am I asking too much of a flexible schedule?

A reader writes:

I’m a young professional who recently started my second job post-grad. I live with multiple chronic illnesses and like everyone else have “everyday problems” too: car issues, sick pets, etc.

My former workplace was incredibly lenient about salaried staff flexing their schedule or taking leave when needed. For years, I could easily take a Tuesday afternoon off for a doctor’s appointment and make up the hours on Saturday morning. I just needed to ask for my manager’s prior approval, and almost always got it and never was told no without just cause. I understand I was fortunate to have this arrangement in place.

My new employer (I started a bit before the pandemic) had affirmed that this was also their M.O. I saw it in action prior to us shutting down, both personally and with coworkers, and it seemed to be working well. Both my current and prior positions require night and weekend availability, and I would say prior to Covid-19 I was scheduled to work outside of regular business hours about 30 hours a month. Both employers stated that if I’d rather flex my time than take leave, it would be okay with them so long as I tracked it using a calendar. Even with the added hours on nights and weekends, I used the flex policy at most twice a month — up to 16 hours — for doctor’s visits or vet appointments. The company always came out ahead.

Recently while back in the office, my husband and I had a family emergency and I needed to leave well before the end of my shift. I spoke to my boss and explained the situation briefly and he told me to go take care of the emergency. After the emergency was settled, I notified my boss of the outcome, thanking him again for his understanding, and I was in the office the following day to make up my scheduled time as promised from 8-5.

It recently came to my attention that that my boss and grandboss have an inside joke about how much I request a “flex schedule.” In passing, my grandboss told me about their jokes, and that they had been concerned about my time. I’m confused why I’m being singled out when several coworkers have permanently altered schedules, including never coming in before 11 am or not working one or two days a week every week. (I know I shouldn’t compare their schedule to mine since I don’t know the extent of their workloads, but it doesn’t seem to be an office culture issue to ask for leave is what I’m trying to say.)

It sounds like they’re starting not to believe me, but I’ve offered to show doctor’s notes, proof of appointments, vet receipts, etc. and they say they don’t need documentation. Am I asking too much of the policy?

It sounds like they said they were okay with you making up hours rather than taking leave when you’re out, but didn’t intend for you to be doing it as much as you are.

If they meant “people will flex their hours four or five times a year” and you’re doing it twice a month … yeah, it’s going to seem out of sync with their norms.

But if they didn’t explain clearly what they meant, that’s on them! People often fall into speaking in a kind of shorthand and then are surprised later when it turns out they were misunderstood. If that’s what happened here, it was also on them to address it with you once they realized you were on different pages. So if they are indeed looking askance at how often you’re using flex time, they need to use their words and explain that to you.

That said … to some extent it’s also on you to pay attention to what your office norms seem to be. You mentioned that several coworkers have permanently altered schedules, but that’s not really the same as flexing their time. If they stick to those altered schedules, then everyone knows when to expect them in. Being out unexpectedly and then showing up at other times to make up the work is different — it has a different impact on other people and maybe a different impact on the workflow too.

In any case, all of this sounds like a lot of miscommunication. Your managers said X, you assumed it meant Y, and it might really have meant Z. Now they’re making comments about it but not addressing it directly, and you’re wondering what’s up but also not saying anything directly. (They’re more at fault — their jobs require them to say something directly — but no one here seems to be communicating well.)

It does sound like your grandboss might have been trying to address it, but telling you “we joke about this” isn’t terribly clear. On the other hand, “we’ve been concerned” is pretty direct, so I’m curious about the rest of what was said there.

But instead of asking me if you’re asking too much of your office’s policy, you’ve got to ask the person who can actually tell you: your boss. Sit down with her and say something like, “I’m wondering if I’ve misunderstood our policy on flex time. When I started, you mentioned it would be okay for me to make up my hours when I’m out rather than using leave. I’ve done that about twice a month since I started. But Jane mentioned to me recently that you and she have joked about how often I do it, and that you’d both been concerned about my time. I don’t want to do anything that’s concerning you! Would you prefer I flex my schedule like that only rarely, and not as often as I’ve been doing?”

Your goal here isn’t to defend yourself or argue for using the policy the way you have been. It’s just to find out what your boss really wants — since the letter of the policy doesn’t matter as much as what your boss will actually be okay with.

{ 149 comments… read them below }

  1. 10Isee*

    Would the advice here change at all if OP doesn’t have sufficient paid leave to cover her doctor’s appointments without flex time?

    1. op*

      Hi OP! That’s EXACTLY why I started doing it. I tried to be brief and left out some information that could have been helpful. It started as “I’m new here and had to earn my sick leave starting at 0 paid hours” and now it’s I’m trying to “save” paid sick leave so I may get extended treatments in the coming months.

      1. Stormfeather*

        Yeah, this was my worry about the provided script – it sounds like you actually need the flex time and that’s a reason you accepted the job, when they confirmed that you could use it (I could be off base of course!).

        So would that change the script at all, Alison? Because it doesn’t sound great for the OP to offer to flex their schedule only rarely if they’re still going to really need to flex it a lot more than that.

        1. 2020storm*

          I would imagine the script would be the same, without that last sentence offering less flex time. The important thing is to find out if this is a problem for them, and understand why. OP—is this anything you can schedule in advance, or plan for in advance? (i.e., your appointments can be made on tuesdays, so you work monday ad then wednesday-saturday)? It sounds like they’re open to flexible hours but not so much a flexible schedule, which may still work for you if a weekday open is what you need!

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Ah. I read the letter as it not being largely medical appts but lots of other stuff too. If that’s not right, I want to expand on my answer, which I will do later this afternoon once I am back at a computer.

          1. op*

            I should also add that the vast majority of requests are made in advance and are on the company calendar at least a week or two prior. I just announced a medical leave that I need to take September 28th to my team today.

            1. MCMonkeyBean*

              If this is 90% for medical appointments and you are telling your boss in advance that’s what they are for, I think it’s rather inappropriate for them to be making jokes about it!

              I’m wondering whether when you discussed the flex policy when you started you told them you were asking because of medical appointments. If that was part of the discussion I would bring that up now.

              If your boss is reasonable I would have a conversation with her where you remind her that it was a reason why you took this job and that you were a bit uncomfortable to hear that anyone would be joking about your need for frequent medical appointments. Then I’d asked whether you misunderstood the policy or whether something had changed and your flexing was causing problems.

              If she can’t point to a reason why it’s actually an issue, and she hasn’t actually asked you to stop, then I think I would keep going as you have been and just try to do really good work when you are in the office. If you hear that they are still talking about it then you might want to speak with HR and look into whether your need for flexibility could be formalized somehow?

          2. Dust Bunny*

            Would it help for you to request a permanently-altered schedule so you could predictably have Tuesday afternoons off (or whatever) to use for appointments?

            1. ThatGirl*

              This to me makes a lot of sense – if you have the same chunk of time off every week it’s easier to predict when you’ll be available.

            2. Dust Bunny*

              I had went through a period of time in which I had regular weekly appointments for therapy for an old condition. I could have used medical time but instead my boss agreed to shifted hours so I could have one morning a week free and then work slightly longer the rest of the week to make it up. That won’t work for everyone but it was close enough to regular hours that my job got the coverage they needed and I didn’t need to burn hours.

            3. WantonSeedStitch*

              I was wondering the same thing. Where I work, that is the preferred solution, and it’s easy to accommodate. Even with advance notice, it can be harder to accommodate a more random schedule. If it’s what you need, that’s understandable, but if you can set aside predictable times when you can get your medical stuff taken care of on a regular basis, that would probably go over well with your bosses, OP.

            4. Annony*

              That sounds like it may be more in line with the company culture if two other people have permanently altered schedules as well.

            5. MCMonkeyBean*

              That might be nice if it’s possible but I think with a lot of medical things you don’t have a lot of flexibility and have to schedule based on what they have available for you!

          3. Not A Girl Boss*

            I think if its medical in nature, it might be helpful to approach the conversation from a “medical accommodation” perspective rather than a “I thought this was a blanket perk?” one. Which might include giving them a better scope, eg – “you can expect need me to flex X hours per month with Y amount of notice, is that acceptable? How should I handle approval for months where I need to exceed this amount?” The goal would be to get a sort of informal agreement out there where all parties are crystal clear on what they’re agreeing to, and how to renegotiate changes in a more productive way than passing snide remarks.

