standstill. It just felt really wrong and it appeared that way to my co-workers not just me, judging by comments made during and after.

        Honestly, I’m sure your teapot is fine and your colleagues are fine with it. I’d love to see a pic cause I love cute teapots. But for some reason this colleague with this teapot was just…off.

        1. Rosemary7391*

          That sounds like quite a lot of tea to be poured multiple times! I just pour mine before the meeting starts, so it’s functionally just a more spill proof vessel to carry it around in. Did he need to use two hands for it?

          My teapot is this one but in blue :)
          https://www.amazon.co.uk/Tea-One-Rennie-Mackintosh-Presentation/dp/B005TRATCI

          ‘Cos it’s a single cup one I can pour it pretty discretely – I know it’ll all fit in the cup and I only need one hand. Perhaps that helps?

          It’s also entirely possible that I’ve had the tea pouring thing more normalised than is usual. My student church group almost always had a teapot going round and we carried on many a discussion whilst tea was being made, poured and passed around the table.

    2. Czhorat*

      I agree that the carafe is a step too far. If you want to try to articulate a reason, I’d say that transferring from one vessel to another imbues the consumption with an element – however rudimentary – of ritual. It sends the message “I am here to enjoy my beverage” rather than “I am here to participate in a meeting, during which I am incidentally imbibing a beverage”.

    3. LJay*

      Yeah, I don’t care about people bringing drinks generally. I usually do it myself because I’m not really a coffee person and that’s generally what is on offer. Starbucks cups? Whatever.

      But this would get to me. I think because of how involved it is? It would look to me like he cared more about his tea than the actual meeting itself.

      Which probably isn’t logical.

      But really.

      Like, what work related material did he bring for the meeting? I’m guessing either a laptop or a notebook and pen. So 1-2 things.

      Tea related? Personal tea pot. Tea cup. At least 2 things so equal to the work related stuff. Plus I’m sort of envisioning a little saucer to put the tea cup on. (Possibly a tea spoon as well. Sweeteners? Cream or milk or lemon juice? Or is that in the teapot already?)

      Plus pouring the tea from one vessel to another and more visual and distracting than just taking a sip from an already prepared mug or travel cup.

      Plus it seems like a preparation thing to me, like he could have prepared this at his desk with the teapot, and just brought it all into the meeting in a cup or travel mug or whatever like everyone else.

      Like you don’t take the coffee pot and plop it on the table in the middle of the meeting and brew your coffee there and people would think you incredibly odd if you did. And I know a tea pot isn’t the same, but it’s the same sort of sensibility to me.

      1. BWooster*

        There was a teaspoon. He didn’t bring his laptop, or a pen or a pencil or a notepad. Which in retrospect is kinda weird since we’re a development team and it was a technical meeting.
        Basically, he brought just himself, his carafe, a teaspoon and the teacup.

      2. Turtle Candle*

        Yeah, I don’t think I would… judge anyone for it, exactly? But there’s something about the elaborateness of it that I’d find mildly distracting.

  26. LGC*

    I mean, I appreciate your employer’s consideration, BUT…like, the people who have long commutes know this is a thing they have to deal with every day.

    I’m actually…nearly the opposite with my team. I’m more inclined to side-eye someone who regularly says they’re coming in late because of their bus/train – then take an earlier bus or train! After a while, your commute doesn’t change – if you’re stuck on I-495 because of that mess, or if you have to contend with NJT and MTA defecating themselves, then that’s a known quantity that you have to plan around.

    There is one exception – paratransit (because AccessLink – NJ’s service – is TERRIBLE unless you have a sub, and even then it’s not that great). And even in that case…we don’t back-credit hours.

      1. LGC*

        I mean, yeah.

        One of my employees used to call me every day saying that they were running late. I honestly got to the point where I’d just ask if they were running late and tell her I’d see her when she got in.

        (You might ask why I didn’t just tell them to only call if they were running extremely late right when I noticed that. It’s…a very long story. Basically, their counselor was concerned that the employee would be confused – they tend to not do well with conditional instructions, so for a couple of months I got daily calls! Finally we just told them to call only if they were running more than X amount of time late and it actually worked well.)

  27. seriousmoonlight*

    OP#4, I work in the international education field in the US and bringing snacks from vacations abroad has been common at every place I’ve worked. It creates a fun little cross-cultural moment in everyone’s day and makes coming back to work a little less blah (I always eat my own snacks!)

  28. Rae*

    #3

    Private message with, “I am moving my work contacts, especially those who I supervise, over to linked in so I can keep my Facebook for family”. Insert link to profile. End of story.

    You can still message on that platform but it’s far more professional and you are less likely to unintentionally see something about your subordinate that you don’t want to.

  29. Delta Delta*

    #4 – I once worked with a lovely, thoughtful woman who was originally from an Eastern European nation. She used her annual vacation to return home to visit her family one year and returned with a huge box of elaborate-looking chocolates for the office. Friends, this candy was terrible. Everyone who tried it made appropriate “mmm” and “thank you” noises. The candy sat for weeks. Finally someone asked her if she had any and she said, “no, I’ve never liked that kind of candy. It doesn’t taste good.”

  30. Czhorat*

    RE: OP#1 and the long commute — I had a job in which I was commuting about an hour and a half door to door (ten minute drive to the notoriously unreliable Long Island Railroad, hour and ten minute train ride, ten minute walk from Penn Station, NY to the office). My cube neighbor had a ten minute crosstown walk. I’d consistently be more on-time than he was because I left myself an extra half-hour to absorb a train delay or even a missed train. He’d wake up at the last minute because he knew he was right next to the office.

    Accommodating emergencies is great and should be done reasonably; if there’s a one-time event that pushes the commute an extra hour then it makes sense to be lenient. If it’s happening weekly or even monthly then I agree that it creates an unfair culture *unless you afford others the same flexibility*.

    That they can come in a half hour late and still get their jobs done implies that perhaps showing up at 9AM on the dot isn’t really all that critical. Everyone here who suggested flexible time, allowing one to work late to make up for the hour missed for a dentist appointment or similar is, in my way of thinking, right on the money.

    1. SpellingBee*

      Another former LIRR commuter here! Mine was also about an hour and a half total, except instead of a walk on the NYC end it was a subway up to midtown. I had a choice of trains from the Long Island stop – one would get me to work right on time if all the stars aligned, and an earlier one that would normally get me to work half an hour early, but leave room for delays. I started out taking the later train but soon switched to the earlier one because it stressed me out too much to worry about being late.

      I had a coworker, though, who lived much closer but was half an hour late every day. Our normal hours were 8:30 to 5, but she arrived at 9 every day, just couldn’t seem to get there on time. So they switched her hours to 9 to 5:30. Same thing, half an hour late. Then 9:30 to 6 . . . half an hour late. I think they finally stopped when they had moved her schedule to 10:30 to 7 and she was STILL half an hour late every. single. day. I guess she was staying to make up the time, I don’t know because I wasn’t there. Lest someone point out that it wasn’t really my concern if it didn’t affect me, it did, actually – nearly every day one or more of the attorneys she worked for would come to me in the mornings asking me to do work for them since “Jane isn’t here yet.” I asked mine if they gave work to Jane in the evenings after I left, and they universally said no. I complained to our office manager about it, but coworker was seemingly untouchable because the main partner she supported loved her. It only stopped affecting me when my group moved into a new space on the other side of the building, but the person who moved into my space probably got it instead.

  31. Detective Amy Santiago*

    You need to hold all of your employees to the same standards.

    If there’s some catastrophic failure on the metro line, then you should cut everyone a break because that might impact even the people who don’t take the metro by nature of the fact that there are more cars on the road. Same with bad weather.

    Other than that, people need to plan better. If you know there are frequently delays on your commute, then you plan for that and if you end up early, well good. Better than being late.

    1. Czhorat*

      Agreed.

      If they’re disasterously late once because their commute was effected by a train derailment, water-main break, steam-pipe explosion, meteor strike, alien invasion, or tear in the very fabric of space-time that’s reasonable to overlook. If they’re late all the time because commuting sucks then they really need to plan better.

    2. glitter writer*

      The Metro actually *is* a catastrophic failure in DC, is the problem. You can routinely leave 60 minutes for a 30-minute trip and *still* routinely be late to work. Right now for the rest of the summer several lines have simply stopped operating part or all of the time, or are on half service. It’s extremely unpredictable — my husband and I are house-hunting in the area, after 10 years in the same apartment, and sometimes we’ll look at a neighborhood, and I’ll look at the commute, and it could be anywhere from 15 to 90 minutes depending on which Metro lines are going to be under construction for a month.

      It’s gotten really gnarly. I take the bus now but most of the folks I work with commute by Metro and despite the fact that none of them are leaving any later than usual, they’re all coming in scattered over an hour now.

      1. Red 5*

        Yes, exactly. In other cities with other transit systems, a lot of this advice would make tons of sense.

        But WMATA is not other transit systems. Before Safetrack, they averaged a track fire or smoke incident _every single day_ for over a year. Our train system was almost literally a dumpster fire. It is a poster child for the problems in infrastructure investment and mismanagement. There have been improvements, but that just means the “half the office is 90 minutes late because haha, it’s the red line” is happening once a month instead of once a week.

        Half the time, when the trains are late you never even know why. “Signal problems” or “fire department activity” or “schedule adjustments” or whatever excuse they’re throwing at it this time, if you can even hear the announcements and if they’re even making any. And that’s just an average day, that’s not including things like the fact that right now half of the system is running at like 25% capacity because of construction for two weeks.

        It’s a system that was run so badly for so long with no eye towards safety or improvements that basically right now somebody sneezing too hard can cause a two hour delay.

