why are people so relaxed about lateness, should managing be this much work, and more

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

1. Am I old-fashioned about lateness?

I feel it is non-negotiable that — except for cases of emergency, sick kids, traffic jams — employees should be at work on time the vast majority of days. This means getting to work about 10 minutes early in time to hang up a coat, use the bathroom, etc., and be at one’s desk/station when the hour begins. I feel like most employees and many managers do not so much care about this or, if they do, they don’t say anything to late employees. I have worked with colleagues who regularly show up 10-20 minutes late and no one seems to care. I’m not talking about flex-time jobs. Are my standards old-fashioned?

Not just old-fashioned, but genuinely out-of-date!

In lots of jobs, it just doesn’t matter if you’re at your desk at 9:00 or 9:10 because it has zero impact on the results you get. There are other jobs where it does matter — for example, if you cover the phones and you’re not there at the start of business hours so someone else has to answer them for you — but increasingly jobs that can move away from that (which, again, isn’t all of them) are doing so.

The only relevant question is: Does it affect the person’s work results or someone else’s work? If yes, then you address the specific impact it’s having. But if the answer is no, then you’re adhering to an outdated idea of what excellent work should look like. And hassling someone who’s performing well over 10 minutes — or god forbid, for using the bathroom or chatting with a colleague before they sit down — is a good way for managers to demonstrate that they don’t value the right things and send them in search of a manager who does.

2. Should managing an entry-level staffer be this much work?

I work for a consulting firm that deals with a flurry of client demands and ever changing deadlines. I’ve needed extra support for a while, and we recently hired someone to support my portfolio. I was thrilled to get this person on board but here’s the issue — this staff member is entry level. They had strong references and great internship experience but I really underestimated how much time I would need to spend managing this person’s work. I figured we’d spend a lot of time on training but they’ve been working for me for months now, and I end up having to redo their work all the time. The one time I tried to take a step back from the heavy editing, my client called me to complain about the quality of work. Somehow, since we’ve hired this person, I’m now working longer hours than ever and frequently spend my evenings redoing their work and then the next mornings trying to explain my edits, and then my evenings reviewing their latest versions and finalizing it for the client. In between all of this, I’m still trying to stay on top of my own tasks.

Is this normal for managing entry level staff? If so, how can I manage my expectations? I’m just so stressed and overwhelmed that I wish I had never asked for additional staff.

No, it’s not normal. Managing entry-level staff is a significant time commitment; they’ll need training, supervision, feedback, and regular check-ins. But if the person was hired to give you extra support, then after an intensive initial period, it should produce a net time savings for you. Otherwise, there’s not much point to doing it.

It could be that the person just isn’t the right match for the work you need done (maybe hiring someone inexperienced wasn’t the way to go, or maybe this particular person just wasn’t the right one), or it could be that they need more/different training than what they’ve had, or maybe you’re giving them higher-level work than is suited for the role and you need to re-envision what they can help you with. If you have a decent manager, ideally she’d be helping you figure out what’s going on and where to go from here — but the outcome shouldn’t be that your support person means you’re doing more work than ever.

3. Disclosing dyslexia at a new job

I’m dyslexic. Early in my career it caused me a huge amount of stress — people were constantly getting upset and lecturing me about typos (stuff that spellcheck can’t capture, think “form/from”) that I literally couldn’t see. I never mentioned my dyslexia and it took a lot to overcome the perception that I was sloppy. Despite that, I advanced in my career and it became less of an issue because of my seniority. But it wasn’t until my current position that, for a combination of reasons (my boss, a copy editing team, etc.) it stopped feeling like something was handing over my head. I also, a couple years ago, started mentioning to people on my team that I was dyslexic and that has made it even easier to deal with.

Now I am contemplating a new, even more senior role with a new organization and I’m finding myself very nervous about it becoming an issue again. I don’t feel like “are you going to think less of me if there are typos in some of my emails?” is a question I can ask in an interview process. But is there anything I can say or do when I start to get ahead of this? I’m hesitant to mention I’m dyslexia to people who don’t know me well, because people tend to associate it with not being smart.

I think you can be very matter-of-fact about this once you start a new job! For example: “I’m dyslexic, which means I often can’t spot typos in my work. In the past I’ve handled that by having anything I write that’s important or for an outside audience be proofread. What’s the best way to go about that here?” And: “That also means you may see typos from me in informal, internal emails. I want you to know up-front it’s not lack of care.”

Most places will be happy to accommodate you on this — especially in the more senior roles you’re in now. A lot of senior people rely on others to proofread or edit their communications (because their skills are often in other areas); that’s not unusual at all. Your accomplishments in getting you to this senior role will speak a lot louder than the dyslexia will.

4. When to tell my office I won’t be returning when they reopen

I have been at my current job for a decade. Under normal circumstances it’s a job that would require my physical presence at my workplace at least 75% of the time, but with the pandemic and people not congregating in spaces, the nature of my job has changed and it’s all remote.

I’m currently working from a different city that is not within regular commuting distance of my job (which my office knows; I’ve been staying with family for child care assistance and extra space). My partner and I have recently decided that we will move here permanently. We’re currently in the process of buying a house and putting down roots here. At the moment that doesn’t interfere with my day to day work, but when my workplace eventually reopens I will inevitably have to resign.

At what point should I let my job know my plans? Do I wait until they start requiring people be in the office (that’s a moving target and could be January or it could be June)? Once we move into our new home (which may become evident on video calls)? I’m inclined towards something sooner but then am not sure how to word it. While I’m excited at the prospect of a new job after 10 years, I’m also not eager to job hunt in a new city during a pandemic and would like to stay on as long as it’s reasonable for my position.

The concern with raising it now is that if they know you’ll be resigning once they reopen, you risk being pushed out earlier than you want to leave, especially if they need to make cuts at some point. And they’ll need to hire your replacement, which might not be on the timeline you’d prefer. Given that, I’d be very cautious about announcing anything that makes it clear you won’t be continuing in your job once they reopen.

And really, it’s okay to keep this to yourself for now — just like you wouldn’t need to announce that you were planning resign in six months for grad school, or wouldn’t need to announce you were job searching and planning to leave as soon as you found something better. You’re entitled to wait until there’s a reopening date that looks real and give them notice at that point (and it won’t need to be “we moved permanently three months ago”; it can just be “we’ve decided to stay here”).

But I also understand wanting to be transparent. If they treat people well and you have no reason to worry they’d push you out earlier than you’d want to leave, that’s something of a counter-weight to the above … but I’d argue that at this particular moment in time, it’s extra important to be cautious when something could affect your income. Ultimately, though, you have to decide how concerned you are about that risk.

(If it were possible for you to continue remotely when they reopen, this would be a completely different answer but it sounds like that’s not the case.)

Read an update to this letter here

5. Keeping in touch with a coworker who got laid off when I didn’t

A small group of us in my department were told we were being downsized. I’d been at the company over five years but was not very close with anyone on the team except for one person, “Zoya,” who’s been there as long as I’ve been alive. She and I worked together on a number of projects and I even gave her training on a couple occasions. She was such a ray of sunshine in the office, always happy and enthusiastic, and before our individual meetings with HR, I sent her an email telling her I’d miss her and asking for a personal email address so we could keep in touch.

Now the awkward part. When I went into my meeting about the layoffs, HR told me I could choose a transfer and a promotion to another department, due to a frankly miraculous serendipity that had someone retire out of this other department just as our department was being downsized. I had the option to accept severance, but in addition to the stability of guaranteed employment, the new job actually fits my degree and qualifications 100%.

I’d like to contact Zoya, and certainly don’t want her thinking I only asked for her email as a pure formality, and I had also suggested she find me on Facebook. Trouble is, of course, if she does, she’ll see that I got to keep my job while she didn’t. And if I just email her, it seems like it has to come up as I update her on what’s going on with me. As I mentioned, she’s been at the company my whole life, and most of the team knew I was fresh out of grad school when I started and was technically overqualified. I don’t think she would be shocked, least of all hurt, by this turn of events, but I’m very socially awkward and just keep coming up blank on how to initiate contact with her in a way that won’t be somehow hurtful. She was near tears at the announcement that we were all being let go, and especially with the uncertain times we’re in, I almost feel guilty over my good fortune. Yet I really don’t want to ghost on her, either.

All you can do is be straightforward! For example: “I wanted to check in and see how you’re doing. (More here — about how you’re doing, updates on things you’ve shared, or so forth.) I also wanted to let you know that I ended up staying on at (company). At the last minute, they ended up moving me into the X role in the Y department, so I’m still here. It’s obviously a relief, but I miss our old team. I’d love to stay in touch; you were always one of my favorite people to work with.”

You don’t need to dance around the news or feel guilty about it; it’s okay to just come out and say it.Even if she has a moment of “why not me?” she’s likely to be glad for you. (And if she’s not, you still don’t need to feel guilty; you didn’t lay her off, and no one would expect you to turn down the job out of solidarity.)

{ 520 comments… read them below }

  1. PollyQ*

    #1 — And even if employees stick around for that kind of fussiness, you can bet that they’ll be out the door at 5:00 sharp. Being a stickler about time is a double-edged sword.

    1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      Yes! One manager would note when salaried employees were 2 minutes late coming upstairs (even if senior boss pulled us into his office downstairs), yet would expect us to be flexible about staying an hour late to “possibly meet with her” on no notice. She had no at-home responsibilities and my first week there said, “You’ll never have anything to do but I would prefer you come in at least 30 minutes to an hour early like me to set a good example of hard work”. I RAN out of that place and just got a call that she’s the only one left in a department that used to be five employees, and the whole place is going under for other, similar wastes of resources (buying a multi-million dollar building to “make a statement to the town” when no employees actually had meetings together.. but anyway.

      1. JC*

        Yep been there done that. Zero flexibility on start time (god help you if you were 2 minutes late), but expected to stay until 7/8/9pm and beyond to deal with crisis issues (that happened most days). Flexibility works both ways, don’t nit pick employees start time, whilst expecting them to go above and beyond with evenings and weekends.

      2. yala*

        How on earth is hanging around for 30 minutes to an hour with nothing to do a “good example of hard work?”

        Ugh, some people really judge virtue by how much you inconvenience yourself.

        1. Rayray*

          It’s interesting how some people believe being physically present or seen means something.

          I’ve worked flex jobs where people would come in at 7:00 or earlier to start work and then leave after their 8 hours so around 3:00-3:30. Others would come in at 9:30 and be there til 5:30-6:00. The ones who came in late were always commended for their hard work and how late they always stayed. The early birds got no such praise for coming in early.

          1. Carrie*

            Interesting! There are other places where the early birds get praise for showing up bright and early, but the later arrivals get no credit for staying late. I bet it’s whichever hours the boss keeps — they just can’t believe people are actually there working if they don’t see them with their own eyes.