            And then provide clarity to your boss when the flex request is medical vs ‘other family emergency’ or just generally try to be more sensitive about taking PTO for non-medical stuff. Not that it’s fair, but that it can help with appearances if you really err on the side of ‘the letter of the law’ for areas where other people might get more leeway.

            1. Amaranth*

              I would also recommend recapping in an email if this is a FTF conversation because people forget down the road what they’ve already agreed to, and the misunderstandings cycle again. If there is an HR would it also be worth adding a copy of that email to OP’s file?

          4. employment lawyah*

            FYI, the medical stuff may be covered under state or federal leave laws and the like, especially (but not only!) if it’s a “qualifying disability.” But some of them have time-in-service requirements as well. Check your local laws and talk to a local lawyer.

            As for the other non-medical stuff: Technically medical leave cannot be discriminated against, which means that you should NOT be prohibited from taking the same # of smoke breaks, sick-dog days, etc., just because you take medical leave. But practically people don’t often think like that, especially for new hires. So take it with a grain of salt unless you want to be the standard-bearer on that front.

            Anyway: Talk to them. Many workplaces value predictability and would rather have known (longer) absences over random (shorter) absences. Other workplaces are the reverse and want folks to keep it short. It isn’t always hard to find out. The predictable one is best IMO because it keeps everyone else from noticing–they will habituate very fast–and they then have less incentive to be in your business.

            If in doubt or if at all unsure about your job status, talk to a lawyer first BEFORE you talk to them.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Okay, now that I can write more:

          I would still use the same script I suggested in the post, but I’d replace the last line with: “I do have recurring medical appointments every month. Would it be better for me to permanently alter my schedule to accommodate those rather than flexing my schedule every time? Or if you want me to do this as a formal accommodation through the ADA, I’m happy to do that too.”

          (First, though, look into whether you’re covered under the ADA. There’s a good chance you are.)

          Also, to the extent you can, try to limit how much you’re changing your schedule for non-medical stuff. Life does happen, and it happens to people with higher medical needs just as much as to anyone else, but if you have other options there (spouse handles it, scheduling for after work hours, etc.), I’d lean on those as often as you can, just to cut down the overall amount of flex you’re asking for, especially as a new person.

    2. Artemesia*

      That but it seems to me when medical appointments for a chronic condition are the issue then, it helps to clarify that but your flexing will still be more often than the norm. I guess what might set them off is dealing with things like vet appointments and household emergencies. If you are already out a lot for medical appointments then being out a lot for the plumber is going to have your boss thinking you are abusing the policy. I’d clarify that if that is the issue.

    3. Julie Hall*

      Hi OP, Time off for doctors appointments is one of the accommodations listed by the ADA, or Americans with Disabilities Act. It’s what’s called a “reasonable accommodation,” which means it’s fairly easy for the company to assist you. I’m not positive of the steps, but I’d look it up at the primary source, because your HR department might have a different (wrong) procedure. Here’s the source:

  2. Diahann Carroll*

    I also wonder if part of the problem here is that in addition to asking for flex time often, OP just started this job before the pandemic hit. The new employer doesn’t have the same frame of reference for OP’s requests that a long-time employer would, and they don’t really know much about the OP’s work ethic or quality yet since she hasn’t been there long. If you’ve been flexing time twice a month for six months now, to them, that’s a lot because you just started working there and they don’t know if that’s going to become a habit with you or get progressively worse to the point where you start asking to flex your time every week.

    1. op*

      Hi, OP here! I successfully completed my several month long probationary period prior to Covid hitting some I’m new but I’m also not the newest and have done several full rounds of projects to completion.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Do the newest people also flex their time as much as you do? Even if you completed probation, you’re still “new” in a lot of people’s eyes, but if newer hires are also flexing their time with the same frequency as you, then maybe management has a problem with the nature of your requests themselves (I would hope not since medical appointments are necessary, but you never know).

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            Oh dear. Then I would talk to your manager about this, reiterate that your flex time requests are largely medical, and ask if there’s a way you can permanently change your start and end times so that you can have more consistency in your schedule (if that’s their concern). If your manager agrees to this request, you may just have to start asking your doctors to move appointment times to accommodate your new work schedule.

            1. Amethystmoon*

              Many doctors do offer evening and early morning appointments for that reason. If you get lucky, they may also have a once per month Saturday schedule.

          2. Colette*

            Do they do the same job as you? What is the impact of your absences on your coworkers?

            My thought is that if you’re in late on Tuesday, leave for a couple of hours in the middle of the day next Thursday, leave early unexpectedly the Wednesday after that, I have no idea when to expect you to be there – it’s just too much to keep track of.

            If you can find a way to make your appointments so that you have a predictable schedule, that might help – and it would be something you might want to suggest when you talk to your manager, if it’s a possibility for you.

      2. Esmeralda*

        Less than a year. Still new. Doesn’t matter if others are newER. In fact, you’re probably all (new and newer) lumped together as “new” to your manager, grandboss, and likely many coworkers.

        1. Aquawoman*

          But she asked about it and got an apparently fake green light. And other newer people are flexing as much as she is!

          1. Uranus Wars*

            But it doesn’t sound fake, or like they are trying to take away flex time in lieu of an M-F 8-4 only schedule. They just have different ideas of flex time, which is why the advice to communicate with them is so spot on.

          2. Esmeralda*

            And for all OP knows, the manager and grand boss aren’t happy about the way the other newbies flexing either.

            Or perhaps they have different managers. Or a different situation.

  3. Cambridge Comma*

    I understood from the letter that OP would need to flex her schedule in order to be able to go to the medical appointments at all, so couldn’t really offer to flex less often. If that’s the case I wonder what she should say.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      That would need to be a conversation with the boss to determine what is appropriate. Since it is for medical appointments, there are several options that could be available, including FMLA.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          That’s entirely possible.

          Either way, there needs to be a conversation about how to better manage this. It may require you to permanently adjust your schedule instead of flexing occasionally or using PTO/unpaid time off sometimes but the only way to figure that out is to ask your boss.

        2. AvonLady Barksdale*

          If your employee has fewer than 50 employees, then they’re right. Also, FMLA usually kicks in after a year, so you wouldn’t be eligible. It’s not necessarily official FMLA you’ll need but rather an arrangement that allows for flexibility, and that could be something that mimics FMLA (my small company does that, offers kind of an “unofficial” FMLA).

          I agree with Detective Amy– you need to have a conversation about how to manage this. If your employer does not know about your chronic illnesses and your need to go to medical appointments, then they should know. They don’t need details, but they do need some information.

          1. DiplomaJill*

            Some states — like Maryland — have state laws that narrow FMLA to greater than 25 employees, rather than federal law’s 50. It’s worth verifying if something like that applies.

    2. op*

      OP here, yes that’s correct. I guess I thought flexing my time would also cost them less in the long run if I’m not taking paid leave for my pretty much mandatory appointments.

      1. Mrs_helm*

        If others have tweaked schedules, I wonder if that would be the better choice for you. If you can schedule your medical appointments in such a way that they are always on the same day of the week, and then change your schedule accordingly. Then only use flex time for surprise emergencies, and only when unavoidable. (i.e. hopefully never)

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          This is what I would try to do. OP, are the people with the altered schedules new or have they been with the company for some time? I ask because I’ve worked places where they only permitted employees who had been working there for years to alter their schedules and that option may not be available to you if your company is like those places.

        2. Uranus Wars*

          This was my thought. We have a “flex time” policy that allows for movement now and then – cable guy is coming, you have a dentist appointment, etc., but also within that is the ability to work 4 10s, or 4 9s and a 4, or really whatever the employee wants, but on a set schedule. Most who picks 4-10s choose their day off as a T-W-R so they can schedule appointments and other errands without having to use PTO. It sounds like this might be a possibility for OP.