      2. Ali G*

        Most of my friends in the area (including me) have just given up on Metro. The first day of my last job was the same day they started the Rush+ on the Blue/Orange line. I started driving to work at New Job and my coworker who traveled the same line as me from OldJob was miserable.
        I had another friend that lived in the same condo building as I did and she commuted to DC on the orange line. She ended up selling her condo, buying a house off the metro line and now drives to work.
        When hubs and I were house hunting we actually were more interested in being off Metro than on it, because neither of us were using it or intend to.

      3. BlueWolf*

        Yeah, my fiance and I are considering a move and we were thinking about Alexandria, but then I learned that they’re planning to shut down all stations south of DCA for the entire summer next year. So, if we did move there we would have to factor in not being able to use the Metro for commuting. From WMATA website: “Six of Metro’s 91 stations will be closed between Memorial Day and Labor Day 2019: Braddock Road, King Street, Eisenhower Avenue, Huntington, Van Dorn Street, and Franconia-Springfield.”

        1. Dankar*

          I did not know this. Ugh. We were planning on taking some family in to stay in DC for a week or so, and were eyeing the Eisenhower Ave area. Nevermind that, then.

          1. BlueWolf*

            I imagine there are some (less-convenient) bus options, and hopefully they expand bus service or have other options during the shutdown. I took the bus once last week to try it due to all the dire warnings about the Orange/Silver line single-tracking, but I felt guilty about taking up a spot from the usual bus commuters. Our bus was full halfway through the route and we bypassed numerous stops with people waiting who appeared (understandably) very frustrated. It also still took longer than Metro even with the single-tracking.

      4. Detective Amy Santiago*

        I lived in the DC Metro area for 5 years and am well versed in the idiosyncrasies of the metro system. I actually gave up on the metro and took the bus when I realized it was both faster and cheaper.

        I mean, if they are doing planned maintenance and that is causing widespread issues, then yeah, I think the powers that be should take that into consideration. But my main point still stands – everyone should be subject to the same policies.

  32. AvonLady Barksdale*

    #4, this recently came up for me, and it made me think about how my office does things. I work for a small company and there’s one central break room. I usually come back with some kind of chocolate or I bake something I learned about on my vacation and leave it in the break room. I don’t think I brought anything back when I went on a beach vacation in my state, though. A lot of people in my office do the same; we recently got some stroopwafels when someone went to the Netherlands.

    When I worked in a huge company, people on my team would bring back little trinkets for the rest of us– I got a keychain from California, a magnet from somewhere else, etc. I went to Mexico City and brought back soaps from the Museo de Arte Popular. We rarely did sweets or snacks because we didn’t have a central location where we could leave things.

    What struck me as really odd, though, was when a bunch of us traveled together and I was the only one who thought to bring back cookies for the rest of the company. Not that I think everyone else was wrong, more that I was surprised no one else considered it. Anyway, they were really good cookies, and I ate about four of them, so there’s the other part of your question!

    In short, I think every office is different in terms of expectations, but I have never met an office that didn’t appreciate a little something from a different place.

  33. Madeleine Matilda*

    Another DC-area commuter here – We are lucky where I work because we have flexible schedules. I always tell my staff that if they are delayed due to traffic that they can choose either to use leave to cover that time or simply adjust their hours. It makes no sense that OP1’s company is just writing off delayed arrival due to commuting and is apparently impacting the morale of those who get to work on time. Practically every week, if not day, in the DMV there can be a Metro line delay or shutdown or a major accident impacting the roads.

  34. TIFF*

    #1: please make sure you know the facts. I have this flexibility at my job with a 1 – 1.5 hour commute. I don’t get flack when I am late but I’m also not getting paid!

    This is a private agreement, everyone knows I have slack but my manager isn’t flaunting the details of my payroll. I either use PTO, skim off my lunch, or at the end of the year I’ll need to pay back any deficiency.

    I even had the option to reduce my salary to reflect about 30 minutes a day. But again, this wasn’t announced to all my coworkers.

    I am sure there are people who are side eyeing me thinking I am getting paid to be late. But frankly it is none of their business what management has negotiated with me.

    Sit down with management or HR and ask the specific questions, never assume and get disgruntled over a misconception.

    1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesInYourHouse*

      It actually is their business if X is getting more PTO than they are or even if that is an assumption. If X can make up their lateness without using leave, Y should be allowed to as well. The arrangement you have should be available to all.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        This.

        If it’s an ADA accommodation or something like that, then at least acknowledge that “there are extenuating circumstances” but don’t be salty if people are mad that you appear to be getting special treatment.

  35. Selene*

    I think the commuting thing is kind of ridiculous. I’m all for flexibility if the Metro is delayed. That’s just life. I think it would be a good idea to also be flexible about appointments and flat tires and things, but I can see being flexible just for public transit delays if it has a big impact. But predictable delays should be treated the same as everything else. I think the real solution is to just be more flexible in general.

  36. The Other Dawn*

    RE: #2

    It has never crossed my mind that it might be rude to bring your own beverages to an external meeting. I’ve been to plenty of meetings outside my company where people brought their own drink, both the hosts and the attendees. It’s so common to see people with all sorts of different cups, mugs, etc. that it doesn’t even occur to me that maybe they shouldn’t do that.

    1. Villanelle*

      So in your case it’s probably the norm and not rude at all. Advice often doesn’t fit all companies and there will be situations like yours where it doesn’t seem to apply as everyone does it.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Right. Even in previous companies it was no big deal to bring your own when going off-site to a meeting with a vendor or even to meet with a potential new vendor. Tea, coffee, water, sports drinks. I wouldn’t think twice if was a fancy water bottle, a whipped cream-topped latte, or a plain old paper cup of coffee. I really don’t care what people are drinking. Now if they brought a drink without a lid and spilled it everywhere, that would make jugde them.

  37. AdAgencyChick*

    For #1, I used to agree completely with Alison, especially because I had a really bad experience with a coworker who lived in Philadelphia (working in NYC), and I always got stuck covering his work after hours when he waltzed out of the office at 4:45 to catch his Amtrak.

    Now, there is one exception in which I think that those with longer commutes should be allowed more flexibility, and that’s for junior employees if the organization doesn’t pay salaries high enough to allow them to live close to work without, say, packing multiple roommates into a one-bedroom.

    In the 15 years I’ve been working in advertising, NYC rents have risen a lot faster than salaries. When I first started in the business, my salary allowed me to share a comfortable two-bedroom in a convenient Brooklyn neighborhood. Today, a person with that same job title, in order to spend the same percentage of her income on rent, would have to live much farther out in the outer boroughs. There are lots of junior people in my field now who continue to live with their parents deep in New Jersey or Long Island, and some of them are permitted to leave work early (although they often continue to work at home or on the train). I don’t begrudge them that, because I know they’re not being paid as much.

  38. Birch*

    #2, IMO you don’t bring any kind of refreshments until you have established a working relationship. If they’re provided, great, if not, you can deal for a couple of hours. It feels a little unprofessional because it seems like you’re all set to focus on your drinks and snacks instead of the meeting, plus what about everyone else who would also presumably rather be drinking coffee and eating snacks? (I mention snacks not because you did, but because I have seen this happen and it’s off putting for sure. It reminds me of uni where only the troublemakers would bring snacks to class the first weeks, before we knew if that particular instructor was Cool With It or not.) The other thing is logistics, especially if you’ve grabbed something on the go rather than packed it (and packing it indicates a whole other level of premeditated focus on your own refreshments). I’ve been in places where I had an empty cup but nowhere to get rid of it, and then you’re sort of awkwardly carrying around an empty dirty cup all day. That’s not super likely, and yeah, this all sounds pretty dramatic for a small thing, but it implies a level of comfort that you haven’t really earned in the first few meetings. Like Alison said–overly casual.

    1. Oxford Comma*

      I think this is a case of knowing your workplace culture. You don’t take the beverage the first few times until you get a sense of what flies. There are very few meetings internally where I could not bring a beverage, but if I went to meet with my faculty, I wouldn’t bring anything.

      1. OP2*

        OP2 here! That makes sense. It’s sort of like Alison’s advice about dress code at a new job: err on the side of caution until you get a good read on what’s appropriate. I can do that.

  39. JerryLarryTerryGary*

    Core hours.
    I think they need to allow people to start earlier. The example of sitting in your car reading for an hour for the 1-10 chance of a delay is ridiculous- that is another day of work.

    1. Genny*

      Agreed. Employers can’t expect employees to always be the ones bending over backwards, especially in this case when the vast majority of jobs don’t need people to be in their seats precisely when the work day starts.

  40. The Other Dawn*

    RE: #4

    Please bring the snacks, and take some for yourself. I love when coworkers travel and bring stuff back. Most of the time it’s a chance to try something I’ll probably never had a change to try again. I think the best thing a coworker ever brought back was Mozart chocolates from Austria. I probably ate a large majority of them since many coworkers either didn’t eat sweets or just didn’t like the chocolates.

    I think it’s dependent on your company. In that company, we always brought treats back from travel, meetings, home, etc. We were a close-knit group and we loved ANY excuse to eat food and socialize for a few minutes since we all wore multiple hats. At my current company, it really depends on the department and their manager. Some departments do it and some don’t, either because of the group dynamic or the tone set by the manager.

  41. McWhadden*

    I’m all for giving people with terrible commutes a break. But not an hour or hour and a half break! Maybe only if something truly unexpected happens (like subways have to completely shut down.)

    They should offer flex schedules for everyone. So if you have a bad commute work 7-3 but you actually have to work those hours. (And others should also get that benefit with the caveat that all hours of business day may need coverage.)