            1. female peter gibbons*

              I have never worked anywhere where staying late was seen as a virtue, only the coming in early people. Maybe it’s because I’m a late person, this is what I see.

              1. going anon just in case*

                The closest I’ve ever seen to that was what happened to me as a brand-new entry-level accountant during tax season: my supervisor was basically like “Are you OK? Are we working you too hard?” because I was apparently in the office at unusual times. The answer was no, but it looked weird for several reasons:

                — In order to meet the larger minimum-hours requirements for those weeks, a surprisingly large number of people would show up to the office as much as two hours “early” to start working. I am a major night owl, so I preferred to arrive closer to our normal start time and leave later. But it meant that some manager or other would be leaving the office, see me still there, and then tell my manager, “OMG, Lucinda, Jane is working late AGAIN!”

                — Similarly, when working on weekends, I strongly preferred coming in on Sunday to coming in on Saturday when we had the choice. (I was playing D&D on Saturday afternoons and wanted to keep Saturdays free…not that I told anyone at work that!) Again, this was the opposite of most people, which also led to “OMG, Jane is the only one here!” moments.

                — For whatever reason, people didn’t really notice that I wasn’t there early in the morning or on most Saturdays: I was more conspicuous by my presence than by my absence. But once they took a look at my timesheets and saw that I was hitting the minimum hours per week almost exactly (being an entry-level person, I’d go “OK, I’m done for the week!” at that point), it became clear that everything was fine.

                So, not seen as a virtue exactly, but a “we are worried about you” in the sense of possibly doing too much work rather than too little.

          2. TardyTardis*

            Yes, and some people work better at some times than others. Ask me a question at 7:30 am? Uhhh…duhhh…

            Ask me the same question at 3:30 pm when the morning people are wilting? Bang!

            (the early birds got all the glory and ran most of the management where I used to work).

          3. Glitsy Gus*

            That’s interesting, I’ve usually experienced the opposite. I’m a late bird- I am WAY more productive int he afternoon than the morning. I end up getting little catty remarks about what time I “rolled in” or how they wanted to meet that morning but I wasn’t there yet (this was not an urgent meeting or something pre-planned, they wanted to be able to call an impromptu meeting at 8am just because it was convenient for them personally). The early folks were always praised way more that the late birds even though we often handled all the last minute crisis work because we were the ones still around at 5pm.

      3. Momma Bear*

        Wow, that’s bananas. If you come in 30 mins early, that should count as time on the clock to leave 30 mins early. I come in at a different time than many but always within a reasonable start time and I shift my evenings accordingly. We have “core hours” where people are expected to be in the office/online but if you have a meeting at say 9AM, you are expected to be there and be on time. Other than hourly jobs, the only other time I had a very firm start/end time was when we were on site for a client and it was a matter of building access. We were locked out outside of those hours.

        I admittedly don’t show up 10 mins early to my job, but I also don’t linger in the break room getting coffee. I would consider if their time is productive. Some people hit the ground running and shouldn’t be nickle and dimed without cause. Also, if this employee is the one who will check email on weekends, work through lunch or stay late if needed, that’s more reason not to nag them for 10 minutes at the start of their day. I get it – 10 mins per day is almost an hour of work. But take a look at the bigger picture to see how everyone is managing their work and time. It might be eye opening.

        1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

          Yes! I RAN from a recent panel of interviews for a basic admin job with a massive company because the individual I was replacing was quite frank that the company rated employees on a scale of how willing they were to be on-call 24/7 and you were given raises accordingly. I am based in Germany and this American company did not get that the culture here is: give your time, work very well, then CUT. I knew it would have fried me, and my husband would not have been thrilled if I was sending emails in bed as the interviewer recommended. She actually said it was best to keep your phone next to your bed, and get another tablet for the bathroom or living room so you never have an excuse to miss some correspondence. There are hostage negotatiors that are not that tied to their jobs..

    2. Lonely Aussie*

      Oh yeah. We’ve got a new manager at work who started this bovine feces, nickle and diming over a few minutes around break times and start/knock offs. Called us all in and read us the riot act. Stressed the “exact” times for them and said anyone who didn’t follow them would be written up. He had a pretty rude awakening when he needed something done around knock off and at exactly 3:15pm when the call went out everyone just dropped their tools where they were and left. We had about ten minutes worth of work left that in the past we’d have stayed until we finished it but eh, as he’d told us, it’s exactly 3:15pm we knock off and we didn’t want to be written up. (apparently it really needed to be done, poor gent was there until 6pm finishing it solo)

      1. Hills to Die On.*

        I once took my direct report to the ER and stayed with her until she was admitted – a couple of hours.
        I got the riot act from my manager for missing so much work. I had been working 70 hours a week and that came to a screeching halt.

        I don’t work places that nickel and dime my time. I do a damn good job and I work hard. If someone wants to be that petty and disrespectful of my work-life balance after everything I do for my employer, they need to hire someone else to warm a chair.

        1. HoHumDrum*

          “I got the riot act from my manager for missing so much work.”

          Like taking care of your reports *isn’t* work? Did your manager think you were hanging out in the ER with your report for fun?? If I got sick/injured at work and my boss just dropped me off at the ER and was like “Figure it out from here- my emails aren’t gonna write themselves” I would probably have a hard time looking at that boss/job the same way again.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Retail jobs do this. And it’s extreme. One minute does not cost the company any business, but bosses will fire people over being literally one minute late. One place I worked at used to joke, “Don’t call in dead. That’s not an excuse for not showing up at work.”
      OP, if you want to create a toxic work environment, here is step #1 on that path.

      The next thing that happens is that your employees will watch YOU. Every time you are one minute late it will go right around your whole crew, “Boss was one minute late.” And this includes your breaks. Let’s say you don’t notice they are doing this. As time goes on you can end up with employees who laugh at you behind your back. This pretty much erodes your ability to lead the group. (I have watched this so many times and each time the boss had NO clue that people were laughing at him and he had totally undermined himself.)

      In the place I mentioned here, most people made it a habit to arrive 15 minutes early so as not to have to do the argument over 1 minute. It was easier to just absorb 15 of free labor than it was to argue with the boss about that one minute of tardiness. So you know what happened next. It became a kerfuffle that people were working off the clock. There was really no good place to stand and wait for the clock, where ever you stood you were in someone’s way. You could possibly wait in your car but your car clock (phone/watch) had to be in sync with the company clock or else, guess what, you could be one minute late.

      If you are getting exhausted reading this, then you can begin to imagine how we all felt. And to us it looked like the company had confused itself with a kindergarten. They thought they were running a kindergarten that also ran a small retailing biz on the side.

      Some will say, “Oh coverage is needed, it’s retail.” We are talking about ONE, single minute. We are not talking about being a half hour or an hour late.

      My suggestion is that if you really cannot embrace a looser guideline, then set a compromise guideline such as: “If you are going to be greater than 15 minutes late, call to say you are okay and give us an idea when you are going to be here.” It’s fine to be concerned for people’s welfare. And you will sound concerned for them. That concern will attract more the desired response than anything else ever will.

      1. Marzipan Dragon*

        Where I live if you’re hourly they have to pay you 15 minutes if you’re even one minute early but can’t start docking you until you’re 15 minutes late. Controls that sort of clockwatching from management since they’d prefer you to be one minutes late to one minute early. The place I worked in college the manager actually called over the intercom when you could start clocking in for the shift. There were two women who were so eager to maybe get that extra 15 minutes that you knew not to get between them and the clock. They had to run their cards first in case the boss’s watch was off by a few seconds. I mean elbow to the gut knock you to the floor vicious fighting for the slight chance they they could get their card into the machine a second before the time changed. It was crazy.

        1. TechServLib*

          Friends and I used to do something similar in college (although without the full-contact clock ins!). Clock in on the desk phone 2-3 minutes early, chat with the previous shift while they gathered their things and we got settled, then they clocked out 2-3 minutes late.
          We thought we were pretty clever scamming the university out of $2 per shift. Turns out our supervisor was onto the whole thing and just turned a blind eye because she took pity on the poor college kids willing to go to that much effort for an extra few bucks!

          1. Butterfly Counter*

            Doing shift work at a hospital was similar for me. The clock rounded to the nearest 15 minutes, though. We had people waiting for 3:07 turn to 3:08 on the shift clock every day to clock out and get that extra $$.

            1. Retail Not Retail*

              I hate when your day is running late and you slam into the time clock room and it’s only 07. Which means you worked those 7 minutes over your time for free. (My department is also expected to clock in by 55 so we’re not making up time or whatever.)

      2. A Simple Narwhal*

        I remember working a retail job where you weren’t allowed to clock in early, but multiple people started shifts at the same time and there was only one login terminal, so there was often a line of people frantically trying to clock in before the time switched over to XX:01, when you would officially be considered late. It drove me absolutely bonkers – you could get yelled at for clocking in early and stealing from payroll, or you could yelled at when you were a minute late because 5 people were starting their shifts at the same time and it takes ~20 seconds for each person to login and there’s only one place to do that.

        You will all be shocked to hear that management had no solution when this was pointed out, only more yelling.

        1. Ash*

          This has been a big problem at Amazon warehouses–workers needing to check out of their shift have to be searched for stolen goods, and are not paid for the sometimes hours they spend in line waiting to clock out. Sadly the US SCOTUS ruled against them when they filed suit for wage theft.

          1. JustaTech*

            At least now, in Washington, Amazon’s warehouses will be paying some of the highest worker’s comp rates because of how often people who work there get injured. They’re going to be paying higher rates than *logging*. The other warehouse companies asked the worker’s comp insurance commissioner to move Amazon to its own category because no one else had anything close to their injury rates.

            1. JJS*

              If you are referring to mechanized logging, those rates are low because those are machine operators protected by a cab. All the cabs are inspected to verify a business can obtain the mech logging rate. This is not to be confused with manual logging that is very expensive. It’s misleading to say Amazon will pay more than logging when there are various logging rates.

        2. boop the first*

          Yes, we had this too! On common starts, there’d be a small crowd of employees loitering around the front desk (worst place, next to the wailing customers who don’t understand self check out).

          And then the time would change and it would be a frantic fish frenzy to type in our six-digit numbers, and heaven help you if you press a button wrong and have to start over. Even the whole “oh you first, no you” dance here and there.. and if the minute passes, you have to page a manager to come save you because the time clock locks you out.

          1. boop the first*

            Sobey’s specifically used to have their time clock in a quiet place next to the employee lunch/locker room, but they didn’t like that we would have our lunch right up to the last minute and then clock in on time casually. So they moved it to the check outs so that we had to plan our toilet breaks and water breaks to end five mins early so we could make the trek across the entire store to loiter around for the clock change to make sure we were damn READY for it.