      2. SierraSkiing*

        It might be worth explaining the pattern to your boss when you talk to them? Something along the lines of “I typically need to go to a couple medical appointments per month, and so I’ve been using flex time to handle those. I don’t yet have the bank of sick leave to cover them. Would you like me to keep handling my medical appointments with flex time, or would it be better for us to [permanently shift my hours so I’ll have one morning/afternoon a week available for appointments] [Insert other solutions you’ve thought of here]?” That would make it an issue for shared problem solving.

      3. LQ*

        Weirdly, it may be more expensive for them. The leave time is built into your salary and benefits. A good company will expect you to take the time and budget for the appropraite amount of work. And if you leave a lot of hours that can get paid out on the books that can leave a liability on the books that is more expensive.

        Where I’m at I have to get approval from my boss to flex someone’s schedule, I can just endlessly approve leave time, no big deal. An adjusted schedule is done once, approve and move on. But a singular instance has to be approved. (Yeah I know, but it’s not the fight I want to have today.)

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          It can – I had something like 100 hours of PTO on the books when I got a promotion that came with a 35% raise. So now my saved PTO had more of a financial impact on both me and my employer. That’s a bit of an extreme circumstance, but.

          1. Koalafied*

            Yep. My employer recently changed our vacation policy to “unlimited” specifically as a pandemic cost-cutting measure to get banked leave off the liability side of the balance sheet. (I am not at all bitter or grumpy about all of the vacation I didn’t take over the past few years almost entirely because maintaining a 2-week PTO cushion helps pay for time off between an old job and new job or mitigate any delay in getting your first paycheck from the new job, without having to dip into savings.)

      4. Amaranth*

        If they are regular appointments, rather than last minute treatments for flare-ups, then hopefully your doctors can accommodate you with a set appointment day and time. Usually they can schedule months ahead, so long as they don’t try to submit for all of the insurance approvals (I had a doctor do that and it caused a major upset with my insurance).

  4. Monty & Millie's Mom*

    It might also be helpful to offer general context as to why the OP is flexing her time so often – I’m not saying to get into specific medical issues or anything, but just in general – and to offer a heads up that twice a month or so is about average, or whatever the case may be. But to me, that falls into “communicate clearly/directly”, so maybe I didn’t need to mention it here! (I guess I just want to be heard today! :) )

    1. Mystery Bookworm*

      Yeah, I’m wondering if the people with long-term alternative arrangments have been more frank about their circumstances (e.g.: “I have a regular family issue that means I’ll have to come in later”) while OP hasn’t mentioned her circumstances, even obliquely.

      In that case, rightly or wrongly, people might perceive OP as a bit flakey. It sounds like she offered to show appointment info after the concern was raised, but if the employers aren’t aware of the overall situation, the offer to show info about doctor’s appointments might seem confusing to them.

      1. op*

        Hi OP here! I came in from day 1 with explicit information on my conditions and the amount of attention is required.

        1. Monty & Millie's Mom*

          Ugh, then this must be doubly frustrating for you! Best of luck sorting it out and getting what you need without being joked about. You sound very proactive about things, so if your employer is half-way decent, you will be able to figure it out!

        2. Mystery Bookworm*

          Then I think this considerably shifts some of the responsiblity here to your boss and grand-boss!

          Thanks for being so active in the comments, it’s always interesting to hear from the OP.

  5. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    Usually when someone “jokes” about something, they’re doing it to not come across as an asshole because there are true feelings behind that joke – it’s very passive aggressive. Definitely have a meeting with your boss and have them lay out expectations. It doesn’t sound like you did anything wrong. It sounds like they weren’t clear and didn’t understand the extent of you flexing your time.

  6. Green great dragon*

    Clearly they’re handling it badly but – there’s a level of minor inconvenience that might cause boss and grandboss to grumble to each other but also recognise that you’re worth it. I’ve got a staff member in a similar position and while I might wish that she could make different arrangements, it’s a price I’m willing to pay for a good & competent team member. I could require her to flex less, but the morale hit to her would be so much worse than the mild irritation is to me now.

    I would think hard about your wording – if your boss has a mild preference for you not flexing so much, is that strong enough for you to change? Or only if it’s causing her actual difficulties? Because “I would slightly prefer you didn’t flex” “OK then I shall continue to flex as it’s only a mild preference” is not a great conversation to have with your boss.

    1. SierraSkiing*

      OP can also follow up on the boss’s “I would slightly prefer you didn’t flex” with an “is there something I can do to make my use of flexing easier on you?” There might be a compromise that still lets OP get to their appointments while minimizing the inconvenience to the company.

  7. LGC*

    …so I have two questions:

    1) are you in a job where you HAVE to be in at certain times? Or rather, where you’re expected to be in at certain times? It doesn’t sound like you are but I would check.

    2) You mentioned that you have multiple chronic illnesses; would you consider disclosure to HR?

    1. op*

      I have to be in at 8 but others do not. And I gave disclosures my medical conditions and concerns from day 1.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        It sounds like you have to be more specific if you haven’t been already. For example, if you have standing medical appointments, you should arrange to be out for those. If they’re not standing and you have to go to the doctor when you have a flare-up or need a medication adjustment or something, you should discuss with your boss how to handle that. It’s one of those things where saying, “I have X disease” doesn’t include, “I have X disease and sometimes need to make last-minute medical appointments when certain issues come up. How would you like me to handle those in terms of flexing my schedule?”

        1. Anne Elliot*

          The other thing that jumped out at me is that in my office, flexing your time doesn’t usually mean you are out of the office for entire days. I am certainly willing to take as gospel that OP’s medical appointments do in fact take all day, twice a month, but as a manager that is a fairly significant data point, (And I am basing this on OP’s description of taking at most 2 days a month, up to 16 hours.) Most medical appointments don’t take entire days and therefore a conversation that includes the information “I may have to be out a couple times a month for medical appointments” may not also convey “and those appointments will last the whole day, so every time I have one I’ll be out the entire day.”

          To me as a manager, there is a difference between having people on permanently altered schedules and having someone who is missing a significant amount of scheduled work time (and in my world, two days a month would be significant) unpredictably. In my line of work, this would create difficulties for me as a manager in terms of coverage and deadlines, and I will frankly state that I would not like it at all, so the maximum amount of advance hand-holding would be appreciated (“I have medical appointments two to three times per month and when I have them, they are multi-hour appointments. I will try to schedule them for the same work day and hours to the greatest extent possible, to minimize the disruption to my work day. I’m going to try to schedule everything I can on Tuesdays before noon, and I’ll try to keep Tuesday mornings clear of meetings and deliverables. Does that sound okay?”) So I agree it may be time to clarify the situation with your manager.

          I also have to point out that part of this is likely an unavoidable perception problem. Bob only has to ask one time to not work Fridays. Sally only has to ask one time to come in at 11 every day. After that, those are just their schedules and they don’t have to ask again. But a person with a significant number of nonstandard appointments has to ask for every one. So where it is very likely true you are not asking for more of an accommodation than your coworkers, you are asking for accommodation more often. And more asks looks like more accommodations, even if it really isn’t. This again underscores the value of standardizing your appointments if possible and to the extent possible, so they are expected not just by you but also by your manager. I frankly acknowledge that may not be possible in the OP’s situation.

          1. Tabby Baltimore*

            I like the insight you point out at the beginning of your last paragraph. Which leads me to ask if perhaps supervisors–who are concerned about an employee’s use of flextime–could use/modify the advice offered by OhNoYouDidn’t re: the boss’ distracting kids post (, and say something like: “I have a concern about the extent to which you’re using flextime. I realize you aren’t the problem, the situation is the problem. Is there a way to alter the situation to minimize the problem?”

      2. LGC*

        I’m not sure if you’re in the US but if you are, the ADA might be your friend here! Some offices might prefer you formalize things, so you might want to loop HR in if that makes sense.

      3. Annony*

        I wonder if being so transparent is acting against you. It is unfair but they may be scrutinizing your flextime more than others because it is medical and not child care. The fact that you are also going to need to use PTO for medical leave probably doesn’t help. I do think it may be worth looking into ADA accommodations for this to ensure they aren’t unfairly penalizing your use of flex time.