  42. Roscoe*

    For #1, I definitely think there should be SOME flexibility for people with crazy commutes. However, I think around 30 minutes is kind of the max on that, especially if its regularly happening. For the most part though, since it sounds like you are in a position where you are clocking in and out and the coverage is something the care about, I agree with you that its not far.

    That said, I also think there are exceptions to that. If its well known that there is a blizzard hitting one day around 4:00 and you usually close at 5, then I think on its own, that is fine to make an exception for. That to me is very different than you planning to leave an hour early for a doctors appointment. I think both sides of this argument are trying to make very sweeping generalizations, when there are times when both can be right.

    1. Red 5*

      If it’s regularly happening, yes, that’s a problem and should be addressed, especially because it takes a five minute twitter search to figure out what’s going on with the trains around here.

      But our system is so completely messed up that a 30 minute delay out of nowhere because of “a signaling problem” actually happens a lot more often than it should and there have been some specific epic bad days where people get delayed by two to three hours. If they have to start single tracking during rush hour, forget it, you’re definitely going to be an hour late to work. Heaven help you if they shut down your station and you have to try to take the shuttle busses, because that’s also potentially a couple hours delay. WMATA is a _mess_ and it’s getting better but it’s the type of mess that’s kind of hard to grasp the scale of if you’re not living in it.

  43. Art3mis (fmrly Bad Candidate)*

    #1 – Just another thought on this. And I’m not familiar with DC so I don’t know if the same thing applies. I used to work in Lincolnshire, Illinois, a northern suburb. It’s not the most expensive suburb, but definitely affluent. The people with the longer commutes were the ones who simply could not afford to live anywhere close to Lincolnshire. They were also the people in roles that were not allowed to work from home when bad weather struck and had to burn PTO for it. But if they were late, they also had to use PTO to cover for that, but it was excused rather than it being held against them. Anyway, where you live isn’t always a choice, it might be what you can afford. Just because a company’s HQ is in an expensive area doesn’t mean that they are paying their employees enough to live within a close radius.

    1. DCGirl*

      In the case I cited earlier, the employee made the choice between living in a smaller condo or townhouse closer in or buying a detached home (new construction) with a yard further out. His choice. It wasn’t financial; it was lifestyle. Part of being an adult is understanding that there are trade-offs with all the choices we make in life. His was that, in order to have the house he wanted, he would have a longer commute and would have to get up earlier and get home later to do so. He chose not to accept that and arrived late/left early every day.

      1. Red 5*

        Those are the people who drive me the most up the wall around here. Not just because they’re contributing to the traffic congestion simply because of their desire for a type of lifestyle that is more fitting for a different area, but also because they sometimes (often) expect everybody to be so sympathetic and understanding of it too.

        1. DCGirl*

          Exactly. It was his attitude of “I can’t possibly live anywhere except a detached house with a yard, and the house must be brand-new and just the way I want it,” when the office was full of people who were doing just fine in smaller, older homes/condos.

          1. Jennifer Thneed*

            LOL, I’m prejudiced against new houses. Give me something old, preferably 1940 or older. (I grew up in an Arts & Crafts-era house in an urban area. When I was a kid I used to think I would “get back to the land” and be rural and all that. Guess what? I like walkable places.)

      2. Art3mis (fmrly Bad Candidate)*

        Right, but that’s a choice. In my example, there just aren’t housing options that someone making $25,000/year anywhere near to that suburb.

  44. The Doctor*

    OP #1…

    Some of my coworkers call that the “residency penalty.”

    My office is in NYC. Martha (who takes a bus from the distant suburbs of Pennsylvania) gets lots of flexibility in arriving late or leaving early. Sarah Jane (who has a 90-minute subway ride from an outer borough) gets nasty looks if she’s even a few minutes late. Plus, suburbanites always get priority in hiring and promotions.

    1. Justin PBG*

      Yeah, it’s pretty annoying. I do not understand the “I think I’ll live two entire states over” thing, but if you do it, the time management should be up to you.

      1. doreen*

        The really bizarre thing is that Martha from PA might have the same 90 minute commute as Sarah Jane has from Brooklyn or Queens.

    2. AdAgencyChick*

      Yeah, it REALLY pissed me off as a junior employee when I lived in Brooklyn and had to stay in the office late nights for a more senior coworker (not that I wouldn’t have resented the situation if he had been my boss instead of my coworker, but he didn’t even have authority over me) who lived in Philadelphia. Like, why should I take all the evening coverage because you choose to live somewhere that requires Amtrak? Given the difference in our job titles at the time, dude probably made at least $50K/year more than I did.

      I do feel differently these days if it’s the junior employee who lives in the boondocks and the senior one who lives in the city. Rents have gone up so much that a junior’s salary means living at home in the ‘burbs to have a chance of saving a little money, getting an apartment way out in the outer boroughs, or else spending an obscene percentage of your income (and/or living with multiple roommates in a space meant for one or two) to live in a convenient neighborhood. In those cases, I think the seniors should be willing to take on some extra work to give some flexibility to their direct reports, since it is the company that determines who can afford to live nearby.

      1. Cordoba*

        From the employer’s perspective the senior employee is probably more valuable and harder to replace. They also likely have more of at track record for getting results and managing their own time, and need less supervision and management in general. It may make sense to give them more leeway and to keep them happy.

        I’m currently a “Senior” employee in my position. I’m not interested in taking on extra work so that a new employee can have a more flexible commute.

        1. VictorianCowgirl*

          How does your stance change when considering a 7-yr employee who still doesn’t make enough to live close to work?

          1. Cordoba*

            Not much, really. I don’t regard “live close to work” as an inherent right.

            They job/location/money/commute matrix is something that every working person has to figure out for themselves as well as they can. It’s part of having a job.

            If somebody has answered that question in a way that is unsustainable or that prevents them from meeting the reasonable on-time and on-site requirements of the job I don’t see why it matters how long they’ve been doing it this way.

            I’m sympathetic to their difficulties and willing to work something out that makes their life easier if we can do so in a way that doesn’t negatively impact me. I am definitely not willing to just “take on extra work” indefinitely in order to enable their bad commute.

            1. Whaow*

              But you are okay with them taking on extra work because of you? That’s quite the negative outlook.

              1. Cordoba*

                I’m okay with “how bad is this person’s commute” not being a factor in determining the expectations for their quality or quantity of work.

                I don’t want them to have *extra* work, just the same amount of work as other people at their level who don’t have a long commute.

  45. The Doctor*

    OP #4…

    Unless you’re actually allergic to any of the ingredients, you SHOULD partake of the snacks. It would look very strange to bring in something for general consumption and not eat any of it yourself.

    1. Murphy*

      I’m honestly not watching anybody’s food habits that closely, so I don’t think I’d even notice.

  46. lnelson1218*

    to OP#1. I have more often than not lived in places where public transportation was the main means of getting to work. For myself included.
    Most of the time, you do get to work on time with good time management. But yes, I know the Metro in Washington DC has issues and it often effected me when I lived there.
    I think that companies should see a trend. If everyone who took the red line is later, then clearly is it an external force causing the tardiness. However if one out of 25 is late for no good reason. Then that should be addressed.
    That being said I have taken public transportation for years and have managed to get to my destination on time the vast majority of the time.

    1. Justin PBG*

      Yeah we do trainings, and if people are late showing up, we check mta.info to see if there’s a major delay (and also compare to our own commutes, if they were unimpeded).

      People get reported (we have to, because they’re getting paid to be there) if they’re just… late. Nothing happens if it’s clear the entire 4/5/6 is jacked up, for example.

      1. Red 5*

        Yeah, when I worked retail (just outside metro accessibility) when somebody was late we usually knew what road they were taking and could check a traffic report. “Oh, a wreck on 495, that means Joe and Tonya are probably also running late and that’s why Sam isn’t here yet.” It was retail so the schedule was pretty tightly designed, but managers knew how to work with the wiggle room needed to accomodate the whims of DC traffic. They always still preferred it if you could call and let them know, but we knew how to figure it out.

        But you couldn’t roll in 30 minutes late and say you ran into traffic on the beltway if you hadn’t, because there were too many of us with similar drives that could go “um, what traffic?”

  47. Justin PBG*

    On my team of 20 people, it seems like only a few of us (myself included) have easy commutes. There was a woman who was commuting from PA for reasons that escaped me (eventually she got tired of a 2.5 hr commute).

    But look, as others have said, subway asplodes? Yeah, things happen. The subway is the normal 0-15 minutes delayed? Then people need to leave 15 minutes early and horror of horrors they might be early to work.

    It should not be considered different from other PTO (if that’s the policy) if you’re just… late. Because if you’re late frequently, it’s you! (Not you specifically, but the proverbial you.)

    1. Red 5*

      Yeah, D.C. isn’t exactly a unique place for commuting, but it kind of is at the same time. But that doesn’t mean it requires an entirely unique solution. I mean, for a couple years there the metro averaged a track fire every day, there’s only so much an individual can do about that. But I also leave earlier than I technically need to because of that reason, and most people I know do that.

      Though I have less sympathy for the people who choose to live in Richmond or West Virginia and drive into DC every day because they want a fancier house or whatever. If they can consistently get to work on time with that commute, I just think they’re insane but whatever. But if they’re constantly late then that’s a decision they made, that’s not random.

        1. Johan*

          Oh there are cities in West Virginia that are a good hour closer to DC than commuting from Richmond is.

  48. Enys*

    It’s a very Israeli thing to bring back goodies to the office when you take a vacation or a work trip abroad. I had no idea this was common in the US! At our company at least, people bring in chocolate even if they didn’t feel like schlepping it back in their luggage – most do, but some just buy some in a local shop and put it out. And of course the bringer can partake in the goodies, though they usually just take some before they put out the rest (on a table in the main hallway where all food items for coworkers go).