        3. Margaret Liepmann*

          I’m pretty sure that situation is why my store has a roughly 5 minute grace period to log in (and a couple of terminals, but two are on a different floor). Between people clocking in/out and people going on lunch/back from lunch, there’s frequently a line of 5-10 people.

      3. Kelly L.*

        I remember a retail job where they yelled at us if we were scheduled for 9:00 but clocked in any later than 8:45. So at some point I commented that if 8:45 is actually the required start time, why don’t they write the schedule as 8:45? Guess what happened next. They did that…and started chewing us out if we weren’t clocked in at 8:30. It’s a pieces of flair problem for some employers.

      4. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        One place I worked at used to joke, “Don’t call in dead. That’s not an excuse for not showing up at work.”

        YMMV, but I find that hilarious. I’ll take that any day over management that can’t acknowledge or use humor.

        1. The New Wanderer*

          I get the feeling management weren’t the ones making that joke, just the employees trying to cope.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            To me, it calls back to that humorous coffee mug that reads “I’ve run out of sick days so I’m calling in dead.”

            But on the serious side, it says to me that if you run out of sick days, you need to work something out with your supervisor (e.g. taking FMLA, or using vacation time, etc) instead of just over-consuming the benefit as-was because you feel entitled to it.

            Plus, if you’re actually dead, you shouldn’t be calling off; that’s a different problem that needs a different solution.

            1. HoHumDrum*

              “instead of just over-consuming the benefit as-was because you feel entitled to it.”

              Can you clarify what you mean here? Because IMO if you are given a benefit, you are indeed entitled to it. So if I have unlimited sick days, and I am someone who has a chronic illness, I am absolutely entitled to use the sick days I need.

              1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                Good luck exhausting an unlimited supply of sick days–I wish more employers were understanding enough to offer them. That’s not the scenario the mug mentions.

      5. Momma Bear*

        When I was hourly and relieving someone at the end of their shift, I was expected to be ready exactly on time, which meant coming in a few minutes early. I wasn’t dinged for one minute, but it had to be close. I also abided by it because I’d been on the wrong end of someone running late and forced to stay. Daycares sometimes charge by the minute when you are late, so the whole thing is a mess when someone else’s lateness affects your day.

        But there’s a difference between a cashier and an office worker bee. What annoyed me far more than when my coworkers worked at a past job was how often the manager (who worked nearly FT remote) was late to meetings, including with the client. All he had to do was dial in! When you have a 10-15 minute stand up with a client, don’t roll in 5 minutes late! It was so unprofessional. Any other day, who cared, but those days mattered.

        1. JustaTech*

          I have a coworker on a big cross-functional project who is always at least 5 minutes late calling in to meetings. Which would be lightly annoying, except that he’s the one who “owns” the meeting in WebEx, which means we can talk to each other (if we called in by phone) but we can’t actually *start* the meeting until he shows up.
          It’s annoying when it’s an internal meeting, it’s embarrassing when it’s with outside vendors.

    4. WorkingGirl*

      Hey I’m always at work (or… signed in to my computer) at 9am sharp. Since quarantine i think i’ve only been “late” a handful of times and never over five minutes. And…. yeah, i’m off right at 5pm! I’m paid hourly and my boss is resistant to paying any OT (so i don’t work late), so it feels appropriate to be “on time”. It’s definitely not the norm for every position, though.

    5. Mel_05*

      Yes. I’ve never had a direct manager who was like this, but the office manager at one job started lecturing people about how they need to be on time and at their desks for most of the day.

      I think the owner put a stop to that though. Plenty of people needed to leave their desks to do their job properly – so that was dumb. And most people regularly stayed late and/or worked short lunches during crunch time. It didn’t make sense to be fussy about 5-15 minutes in the morning, before the work really even got going.

      1. Rayray*

        I definitely think if you want 8+ hours of labor from someone, it’s ridiculous to nitpick time spent hanging up a coat, filling up water or coffee, using the restroom, getting settled in etc

        People who are comfortable and refreshed are going to work better than those who aren’t.

        And yes, sometimes people might wake up late or have issues on their commute. If it’s only a few minutes and they’re a good employee, I personally think it’s bad manners to dock their pay or scold them like a child. Besides, one could argue that babysitting and nitpicking everything is a greater waste of time than tending to basic human needs.

        1. Cold-Clocked*

          Can so relate! I used to get a 2-3 minute lecture for being one minute late. From an assistant supervisor. when the Supervisor didn’t care– less than 5 minutes late was the same as on time to her (per the employee handbook– which I’d read). She must have finally explained it to her power-trippy assistant because he eventually stopped doing it.

    6. I Herd the Cats*

      This. OP — if it’s your expectation that people be in their seats and ready to go at 9am, then is it ALSO your expectation that they stand up, grab their coats, and be out the door at 5pm (or whatever the end of your day is?) If that’s your office culture, fine, although I’m glad I don’t have to do that. But if it’s not — and for many places it isn’t — then the expectation is employees will get there within an office-culture-defined reasonable time, and stay until the work is finished. We have “core hours” (or did pre-COVID) that were 11-3 which is when people scheduled meetings, and beyond that it was up to folks to figure out their schedules themselves. There were of course occasions when you had to be there early, or stay late (conferences or board meetings, for example) that people understood and adhered to. People, particularly those with long commutes in our high-traffic city, were grateful for the flexibility.

      1. LQ*

        Wow, that’s such a good point I didn’t even consider. If it takes 10 minutes to set up and pack down, and you want someone in their seat at 9 sharp, it’s only fair that they’d actually start packing up at 4:50pm rather than 5…

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          I used to put my coat on at 4.50pm because my boss would invariably come in with a piece of paper (that I’d seen on his desk first thing in the morning, but then he didn’t mention it so I thought my colleague must be handling it). I had to literally run from there to catch the metro in order to pick my son up on time.

    7. Thankful for AAM*

      I work for a city govt. 1 minutes late is late, so is punching out 1 minute early (we have a clock that uses a fingerprint system).

      There is a progessive discipline system, by the 4th time you are one minute off in a year, you will be at HR to explain yourself.

      Talk about kindergarten and privacy violation. You can also bet there are lots of ppl waiting at the clock to punch out, wasting time they could have been working or having a life.

      1. Smithy*

        I think that this is a big reality about those types of tight clock watching. With very few exceptions, most jobs take some time to wind down for the day/pack up your stuff/etc. But again, if that kind of clock watching matters – people will clock watch.

      2. AnonForThis*

        State govt here – yep, this is us too. We used to have a 14 minute grace period (7 minutes on either side of the hour) in which you could punch in or out and still be considered “on time”. But because employees had to be paid for all time worked, it could result in 14 minutes of overtime needing to be paid out. When we went through a rough patch financially, you bet that grace period for non-exempt employees was the first thing to go. Makes sense, but morale TANKED.

        The norm went from employees being able to walk in and get settled, to a MAD DASH in the door. For anyone working in a high-rise building, you had to pray that the elevator didn’t stop on too many floors or you’d be late. The undue stress and burden that employees immediately began to shoulder (over a minute or two) was saddening. This kind of policy is penny wise and pound foolish.

        1. ellex42*

          I worked at a place that instituted a time clock for all hourly employees – to be fair, people really were coming in very late but not making up their time, taking extra long lunches but not making up their time, and taking multiple or extra long breaks.

          We also had 7 1/2 minutes on either side of the hour to punch in on time, which was usually plenty. Then we all had to take our breaks, which we didn’t have to punch out for, at the same time, so managers could see who was lingering longer than they should (not that some people didn’t quietly sneak out for extra breaks anyway).

          This ended up with everyone clocking in around 5 minutes after the hour and clocking out 5 minutes before the hour, of course. And, of course, it had no effect on the people who would clock in then go straight to the restroom to put on makeup (we would get monthly notices from maintenance about clogging up the sinks with makeup), or linger in the stairwell to chat, or even just chatting on their phone at their desk (somehow, even in an open office, certain people could get away with this and certain people could not). And while I had a great manager who would have loved to get rid of the people who didn’t actually get work done, her hands were tied by the GM who pretty much refused to fire anyone for anything.

          Basically, my takeaway is that a time clock doesn’t actually make that much difference to how much work people actually get done.

          1. AnonForThis*

            Time clocks exist to streamline the required documentation around work time. Time clocks are NOT a substitute for management.

            There are plenty of hourly employees who flex their time, but clock in and out for documentation purposes. Presumably they do this because their job allows some flexibility, and the time clock lessens the administrative burden. Requiring employees to clock in/out is not itself a problem, but when work isn’t getting done, it’s also not the solution.

            To your point, there are many ways in which you can be on time and clocked in and yet still not be working. It’s effective management, not technology, that’s going to solve this.

        2. only acting normal*

          I worked on the 10th floor of a place with similar rigid clocking times: risking being late by taking the lift was too stressful so I always walked… I had thighs like rock! Not sure my knees, ankles, or aerobic capacity would manage it 20 years later though. :)

        3. Cthulhu's Librarian*

          So, to shed a little light on this: According to a couple of city hr managers I had to interview during a college political science class, a lot of times when this happens in City/State government, the policy comes about as an easy way of dealing with problematic employees. Usually government jobs have fairly strong unions, which can make it difficult to get rid of employees for cause – especially in cash strapped jurisdictions, where finding a department manager with time to create documentation about other, more legitimate complaints, go through a hearing if the employee insists on one, and all the rest of the process is borderline impossible.

          The advantage of the strict time keeping, aside from it being needed for payroll, is that it inherently creates a documentation trail of the issue. A single script can be worked up for the HR people, to discuss the issue at X number of occurrences, and then again at Y, and then finalized with termination at Z. By making it procedure for everyone, you insulate yourself from union complaints and grievances that it’s being applied in a targeted manner. Minimal manager interaction needed, and it holds up if the union insists on a hearing. Add in some statistics based on scientific management theory that says problematic employees are more likely to also have problematic time-keeping habits, and… well, it’s a thing that a lot of cities/states put in place, and then never go back and revisit or remove.

          Not saying any of that makes it right (because it doesn’t, and most of my interviewees would admit that). Just explaining where the origin of these sorts of procedures lies.

          1. AnonForThis*

            This is helpful context that makes a whole lot of sense! And yes, the policy did help as far as clinching the purse strings tighter during financial hardship, but I believe it was a way of addressing a particular subset of employees who were exploiting the system.