      4. EventPlannerGal*

        Is that for coverage reasons, eg you need to be there at 8 to open up/complete specific tasks/start answering calls or emails? And if you aren’t there does someone else have to fill in? Or is it just the way your schedules are set?

  8. Not A Manager*

    “I guess I thought flexing my time would also cost them less in the long run.”

    I think sometimes we fall into a trap of seeing a potential problem, and then hitting on an apparent solution without checking with the other people involved. I think you should briefly tell you manager that you have a condition that requires monitoring (or whatever else you’re comfortable sharing), and then ask what works best for her.

    You’ve mentioned that other people have a fixed but non-traditional schedule. If your condition is such that you could have standing appointments rather than as-needed ones, maybe she’d prefer that you always have the second and fourth Tuesday of the month off. You could use those days for non-urgent vet appointments, etc. as well.

    Or maybe you really need the flexibility to make those appointments as-needed. In that case, maybe just giving her that more global perspective will help. It’s not totally fair, but I do think there’s a different perception of “OP needs to take a lot of flex time to handle the same stuff that the rest of us handle in other ways” as opposed to “OP has to see the doctor more frequently than some of us do.” And again, you can ask her if there’s a better way to manage your time, given that background.

  9. BPT*

    I would just say that 16 hours a month is about 4 hours (or half a day) a week every week, which could come across as a lot more than they originally bargained for. I know you’re making up the hours, OP! It’s probably more just what Alison said – it may not be a consistent schedule they can count on. In my workplace, my boss is totally fine with me taking a couple of hours to go to the doctor/dentist without taking sick time, because she knows I’ll make it up other places. But if it’s literally 4 hours/half a day, then I need to take half a day sick time.

    They may not realize the extent of your chronic illnesses. In my mind, a doctor’s appointment that someone wouldn’t take off sick time for would be 1-2 hours, and would probably be no more than once a month. So it might just be calibrating their expectations.

    One other thing – you may already be doing this, or your appointments may be immovable, but if it’s possible, I would try to schedule your appointments early in the morning, over a lunch break, or late in the afternoon, so that you’re not taking off 4 hours every week. If you’re also asking for more flexibility than other employees, I’d also try to get your husband to deal with vet appointments if possible. Emergencies will always come up and your employer should be flexible with those (and it sounds like they are), but I’d just try to keep in sync with the employer as much as possible, especially as a new employee.

    1. WellRed*

      I thought 16 hours sounded like a lot myself (though I’m possibly reading this wrong). Is there a better way to handle this and then flexing? Would a schedule with different hours work/solve the problem?

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        It’s also described as “at most twice a month, up to sixteen hours,” which reads to me as up to two full days a month? If you’re really flexing sixteen hours without more than two individual flexing occasions a month, that does seem a little weird.

        1. Colette*

          Especially if there’s no pattern to it. I flex 15 hours a month (i.e. 2 7.5 hour days), but it’s predictable; everyone knows when I’ll be off.

    2. Willis*

      I agree that this could be part of it. It sounds like OP is essentially switching what day she works about twice a month (16 hours in two increments). That’s a little different than leaving an hour or two early one day and making it up the next, which is more of what I think of in terms of flexing hours. I think it makes sense to talk with her boss about what she needs schedule-wise and what is a mutually-beneficial way or least obtrusive way of achieving it. And I’d also try to cut down on the non-medical stuff or at least not take a whole day for it (or if you do need a whole day, just take the day off).

    3. Malarkey01*

      I was thinking the same- 2 days in a typical month is around 10% of the work days, which would be a lot for me as a manager, especially if it was random. I have two employees that flex on a regular basis, but it’s on a specific schedule so I know Jane will leave early every Wed and be in early every Thursday and I know Bob will be out for an hour every afternoon from 3:30-4:30 but will finish his submissions by 6:00 pm that day.

      I think that’s even more important if it’s a job where you have to ask permission because it’s constantly on their radar instead of places where you can duck out an hour early without much commotion.

  10. kt*

    Hey OP — I’m going to throw in a totally different perspective because I’ve seen it happen. Hmmm — trying to figure out how to say it…..

    Joe flexes his time to go surfing when the weather’s good, and to extend some vacations, etc. He doesn’t really tell anyone about it, just has a notification on Teams if you send him a message. His work is good. It’s fine.

    Janelle has a chronic illness and flexes time a few times a month for doctor’s appointments or due to fatigue. She’s fully transparent, keeps her boss up to date, has an email auto-reply, whatever. Her work is good. It’s kind of getting to be a problem, though — because everyone knows that Janelle is out, and you know, she flexes a lot of time, doesn’t she?

    Joe & Janelle flex the same time, but one doesn’t mention it, so no one thinks about it. The other clearly has… an issue, right?

    This may not be a matter of managing your time or position. This may be a matter of managing perception. More communication is not always better. If you communicated differently, might it be the case that no one would notice? I know this is not what we’re taught, and it’s not what people say is the right approach if you ask them directly. Moreover, there is a whole hornet’s nest of issues around perception. But. It’s a thought.

      1. WellRed*

        Hmm, I think the thoughts on perception are a good point. If OP needs flexible time to accommodate medical stuff, is there a better way to do so so that’s it’s, oh built-in thing? (This may not be possible, I realize).
        But if half the time OP is flexing out, especially if it’s last minute and it’s “Vet appt” “Car died” “vet app” then it risks looking like she hasn’t got her s**T together.

        1. 867-5309*

          This is what struck me… The view is less about the medical leave and more about the potential, semi-frequent references to personal life items – vet, car trouble, cable is out, etc. Too many of those things and managers will begin to wonder why OP might be the only one in the office who is missing several hours a month for these items.

      2. Diahann Carroll*

        Right. Not only that, OP should have it on record at her company that she has medical issues because while FMLA doesn’t apply, she may have a condition that’s covered under the ADA.

      3. valentine*

        Because OP needs the time, they should clarify terms, but doing so just puts them more firmly in the ableism/discrimination bull’s-eye. It does sound like the bosses have the anti-Janelle attitude about OP due to her disclosure.

        OP should also confirm whether they’re eligible for FMLA, though it doesn’t much matter when the bosses can say they simply need the coverage.

      4. JerryTerryLarryGary*

        Agreed that a conversation needs to be had, but maybe OP is asking permission when it’s not needed, which is highlighting it? Just a calendar/email notice for pre-planned doctor’s appointments, and a logging of hours for the week is enough for a lot of jobs. Sudden stuff doesn’t happen all that often, right?

      5. kt*

        I’m not saying ignore it. I’m saying look at the norms in your office and how you’re being perceived.

        I have definitely seen friends branded as “the woman who is always out because she’s sick” when she doesn’t take any more time than anyone else.

    1. t*

      I was coming here to say something similar – perhaps the joke is that you actually ask for flex time instead of just doing it? Does everyone else ask permission?

      I have a lax policy with my team on flex time – get your work done, be available for your staff (I manage managers) but other than that, I don’t really care about the specifics of your schedule. I have one person who tells me every little change, but most of my team only let’s me know if it’s going to be extensive, or I might notice. That works for me. Every once in a while, I can’t get a hold of someone I need and I find out later it was a doctor appointment or some other need for personal time. As long as it’s not a pattern, I let it go.

      If I had a brand new person who was telling me every instance of their schedule adjustments, it would be out of the norm and I might think it was weird (and I might joke about it). I do think it’s important to get clarity, but I wouldn’t jump to the conclusion that what you’re doing is wrong unless your manager tells you so.

      1. Koalafied*

        This is a good insight. We also have a really lax schedule at my job – we do always give some kind of heads-up, but the shorter duration of your absence the fewer people you typically notify. Multiple days in a row, you’re going to email the entire department with project details/answers to questions that might come up. For a single day or a few hours, you usually only hear about it from your immediate team members, typically on Slack, “FYI – I’ll be out of pocket tomorrow” or “I’ll be in late tomorrow so please let me know by 3 pm if you’re going to need anything from me before noon tomorrow and I’ll get it to you before I log off today.”

        The only time we don’t proactively notify is for our daily lunch hour. People can take their hour whenever works for their schedule, and nobody bats an eye if that turns into 90 minutes once in a while (especially for the office workers who are sometimes having to leave the office to go get lunch somewhere else), so you can step away for about that long and if you missed any messages while you were out, “Just getting back from lunch,” is all the explanation you need to give for the delay.