  49. ItsAllFunAndGamesUntil*

    #1: Mostly agreeing with the answer that was given, we handle it the same way, typical ebb and flow issues with traffic, fender benders, late or missing buses or trolleys are just part of “working in town” and are things you need to work around.

    However we would make exceptions, offer wiggle room, for very unusual goings on (specially if they impact multiple and or most of the employees), things like the whole trolley system getting knocked out mid-rush, major accident in a tunnel that shut down the interstate for hours, barge hit a bridge causing it to be closed down for hours.

    A caveat, we are in a city that has meh at best public transportation, so if your route is not working you are SOL mostly there is no ‘plan B’, and also there are a very limited number of “major” routes to town. One tunnel or bridge being closed during rush hour will impact 1/3 or more of workers downtown easily.

    1. Ali G*

      Lol!
      My old job was on the Red Line and a lot of people used it (the company moved here from another state and a lot of new hires were local). I drove in from NOVA and I always knew something was wrong on the Red Line because like 75% of the staff wouldn’t be in by 9:30 am.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      When I lived down there, it was faster and cheaper to take a bus from Silver Spring to Bethesda than to take the red line.

  50. Persimmons*

    #2 Does your company offer branded mugs or tumblers? Our advertising department scatters company swag far and wide, and we’re encouraged to use it ourselves. Carrying a Company Thermos to a client meeting seems somehow more intentional, like “we at Company X have all our bases covered” instead of “I was flustered and exhausted and needed a Dunkin run before meeting with you”.

    1. Rae*

      The downside to that is I’ve had companies get really obnoxious about *only* using their products to the exclusion of every other one, included “unbranded” items. So not only saying that you can’t bring your alma mater’s mug to work (working in a college) or even your Comcast/Dunkins/Insurance but you had to cover up things like Klean Kanteen or Yeti. So that’s a blessing and a curse.

  51. Red 5*

    I live in DC, I’ve been on multiple angles of the bad commute here (actually teleworking today because WMATA basically told everybody to just avoid the trains for two weeks). It’s really pretty simple in the end.

    -You get paid only for the time you work.
    -You don’t get “dinged” or written up or in trouble if the reasons you are late are beyond your control.
    -You have to communicate consistently with your team to ensure everybody is taken care of.

    It is really that easy.

    So if your coworker rolls in at 10:30 when they are scheduled to arrive at 8, no they shouldn’t get a warning or a demerit or whatever for being late.

    But they don’t claim the time from 8-10:30 on their timesheet, because they weren’t working. Your commute isn’t work hours, so it’s not time you should be getting paid for. If that means they have to take leave because they don’t want to stay late to make up the time, then they take leave. If that means they stay late or something to make up the time, that’s between them and their manager. If they want to leave early to not be trapped in their car on Georgetown Pike during a snowstorm because they’re stuck for six hours (a thing that actually happened a few years ago) then they take an hour of leave or they make up the time.

    I worked at a job where they threatened to write us up if we were five minutes late to our shifts at any time, for any reason, even if we called the manager to explain that there was an accident and all but one lane of the beltway was shut down. Nothing mattered except if you were standing at that clock at the appointed hour. The process of write up to PIP to losing your job was really swift, there were some of us with nightmare commutes that would have lost our jobs in about six months. That is completely untenable if you want to retain good employees around here, and we all pushed back on it as a group (even though it came from corporate in another state) and the policy just quietly wasn’t enforced.

    But it’s not really that hard to be fair about it. You don’t get paid for commuting time, but you don’t get punished because metro is on fire again. The metrics for abusing the system are the same as any other, teamwork, communication, getting your job done, etc. They’re just more qualitative than quantitative, so it requires managers pay attention and care.

    1. glitter writer*

      This is so sensible.

      I got written up once for being late when I worked on Staten Island — I lived in Brooklyn at the time. Due to inclement weather, the ferries were all canceled. I sat there at the ferry terminal for 2.5 hours calling in every 30 minutes to say, “Hey, they’re still not running them, I’m still at the ferry terminal, here’s what they say.”

      When that job (which was toxic in a lot of other ways, too) and I parted ways, they cited my “unreliability” as part of why. The next job I interviewed for, it actually became part of what got me the job, haha.

      “What do you look for in a manager?”
      “Someone with realistic expectations. I’m good, but I’m not literal walk-on-water good! [tells story]”

      1. Jack V*

        Oh my gosh, that’s an amazing comment. “Not walk-on-water good” :)

        And yeah, this is about what I was thinking. Just ignoring it when something genuinely exceptional happens is fair, and it doesn’t really make a difference who’s getting that extra half day every four years.

        If the problem is, half the people have a commute which is 30 minutes most days but 3 hours a couple of times a month, then just letting them skip that time isn’t fair to everyone else. But unless the work can literally only be done by twenty people working in unison, it would be fair to see if there’s any way to offer them some flexibility in start time, either starting 2.5 hours early every day but leaving early too, or having a rota for “people who need to be in on time no excuses” rather than EVERYONE, or letting people make up the time. Neither “they can’t do anything about it so they just get paid for less time” nor “we wash our hands of it, you need to be here 3 hours early and do nothing for 3 hours before work EVERY DAY or you’ll be fired when you’re late”.

      1. Salad*

        But they could force you to take leave, right? (Which I think is dumb, if you work unpaid overtime as an exempt employee you should get that same flexibility in return, but a lot of companies operate that way.)

  52. Bones*

    OP1- how much do you earn at this job? It’s been my experience that shitty employers who pay rhinestone salaries expect diamond devotion, and it’s a ridiculous expectation (particularly when you don’t pay your employees to live in the same city as their job).

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s not really “diamond devotion” to expect people to be at work on time. But I don’t think the point here is “punish people who are at the mercy of traffic/metro delays.” It’s “give the same flexibility to everyone.”

      1. Bones*

        I’d argue that it is if they’re already adding an additional 2/3 hours to their day to get to said job.

      2. Salad*

        I agree it’s not “diamond devotion”, but the problem of not paying people enough to live reasonably close to where they work is a huge problem in many areas of the country (silicon valley cafeteria workers, etc), although not one that will be solved by some employers offering some flexibility.

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          Cops and teachers. Both should be able to live in the communities they work in. Around here, the joke is that (city about 30 miles north of SF, and across a bridge) is extremely safe because so many SF cops live there. Actually, that was the joke 20 years ago. I wonder where they all live now.

      3. Bones*

        I got too heated in this discussion and, you’re right, viewed it through an overly specific lens. Apologies!

      4. Turtle Candle*

        Yeah, I think that’s where I’m coming from. It’s not that I think that the commuters should get punished. It’s that right now, the commuters get an exemption from “if you can’t be here at 8 (or whatever) you have to take PTO.” In many workplaces, that would be easily solved by giving that same flexibility, within reason, to everyone.

  53. Bea*

    How old is your coworker that asked you why you never liked their posts?! That’s such a bizarre thing to notice after your high school years.

    I’ve only ever had one current boss on my feed but she added me and it’s worked as a great way to stay in touch. I can’t imagine asking her why she never likes my cat videos or vacation pics, how awkward.

  54. RussianInTexas*

    OP#1 – no. People should not get leeway for terrible commute. Adults are expected to manage their time. Outside of exceptional situations like inclement weather, bad accident, nuclear war, sudden landslide, etc, you should adjust to your normal commute, whatever that might be.
    Schools are back. I have to leave the house 15 minutes earlier now to get to work on time. I deal with it by leaving the house 15 minutes earlier.

    1. Goya de la Mancha*

      I would even say inclement weather shouldn’t be an excuse. If you live in an area that receives snow (more then an inch or two) regularly you know this. You don’t get to live in a Northern state and then be “surprised” every time the snow piles high enough to slow down traffic/trains/etc. The weather will predict, and you need to plan your next day or so accordingly. That may mean taking the 6:30 train instead of the 7:00 bus that day just to give yourself a cushion. I drive for my commute and while it’s not a bad commute at all, I still leave early on bad weather days because that’s how adults manage their time.

      1. A username for this site*

        “That may mean taking the 6:30 train instead of the 7:00 bus ”

        Yes, and you may get to the 6:30 train to find it has been canceled due to snow, and the 7:00 bus is late also due to snow, so then what?

      2. Perse's Mom*

        You’re right that a bit of snow doesn’t count as an excuse to be late when you live in that climate, but “inclement weather” isn’t just a bit of snow – that’s getting into severe weather territory. Blizzards, limited visibility, significant deterioration of road conditions, higher likelihood of accidents and delays.

        Regular snow means leaving home early to be on time to work and/or leaving work on time but expecting to get home a bit later. Inclement weather means deciding whether to leave work early to get ahead of the storm or not even risk going to work at all.

    2. Goldfish Memories*

      I think the issue is that in a lot of cities (DC, NYC), you don’t necessarily have a “normal” commute. Your commute could be 25 minutes if the stars align, or it could be 90 minutes if the track is on fire, or a tree falls across the tracks or someone pulls the emergency brake or the mysterious “signal problems” that seem to always plague the MTA. I try to leave 30 minutes early for everything in case there are train issues and just deal with being early for work or appointments, but even then, there are times when I’ll be 15-30 minutes late because of some unforeseen issue.

      TL: DR, I know the chances of being delayed are good, but I never know how long the delays might be.