        4. Thankful for AAM*

          We also have the 7 minute grace period, but it is not a grace period for staff, it is related to payment (for managing time and overtime).
          If we punch in at 7 minutes before our start time or 7 minutes after our start time, we get paid from the start time (not for the 7 minutes). If we punch in or out at the 8 minute mark, we get paid for 15 minutes before or after our start time. So you must punch within that 7 minute window for payroll to come out right and for no overtime.
          For my first couple of years, punching in up to 7 minutes late was ok, but if we did it a lot, we might have a manager check in with you (you know, manage you). But then the powers that be decided that we could punch in early, but not punch in after the start work o’clock time on the schedule.

      3. Quill*

        I always hate these things. They’re really set up for you to actually have to spend more time before and after work actually doing peripheral work tasks: booting up your computer (and praying it doesn’t AUTOMATICALLY UPDATE on startup) for example, and it does nothing but tell people you technically have to be here X amount earlier in order to make sure you can sign in even if the elevator is broken and you have to take the stairs, nevermind bad weather or other technical difficulties, but you won’t be paid for that.

        1. AnonForThis*

          Quill, YES!
          And the amount of security software that the computer has to load is ever-increasing. Even if you’re not doing full boot and just logging in, it takes an inordinate amount of time for profiles to load. I started keeping a spreadsheet that logged how much time it took me to get into my computer each morning, and I’m not lying when I say that it amounted to HOURS per month. Only when I presented this spreadsheet to leadership and IT did we get updated technology rolled out.

          We’ve got employees that have been told clock in at a specific minute on their computers, and we’ve given them equipment that doesn’t allow them to actually clock in when they arrive. Our employees are grumbling about time that is literally being stolen from them, and I DON’T BLAME THEM.

          1. Retail Not Retail*

            For my internship, I had to clock in either using an app or a website. I didn’t get cell reception in the building, so I’d clock in at 7 on the dot and then walk through the door at like 7:02. Because I certainly was not going through all the fuss of getting the computer on and website loaded on my own time.

            I tried to do that for clocking out but oops one time couldn’t get reception until 3:31 on Friday. And this was a system with no rounding so I had to email apologetically. That’s when I sucked up the time loss and clocked out inside. Other members of my cohort at other sites weren’t that lucky and had to use the computer at both ends.

            I still got to work ten minutes early to pet the ranch cat. I have priorities in my life.

    8. yala*

      Definitely something that vexed (and still vexes) me, where I’m not always at my desk at Start Work O’Clock on the dot, was that whether or not I was, I usually stayed longer than everyone else because I wanted to make sure whatever I was working on was either done or at a good stopping point, and that I had the next day’s work and tasks laid out. ADHD-time blindness works both ways.

      (So when I did get an ADHD-related grace period of 10-minutes, providing that I make up that time at the end of the day, it was like, oh cool, I’m already doing that.)

      1. yala*

        I’d also add that part of my frustrations was that everyone left 15-20 minutes before Work Is Over O’Clock. When I’d started, it was understood that everyone would leave about five minutes before that, but I guess gradually it’s moved back, but I don’t understand how or why, so I’m not going to leave before Work Is Over O’Clock because no one has told me I can?

        So, sometimes it feels like I’m making up double the grace period, because I still work my extra 10 minutes after Work Is Over O’Clock.

        I don’t know. It feels like one of those things that is Understood, but not part of the official rules, so I just really don’t get it, and don’t know how to ask, because after all, there are Official Rules.

        I’ve actually had the lights turned off on me more than once before actual Over O’Clock.

    9. Bagpuss*

      So true. Years ago I had an awesome secretary / assistant. One day, our receptionist started nagging me about her, telling me my assistant had been late getting back to the office at the end of her lunch break, and actually telling me how many minutes later and that I should do something about it.

      I was very clear with her that It wasn’t her responsibility to monitor anyone else’s attendance, and that if I decided that there was an issue I would address it directly with the person involved, and would not be discussing it with her at all, and I strongly devised her against recording her colleagues comings and goings as they were likely to be justifiably upset if they learned she was monitoring their movements like that.

      As it happened, my assistant was fabulous and worked very hard and also very efficiently – I didn’t care in the slightest f she took a bit longer than she ‘should’ or was a little late – she was still getting more done than most of her peers, and she was very good about staying later if we had something that absolutely could not wait. The last thing I wanted was someone who was back on the dot of 2 every day after lunch but walked out dead on 5 even when we had urgent court papers that needed to be finished.

      As a business owner, we have addresses timekeeping with people but only ever where it has been essential to their specific role or where it was part f a bigger issue and was causing problems with the way they did their job (the individual who would be late when they had clients booked in, so would leave client’s sitting around waiting, for instance, or the poor performer who was *also* showing up late and leaving early)
      Our reception staff need to be here on time, anyone else, as long as you are getting the job done then 10 minutes here or there is a non-issue.

    10. Firecat*

      Yep. Op1 I have a story for you related to this.

      I was in a bad car accident that required near daily physical therapy. I went from bed ridden to can’t hold a gallon of milk to full functionality over the course of a year. I missed 3 days of work related to this – that’s it.

      I had scheduled my PT for 6:30am which meant I was at work between 8:05am and 8:15am most days. My boss, I’ll call her SM, flipped out. Went on about how unacceptable it was that I was late daily (even though I was working until 6pm or later most days). I told her that I would cancel and be sure to switch to evening PT, I had chosen a time I thought impacted the business the least. “Make it happen and I want you to ping me each morning you are in to prove you are getting in on time” was all SM had to say.

      So I made the switch, and a few months later we were in an all leadership meeting. SM decided she would try to embarrass me (she was toxic in a number of ways) and called me out for “sneaking away at 5pm on the dot each day”. When she and all the other leadership looked at me (her boss and her bosses boss were also there) I took up a tone and look of polite confusion.

      “Oh I’m not sneaking away at 5pm each day. Remember we discussed this a few months ago? I’m in daily PT for the car accident. I had been doing an early morning session, but since that had me coming in at 8:15am on most days you asked me to change the schedule. I’m now doing PT in the evenings like you requested but that means I have to leave at 5pm to make the appointments”

      SM was taken aback as all eyes turned on her. “That’s… Well! If I had known. Of course it’s OK to be 15 minutes late of you are staying until 7pm so change it back”.

      Somehow I managed not to smirk as I told her truthfully “Oh no! I really wish you had spoken to me about your needs before asking me to reschedule. I’ll try my best to reschedule, but unfortunately those morning slots are highly coveted and when I cancelled the next 60 days worth they were snapped up. As soon as there are slots available I’ll schedule but it may not happen. ”

      At that point her bosses laughed at her and said something like “I hope you learned that discussing an issue with a direct report is usually more effective then delivering a blind ultimatum. So I take it you are covering Firecats evening duties in the interim?”

      1. Coffee Bean*

        Firecat – this is stellar!! I am so glad you were able to turn the tables on your boss. And I am glad that you have recovered.

    11. Donkey Hotey*

      Last week, I came in to work and punched in at 7:03 (three minutes after scheduled start time.) Two of the bosses were sitting in the breakroom and specifically said, “You’re late!” I thought nothing of it at the time. That same day, I received an email from one of the two at 3:35 (five minutes after scheduled end time), with a crisis request. I researched the request and answered him within 15 minutes and signed my email, “And I stay late, too.”

    12. Autistic AF*

      I worked at a help desk that was open 8-5. There was no buffer time built into schedules – i.e. the phones closed at 5 and people were scheduled until then too – so most people would turn off their call availability the last few minutes, leaving a small number of us with any stragglers. It was not usually an issue, but it happened often enough that it should have been addressed.

      Well, they did that and changed the last shift to end at 5:30. This added half an hour to my commute, though, due to bus scheduling. I worked that shift one time and told my manager that I would be clocking out at 5:20 (and starting 10 minutes earlier) unless I had a call. It was so infuriating to be punished for poorly thought out timing!

  2. Tiny Kong*

    #1 Do keep in mind that the importance of being on-time can vary greatly by culture.

    I also think there is a big difference between letting your boss or someone at the office know you’ll be 20 min late, and showing up 20 min late with no notice. My culture is very strict about timeliness but it’s fine to be a bit late as long as you let someone know.

    1. Jen*

      I think being upset by lateness is relative to the situation. If they’re 5-15 mins late occasionally, or are staying later to make up the time, who cares? Unless you’re in a job where timeliness is incredibly important, of course. It does become an issue for others when a team member is late constantly and not doing anything to make up the time…that starts to get under people’s skin.
      My boss is routinely showing up hours after our entire team and tends to leave at the same time as, or before most of us….after 2 years of him being our manager, none of us have any respect for him. It became a game where the 4 of us would take bets every morning for who could most closely guess what time he would arrive.

    2. MK*

      True. In my culture being 5 minutes after the appointed time is not late, and if you are there within 15 (known as the academic quarter) it’s no big deal. But it’s different when everyone does it.

    3. WS*

      Yes, when I was working in Japan being on time was extremely important. You could then sleep at your desk, but being on time was critical. (The train being late was a reasonable excuse but only because the trains were only ever late if something drastic had happened like a typhoon or a crash on the tracks and then it would be in the news.)

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        I kind of want to visit Japan just to see the on-time train system. It sounds magic after 20 years of the increasingly unreliable DC metro. There is an actual Twitter account called something like “Is Metro on Fire?” that actually tracks whether or not there is a track fire at that time.

        1. Ross*

          Fellow DC resident here (who actually works on trains, but not Metro). Switzerland is another great place to visit to see this in action. When I was there station agents would print me itineraries that involved things like 3 minute cross-platform transfers. You could set your watch to the arrival and departures of those trains. It was truly something to beheld as someone who’s worked in American transportation their entire career.

        2. Mameshiba*

          There’s nothing to see–it’s just on time, all the time. You can also use various apps to check if trains are late, and they issue stamped cards as evidence the train was late so you can bring them to your office and not be penalized. Punctuality is extremely important and major cities rely heavily on transportation. I get major culture shock going elsewhere in the world, I’m very spoiled now.

          Buses are subject to traffic and are late as often as every other country, though.

      2. Nanani*

        Specifically, being there -before your boss- is the most important thing. Or it was in the more traditional office I worked at.
        Another place had flex time and nobody cared as long as your work was done and you didn’t miss meetings. That second job was also a lot more productive, shockingly enough.

    4. Asenath*

      I agree. I don’t think my opinion is entirely due to my own strong personal preference for people showing up when they said they would for meetings and appointments, which is in any case a slightly different issue.

      My best job in this matter was very flexible about time, and no one worried much about a few minutes here or there or even longer if you just let someone know you’d be a bit late the next morning or needed to leave a bit early – and depending on the reasons, “a bit” could be anything from 10 minutes to, if you had a personal appointment across town, half a day. Of course, if you needed a half day instead of 10 minutes, it was all the more important you mention it in advance, or call in if it was due to some unexpected problem, On the other hand, people noticed if you were invariably 20 minutes late and left 20 minutes early, especially if you routinely got calls from other offices you should deal with during that period.