      2. Angelinha*

        I agree with this! Depends on the office, but the way I read the letter was that the joke was about the frequency of the requests, not the frequency of the schedule adjustments themselves. They might want you to manage this on your own and not think you need permission. But obviously some offices would require permission, so probably a good idea to talk to the boss to get more clarity either way.

    2. I'm just here for the cats!*

      That’s not good advice. Whats going to happen when Joe gets caught that he’s flexing his time without talking with anyone. It might work for some places but for the most part OP needs to just communicate. Say that she thought that the flex hours were working, and was wondering if something else would be better

      1. MayLou*

        Having a permanent schedule change would resolve the perception issue – it would no longer be “LW is taking time off AGAIN!” but instead “LW doesn’t work on Tuesdays”. I ran into the issue of “asking for permission highlights the time, not asking gets overlooked” in my first office job and ultimately failed probation because of it. So I’m sympathetic to LW.

  11. Sam*

    I am THAT employee, with a huge and complex medical history. Just found out recently that I’ll need bloodwork at least monthly for the literal rest of my life. I take sick days at least monthly. I use flex time almost weekly to accommodate my medical needs.

    I’ve tried to be as explicit as possible about how much I appreciate it. Maybe that’s not ideal – I know it’s a reasonable expectation that my workplace will accommodate my medical needs! – but nevertheless I know it’s unusual and rare that they’re so wonderful, and so I give my appreciation every time flexibility is extended. I’ve also shared a little bit of my medical history, which is not at ALL necessary but makes it easier to send short notes explaining the problem (eg, my boss knows what I mean by “routine bloodwork” vs “urgent neurology appointment”).

    I’ve also, over the years, worked to build a reputation as a reliable employee. It doesn’t mean being in office 24/7 – but for me it means being accessible by phone/email when I’m out for anything more than a day, dealing with urgent requests ASAP, and just generally making sure that when someone drops something on my lap, I see it all the way through, every time. Being out of office more than usual contributes (rightly or wrongly!) to a belief that you’re unreliable, so I’ve found it helpful to aggressively counteract that by being one of the most reliable employees at my company. It’s really helped!

    OP, it sounds like you’re doing all the right things, and Allison’s advice is spot on. You’re not the only one in these circumstances and it’s okay for you to need more medical time off than others! I hope your workplace is able to see the value you bring is much stronger than the minor inconvenience of accommodating you.

  12. computer10*

    You said you’re a young professional. When I was a young professionals bosses would sometimes make subtle feedback comments and it was hard to know what the go was. And no one ever told me what the norms were. I was too shy to speak up and just tried to bumble along and figure stuff out.

    Now in my grand older age (mid 30s!) I’d just be direct. If I were you I’d speak to your manager or email them whichever suits and ask them to clarify. Just be polite and keep the tone friendly and say, ‘could you clarify the norms on flexible leave in this office.’

    No one here can tell you if you’re doing it right. It depends on your office. You’ll have to ask your boss. Sometimes bosses think good managing is being subtle. But often a direct conversation is needed.

  13. Less Bread More Taxes*

    Oof I had this at an internship I did. During my interviews, I told HR and my potential manager that I was still in school and made sure that they had worked with current students before. Before starting, I asked my recruiter who I should talk to about my schedule and they assured me that it was no big deal and to talk to my manager on the first day. Well, lo and behold, my manager was not happy when he found out I had to arrive late one day every single week. I remember wondering how our expectations of student schedules could be so off – I was thinking a few hours a week (which was not bad in my opinion!), he told me he thought I’d need to leave an hour early once a month. Just goes to show that very clear communication is so necessary *before* onboarding.

    In my case, I ended up having a pretty terrible internship because my boss thought I had lied to him and HR. The relationship did not improve.

    Honestly, now that I’m working, I don’t see how people without flex time even live. I too need time off frequently for doctor appointments, vet appointments, the bank, grocery shopping occasionally (I live in an area where grocery stores close early)… taking an afternoon off every couple weeks is absolutely necessary. Spelling out our schedules and things we regularly need to do seems a bit weird in an interview, but I guess that’s what we need to do in order to make sure we’re on the same page as our employers.

    1. I'm just here for the cats!*

      Wow that is horrible. Of course as an intern (obviously a student) your going to need flexible hours! And how did the boss think you lied. Unless you specifically said something like only needing 1 Day a month it’s on him to clarify.

  14. Jaybeetee*

    Is it possible the last-minute emergencies are throwing things off? Based on your letter, it sounds like in addition to the medical flexes they knew about in advance, there have also been a few last-minute “Oh crap the dog!” flexes, and it sounds like you haven’t been there that long yet. You’re not necessarily doing anything wrong – life happens! But I’m wondering if you’re gaining a reputation as “someone with a lot of emergencies who frequently needs flex time at short notice.”

    At any rate, you should talk turkey with your boss to clarify expectations and see if there’s an issue. They should be providing that feedback without your prodding, but it’s better for you to know than not know.

    1. A Social Worker*

      Yes, if I know someone has a medical reason to be out regularly that’s one thing, but if someone seems to have many more life emergencies happen than everyone else on the team, that causes me to start the side-eye. I can usually make vet appointments and get car repairs done outside of business hours given a little planning. Of course emergencies happen, but they don’t happen multiple times a month every month. If someone is constantly out with these types of emergencies it makes me question their overall competence. Maybe that’s unfair.

      1. TL -*

        Yeah, I’ve been at my job for just under a year and I’ve had one life thing where I needed to flex time. Well, two if you count donating blood, but we get specific time off for that, so I don’t.

        I live in a major city and only have a cat to be responsible for, so that’s really helpful. But if you’re flexing more than once every couple of months for life stuff, plus regularly flexing entire days for medical stuff, that is something to consider in how people are thinking about you.

      2. Greyscale*

        I think it might be a little unfair, depending on the person and the emergencies they’re having. One of my former coworkers is seemingly the most unlucky person in the world. To give a brief slice of her life:

        – Week 1: her car breaks down on the way to work and she has to have it towed to a garage and arrange another ride to work. Obviously, she’s late to work.
        – Week 2: she is now riding a commuter train to work while she waits for her car to get fixed. The commuter train she’s on hits a pedestrian and the train is stopped as an investigation occurs. No one is allowed off the train. She doesn’t come to work that day.
        – Week 3: her child has a seizure that morning. She’s a single mom so she’s the only one available to go to the hospital with him. She works from the hospital that day.
        – Week 4: there is a fire in her apartment building. She evacuates the building before it reaches her unit, but the fire department asks the building residents to stay until they put out the fire and figure things out. She doesn’t come to work that day.

        I worked with her for 2 years and most weeks had something like this happen. You wouldn’t think it was possible for this many emergencies to happen to one person but they did. She was an excellent coworker and the missed time never impacted her work, though.

    2. mgguy*

      One thing I might suggest if possible-

      It sounds like the OP is basically in two categories of flexing: medical stuff and “life stuff.”

      It might be a good idea, if possible, to use leave for one of those two situations. Of course if you have more than one bucket, emergencies would probably be stretching for sick time(depending on how it’s interpreted-vet maybe, plumber no I would say) but I’d think would be okay on personal time. You shouldn’t HAVE to use vacation, but at the same time it’s there.

      Medical often-but not always-is known somewhat in advance so as others have said it could be a permanent flex. Again, if you change your schedule to “come in at noon every Tuesday” or whatever to leave a half day block of time every week for appointments. If temporary flexes are frowned on but permanent is okay, you could also balance the occasional non-flex-day appointment with leave if needed.

      Those are just some ideas that come to mind for me.

      I know also that at my last work place, sick leave accrued fairly fast for everyone(12 days a year) and had no roll-over cap. I left there with over 200 hours in the bank after 5 years(sick isn’t paid if you leave, just when you retire up to 30 days) and I knew long term employees who had over 1000 hours. Of course it could be wiped out in one fell swoop for something serious(we had one employee with cancer who used up all of his between regular appointments and FMLA, and multiple people including me donated several weeks to him).