      1. doreen*

        I actually think the issue is at least partially that too many people think “25 minutes if the stars align” is their normal commute. I can make it between home and work in 10 minutes if the stars align. That’s not my normal commute – and neither is the hour it sometimes takes. My normal commute is the 20-30 minutes it takes most of the time.

    3. smoke tree*

      In general, I don’t think people should get unusual leeway for not planning ahead, but it’s just not always possible to plan so far ahead that nothing ever goes wrong. I think ultimately the best solution is to allow employees the flexibility to deal with delays in a way that makes sense to them, if the job allows it. It makes a lot more sense to allow someone to work late to make up for a rare delay than to require them to leave the house an hour early every day just in case.

  55. Matilda Jefferies*

    For the Canadians here: I have a friend who lived in France for several years, and when she came home to visit her family, she always took the overnight flight back and went straight to the office for the day. She got in the habit of bringing Timbits back with her, which her Parisian colleagues absolutely loved! In the land of croissants and butter and delicious pastries of all sorts, it was the donut holes that people enjoyed the most. :)

    OP4, I think “appreciated but not expected” is likely going to be the answer in most offices. Most people aren’t going to say no to delicious snacks – allergies and dietary restrictions excepted, of course, but they will still appreciate the gesture. And I agree with Alison and others that it’s definitely okay for you to have some as well!

  56. Bones*

    I think people should get leeway for awful commutes, particularly those who are paid little and are already sacrificing even more of their off hours to commute to/prepare for work. You can’t pay people that little and then be that awful to them– that’s how you lose employees and esteem as a company.

  57. Amber Rose*

    When I went overseas, I bought pens. A giant pack of pens with neat, location specific designs on them, and gave those out at work. Small, useful and not terribly expensive.

    Most of my coworkers don’t bother but some of them have brought back small knick knacks or treats to share.

  58. Lora*

    Alright, I’m going to be the combo breaker for OP1.

    Companies CHOOSE where they will set up a site. They should be choosing carefully (I’m looking at you, Cambridge companies who think that innovation happens via osmosis and therefore they should be as close as possible to Kendall Square). One of the things they consider in choosing a site – and they have a LOT more money to make the decision with – is how the heck are employees going to get there. Where is your hiring pool generally located, will you need to offer a great many relo packages to hire people, what is the local real estate market like (*coughcough* San Francisco *cough*), can we offer salaries in line with that cost of living, will we need to build or lease. When you are building a new facility, if your local government is smart, they will ask you to pay for traffic studies and they will ask you to consider parking and how your new facility will affect major highways and so on. Will you subsidize transit passes, how will you get your employees from wherever they live to your work site.

    If you choose a location in Middle of Nowhere, Connecticut, where there are few other major employers, you can expect short commute times as people can live nearby – but you will have to pay through the nose for relocation packages, and if you are in a field where frequent layoffs are a thing (or if you are a not-great company and people rarely stay more than a few years), many good candidates won’t want to go.

    If you choose a location in Hipster Central, California, where there are many other employers, you can expect long and irregular commutes full of peril as people rely on transit – but you won’t have to pay relocation. On the other hand, nobody will stay for more than a few years simply because it’s so easy to change jobs that your HR is dealing with constant churn.

    If you choose a location in Medium Size City, Deutschland, where there is decent transit but it’s not a huge city, you will have a somewhat limited candidate pool and will have to pay for relocation, but the people who are there will stick around a long time, and they will always show up on time because the transit system is quite modern and easy to use.

    These are the natural and wholly foreseeable consequences of site selection when deciding where to put a facility. There are entire civil engineering firms who are delighted to figure these things out for you. Companies make choices and reap the consequences, and they have a lot more leeway and power to make a wise decision than the worker bees do.

    1. ragazza*

      Thank you for pointing this out. My company moved to a suburban location outside a major city because several executives wanted to be near their homes. Neither of them is with the company anymore, and one of them works for a company in the city! If you live in the city there are basically no public transportation options unless you want to spend five hours a day commuting (not exaggerating). Meanwhile when our clients come they tend to be a little crestfallen that the Big City office is actually in the middle of strip-mall suburbia. I keep lobbying for a satellite office downtown, but it’s not going to happen.

      1. Whaow*

        What??? I hope the powers that be are also no longer with your company, because that’s a hell of a decision to make just for two people. I wouldn’t trust them with anything else. Like Allison says, what if treasured executives got hit by a bus tomorrow? No one is that irreplaceable. Clearly, since your company continues on without them. Wild.

    2. Positive Reframer*

      Add to this that with video conferencing and telework becoming more common, being in industry centers (think Houston for Oil etc) isn’t as necessary as it once was.

      And another thing, long commutes are legitimately bad for people so there is a productivity and economic value to being located in an area that minimizes commutes.

      People should weight the same factors when deciding where to live in relation to where they work or likely might work. What does reasonably priced (compared to salary) housing look like within one mile of the office? how about five miles?

  59. ExceptionToTheRule*

    RE: commute – My position as someone who manages people whose jobs require them to be on time is this: you know when you need to be at work, your commute or transportation is up to you as an adult.

    If you know you’re going to be late more than 15 minutes, for whatever unforeseen reason, it is incumbent upon you to make contact with your supervisor and notify that person – not just waltz in however late. If you have a scheduled appointment that will require you to be late, then you need to take PTO so we can bring someone else in to cover.

    If you consistently cannot make it to work on time, I will counsel you and offer you different strategies that might work, but ultimately, I’ve had to fire people for chronic lateness. I’m very up front with people when I hire them for these positions what the hours are and the attendance requirements.

    There are some jobs that actually need people to be at work on time and all the desire in the world to be flexible doesn’t mean anything. There are often jobs in the same company that don’t need that rigidity. My advice to the OP is to talk to your manager/HR and make sure you aren’t missing something.

  60. Dankar*

    I find the our work culture’s obsession with rigid start times absolutely bizarre. I can count on a single hand the number of people I know who have a real need to be in their seats (or equivalent) right at 9am,. The rest of my family/friends/acquaintances can arrive/leave 30 minutes later with no impact on their work. If you work in one of these jobs, I think the employer should just extend that flexibility to everyone and allow the adults they’ve presumably trusted enough to hire to manage their own time.

    Of course regularly showing up 1.5 hours late is unacceptable, especially if you’re not making those hours up, but it’s ridiculous to see so many people thinking that everyone should work the exact same hours and schedules because..? New research shows up every year proving that not everyone’s internal rhythms correspond to the 9-5 schedule we have set up, and parents often need flexibility to pick up their kids or make doctor’s appointments. And if we staggered people’s start times, even traffic flows would likely become more manageable!

    Maybe I’m biased because I work a flexible schedule (in two hours late on some days and earlier than everyone else on others to make it up), but it drives me nuts to see this insistence on such an arbitrary model.

    1. misspiggy*

      Yes, absolutely. In London, many offices have flexible hours because the public transport system would grind to a halt if everyone tried to arrive at 9 and leave at 5. If flex time is the default, people don’t usually have to take leave for medical appointments, and most people can find a reasonably consistent commuting schedule. Where fixed hours are necessary, that should be made clear up front.

    2. ragazza*

      Totally agree. I’ve showed up at my job at 9:30 and left at 5:45-6 for years because it makes a difference in my long commute. If I left at 5, it would take ten minutes just to get out of the parking lot! My boss doesn’t mind, but oddly, this perk is not extended to other employees in my department with a different boss, who makes them be in the office at 9 (including one with a similar long commute. There’s no reason any of us need to be there at 9 on the dot and it just ends up generating a lot of resentment. As someone who has worked for 25 years I wouldn’t appreciate being treated like I’m in high school.

  61. AardvarkFaerie*

    OP#1’s letter really resonates with me.

    My co-workers all have kids, and they wander through the door up to an hour late–no phone call required, no punishment given, no PTO deducted. “They have children, I know you can’t have kids, so you wouldn’t know how hard it is to coordinate a schedule like that.” Gee, thanks for throwing my infertility in my face.

    In a moment of unprofessional behavior I told them all that their decision to have unprotected sex and embrace the results is not a valid reason to not be on time, and definitely not a reason to not pull their weight on sharing weekend call center duties. If I can’t do flex time for a doctor’s appointment, they shouldn’t be given flex time for their personal issues either.

    Corporate office agreed with me, and now we all have flex time and my grand-boss is the one that approves/denies it because my supervisor wasn’t able to be fair about it.

    We’re like family here. A big, dysfunctional family. I’m so glad they’re laying us all off next month.

  62. Bones*

    I’m guessing a lot of commenters here have never lived in Brooklyn, where you can get screwed on your commute if someone gets sick on 72nd street. Oy.

    1. Bones*

      I also find it kind of sad that so many people here are basically saying “leave even earlier! More investment, more emotional labor!” as opposed to “companies really need to chill out with their policies and understand that their employees are people.”

      1. ragazza*

        YES. And if someone is not being productive or working enough hours, that’s an issue a manager needs to handle with that individual.

      2. DCGirl*

        I think what people are saying is that, if you know your employer isn’t flexible on hours, then it’s up to you to make the hours that you signed up for work. If that means taking an earlier train, that’s what you have to do, instead of leaving your coworkers in the lurch.

        I absolutely agree that employers should be more flexible on scheduling. Heck, even OMB has told agencies to give employees leeway in this latest round of Metro track record.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Sometimes flexible hours aren’t an option in every job. If people are an hour late, that can have a real effect in some jobs. (What if you needed, say, your child care to start on time so that you could get to your own job?)

            In jobs where flexibility is possible, they should give to everyone, not just people with bad commutes. But it’s not crappy or unethical to need people at work on time for a job that requires coverage.