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        Oh, meetings are completely different, and fall under the “affecting your job”.
        If your first half hour is checking emails & preparing for day, and you are keepong up, a few min is fine.

        If you have a meeting at 9 am, you must be there, in meeting room, ready to start at 9am.

        1. Spencer Hastings*

          Yeah, and that can also be adjusted for day to day. I take a bus to work, and I have a choice between one that gets me to the office at 8:10 and one that gets me there at 7:40. If there’s something going on right at 8, then I’ll take the earlier one. But if I were expected to get there 20 minutes early every single day just because 8 is when the office officially opens, that would not be great. (I’m not customer-facing, and what I do when I first get in is more on the “checking emails and various statuses” side of things.)

          1. KRM*

            Exactly! Our basic rule is, get your work done and be at any meetings you need to be at. If you do that, nobody cares when you start or when you finish.
            Side story: we once had a meeting with the department boss, at 9AM. My coworker who preferred to get in at 10 and leave at 6 wasn’t happy, but she was there at 8:50, ready to go. Our temp (who was trying to get hired) rolled into the meeting at 9:35, Starbucks coffee in hand. Then she wondered why she wasn’t getting hired (that wasn’t the only reason, but pro tip, if you want to get hired off a temp, show up on time to the meeting with the big boss).

    5. Jessie*

      Yes, in my culture, people are late all the time. In my last job, people would come in 20 to 30 minute late to shifts. And we worked in a news desk! So, being punctual was really important.

    6. Koalafied*

      10 years ago I switched from a “1 minute late is late and you MUST email if you’re going to be late” job to one where, after I’d sent a handful of, “metro delay, running about 3-4 minutes late this morning,” emails in my first month finally replied to one of them to tell me to knock it off and don’t bother emailing that I’m going to be late unless I won’t be in by 10:30.

      In related events, over the years my arrival time gradually slid until I rarely arrived before 10:30. (I was salaried and often stayed late or put in extra work from home so I was easily doing a full week; mornings just don’t agree with me and it turns out without the threat of consequences I’m almost physically incapable of being somewhere by 9 in the morning.

      1. Tabby*

        Koalafied (love this name!), I am the same way. I do not like mornings. My supervisor teases me about it. I actually told the hiring manager that I would prefer to NEVER do am shifts in life, but if it must happen, 8 am is the earliest I could possibly function at work. Fortunately I usually don’t have am shifts unless we’re short, and people are very good about having coffee available.

      2. Alison*

        I really feel this “mornings just don’t agree with me and it turns out without the threat of consequences I’m almost physically incapable of being somewhere by 9 in the morning.”

        Flex time and work from home have officially ruined my ability to do anything in the morning that isn’t specifically scheduled. That said, I am so much more relaxed, less exhausted, and happier with my work because I’m allowed to work during hours where I actually feel awake and productive (unlike more people 4-6 are probably my best working hours of the day). I don’t think I could go back to a job with a time clock or a boss breathing down my neck.

    7. anon73*

      If my manager knows I have a bad commute and traffic affects my arrival time, unless it’s a particularly bad situation, I’m not calling my manager every single time to let them know I’ll be late.

  3. Nurse*

    I can see that in some jobs (nursing, teaching etc.) then timeliness is absolutely so important but I would think that in other office based jobs, accountancy etc., then is 10 minutes because you’re dropping the kids off going to make a huge difference if you don’t have appointments for 9am sharp? Saying that, in the country where I live, being on time is a thing regardless and you have to call to say if you’re going to be late.

    1. LittleRedRiding...Hu?*

      Being German, this hurt me to my core. Punctuality is something that gets drilled into us from the time we can walk and it’s hard to shake off. I completely understand cultural differences and wouldn’t force my upbringing onto others, but boy does it make me itchy when I run late. :-)

      1. Artemesia*

        The father of the family I lived with in Germany as a teen said ‘a polite person covers their mouth when they yawn in a room alone.’

        1. Thankful for AAM*

          I do cover my mouth in an empty room every time and then wonder why! And I do it with my mask on too! lol

      2. allathian*

        Yes, in this respect the culture is similar in Finland. That said, it entirely depends on the job. I don’t have core hours in my current job, so I start and stop working when it suits me, and the organization I work for frowns on policing when others are at work, as long as they get their jobs done.

        That said, being late to a meeting is not acceptable. Sometimes it’s unavoidable for people who sit in back-to-back meetings and one runs over time, although in such cases, it’s usually okay to let people know that you have another meeting scheduled and must leave. In general, being late to a scheduled meeting is a sign of disrespect in my culture.

      3. Caroline Bowman*

        Me too and I’m British. It actually makes me anxious to be late, like slightly shaky. I have never been in any trouble over it, just always taught that punctuality is important!

        Saying that, rationally I can completely appreciate that depending on the job, 10 mins either way makes little difference most especially when the employee concerned routinely works more hours / late and the work is done to a good standard. For this reason, unless it was directly impacting me or the business, I would leave it but if I were the manager, I’d pay attention to their work ethic generally, it would be a sort of ”noted” thing. If it were part of a wider trend of not doing as they are meant to, it would be raised, otherwise, no.

        1. Batty Twerp*

          Also British, also twitchy when I might be late for something. However, I have, for some time now, worked for a manager who believed in “working to the job, not the clock”, which in real terms means, even though I’m not officially on flex time, if I need to start later, I’ll stay later, and if I’ve needed to stay later, I can take a longer lunch, or a later start when I need to. I work all the hours I’m meant to (with time back in lieu as necessary). Especially in these days of involuntary WFH, what I produce is more important than what time my bum is in my seat.

        2. Moeg*

          I wouldn’t have thought punctuality is that big a part of our culture (also British). But I also hate being late after a childhood of being beholden to parents who are never on time. It’s only just occurred to me that these concepts inform eachother.

          1. JM in England*

            My childhood was quite the opposite with my parents being sticklers for punctuality. They drummed into me that being late was stealing someone else’s time!

          2. Asenath*

            Some of my relatives were routinely a bit late, some exactly on time! I tended to the punctual end of the spectrum – it still drives me crazy if one person is late for some group activity – whether a weekend drive to a lake for a family picnic or a work meeting. But I also had a relative who thought driving me to catch a bus that left at 1:10 meant getting there at 1:08 and I can still remember my panic – what if we have a flat tire? What if there’s a line-up at the ticket counter (rural station and so unlikely)? I still think being “on time” means being 10-15 minutes ahead of the absolute deadline.

          3. EventPlannerGal*

            I don’t think it’s as big a thing as it is in other parts of Europe, but based on how it’s talked about from a US perspective here I think it’s a bigger thing than I thought/than in comparison with the US! The idea of constantly being 20 minutes late to work just makes me unbelievably stressed just thinking about it – if you’re on flexi then sure but if you’ve been told your workday starts at 9 then to me that means… you start at 9. I don’t know if that’s cultural or personal, though!

            1. Forrest*

              We do still have the nominal idea of working hours, even for highly paid roles–there’s no such thing as “exempt” here or anything legally comparable to it. You are contracted for a 37.5 or 40 hour week. Even people who regularly work significantly over that, like junior doctors, there is no legal basis for “it doesn’t matter how many hours you work as long as the job gets done”. You’re still nominally on a 40 hour basic contract with extra payments for the other 10, 20 or 30+ hours you work on top of that. I think in terms of how people view time and punctuality culturally, it’s very similar to the US, but we still have a working culture where your contract states 9-5.15 Mon-Thurs or whatever, so I think that means there’s a bit more formal expectation that you’ll be at your desk at that specific time.

              That said, I am much, much more comfortable in flexi environments and left to set my own natural hours within a normal-working-day framework I’ll almost inevitably work 9.15-5.30. I had a job where I asked about the working culture when I took the job, since nursery opening times + commute meant I really couldn’t guarantee being at work for 9am every day, and they assured me it was flexible and that it wouldn’t be a problem. But both my manager and my manager’s manager had customer service backgrounds and their expectations were “9am means on the shop floor with your bag put away and your proper shoes on”, even though this was an office environment where it didn’t make the blind bit of difference. I think they genuinely thought they were flexible since they never disciplined me for being late, just vibrated with disapproval and made barbed comments, but it was SUCH a source of stress in an otherwise great job.

              1. EventPlannerGal*

                Yeah every job contract I‘ve ever had has stayed the total hours per week and then usually something about what my normal working hours would be. Being British I had never thought of us as an especially punctual nation but I do think the US view on here is a bit more relaxed than even we are.

                1. Quill*

                  I think it comes from having such bad transportation solutions that we need the time flexibility. For example, any place I have to drive to that’s over 30 minutes from my house according to speed limits and a gps, I might be able to get there in 27 because the lights were good and nobody actually drives 55 on the highway unless the weather is bad, or it might take 40-45 minutes because there was a cargo train that I had to wait for, or all the lights were red and I waited a full minute at most, or traffic slowed to a crawl because someone’s bumper is shattered all over the highway.

                  Most places that aren’t huge cities don’t have a lot of public transport and that’s often not timely or frequent, etc.

            2. Seeking Second Childhood*

              “The US” is too broad to generalize across the board. We are not that homogeneous. Work with former military? Be precise in your time. Work with creative types? Listen to the description of start times: “people are usually here by 8, but not the day you’re putting the magazine to bed, because you’ll be here until 7 or 8 to support contributors in other time zones.”

              1. EventPlannerGal*

                I mean, every country has industries with different standards. The US is not the only country with multiple industries, lol. I think it’s still possible to talk about broad cultural attitudes as represented online, and I’m just saying that the way that that is I most often see people from the US discussing workplace timekeeping online.

                1. Seeking Second Childhood*

                  I just haven’t seen that in most of my office jobs, and I’m in my 50s.
                  (Weirdly my reply below was supposed to have been posted at breakfast when I originally commented. Bad Internet connection today apparently. )

              2. Seeking Second Childhood*

                And except for my retail & temp jobs, most places I’ve worked it’s been more important to work the total # of hours than the right set of minutes.
                (And some of those temp jobs ASKED me to clock in later because the people I reported to wouldn’t be ready for me.)

            3. hbc*

              The idea is that you’re not really late even if the *nominal* start time is 9:00. No bell goes off, no customers start pouring in, the phones aren’t silent at 8:59:59 and then ringing off the hook at 9:00:00.

              There is kind of an undefined “I know it when I see it” sense of problematic arrivals that can make rule-followers uncomfortable. They guy who shows up at 8:45 every morning probably needs to call if he’s showing up at 9:45 today, whereas the guy who always shows up at 10:00 doesn’t need to say anything, nor does the guy who arrives any time between 8:30 and 10:00 (but he can probably only do this if he’s a good employee.)