  15. LQ*

    The other side of this could be a problem. If when you are flexing your hours TO is in conflict with the culture. (Are you doing things on Saturday when others would expect that there is nothing happening on Saturdays and it’s creating unknown to you noise/work even though you don’t think it would.) If everyone else flexes to evenings or mornings and you’re the only one flexing to Saturday that could be part of what’s going on here.

  16. a clockwork lemon*

    It’s not clear to me from your letter, but are you ONLY putting your flex time on the calendar, or are you also making a point to keep your bosses in the loop about what times you’re flexing and when you’re planning to make up those hours? My other question is, when you’re flexing your time are you taking two hours off then coming back to work later, or are you taking the whole afternoon/evening? It sounds like the issue isn’t that they don’t believe you’re taking time for doctor’s appointments as much as they don’t have as much context for why you have so many of those appointments and it might be coming up now because you’re “randomly” unavailable at times when they generally expect you to be available.

    I work a non-traditional schedule to begin with (7am-3pm, give or take half an hour or so in either direction), but I’m currently a few weeks into a treatment regime that requires 3-4 doctor’s appointments per week. My company is pretty generous with both non-traditional hours and occasionally flexing work hours to accommodate appointments. I’ve made a point to keep my team in the loop because we have staggered work hours and this way my boss knows what days I need to be out the door by a certain time and won’t be available to answer questions or handle any last-minute tasks before the end of her work day. You don’t need to go into details, of course, but it might help a lot even if you just remind them at the beginning of the week that you’re going to be out of office for X time on X days and when you plan to make up the flexed hours.

  17. Mel_05*

    I’m a little surprised this is an issue with a company that stated up front that they’re ok with you flexing your schedule!

    I’ve never worked for a company where flex time was a thing. People can have different work schedules, but the hours are set.

    But, none of those places batted an eye if I asked to leave early or come in late for an appointment. Even twice a month. Sometimes even more – although I’d been at that company for almost a decade when that need arose, I think they would have been chill about it with anyone.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I think this might be one of those issues where each party has an idea of what “flex time” means and those ideas don’t mesh enough.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        Yeah — at my job, “flex time” includes things like having your schedule be 7-3 every day. It doesn’t actually include taking half the day Thursday and making it up Saturday.

        1. Amethystmoon*

          Right, my company is the same way. You could come in at 7:30 am and leave at 4 or however long your lunch break is, instead of 8-4;30, but only for something like a Dr. Appointment. You can’t say, randomly leave some days at 1 and come in some days at 10, then leave at your regular leaving time. But most people are also hourly.

      2. Maj. Pothead, reporting for doobie*

        Yes, I made a similar comment below about how I’ve learned the hard way that it is better to discuss specifics about what “flex time” means to each party at the interview stage. There’s a lot of daylight between “almost never” and “weekly”.

    2. Diahann Carroll*

      I’m a little surprised this is an issue with a company that stated up front that they’re ok with you flexing your schedule!

      Sadly, I’m not. Like the OP, I have a lot of chronic illnesses, and when I was interviewing for my last job with a previous employer, they touted their flex schedule for people in my position as one of the benefits of working there. They knew I was coming from a very flexible employer in the city, and I also mentioned that I was on FMLA at the time and would need to leave early sometimes for appointments. They assured me that would be a-okay.

      Except it wasn’t. Once I started and began needing flex time, it was like pulling teeth to get management to approve it. I was allowed to work from home one morning when I moved and was waiting for the furniture company to come and deliver a chair, but my boss told me to make sure I came back as soon as possible to continue working from the office because the optics of me being out didn’t look good since we sat a few feet away from the executives’ and president’s offices.

      When I had finally been there for a year and was approved for intermittent FMLA, they started giving me problems about approving my (paid) time off. HR told them that since I was salaried, had a laptop, and worked from home from time to time due to the nature of my job (I’m in proposal development), they wouldn’t make me take unpaid leave for appointments – I could just leave and let HR know how long I had been out of the office so they could mark it appropriately in the timekeeping system. Yet, my manager and her boss acted like my working from home when I wasn’t feeling well, but wasn’t too sick to be off completely was a problem. My grandboss told my boss I would have to start taking some of my time as sick leave, which was not what HR advised for people in my job function. I ended up leaving that company five months later for a company that allows me to work remotely full time. It’s ridiculous how people change up after they get you in the door, smh.

      1. Maj. Pothead, reporting for doobie*

        I left a similar comment below and it is infuriating when companies do this. I try to be honest and above-board during the interview phase about what I am looking for and what I need. Why can’t they do the same? If it won’t work for your business, that is fine, JUST SAY SO.

        I, too, work in proposal development. Nothing glamorous about it, but it really lends itself to full-time remote work. Glad you are able to take advantage of that fact.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          If it won’t work for your business, that is fine, JUST SAY SO.

          Yes! Had they told me this would be a problem during the interview, I would have never taken the job in the first place (they only offered five paid sick days, so their leave policy in general was horrible). I hate the bait-and-switch – it ends with people leaving anyway, and the company ends up back in the same spot they were in to begin with (I was only at that company for 16 or 17 months, so they had to restart the hiring process again).

          1. Maj. Pothead, reporting for doobie*

            Yes, I’ve had the old bait and switch myself. Sounds like you landed on your feet, so enjoy continuing to work from home.

    3. clogerati*

      I’m not that surprised. I have a very flexible schedule and my bosses have been very upfront that they don’t care what time I leave/arrive as long as I’m here when they need me and I get my work done. But, I used to share an office with a Director (not my boss, not my grandboss, not in my chain of command at all) who, while she liberally used flex time and frequently worked from home with no notice, was very upset when I would leave “early” (I have a bad habit of working through my lunch break so I often leave at 6PM instead of 7PM, and I always keep my phone on me/my email open when I do leave early).

      She constantly talked about how much she loved that our company offered flex time and how great it was, but was clearly upset if she found out I was using it. She went so far as to recommend to my boss that I not be allowed to WFH in the early days of the pandemic. It was bizarre, and ultimately she ended up being fired because….she was abusing her flex time and wfh privileges (along with a slew of other things). Sometimes people assume that everyone else is abusing privileges that way that they would/are.

  18. Person from the Resume*

    This is where I am having the disconnect. “Even with the added hours on nights and weekends, I used the flex policy at most twice a month — up to 16 hours”

    Twice a month – nothing.
    up to 16 hours – two whole work days! (I know it says “up to”, but still …)

    I would expect the flex to to accommodate no more than 2-3 hours outside of normal work hours not full days off where you make up the full day later. IDK, but it is possible they thought you’d flex a few hours and not full days.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Yeah, I suspect that might be the case. For a lot of employers, “flex time” means you work through lunch and leave an hour early without taking PTO. For others, “flex time” means you keep a non-traditional schedule. For still others, you come in whenever you want as long as you’re there for core hours. Then there are those where it means you take a half day here and there and make the other half on a weekend, or by coming in an hour early four days in a row.

    2. SomebodyElse*

      Even if it’s not full day chunks, 16 hours per month is going to be outside of the norm.

      In my experience it’s typically 1-2 hours every few months or so is normal.

      I’ve seen other employees I work with take a long lunch or leave early on a regular basis (monthly to biweekly) for appointments and nobody really bats an eye. Mostly because it’s regular and even if it happens with more frequency than others, it just becomes normal if that makes sense “Oh Gertie’s left early today for her appointment” or “Barnabus has that thing every other week and takes a long lunch”

      I honestly wasn’t really sure how much time the OP was taking as flex time per month. The description seemed a bit confusing to me.

      1. Esmeralda*

        Right. Currently I’m flexing over 16 hours / month — medical issue, I have twice weekly appts and need breaks during the day. WFH, so no one can see it… My manager is ok with it, because I still work 40+ hours/week, I keep up with my work and it’s at my usual high standard, I’m responsive to email etc within the office expectation. Also I’ve been working here a long time. and have a long record of stepping up to assist / put in additional hours.
        We have new hires who are flexing a bit but not as much as I am, and I’m reasonably sure that the new folks might be able to flex as much as I am if necessary but that (unlike me) they’d have to keep track of their hours scrupulously.