            1. Bones*

              Then there will still be some people who are stuck in nonflexible jobs and do not have the option to switch (because of shitty employers). They should be shown flexibility. I’m sorry, Allison, but your advice here is tone deaf, particularly for those who earn low incomes.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                So if you’re, say, a daycare center and you’re required to by law to have a certain number of child care workers present when kids are there, what do you do when someone is an hour late without warning, repeatedly?

                I understand the impulse behind your comment, but I don’t think you’re being realistic about how organizations need to operate in order to function effectively.

                1. Bones*

                  Whatever you can do before threatening their livelihood. Yes, there will be those who are just lazy and aren’t trying hard to get in. The majority, in my experience, are not, and that should be accounted for.

                2. Bones*

                  I’d also argue that there’s an ocean of difference between someone who is compelled by law to be at work on time (and is aware of this and agreed to it) versus a retail salesperson who has to be there right at 9:00 because THOSE ARE THE RULES ALWAYS.

                3. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I think you’re really overlooking that coverage matters in a lot of jobs — and that burdens of coverage can disproportionately fall on someone’s coworkers if they’re routinely late.

                  I say this as someone who’s strongly on record as opposing rigid start times when the work doesn’t require it. But it’s naive to say that there aren’t loads of situations where it does.

                4. Goldfish Memories*

                  Yes, or retail. I worked retail for five years. If I was working the 7-3:30 shift, I couldn’t leave until the 3:30-11 person showed up. I understand that sometimes people have issues, but I also have a life and would make plans to do things after work – doctor’s appointments, haircuts, fun things, etc. If I had to cancel a doctor’s or hair appointment 30 minutes before because my coworker was late to relieve me, then I was usually out a fee. So now their problem of getting to work late actively cost me money.

                5. Bones*

                  Allison, my current, ACTUAL job has this kind of requirement (not out of necessity, because of rules lawyering). I understand this fully, and still think it’s ridiculous.

                6. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Like I’ve said previously, I’m not talking about jobs where coverage doesn’t matter or doesn’t impact your colleagues. We’ll have to agree to disagree so this doesn’t take over the whole page.

              2. Dankar*

                I’m totally with you on the issue of hourly employees essentially being exploited by employers that expect them to be there 30 minutes prior to start time, but refuse to pay them for their time. And I’m also with you on flexible hours (see my rant above).

                But I don’t think Allison is being tone deaf, even for low income earners. There are some jobs where being on time is non-negotiable. I would argue that there are far fewer of those than many people think. (Even in the childcare example, it would be better for everyone if some employees came in at 7 and left at three, while others picked up at 11 and left at 7.)

                Sometimes a job really doesn’t work for someone’s schedule. Employers have a responsibility to meet their employees in the middle, but then the employee needs to do the same. If there is 100% no way that you can make core hours, than that job isn’t going to work for you. It sucks, and it’s not fair, but sometimes it’s true.

                1. LJay*

                  (Even in the childcare example, it would be better for everyone if some employees came in at 7 and left at three, while others picked up at 11 and left at 7.)

                  No, not it wouldn’t. Not if the childcare is open from 7 until 3, and requires there to be one employee present for every 5 kid there for the entirety of the school day or have to face legal penalties and shut down.

                  And even if they have 2 shifts, one from 7am-3pm and one from 11am-7pm, that doesn’t mean that it’s then okay for the employee who is scheduled to be there at 11am to come in at 12:30pm once a week unpredictably because their train was late.

                2. doreen*

                  I just want to mention that although there are many, many jobs where staggered hours are doable, that’s not the same thing as flexibility to be an hour late. To use the day care example, maybe the center needs two people at 7am based on the number of kids who arrive between 7 and 8 and four starting at 8am. Absolutely fine to schedule 2 to work 7-3 and 2 to work 8-4. There will still be a problem when one of those scheduled to start at 7am doesn’t show up until 8 or when one scheduled to start at 8 shows up at 9.

                  I actually think there are more jobs that require coverage and/or consistent hours that commenters on this blog seem to believe. People will say things about the “retail clerk who has to be in at 9 because rules” but what do those people say when they get to the store at 9:30 and it hasn’t opened yet? Or when they get to work and find the building locked because whoever was supposed to unlock it and turn off the alarm hasn’t arrived yet?

                3. Rusty Shackelford*

                  (Even in the childcare example, it would be better for everyone if some employees came in at 7 and left at three, while others picked up at 11 and left at 7.)

                  Yes, this is a thing. And that’s why some employees are scheduled to come in at 7, while others are scheduled to come in later. The 7 am employee coming in at 11 is still a REALLY BIG DEAL.

                4. Dankar*

                  I should have worded my response better on the childcare example. I misunderstood what Bones was frustrated with, at first, and was responding to “on time” as though it were strictly 9-5, with no flexibility for staggered shifts.

                  Of course there need to be people there to watch the children! Haha

          2. Justin PBG*

            Do salaries have an impact on what time we leave home? I regularly had a 90 minute multi borough commute for years. If I was late, it was my fault.

            1. Bones*

              Generally lower income jobs are those that have this kind of absurd rigidity. So yes, it is relevant.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Plenty of professional jobs have time-of-arrival expectations as well. I think you’re bringing a very specific lens to this question when it’s much broader than that.

              2. Detective Amy Santiago*

                I have a friend from high school who works as an emergency dispatcher. If her relief doesn’t show up, she is mandated for overtime.

                1. Bones*

                  I think there’s a disconnect (that I’m probably not helping at all…) between arguing for more flexible policies in jobs where it isn’t absolutely necessary (anyone dealing with health or children, off the top of my head) versus an underpaid receptionist.

                2. KC without the sunshine band*

                  I used to work at a surgery facility. No one there had flexible hours. Everyone had to be on time for the day to run smooth, even the highest paid surgeon. In these situations, it’s a matter of respect for your coworkers not to hold up everyone waiting on you, because everyone will have to stay until the day’s work is done.

                  If you take a job knowing the commute, knowing the hours, and knowing the lack of flexibility (necessary or not), it’s on you to get there on time, no matter the pay involved. Yes emergencies happen, but typical traffic for your commute is not an emergency.

                  If the position has the flexibility for bad traffic, it should have the flexibility for other issues as well. The flexibility possible and allowed is based on the needs of the company.

                3. Jennifer Thneed*

                  @Bones – seriously, you respond to Det. Amy Santiago’s mention of emergency dispatchers with mention of underpaid receptionists?

                  I think part of what’s going on in this whole conversation is that there’s a big difference between working an office corporate-type job and anything that’s providing a service (retail, hospitals). They’re very different socially and it does nobody any good to conflate them.

                4. Lissa*

                  If multiple people are missing your point or it’s “going over their head” it’s likely not a communication error in their end…

              3. Goya de la Mancha*

                But most of those jobs aren’t using the rigidity just for giggles. Those times are there for an actual reason.

                Retail Rachel has to get to her shift at 8:30 because the store has to open at 9:00 SHARP – or risk losing customers. Starbucks Steve has to be there at 4:30 to make sure Daycare Dana can get their double shot espresso before they need to get to the daycare at 6:30 to be sure that Teacher Terry can drop their daughter off to make sure they gets to his classroom by 7:30 for students who have to be monitored/taught starting at 7:45. Cable repair Carmen has to be to work at 7:00 to make sure she is able to start her daily appointments on time for the day so HOPEFULLY you aren’t waiting the full two hour window to get your service (customer satisfaction/loss/retention = money). Pilot Polly being late for her 11:30 flight because she had to stop at the retail Rachel’s store for a prescription, now inconveniences A LOT of people. It’s a trickle down effect, and the effect leads to the same ending – loss of income.

          3. Perse's Mom*

            I’ve been in minimum wage jobs. I still have a basic understanding that employees need to show up on time for the business to do business (and thus for the employees to get paid), that I agreed to the hours when I accepted the job, and that it’s on me to get to work on time consistently.

            If you accept a job knowing your hours are X – Y but those hours will be impossible for you to keep in practice, that’s on you. Flexibility is great when it’s possible, but it’s NOT always possible – or doesn’t make sense in the context of the work involved (like teleworking is not an option for every job).

      3. Justin PBG*

        I grew up in Brooklyn, actually. And I live in Queens.

        If it’s a massive system-wide delay, exceptions are made.

        If you’re late frequently, it’s not the company treating people as non-humans, it’s the employee.

        1. Bones*

          Unless you’re 12, than you growing up in Brooklyn isn’t super relevant. Even in the last 5 years commuting from Brooklyn has gotten exponentially worse. As for Queens, you don’t seem to realize how lucky you are. The subway lines that serve Queens are notably less delayed than those serving Brooklyn and the Bronx.

          1. Justin PBG*

            I mean, yeah, I don’t live that far out. I’m well aware of the average delay statistics though (the trains near me are indeed usually okay, and the C is by and large the least reliable, with the 4/5/6 having frequent major issues), and my wife, until recently, worked in the Bronx, where she was always stuck on the 4.

            I was basically just saying, “I’m aware of the travel times, whether or not they apply to me directly.”

            My point being only that having a low paying job that requires presence at a certain time sucks…. it really is. I’ve been there, even if it’s not true now. But I don’t think any employers are going to agree with this, and ultimately, that’s what is at stake: the correct policy, which should be that, for jobs where a specific time arrival is needed, exceptions can be made for catastrophe, but long commutes (even if caused by finances) leading to regular lateness aren’t the employer’s concern.

            1. Bones*

              I disagree. If employers want to hold onto good employees, they *should* adopt this kind of thinking (but then I’d be getting into my greater issues with capitalism and the culture it fosters which is…. not the discussion Allison is looking for).