              I think the time-sticklers (myself included) just have to make peace with the fact that it makes *us* feel better to be on time, but it doesn’t make other people immoral or slackers if the only impact their “lateness” has on us is that we wonder how they can live with themselves.

            4. Sylvan*

              I think it might be cultural? I’ve noticed people in a few other countries are much timely than is average where I live. My own job wants everyone to be on time precisely, and my department uses an (informal, unenforced) early start time to accomplish that. The same method people use to make plans with people who are habitually late.

              But the Southern US is supposedly kind of slow, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ maybe many Americans have a closer perspective to yours.

          4. Mel_05*

            I had a similar childhood. I was fanatical about being a little early to class when I was a college student. And I was super punctual for the my first few jobs.

            Then I got a job with a long commute and some unpredictable traffic issues and I stopped caring as much. I was still never very late, but not always 15 minutes early, either.

        3. Attack Cat*

          I think part of it is that in the US, your employer can make you stay late to finish things, sometimes without extra pay. When your employees no longer have a fixed end time, that impacts how they view their start time, and when it gets widespread enough it starts impacting the way society views time in general. Also we have a terrible transit system, where busses that run once an hour are considered on time if they are within 10 minutes before/after their scheduled time, and the busses still occasionally run late. More people live in cities now where taking public transit is not only possible, but not as looked down upon. So there is this need for start time flexibility to keep good employees.

        1. Clewgarnet*

          I (British) work in a German office (when not WFH), and I can’t say I’ve noticed any particular obsessiveness over punctuality. The only issue for me is that the office doesn’t open until 9am, and I prefer to start at 8.

      4. Myrin*

        Yeah, this is the first and only thread about time/lateness I’ll ever comment on on AAM because the (American? Non-Western-Central-and-Northern-Europe? Non-German?) attitude towards punctuality is completely alien to me and stresses me out. Doesn’t mean I can’t objectively understand it but everything in me just screams “NO!” whenever the topic comes up.

        1. Mookie*

          My limited perspective as to the American “flexibility” on this matter—and it definitely varies regionally and by discipline and rank—is that in a general way our working conditions, legal rights, and in some cases work cultures are onerous, unhealthy, and demanding in ways that differ from the obligations these polite conventions represent and the working relationships (peer to peer, employee to employer) they reinforce.

          1. Koalafied*

            Yes, now that you mention it, I do think there’s some connection there. We’ve historically not had a huge amount of employment protections compared to western Europe, typically working longer hours with less vacation and benefits, and at some point when companies wanted to start improving our working conditions it was like the thought process was universally, “Well, we certainly can’t give them a reduced workload or more vacation because that would eat into our profits, but heck, we can squeeze them from 10-6 instead of 9-5 if that’s their preferred squeezing time!”

            1. Koalafied*

              See also: you’ll be here 50-55 hours a week, but look, we’ve got snacks and a foosball table!

            2. yala*

              I wonder if part of it might also just be, like…outside of a couple of cities, we really have no reliable public transportation. You’re driving yourself to work, more likely than not. Which means there are just more variables in Getting There On Time.

              I lived in London for a while and while there may have been some mornings where I was a little panicked, I don’t think I ever really had a problem being at work with the time to put my things away and get to the workspace itself on time. It was just easier when all I had to do was catch the tube.

        2. Miso*

          Seriously. I actually tend to be a bit late usually (I’m a bad German, I know), but every time it’s “Oh God, it’s 8.03, I’m so late!”.

        3. Snow Globe*

          I am an American, and get twitchy being late, but I don’t consider coming in to the office after others have started, as being “late”. My office has no set start/stop time, we all manage our own workload and start/stop as we need to. I have never worked in an office that had a specific start time for everyone, there is no such thing as coming in “late” unless you are coming in later than you normally do.

          1. Mother of Cats*

            Same! The hours that we’re open to the public are 8:30-5:00, but some days I come in at 8 and some days not till closer to 9 because I don’t deal with the public. As an exempt employee, I’m expected to work nights and weekends as necessary, and I do that. I check my email every morning before heading into the office, so in that sense I start working long before anyone sees my derriere in a chair. Everyone who might need reach me has my cell number and can text or call anytime. I don’t consider myself “late” if I get into my office at 8:31 or whatever, nor do I care when my coworkers come and go. But if I’m running late to a meeting or dinner with friends, I feel awful. I guess it’s a matter of whether I know someone’s counting on me to be somewhere at a certain time for reasons other than “that’s our start time.”

          2. Joielle*

            Yeah, I’m also an American who hates being late, but it’s not really possible to be “late” at my office. I mean, I guess if something happened and I wasn’t going to be in until 11, I’d email my boss and let her know. But like…. I usually show up around 7, unless I decide to linger over coffee and take a later bus and show up around 7:30. Or some days I take the dog to daycare and show up around 8 or 8:30. I have coworkers who don’t start working until 9 or 10. I usually take a half hour lunch break, unless I meet a friend for lunch and take an hour or two. I just work later, or make up the time a different day, or take an hour of vacation. It doesn’t matter and nobody notices or cares.

            As long as I get my work done, show up on time for meetings, and work approximately 40 hours a week (give or take), the actual hours don’t really matter. Of course there are some jobs where being on time is important, but that’s a very small percentage of office jobs!

          3. GothicBee*

            My office is open to the public and it’s open for way more than 8 hours per day, so there are specific, staggered schedules for front-facing employees. Thankfully I’m not front-facing, and I’m also hourly. For that reason, I find it weird to think “Oh I’m late today” because I showed up 10 minutes later than I did yesterday. I just come in and work for my 8 hours and leave. That said, I do have a rough start time so that my boss/others know when to expect me, but I work 40 h0urs a week regardless of what time I start and I’d be annoyed if someone arbitrarily decided to start insisting I be in at the exact same time every day.

      5. Forrest*

        When I was much younger I was involved in an Erasmus student course with people from all over Europe, and you know in theory about the north/south European divides, but seeing them in action was something else. Every morning at 9am the Scandinavians, Dutch, Germans, Poles would be in their seats in the lecture theatre, vibrating with tension, us British and Irish would trot in apologetically at 9.04 and take our seats as unobtrusively as possible, and then at a quarter to ten the Italians and Spaniards would saunter in and be vaguely astonished to find that the session had started. Every. Day.

      6. Suisse is strange (but wonderful)*

        Since this seems to be where people are putting various country experiences….

        So based on my (somewhat limited) experience in Switzerland (although probably in the least Swiss city of Switzerland). This is a place where one of the biggest tourist attractions was a shrub-clock. One time the tram was delayed by about 2 or 3 minutes and an announcement came on profusely apologizing.

        Every where I worked there had flexible hours to some degree. At one job, I could choose my hours, but agreed to them with my manager (most people arrived pretty close to 8:30, however, and tended to stick to a fixed schedule even though it was explicitly not required). The second place had flexible hours but did specify that you had to be in the office by 9:30 (people arrived between 7:30 and 9:30, with most coming around 9-ish). One person did, however, get “spoken to” about abusing the flexibility.

        I think having it clear that hours were flexible, and to what degree they were flexible, made it clear that people weren’t “late” and made it clear to staff what expectations where. They were on-time, we just had a definition of on-time that gave range rather than a precise time. If a meeting was scheduled to start at 09:00, people would be there at 09:00 sharp.

        I could see how stating that the start time is 9:00am sharp, but then not caring if people came in at 9:30 might create a culture that is less concerned about the time…but I haven’t personally experienced that.

      7. Roeslein*

        I’ve worked in the Netherlands, the UK and Germany in the past 10 years. Nobody has cared about my exact arrival time in any of these countries – and if anyone had tried to lecture me about arriving “on time” when I don’t have any meeting I’d have given them a piece of my mind. Pretty much never been late to an actual meeting since university though.

      8. yala*

        *quietly crossing Germany off of my “lists of places to maybe live” because I know I would make people miserable, while simultaneously wondering how on earth my brother managed his semester there*

      9. MissDisplaced*

        Don’t get me wrong, I DO think punctuality is important. I find it extremely rude when people don’t show up on time for meetings (digital or in-person) and then expect to be updated 15 minutes into the meeting because it was started without them. It shows a person who is rude and dismissive of other’s time. The culture of my company is terrible for this behavior, usually from the executives, who are constantly late to meetings. And because the executives do it, it all slides on downhill and many others do it.

        But if it’s not impacting anyone else, I’d say it’s more important to look at the day as a whole and output of the person. If they arrive 20 minutes late, but stay 20 minutes late, who cares?

        1. limotruck*

          I also tend to be one of those early-so-I’m-not-late people, and I find chronically late people to be disrespectful of others’ time–in everyday life. But being an absolute stickler about time in the workplace when it DOESN’T impact anyone’s work is absolutely terrible for morale. Particularly because in places that are like that those rules are often applied unevenly (i.e. there’s one or two people who do whatever they want without punishment).

      10. Sparrow*

        I feel that way if I’m running late to a meeting or to social plans and am known for being pretty punctual normally. But when it comes to arriving at work? Nope.

        I’m also public transportation reliant, so frankly there’s no point in stressing – you’ll get there when you get there. I’d let my last boss know if I was going to be >30 minutes late, but the current one I’ll only contact if it will be an hour or more. My current team is very small and rarely has morning meetings, so pretty much no one is impacted if I’m “late” and my boss really doesn’t care when people are there as long as the work gets done! Which is exactly how I like it.

    2. Lora*

      Heh, I have had to adjust to a LOT of different expectations about time:

      East coast US: Stuff happens more or less on time, we give people 5-30 minutes to show up (depending on exact location) as the trains running late or traffic jams are depressingly common. Meetings generally start no more than 5 minutes late, and often have an agenda, and get done more or less on time.

      West coast US: Just show up like…morning-ish, after you grab a coffee. Typically this means about 1-2 hours late. For meetings you just kinda wander around to find who’s available; they have start times, sorta, if you put something on the calendar, but in practice expect to wander around looking for people.

      Germany, Switzerland: you WILL be there at precisely one minute before the office opens, and you WILL greet the entire office as you walk in. At exactly 6pm, everyone is gone and we shall not discuss business a minute longer. But in the meeting, oh my god will we EVER get bogged down in the weeds: meetings will run hours late to discuss every detail of everything with everyone, right up until 5:59.

      Singapore: The bus / train arrives at exactly 7:03, you need to leave for the train at 4:54, the day ends at 4:51 so we can all get on the train and we will resume the discussion after dinner over Skype if needed.