    3. agnes*

      I agree. I don’t generally think of flex time as taking an entire day off during the normal work week. It’s more taking 2-3 hours off in a day and still reporting for at least part of the day. We have a policy at our work that flex time cannot be used to cover more than 4 hours of a workday. If you want a whole day off, you must take at least 4 hours of leave and you can use flex time for the other 4 hours. This is because our work requires being available for a 5 day workweek for our customers and somebody being out an entire day means that someone else must cover do the daily close our for their work. It has to be closed out each day. I know it’s not ideal, but at least it’s clear and we don’t get into this kind of misunderstanding with our employees.

    4. Jay*

      I had to take my daughter to some doctor appointments, where the doctor was over an hour away from my home – factor three hours of drive time and another 1-2 hours at the appointment. I’m looking already at 4-5 hours of drive time, if I worked further than 20 minutes or so from home, not in the right direction I very likely would need to take the entire day. It wouldn’t make sense to drive to the office, work two hours, drive home and then take care of the appointment.

      I don’t think this is unusual, depending on the medical condition – if blood work, imaging, other tests are needed, it could take a large amount of the day. Additionally, some appointments might leave the employee feeling unwell and require them to rest the remainder of the day.

      1. doreen*

        It’s not unusual to take the entire day because of travel time, test/procedure time etc. But normally people take some sort of leave rather than trying to make up a full day of work on some other day.

        1. Mel_05*

          Yeah, or they might work extra hours every day that week and then take the day off – I’ve done that before when they needed me to get work done by a deadline, but I also needed to get that day off.

  19. Girasol*

    I wonder if they’re thinking of someone else. Might there have been another young professional a lot like the LW who abused this privilege in the past and they’re wondering if LW will end up creating the same headache? Or could there be someone else on the team who can’t be trusted with that kind of flexibility, and the bosses are afraid that they’ll come and say, “LW gets to have flex time. Why can’t I?” Perhaps that’s why the bosses are joking about LW’s flex time but not speaking to LW directly about it. It still pays to ask as Alison recommends, just not to go in with a guilty attitude. The trouble might not be the LW.

  20. Mayor of Llamatown*

    Is there any chance your boss’s boss hasn’t shared her concerns with your actual boss? Has your boss actually discussed those concerns with you? The miscommunication may be between your boss and her boss. But you would still definitely want to bring it up to your boss. If your boss’s boss brings up a concern, it’s definitely something to follow up on.

  21. Maj. Pothead, reporting for doobie*

    Too late to do this now, but something to think about the next time you interview for a job. I’ve run into this exact problem where they say they are “very” flexible during the interview stage, but once you are employed there, you find out that there is wide latitude in how the term “very” is defined. I learned this lesson the hard way myself.

    I find that it’s better at the interview stage to just go ahead and lay out any reasons you have for why you are looking for flexibility (I don’t mean to dramatize it, but just state these things in a vague but direct-enough manner.) I think a lot of people are reluctant to do this in interviews (and I understand the reasons for that), but NOT doing it can also come back to haunt you. Try to get them to commit, at least verbally, around SPECIFICS.

    Best of luck to you, OP.

    1. TL -*

      My boss told me she was pretty flexible on my first meeting with her and I looked her dead in the eye and said, “Can you define pretty? I worked in a lab once where one person decided to work 8 pm to 3 am because he was more productive at night, so I think our scales might be different.”

      She went white with shock – it was actually pretty hilarious – but then she got a lot more specific about what “flexible working hours” meant to her. We did not have the same definitions, but we were able to work out something that worked for both of us (and she’s supportive and recognizes that life happens, so it’s been pretty easy. But I still laugh when I think about it.)

      1. Quickbeam*

        I work at a place that defines flexibility on a very limited basis for both pre-Covid WFH and medical appts. Like 1-2 times a year. When we had a new hire flex 2-3 times a week, I went to my manager since this was something that had not been allowed for the rest of us. She confided in me that the new hire caught her off guard and pushed her for more and more.

        The end result was clearer definitions of what we were allowed to do….and an easing for the rest of us as to what was permissible.

  22. LivetoRead*

    The response missed the fact that the OP has medical appointments. She has rights under ADA (immediately) and FMLA (after being employed 12 months) as well as any earned sick leave. I can understand her desire to not want to force the issue but if she makes a formal ADA or FMLA request and her boss or grandboss continues to make comments that can be viewed as ADA/FMLA interference.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      She said above her company is too small to qualify for FMLA. And even if they were covered under FMLA, she’d have to have worked for the company for a year before she would be individually eligible for that protection. She hasn’t been at the company that long.

  23. SnowWhiteClaw*

    It’s not OK and it’s extremely unprofessional for these managers to make jokes about your flex time.

    If someone has an issue with how you use your flex time, they need to address it in a constructive way instead of joking about it.

    I’m disabled too, and I have 2-3 medical appointments per week on average. Being disabled and needing time to take care of your body are not matters to joke about.

  24. Betty Boop*

    Since you mentioned you have a medical condition you may want to check into the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) that could give you flexibility on the time you take off. I don’t know the ins and outs of the policy or if its the only legislation used for this sort of thing but people at my work use if for more flexibility for absences due to qualifying circumstances.

  25. agnes*

    What is your job? Does someone else have to cover it if you are away? and are you flexing your job both for medical appointments and for when you have to work outside of normal business hours? That information would help a lot in determining a. how much you are actually requesting flex hours and b. how much of an impact it is on other employees and business operations. . If someone has to cover for you when you are away and you are modifying your schedule both for medical appointments and for the days you have to work late or on weekends, then yes, I would say it is a lot compared to most and it would be helpful for you to discuss with your boss.

  26. benefitsmanager*

    I’m confused… I could’ve sworn the letter writer said this was a salary position. If so, why is every hour being checked in the first place? Certainly if there’s work to be done, that requires night and weekend work whether or not hours were missed as part of that week. But if the work is getting done, I actually wonder – as others have – if there’s too MUCH transparency here. Definitely a convo to have with the boss re: expectations.

    1. Spencer Hastings*

      If she’s in a position where billable hours matter, that could be a reason why the amount of time she spends working needs to be tracked, even for a salaried person.

  27. Jay*

    I’m taking a different perspective here – most comments have been directed more towards policy, culture, the joking, etc. I didn’t read every comment, so someone may have also brought this up, does your boss/grandboss know what your medical issues are? Is it possible that their comments truly are out of concern? They are worried about you as a person/employee, didn’t feel comfortable outright saying that or asking about your condition (trying to watch the line about asking people their medical history), they thought they’d try to casually, jokingly bring something up just to get confirmation that you are doing ok?

    Aside from that – as others pointed out – talk to them, find out what the issue is and address those concerns. Doing your best to schedule as many appointments on weekends, after hours, etc. Obviously emergencies are one thing but a lot of stuff can be done on weekends or after hours. Hair/beauty appointments, banking, vet appointments, many doctors do offer evening or weekend appointments or at least might be willing to accommodate to some extent – set up a 4:00 pm appointment and start work at 6:30 am (because you are just shifting your schedule during that day, it might look less obvious). Also as others say -change your schedule completely (though I’d imagine still at times you may have things come up and still need to flex your schedule, which may come off more of a problem – “we accommodated her request for a shift to her schedule and she is still requesting flex time”

  28. Elena*

    I’m with the others wondering what is going on with your pets that you have these frequent emergency vet appointments that can’t be scheduled outside of work. I’ve had pets all my life, and only once have I had an actual pet emergency. If you want your medical issues to be accommodated (which they should be!) then you need to get on top of the rest of your schedule to show that you’re a committed worker rather than someone who can’t seem to get it together.

    1. Chickaletta*

      I wonder what’s going on too. OP described car trouble and pet emergencies as “everyday probelms”, but really those should be rare problems, like once every few years, or maybe a bout of issues over a span of a few weeks as an issue gets resolved but then they’re over with. Using flex time on a bi-weekly basis can send a signal that one lacks organization or control in their personal life, or even worse make it seem like they’re willfully not bothering to use less disruptive time management tools (not saying OP is doing this, but for the sake of disuccion just brining it up), which could affect their reputation at work, and well, that’s not good. (The medical issues are obviously a different category and I see it’s been addressed in the comments already.)