              1. CheeryO*

                I don’t even know how that would work at your typical retail store or food service place. Hire extra people so you can have excessive coverage for every shift, just in case someone has issues with their commute? That’s just not realistic.

                1. Xarcady*

                  In fact, with the reductions in staff at most retailers, one person coming in an hour late can throw off staffing in a major way.

                  At my current retail job, my floor of the store (it’s a major US department store chain) has gone from having 10-12 sales associates most of the time four years ago to having 4 or 5, except on really big sale days. Five people cannot cover the entire floor adequately, but that’s what’s scheduled. One of them calling out or being significantly late (the timekeeping system allows you to be 10 minutes late), and managers have to cover the floor, or an associate from another floor has to come down and cover a department or two.

                  Customers expect there to be sales people on the floor. Having a long or difficult commute isn’t an excuse. (And there are two bridges in the area that carry a lot of traffic, but sometimes have to open for tall ships to pass through. People who routinely commute over those bridges have to allow extra time every day for that. It’s not fair, but there’s no other way for them to get to work.)

          2. Goldfish Memories*

            LOL – have you seen the N/W this summer? It was a dumpster fire. They seem to have gotten things under control, but there were a couple days where I took a $30 Lyft ride to my job in Manhattan because waiting for the trains to start running would mean I would be walking into work at 1 p.m.

        2. Bones*

          And again, someone with low paying job who is spending an additional 2 hours on the subway in addition to the 8 they’re spending at work (not to mention the labor that comes with getting up that friggin early) have been given very little incentive to do that much for a company that gives them so little in return.

      4. Roscoe*

        Yeah, like its a bit absurd to say one hand hand “well things happen” and then at the same time say “but you need to always leave with enough time to account for anything”

        1. LJay*

          I think it’s more of “A lack of planning on your part doesn’t constitute an emergency on mine.”

          Like, I get it. Things do happen. And I can and will allow some leeway for that.

          But when the same thing happens multiple times a month, it goes from being a rare emergency situation that I can and will go out of my way to accommodate, to something you need to expect and plan for.

          And that’s true whether it’s big delays on your commute, your kid getting sick, your car breaking down, etc.

          I think my cut-0ff view is once every 2-3 months.

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          Yeah, like its a bit absurd to say one hand hand “well things happen” and then at the same time say “but you need to always leave with enough time to account for anything”

          But is anyone actually saying that? I see a lot of people saying that if your commute is frequently problematic, you need to be prepared, rather than showing up late multiple times per week and saying “You can’t blame me! It’s the commute!”

      5. lnelson1218*

        Not to sound like an evil HR person, but….
        There are positions when the company wants the desk manned from x to x. For those positions, it doesn’t matter what your commute is you need to be at your work station at scheduled time. For those leave earlier!
        For other positions, yes there probably are core hours, but if I were charge then I would allow wiggle room for exempt employees and non-exempt. Caveat: the non-exempt employees still need to put those 8hr per day in. You should be an adult and able to adjust your schedule accordingly. But I am not so nasty that you roll in 5 minutes late I will dock your pay 5 minutes. Show up 2.5 hours late regularly, yup dock pay or use your PTO.
        For exempt employees, as HR I know the morale issues that someone who is supposed to be in the office during core hours regularly shows up late can cause.
        Another thing to note is that while a company might have one policy. But a manager wants something else. Example, one place I worked was pretty flexible about comings and goings. But to one manager face time was important and he wanted his exec assistant to be in the office at certain times (she would wander in at different times and not be around when needed, but that is a whole other story). She didn’t get that just because we don’t have to punch a time-clock, that doesn’t mean you can not follow the expectations your boss outlines for you.

          1. anonforthis*

            That kind of attitude is pretty reasonable. Am I remembering right that you’re newer to the professional work world?

          2. Justin PBG*

            You got non anecdata on that? You might be right, but we can’t just assert that.

            Because, to go full anecdata, have a good friend who talks a lot about giving the power back to employees (good idea!) and being treated better (also good!) who is, uh, an absolutely awful worker. Now one might say, he’s that way because of the treatment, and now we’re in chicken/egg territory.

              1. Justin PBG*

                …..what?

                I said, “you might be right,” but there wasn’t any data. I added my own admittedly just a story.

                Anyway! You’ve gone down into just sarcasm, so have fun.

          3. Alton*

            This depends a lot on the nature of the work. I don’t think employers should create unnecessary rules just because, but there are many jobs where being around during core hours is important.

            I also understand, from an HR perspective, why some companies set rules such as “exempt employees still need to put in 8 hours.” That expectation may not be strictly enforced or measured, but it’s helpful to have a guideline of what sort of hours are expected for the position.

          4. Detective Amy Santiago*

            Some jobs require constant coverage. If you are late, you are screwing over the person you are relieving. That is a problem.

  63. Ann O'Nemity*

    #2 I never used to bring my own beverage to external meetings but I’m starting to rethink that. It really seems less and less common to be offered a beverage! I don’t know if it’s the decline of admins or general cost cutting or what. I expect it at nonprofits and in government, but I’m even seeing it at big corporations.

    1. OP2*

      OP2 here! I work at a nonprofit, and the meetings I have are all with other nonprofits or government agencies. I think I’ve been offered a beverage maybe once or twice in the past several years of being at this workplace. I didn’t even think of that as being a factor, but maybe I should have mentioned it.

      1. CheeryO*

        Ooh yeah, that’s definitely a factor! I’m in state government and wouldn’t think twice about (or even notice, probably) someone bringing a Starbucks coffee or free hotel coffee to a meeting. I try to remember to offer people coffee when we have meetings at our office, but most people turn it down, maybe because they know that we have to pay for it ourselves.

  64. grey*

    Huh. I found #5 interesting. Awhile back a headhunter reached out to me with very basic information. One of the reasons I saw a major red flag about them was that they couldn’t provide me a job description – only the job title. Of course there were other major flags and I knew he was a scammer. But perhaps I was wrong in assuming they’d always have a job description.

  65. LBAI*

    You should be careful about bringing a Starbucks cup to a client. I work for a large beverage company, and that’s bringing a competitor into our house. We’ve had contractors literally show up with cups/cans of our direct competitor. They usually aren’t invited back. So, if you’re gonna do it, be sure there’s not an adversarial business relationship.

    1. OP2*

      OP2 here! Good to know. Fortunately I’m in the nonprofit sector, and nobody I meet with is in the coffee business. :)

        1. Turtle Candle*

          Yeah, but I mean, that’s true of pretty much any thing you might bring. People, wealthy donors included, feel super strongly about coffee chains, phone manufacturers, soft drink companies, and shoe brands, but we mostly accept that as long as you’re not bringing your Pepsi into Coca-Cola headquarters, that’s just life.

          1. paul*

            at my last job we had one bank president (donor/volunteer) throw a minor snit fit because we had pens from his competitor in our pen stash (the competing regional bank was *also* a donor/volunteer).

            I am out of non-profits now, thank god, but I’m still not sure WTF we were supposed to do there

    2. Jennifer Thneed*

      You know, if it’s not clear that your beverage company includes coffee in its choices, it won’t be clear to contractors that they’re bringing in a competitor’s beverage. I don’t know, maybe you works for another coffee chain, but just from “large beverage company” my assumption was one of the major soda brands. Do any of them also own a coffee chain? It could totally happen but would the average person know about it?

  66. TotesMaGoats*

    OP#1-I think my answer falls in with the general opinion here. Truly, unforeseeable and uncontrollable traffic issues. Sure. I’ll absolutely ignore those late times. Commute in general just sucks and you aren’t giving yourself enough time? Not so much. At OldJob I was an hour and 15 minutes one way no matter how I cut it. And that was with normal traffic on the Baltimore beltway. I always gave myself longer which meant the kid got dropped off at daycare at an ungodly hour. New commute is way better but I still give myself plenty of time. We have the more than occasional water main break, failing bridges, train fires in tunnels, and sometimes animals on the beltway.

    OP#2-YMMV but I don’t see anything wrong with taking your own beverage to a morning meeting, unless you are meeting at a coffee shop or restaurant, I doubt anyone will care.

    OP#3-I’d start with the unfollow and privatizing your posts then after a bit just unfriend. I’d maybe consider sending a message saying that you realized that you shouldn’t be FB friends with people your supervise and to avoid any issues I’m unfriending everyone. You could soften that with “I’d still love for you to drop by my office at work and show me Susie’s prom photos or Caleb’s first day of school pics.” Whatever is appropriate for you.

    OP#4-I’ve always brought snacks and stuff back from vacation for my office. It’s a box of taffy or chocolates. I did bring a ton of stuff back from Disney because about 15 minutes before boarding the bus back to the airport I found out I had a ton of snack credits left over. It was a good way to “spend” money I had already spent on the dining plan. Everyone got something. But don’t feel pressure to bring stuff back. You do you.

    OP#5-I think Alison’s suggestion is the way to go. Don’t feel obligated but if you think they’d actually like to hear feedback then give it.

  67. Humble Schoolmarm*

    I think jobs should be flexible for any unexpected delay in the morning, the key word being unexpected. I have a half hour commute from the inner burbs of my city. I’d like to live closer, but it would cost $300-$500 per month. Last September, the city planners in their infinite wisdom decided to close down one of the five main arteries in to the city all together and cut another down to one lane. It routinely added an extra 15 minutes to my commute (my route wasn’t shut down but had to absorb extra traffic from the detours) so I did leave earlier. Despite that, two mornings there was an accident on the remaining route and nothing was moving. My bosses covered for me and didn’t give me any grief, which I really appreciated. I would also hope that the occasional overslept, toaster caught fire, school bus was late flexibility would be given to the non commuters too.