      Argentina, Honduras: Things actually start about two hours late, always. People just sort of trickle in when they trickle in, and you can only count on some sort of quorum being actually present two hours after the announced start time.

      Egypt: Hey, if something happened on the same *day* it was scheduled, count yourself lucky. People might show up. Or maybe their cousin offered them a job across town for more money, and they went to do that instead today. You will spend a lot of time just waiting for people. Then you spend a lot of time having tea with them and making small talk.

      1. Global Cat Herder*

        I’m in the Midwest US, which is like East Coast US but with extra helpings of Please and Thank You. ;)

        Most of my meetings are global combinations of people from Germany & Switzerland – who join the meeting 2 minutes ahead of time and want to know why you didn’t send pre-reads so the meeting could be shorter – and West Coast US – who join the meeting 40 minutes late and ask you to restart it.

        The culture clash is very visible.

      2. AnonInTheCity*

        Oh man, this is so accurate. I have worked on the East Coast my whole life but in my last job we had a team that sat in Switzerland. Watching the Boston team fully decompress as the Swiss-led meeting showed no sign of ending was a fun cultural mismatch. Luckily we worked in the kind of building where meeting rooms were always scheduled back to back so we always had a good excuse to end the call.

      3. Elenna*

        There definitely seems to be an East coast vs West coast divide (at least, based on my experience with Toronto insurance companies versus my sister’s experience with California tech companies – some of this might just be due to industry).

        My jobs have all been flexible start hours, but only in the sense of “it’s okay to be 5-30 (depending on the job) minutes late as long as you’re not late to meetings”. Meetings generally start within 2-3 minutes of the start time. At one co-op job, I got gently told by my supervisor “hey, I know lots of full-time employees generally show up 30+ minutes late, and we do try to be flexible, but it’s not a great look on a co-op student.”
        My current job, pre-WFH, didn’t care if I showed up anytime between my usual times of 9:15-9:40 (long public transit commute = large variance in arrival time), but if I’d been much later than that I would have called. These days I’ve been logging in pretty consistently between 9 and 9:15, so I feel obligated to call if I won’t be able to log in until 9:25ish or later.

        Meanwhile, my sister started remote working for a California company a few months ago, and she recently told me that she was originally planning to shift to working 7-3 their time (10-6 her time), but she’s realized that as she learns more about the job, she’s working more with others and in more meetings so she’s started moving more to 8-4 their time. As far as I know, shifting her planned schedule by an hour elicited absolutely no comment in any of her coworkers. Of course, this is all starting earlier than 9-5, but IIRC when she was living there for a co-op term, she would just kinda go in sometime around 10:30-11 am… She does try to be on time for meetings, though, so I can’t comment on how flexible that part is.

      4. nonegiven*

        >Germany, Switzerland: you WILL be there at precisely one minute before the office opens, and you WILL greet the entire office as you walk in

        That explains a lot. There was this German guy when I was at college. Every class we were in together, he would walk in and put his briefcase on a desk then leave to, IDK, bathroom, water fountain, w/e. Then he would come back, even if the professor was already talking, he would interrupt and say, very loudly, “Good Morning!” It was like OK, now that I’m here, you can start.

        Someone told me that in another class, he got there a little early and interrupted the previous class the same way. The instructor made him wait out in the hall.

    3. Picard*

      I’m of Spanish heritage AND ADD so you can imagine. It’s a huge struggle for me to get places on time but BECAUSE I make such an effort, (and I AM 99% of the time early) it bugs the heck out of me when others are not. Not so much for work (as long as you get your work done etc) but if we have a meeting whether personal or professional, if you’re going to be more than 5 minutes late, I better have a text, phone call or email cause I’m leaving 15 minutes past our “time” if youre not there.

    4. MissDisplaced*

      I’d really look at whether the person was missing any of their work, such as calls or meetings. But a lot of people don’t have that and what time your butt gets in the seat isn’t as important as the 8 hour day as a whole and the work produced.

    5. Half-Caf Latte*

      Fellow Nurse here:

      Yes obviously it matters, but healthcare budgets are tight and (here in the US) nursing labor is billed literally with room and board so it’s always squeezed hard. New grads especially are pressured by their trainers (preceptors) to show up half an hour or more early to read charts and prep for the day, but managers won’t allow them to clock in. Some nurses continue with the free labor for years(!), which has led to lawsuits and back pay in a few cases I’ve heard of.

      1. WeAreTheJunimos*

        Ooooh yes this is so rampant throughout nursing! I’m also a nurse and in my former department, it was culture and expected to show up 30-60 (!!) minutes early to read over charts/schedule shifts and meds. There were nurses that were working without being paid for over 10 years!!! Then I switched to the ER and no one would dream of showing up more than 10 min before shift. It’s been so nice.

      2. La Triviata*

        A somewhat different take on the on-time issue – at a place I worked years ago, the management noticed that some people were taking long lunch “hours” – two-hour minimum, often longer. Rather than speaking to the people who were the issue, they instituted a rule that lunch breaks had to be taken between 11:30am and 2:00pm. Which didn’t solve that specific problem, as the two-hour lunch bunch stayed within those hours, but I often found myself with a 10-minute lunch break, since I couldn’t get loose until 1:50.

  4. Venus*

    I know of a couple people who have moved and cannot return to their former desks. They are willing to lose their jobs, but have specific skills that are hard to replace and are hoping that the company will find a way to make it work. It seems reasonable these days to say that you want to stay as a remote employee but will have to resign if they can’t make it work. It’s a risk, but better than quitting without discussing the option. I agree with Alison to wait until they ask for you to return, as that is such an uncertain timeline.

    1. allathian*

      Yes, this. I wouldn’t recommend resigning without at least discussing the option of staying on as a remote employee when everyone else returns to the office.

    2. The Other Victoria*

      Came here to say this as well. The two big takeaways for me are: 1. We don’t know how much longer this will go on, so don’t cut yourself out of a job when it could be a year before you even have to worry about this issue, and 2. this has demonstrated that your job can be done remotely and it’s worth asking.

      1. Smithy*

        Absolutely agree to this.

        I also think it’s worth taking this time to see what the broader job market looks like – either in terms of jobs posted at 100% remote or jobs that would ultimately be HQ’ed in the area. If you’ve moved from a high COLA area to a much lower one, it may immediately feel all work HQ’ed in your new town will never come close to pay, therefore just wait until the issue is forced. But depending on the exact nature of your work, it may very be that other companies have the same or similar roles being offered at 100% remote or open to accommodating bringing you in to HQ quarter or so once that kind of business resumes.

        Either way, take advantage of this time to educate yourself on what’s out there beyond simply waiting for your job to no longer being an option.

      2. New Here*

        I will note that there are tax implications in the US that may preclude allowing employees to work remotely from certain states. Our company has been flexible during the pandemic, but has already signaled that this may not continue when we return in-person.

    3. Even In an Emergency*

      One possible issue is that they may find out if you are buying a house. They will do a couple of employment checks and it’s possible your employer will figure it out.

      1. MsFieryWorth*

        Seconding this. Mortgage verifications do not include the address of the property being purchased s0 at least you do not need to worry about that.

      2. Artemesia*

        It seems unlikely that someone would do such a check when the person is already employed. Or am I misunderstanding?

        1. Even In an Emergency*

          If she’s applying for a mortgage, the mortgage company will ask for employment verification before issuing a mortgage. So the employer would get wind that she’s buying some kind of house/apt/condo/land, etc. Depending on the size of the company and the relationships, someone at her company could definitely ask about it.

        2. Frank Doyle*

          They contact your employer to confirm that you are employed there as you say you are. That’s been my experience in PA and NJ.

      3. OP4*

        This was a concern but my partner has the higher salary and a fully remote job so their employment was all the bank was interested in.

        1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

          I’m sure you have it well in hand but I would be prepared for a double verification, especially now. When I bought my house last year they checked both employers during the initial approval and again a week before closing, but I hear now that they’re also checking multiple times before or even on the closing date as well as asking employers to confirm the employee is not currently in danger of being laid off. Lenders aren’t taking any chances these days so I wouldn’t be surprised if they want to confirm your income as well.

          1. BetsCounts*

            I am in the process of refinancing and my broker forwarded me a message from her boss noting that they are verifying and re-verifying employment up until the actual date of close. My husband has been sending them a copy of his check stub each month for the past 3 months (yes it is taking 5-ever)!

  5. Double A*

    I always think it’s interesting that it’s acceptable for jobs to cut into your personal time in all kinds of ways, including the expectation that starting the day should happen on your own unpaid time. The early labor movement pushed the idea of “8 hours for work, 8 hours for sleep, and 8 hours for what we will.” But if you count how much of those last hours are put towards preparing for the other activities, really it’s more like 4 hours for “what we will.”

    Like the more that I think about it, the more that the idea of an unpaid lunch makes me angry. That’s not really *your* time; you have to eat. I think companies should spilt the difference with people for lunch and commutes (that might encourage a more favorable outlook to work from home, if companies were on the hook for part of their employees commutes!). This is a pipe dream that I’m sure will sound insane to a lot of people, but just because things have been done one way for a long time doesn’t mean they’re the best or right way.

    1. Dennis Feinstein*

      Fine but: “You can’t be 10 minutes late blah blah blah” should also mean: “OK, so that’s no checking work emails, texts etc outside of work hours. Cool!”

      1. WorkingGirl*

        Yeah my boss is a stickler about time, and while yeah it’s…. not super necessary for our industry/my job, i have taken him to heart and i don’t have my work email on my phone or check it after hours. Even if it comes in at 5:15pm.

        1. Lily Rowan*

          Right — and the “late” employee to have an issue with is the one who gets in at 9:20, takes their full lunch time and is out the door at 5:00. If the rest of that isn’t true (caveats for coverage-type jobs), don’t get worked up over the first part.

      2. Not playing your game anymore*

        Midwest US here. We open the building to the public at 7 and close at midnight m-th F-Su have shorter hours. Coverage matters. A lot. 5 staff members are hourly. The other 3 are salaried. Time is … complicated.

        Our former boss was a stickler, hourly staff had 5 minutes leeway to punch in or out in the morning, at lunch time and out for the day. But still expected to hit 8 hrs for any given day and to have at least 2 people in the building at all times. So come two minutes early? Try to get rid of those 2 minutes at lunch time. The salaried staff were expected to “set a good example” of promptness. It was stress inducing.
        When she left her replacement loosened things considerably. You had your own “coverage” hours for the service points and the phone and were expected to be prompt in relieving the person covering before you. Still expected to exactly hit 40 hours each week, but lots more flex within the week. (also NO public transport and only a little car pooling so you’re on your own responsibility to get to work) The salaried people are also expected to hit 40 hours, but it’s OK to work 45 hours here and 35 there.