      1. Hapax Legomenon*

        Some pets have no problems for twenty years and die of old age. Some pets develop major health conditions or were born with health issues that make them need emergency attention much more often. Some pets just get old and have a LOT of old age problems that require emergency visits but don’t negatively impact their quality of life to the point where putting them to sleep is what’s right for them.
        Less emotionally, sometimes one buys a lemon and it’s constantly “the muffler fell off,” or “all the lights stopped working” or “the alternator died.” Yes, buying a more reliable car is the solution in the long run, but the Boots Theory of Socio-Economic Unfairness is at play: you can’t save up to buy the “nice” thing that will save you money because you have to spend more money on maintaining the “cheap” thing you could afford in the meantime. Youth and chronic illness may mean not having lots of money for preventive maintenance of various aspects of life that keep problems from becoming emergencies. It also might mean making up work rather than take leave, when you know another person in the office probably would have just used leave time for the family emergency. I haven’t met many people for whom I thought “constant car and pet problems” meant a lack of control or organization, especially if they were young or didn’t have a strong support network nearby.

      2. I'm just here for the cats!*

        I think she’s just using that as an example. OP said above that the time is mostly medical and like 10% stuff like dog broke it’s leg. It’s not that she’s taking 16 hours for her pet

      3. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

        Yup. I’m one of those people who uses vacation time for random stuff like this because I don’t have a strong support network nearby so there’s no one else to handle stuff. Heck, I’ve even gone as far as to use vacation time for medical appointments. Then again, my lack of a strong support network means that I get less pushback in my personal life over using vacation time for to run errands and do life stuff. I digress, but the point is that OP might want to think about how to manage their life stuff in a way that risks their political capital the least. And sadly, if you have medical stuff that requires accommodation then you often need to double down on all other potential uses of flex time because perception is everything.

    2. Black Horse Dancing*

      Depend on the emergency. I’ve had pets all my life and have had any number of ‘this animal needs a doctor now!”. From cats with urinary issues (yes, life threatening) to dogs with abcessed anal glands to an animal bleeding from somewhere, emergencies happen. Don’t suggest to OP these can be put off–op stated the dog broke his leg–that’s absolutely something that is an emergency. Better safe than sorry.

    3. Maeve*

      I have had pets (just cats) for 10 years of my adult life and have had between 15 and 20 emergency vet visits I would say, probably around half that I had to flex my work day for.

    4. londonedit*

      I have a friend who has three cats, and they are always having to take one of the cats to the vet for something or other (well, not *always*, but at least 1-2 times a month). One of them has a habit of suddenly spending two days throwing up for no reason, another sometimes loses weight unexpectedly, someone else has a tendency towards UTIs. It’s not an ’emergency’, but it’s something they need to go to the vet for, and (in normal times) if you factor in commuting, then my friend will often need to leave work a little early in order to get home in time to take the cat to the vet, or they might need to work from home if they can only get an appointment in the middle of the day, or whatever.

  29. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

    It recently came to my attention that that my boss and grandboss have an inside joke about how much I request a “flex schedule.” In passing, my grandboss told me about their jokes, and that they had been concerned about my time.

    Next time you are asked to work a weekend or other off-hours — turn the joke back on them and say oh heh heh I’m not working flex schedules any more as it was brought to my attention :s

  30. That Girl from Quinn's House*

    I am wondering if this is the sort of company where you can only flex your schedule in their favor. I worked somewhere like that, where “flexible schedule” meant that sometimes you’d have to come in at 5 am or stay until 11 pm, but they’ll act all put out if you “cut out early” when you leave at 3 pm after arriving at 5 am, or “had a lazy morning and came in late” at 2 pm when you were going to be stuck there until 11 pm.

    I once had a boss who made a big fuss that I not get overtime, scheduled me to attend trainings on my days off, and then got mad at me for taking different days off that week. If I’d come in 6 days that week, I’d have gotten unauthorized overtime and been in trouble too.

    You just can’t win with some people.

  31. doreen*

    What does I was scheduled to work outside of regular business hours about 30 hours a month. mean exactly? If I’m understanding it correctly , you’re scheduled to work one day a week (roughly) outside of normal business hours and therefore would have one day off during regular business hours. I think combining that with twice a month flexing your schedule up to 16 hours total might be a bit much for a couple of reasons. One, if your job requires you to actually be scheduled to work some nights and weekends , it seems like there might be some staffing/coverage issues involved and working Saturday to make up for leaving early on Tuesday doesn’t help the staffing on Tuesday. Second, it seems like the flexing twice a month might not always be emergency issues- even with doctors , cars and pets, not every issue is an emergency that must be taken care of today and can’t be planned in advance. I’m wondering if perhaps part of the issue is that boss and grandboss don’t understand why you can’t take care of most of these things during the day on Wednesday when you’re scheduled to work 4-midnight, or when you are off on Thursday because you’re working Sunday. Especially since you don’t seem to be talking about coming in an hour late or leaving an hour early twice a month.

  32. Harvey JobGetter*

    Ooo, I disagree. Commenting humorously on the fact that somebody uses this a lot—and maybe being surprised—does not mean they actually have a problem with it. People deal with new things in a lot of ways and this is one of them. If, the tone of the comment was jovial I wouldn’t worry about it. But if you are, ask. I bet they say it’s fine. But I wouldn’t use Alison’s script which suggests you think it’s not okay. You should say, nicely: I understood I was allowed to do this. Grandboss mentioned you guys joke about it. I assume you’re joking because this is maybe a bit unusual, but that it’s okay since that’s what you’ve told me all along. If I’m wrong, of course, please do let me know.

    1. MayLou*

      If you’re a manager, you should not be making jokes about something like this to your employee, or telling the employee about it. That just creates confusion and potential problems. I recently gave my manager the heads up about a future event that will require me to take substantial time off. I didn’t have to give her so much notice, but I knew she would be reasonable about it based on how she’s treated colleagues in similar circumstances, and also because we’ll be hiring soon and I knew it would help her to know she might need to cover my position at some unspecified time in the next year. But she made a joke about being mad at me, and whilst I’m 90% certain it was just a joke, I wish she hadn’t because that 10% of doubt keeps nagging at me. It was because we have a good working relationship that I felt comfortable telling her, and it was because we have a good working relationship that she felt comfortable joking about it, but it has slightly dented that good working relationship by introducing the ghost of doubt.

      1. Harvey JobGetter*

        I completely agree — a manager should not do that. But we’re not talking about what a manager should do. We’re talking about what people actually do and how OP should approach it.

  33. Granger*

    OP, you said that you have to be in at 8 am, but others don’t. Does that mean that someone has to cover for you when you’re flexing at that time?

    Other than the previously suggested alternative schedule option, do you have clarity about the impact on boss, grandboss, and/or team members that your frequent use of flex time is having and is there anything else you could do to minimize the “hassle” or pain points/adverse impact?

  34. Keymaster of Gozer*

    UK based here but been in similar situation when employers complained about the amount of medical leave I was taking, often at short notice. (I worked 100 miles from home so a medical appointment could take an entire day)

    Upon reflection it was impacting upon my coworkers rather a lot, although I can’t do anything about my medical issues. At the more reasonable firm I worked for I asked if we could discuss ways to limit the impact.

    Obviously the ‘I feel like utter rubbish and can’t come to work today’ incidents couldn’t be predicted or prevented (another firm did suggest ways to ‘cure’ me via diet and exercise but that place was toxic). But we worked out I could work from home if I felt too bad to travel but not too bad to work.

    Doctors and hospital appointments I made a real effort to get on specific days and times in the month, so staff knew well in advance that I wouldn’t be available on x date.

    None of my coworkers mentioned ever that they were annoyed at my sudden ‘not going to be in today’ moments going on month after month and since a lot of them had kids and altered hours to accommodate that I initially assumed my boss was being a jerk complaining about me. But they were annoyed, just never mentioned it until after we’d put in place measures to reduce my impact on them.

    TL:DR – see if you can discuss with management possible ways that could limit impact to coworkers and company. WFH, permanent changes to schedule medical appointments etc.

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