    1. Ennigaldi*

      This is how we worked it out at LastJob, since we were also downtown in a major city with people commuting in from all directions on two or three trains. Most of us were able to either leave a lot of time during bad weather and then reading in the lounge if we got there too early to clock in or texting one of the other staff if we got stuck on a train so they knew to work around us (it was a house museum, we had a strict opening and closing time and schedule of guided tours so if you were late for your scheduled tour you could switch with someone else).

  68. KAG*

    Re: #1) What about consultants? I sure as heck didn’t get any choice over where my company sent me, and generally it involved a 2-hour commute each way. Combined with the expectation that you work until the senior guy (who invariably lives much closer to the job site) goes home, well…

    I may have chosen my job, but I moved several times to be closer to my “major” client, only to be transferred to another one on the opposite side of town. I regularly showed up late, and was regularly berated for it, but otherwise I would have operated on 5-6 hours of sleep.

  69. Oxford Comma*

    I ate pie for breakfast today at our meeting where most of us bring breakfast. Was that less professional of me than the person with yogurt and fruit? I gotta say–I just don’t care. It’s not like I brought fish and nuked it just before.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      I guess this is directed at me, then? And my answer is… a shrug. I couldn’t care less what you’re eating in a meeting, as long as it’s the type of meeting where everyone eats. (We used to have someone who’d always bring her breakfast to a regular staff meeting where no one else did, and I always wondered why.) I’m just saying, some people are going to see your whipped-cream-drizzle and say “oh, dessert,” as opposed to “the typical drink that the rest of us bring to this meeting.” And if they’re the type of people who judge you based on what you drink, they’re gonna judge.

      1. Oxford Comma*

        I’ve lost track the specific post where I meant it to go and no slight toward you was intended. My reply just belonged in a proper thread above and not off by itself.

        If someone showed up with an alcoholic beverage or an ice cream sundae to a meeting I’d blink (a lot probably at the former), but otherwise, I just never notice or care. I drink my coffee black and while some of my colleagues would tell you they’d rather drink arsenic, as far as I know, no one has ever judged me on it. In turn, I don’t judge them for liking mochas or whatever.

        But that’s my workplace. As I suggested to the OP, go without a few times until the OP gets a feel for the culture and then go from there.

      2. Observer*

        No, it wasn’t you – someone said that if you have a “frosted blend with hazelnut drizzle” they would be judging you, so whatever you do don’t bring something cold and sweet with a some lid. And as part of the response to that, someone else said that they don’t care how you take you coffee but if you bring desert as your meal they are absolutely going to judge you. because that proves that you don’t take care of your health and you are going to be lousy at your job because of that.

  70. Sue Ellen Mischkey*

    #1 I feel the difference for me is one lateness is related directly to work. A person is in their car, on the bus, on the subway etc. for a long time purely to reach work. It’s not something they’re doing for personal reasons. It’s related to work. Someone running a personal errand isn’t related to work at all. I tend to think that people aren’t having a good time stuck in traffic or getting personal things done. I wish companies would actually start considering any additional time spent on a normal commute as work time.

    The problem arises when you become unsure if they really are late because of extenuating circumstance or they are slipping in a personal errand on the side under the guise of commute issues.

  71. Bitter, obviously*

    LW5: There’s no reason to expect they’d give you feedback if you were turned down for an interview. They’d probably tell you it’s not their job to be your career coach. In a similar way, it’s not your job to help them improve their recruitment.

  72. Kenneth*

    “One side says commutes are terrible and if you’re delayed trying to get to work, you obviously shouldn’t be dinged for being late (although a lot of companies do). Other side says, well, if it’s okay to be an hour late due to traffic, why not extend the same flexibility to others? What do you think?”

    This really depends on how often the traffic interrupts occur, and where the office is located, and how much they’re typically delayed. For example the location where I previously worked had two entrances to the campus. Both of which were off the same major street. Meaning your ability to get to work on time is vulnerable to delays should something happen in that area since there aren’t many alternate routes for that “last mile”, and all of them have you taking city streets – slower speed limits, traffic lights, other traffic typically going through those areas, etc.

    Where I currently work, we’re sitting on a city block. So you can arrive at the office from all four directions without difficulty: one way gets blocked or backed up, you have options that don’t delay you significantly. We had some road repairs going on in the area last week, but the delays weren’t significant.

    That said, whether a person should be docked for being late due to traffic needs to be dependent on the circumstances. If others can waive off tardiness without penalty by just saying “traffic”, that’s ripe for abuse. The person needs to be able to articulate what about the traffic caused them to be late — e.g. a collision that occurred along your route of travel — along with what they attempted to mitigate the delay, provided options were available.

    That said, again this will be dependent on location: both the office and the employee’s home. Does the office have multiple entrances easily allowing approaches? How unexpected was the concern in question? For construction, how far in advance do city or State authorities provide notice of construction in the area and how — i.e. should the employee have known about any construction, and could they alter their route accordingly?

    In short, though, an employer should not be significantly flexible regarding traffic-related tardiness. If someone is late due to traffic, they should be able to articulate it, including whether and what bypasses and alternate routes they took. And penalized if it seems they’re just trying to say “traffic” as a means of waiving off tardiness.

  73. Dust Bunny*

    I have a really awful commute and, no, if you live in an area where you know traffic is likely to be bad, it’s on you to allow enough time. Yes, there will still be days when there is a 4-car pileup and the whole freeway is shut down, but if you’re late on a regular basis, you’re underestimating the amount of time you need, period. I bring my breakfast and eat before I’m on the clock, which both saves me time before I leave the house and fills time between when I get there and when I actually need to be at work. There are still days when things are just epically bad and I’m late, anyway, but they’re uncommon and my bosses know that a) this is not normal for me and b) I’ll make up the time. (My workplace can allow some flexibility but not a whole lot since at least part of our mission involves serving the public.)

  74. DaniCalifornia*

    Can I just ask, what is with people asking you why you do not like or comment on their posts?!?!?! It baffles me that adults even care let alone ask. I’m probably super irked because my SIL has done this to me several times and it’s caused so. much. drama. Over facebook. But seriously I’ve never wondered why people didn’t like or comment on a post. And to ask someone who is a coworker and above you (even if you don’t report too them) No. Just stop it.

    1. Positive Reframer*

      To which the correct reply is Facebook doesn’t show me everything you post so I didn’t see it. This could lead to you being tagged, in which case you require any of that to require approval before being posted to your timeline.

  75. Kenneth*

    “I just got back today from a lovely vacation abroad, and I brought some snacks back to share with my coworkers.”

    This definitely is not uncommon. I do agree that this should never be expected, though.

    At my previous employer, one of the “expectations” with team members revolved around birthdays and work anniversaries: donuts and bagels. And it wasn’t the company buying it, or the team manager. The employee having the birthday or anniversary was expected to buy donuts or bagels for the rest of the team. And I learned this when my birthday came around and I casually mentioned it and several team members asked me why I didn’t buy bagels or donuts for the team. Needless to say I never partook in that. I just wasn’t going to capitulate to what I felt was an unreasonable expectation, now matter how many times they tried to say “well, that’s what we do on this team”, as it felt like being expected to buy gifts for your friends and family on your birthday…

  76. No Bees on Typhon*

    OP#4, my husband and I have this conversation in airport duty free stores on every single vacation we take. I’ve always worked in offices where this is normal, and some offices where it’s expected; he’s never seen anyone bring treats into his work, and thinks it’s too much of a hassle when you’ve already got luggage to carry. Interestingly, his workplaces always offer some kind of free food (always treats at coffee break, sometimes lunch too), whereas mine have all been public sector and don’t even provide free tea or coffee.

    Oh, and I always have a little bit of what I bring back, assuming there’s enough (I usually over-buy, even now that I have two different offices to bring things back to!) I never take the first or the last piece though. Mind you I work in Canada and the last piece often gets cut in half, then quarters, then eighths because no-one wants to be the one who finishes it off.

  77. Jaid_Diah*

    Re # 1 – When I went to a conference in Austin, I stopped by a Wal-Mart and got some souvenir totchekes of tiny little sombreros with tiny little serapes attached for my unit. When I was away for a month in Ogden, I picked up some Utah keychains. The only time I think about bringing back food is if I was down at the Jersey shore and brought back fudge or salt water taffy.
    #4 I take public transportation, but since my shift is 6 to 2.30, the bus usually avoids traffic at five something in the morning. I did drive to work when I was younger, but the workplace moved.
    The only time I was truly late was when I stopped at a red light and realized the driver with the green light wasn’t moving. I pulled over to the curb, hopped out of the car and found the driver was passed out behind the wheel. After calling 911, I waited until help arrived. Two things happened then. I stepped off the curb wrong and twisted my ankle. Meanwhile, when the cop touched the unconscious driver, he must have jarred the dude’s foot off the brake and the car began to roll through the intersection.
    A couple of hilarious moments later, I was getting looked after by one paramedic, while the other was looking after the unconscious dude.
    I did make it into work and iced up. But I never did find out what happened to the car dude.

  78. JessicaTate*

    OP#4 – I learned by example from my parents that it was courteous to bring back some kind of treat for your co-workers after a vacation. It seemed to be common practice for their workplaces, and I definitely followed suit when I grew up. (I also try to get a little something for the neighbors, even if they were just casually “keeping an eye on” our house while we’re away. I think people appreciate the idea that you were thinking of them while on vacation.) I’ve found it isn’t 100% of people who do it, but that a lot do.

    And my experience is that it’s limited to vacation travel. Work travel rarely results in treats for all. Possibly because I’m in a travel-heavy field, and it would be a crazy expectation.

  79. BeenThere*