        And our hourly people are not ALLOWED to check email, etc., outside of work hours.

      3. LQ*

        People always say this like it’s a GOTCHA, but I have to say, “Yeah, of course. Knock it off.” If people are hourly, then they shouldn’t be doing stuff like checking working emails and texts outside of work hours. If people are hourly then they shoudln’t be getting paid for hours they aren’t work. But they also shouldn’t be working hours they aren’t getting paid for. Yes! Leave at 4:31. Out out! I’ve chased way more people out at the end of the day than I’ve ever had a serious conversation with someone for being late. But yeah, they are both not ok. You have to be there when the work starts and you need to leave when it’s done and those are well defined times, and they matter.

        Absolutely do not check your email outside of what you get paid for if you’re hourly.

    2. Elm*

      I worked at a place that both had unpaid lunch AND a rule against us leaving the building over lunch without express permission. So…we weren’t paid for a time we were required to stay in the building.

      The way they treat unsalaried school staff…

      1. Observer*

        What your place was doing may have actually been illegal. I’m pretty sure that if you are not being paid for the time, you can’t be required to be available.

      2. Caroline Bowman*

        Yes!! One of the very worst, most a-holey managers I ever had the misfortune to work for would be all irritated and irate if he happened, on a moment’s notice to want to speak to you (shout at and interrogate, more like) and you happened to be on lunch. At lunch time, getting a sandwich, you know, literally next door to the office. ”WHERE ARE YOU?? Please come back IMMEDIATELY, I NEED TO SPEAK TO YOU”. Inevitably it was nothing of of an urgent nature, just that he didn’t like it if he was momentarily paused.

        Awful person. With filthy, filthy fingernails, but I digress!

      3. Not So NewReader*

        We were told we could not leave the property because of insurance purposes. No other place I ever worked said this. I thought it was odd.
        There really wasn’t any where to go to, so the point was probably moot. But I had never heard another employer mention insurance problems as an excuse.

      4. Rayray*

        Seriously? That’s absolutely infantilizing. I could leave campus for lunch in high school. We were lucky to be on one of the major roads in my area so we had tons of places to walk to or that were a 5< minute drive away.

      5. Not a dr*

        Where I live the law requires you pay lunch if the staff are allowed to leave site. If staff can leave much can be unpaid. So maybe check the laws where you live!

    3. MK*

      I think the OP’s expectation that people should come in early and be ready to start work at 9 is not old-fashioned or out of date, because I don’t believe it was ever an expectation from reasonable companies. The time people spent taking off their coat is not part of the commute.

      1. Mookie*

        Yes. It strikes me as performative as a forelock tug and just as immaterial to the true value one represents for their employee and colleagues.

        1. Mongrel*

          I’ve always regarded it as one of those things that’s done because it’s always been done and the people who rigidly enforce this never took the step back to ask why.
          Dress codes are (IMO) another thing like that, shirts & ties aren’t automatically neat and if there’s no chance of being seen by outside clients then why do you need to dress up?

        2. Forrest*

          I think it’s a real sector-culture thing. In customer-service-retail-hospitality type industries, or education
          or other very people-facing sectors, then “shift starts at 9am” ~absolutely~ means on the shop floor / in the classroom at 9am with your proper shoes on and your coat hung up and your bag put away and any quick chitchat with colleagues over. And lots of “office jobs” were things like secretary, where “being available for someone” was a key part of the job. I think it’s become outdated as more and more jobs have shifted oer to the information/admin-type work where you manage your own workload, but lots of work cultures haven’t necessarily caught up.

          1. Mel_05*

            Yeah, there definitely are some jobs where you’ve got to be a little early in order to start on time. But, it’s been many years since I’ve worked one.

            1. Cj*

              It’s been many years for me, also, but I started out as a teenager working in fast food, and then during college at a factory. You were most certainly expected to have your boots off and coat hung up and *then* punch in and be at your station time.

          2. Koalafied*

            Yes, both the shift towards more knowledge jobs and the mobile internet in particular really changed things. Even in a traditional knowledge job that’s been around for ages, like a lawyer, there’s still the time Before You Could Email From The Train and the time After You Could Email From The Train. Punctuality used to be much more closely correlated with availability than it is in an age where we can all be reached (for better or worse) just about everywhere at all times.

          3. Smithy*

            I think that this matters a lot. Jobs where “doors/phones open at 9am” carry a more rigid prerogative, but then I also think of jobs where unions have gotten heavily involved in time keeping, or there are massive “clocking in/out” systems – these norms can still matter to a large number of working adults.

            I also wonder if how much these norms can ultimately connect to how we were raised and the jobs that our caretakers had? Going through the 80’s and 90’s, I don’t ever remember clocking in and out to ever be an issue for my parents – but more so my mom being endlessly frustrated that my afterschool care would penalize her for every minute she was late after 6pm. If anything the memory I left was “work would take as long as work would take and rigid clocks were just a source of misery”.

            1. Forrest*

              Oh gosh, I can’t identify with your mother there at all–when you’re talking about a sector where staff are typically low-paid and *have* to be on time and ready to start at their starting time, I think keeping them at work past their finish time is the ABSOLUTE worst kind of lateness! I think that’s probably a worse taboo for me than any other kind of personal or professional lateness.

              1. NotAnotherManager!*

                I agree with this. I’m not much for “on time”, but picking up my kids so the after-care folks could go home to their families, too, is one of my things. If someone is waiting for me to be able to about their evening, that’s different than rolling into the office late when it doesn’t matter.

                Tangentially, I read an interesting behavior economics study that said that charging for lateness actually increased it because people viewed it as paying for a service versus inconveniencing someone else.

                1. Forrest*

                  yes, I’ve also come across that study–so fascinating, and it absolutely makes sense to me. I can definitely picture myself making that calculation in terms of “what it’ll cost me” instead of “what it’ll cost someone else”.

            2. anonforthis*

              I know it’s frustrating, but I agree with charging by the minute after child care centers close. If parents drop their kids off and expect their child care providers to be there, ready to take care of them, then parents need to pick up on time (which is usually the time of the center closure). Can you imagine parents needing to get to a meeting, dropping their children off, and the child care center saying “ah, even though we open at 6:30am, our employees are about 10-15 minutes late, and then need to hang up their coats and grab a coffee before we’re ready to take your kids, please wait here.” It’s equally disrespectful to not pick children up on time.

            3. Observer*

              Actually, this is one of those areas where timeliness DOES matter – being late for pickup has massive effects on other people. Either workers are being forced to spend extra time at the end of the day, often unpaid, or the business is paying significant extra costs because you are being late – and in some cases all of the above are happening. So, “work takes as long as it takes” is fine – as long as you are cognizant of the knock on effects.

        3. Richard Hershberger*

          I think it often is a proxy the manager uses for assessing subordinates. This is much easier than assessing productivity and quality of work. So Bob is generally useless, but very punctual and neatly groomed. What more could you possibly want? Give Bob a promotion!

    4. Who Plays Backgammon?*

      My former crappy Old Boss (thank god she was reassigned!) was clueless about labor laws. We had a temp on our front desk for a while, and Old Boss griped to us that she needed to be in 10 minutes before her contracted time to get her coffee, hang up her coat, etc., so she’d be on the front desk at the stroke of 8. In other words, she expected Temp to be there 7:50 – 5:00. All the sales folks thought this was quite reasonable until I mentioned that would actually incur nearly an hour of overtime per week because Temp was non-exempt. They had a hard time wrapping their head around that one.

      1. Prof*

        This is very common in jobs like a cashier at a grocery store. When I did that, you had to clock in at exactly your start time and be ready to work. That meant getting there a little early, putting stuff away, etc. That’s not on the clock….

        1. Not So NewReader*

          We had a court case here, because employees were required to change into uniforms ON SITE and not paid for that time. The company laundered the uniforms and you had a uniform that no one else wore. The court ruled that the employees had to be paid for the time they spent changing their clothes. It worked into 10 minutes at the beginning of the shift and 10 minutes at the end of the shift. So the time added up as there were hundreds and hundreds of employees.

        2. Liane*

          “This is very common in jobs like a cashier at a grocery store. When I did that, you had to clock in at exactly your start time and be ready to work. That meant getting there a little early, putting stuff away, etc. That’s not on the clock….”

          How rigid & crazy are companies and bosses with these kinds of policies/expectations? Six words: WALMART does not do this!
          I worked for them for several years. Their time clocks round to 6 minutes (1/10th hour). So you could be up to 6 minutes late without getting 1/2 Occurrence (3 in rolling 3 month period was the limit)!

          1. The Rural Juror*

            I also worked at a Walmart for a bit. It’s not always easy to get from the front of the store all the way to the back and clock in on time when it’s a very busy day. Where I worked, it was easier to walk on the grocery side to get to the time clock. I remember going in on a Wednesday before Thanksgiving and getting stopped several times by customers asking for help…and I wasn’t even wearing my vest yet, it was just draped over my arm! We were the only Walmart in a rural county, so we were always busy.

        3. Alianora*

          Yep. I remember in my first job at a fast food restaurant, I came in, started to clock in, and a manager who happened to be around told me to go to the back room, drop off my things, and then come back and clock in. It was like an extra 15 seconds at most (so I didn’t really care either way), but policy is policy.

        4. Who Plays Backgammon?*

          Temp was covering for someone on extended leave who had front-desk duties and was notoriously late on a regular basis. Old Boss shrugged that off. But she was very exacting with the temps, to what I thought was an unreasonable degree. Temp did a good job and we WANTED them to stay! We’re not retail, and we have the flexibility for her to arrive on time at eight and have a few minutes to get situated.

    5. anon73*

      Yes. I’ve always had an “it all evens out at the end” attitude at work. If I’m 10 minutes late or take an hour and a half lunch one day, it’s not a big deal because I’ve stayed late or worked through multiple lunches when I’m busy. Managers need to be more concerned with productivity than the hands on a clock.

      1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

        At our office, unfortunately that resulted in the expectation of working past 8 hours and they didn’t pay overtime. As I said, Old Boss was Clue. Less. about labor laws and thought it was perfectly fine to expect someone to stay “a little late to finish up” and thought she could give them comp time (in violation of my state’s laws and company policy).

        1. anon73*

          I’ve always been salaried so overtime isn’t a thing, and I’ve been fortunate to work for reasonable managers who don’t take advantage of me, which is why I don’t mind putting in the extra time as needed.

    6. NLMC*

      If companies were on the hook for part of commutes they would not hire people who lived more than a certain distance away from the company. That would severely limit job opportunities for many.

      1. Nederlander*

        In the Netherlands it’s very common for your commute to be reimbursed – either by statute or by collective bargaining agreement I’m not sure. It’s usually capped until, say, 20 km, after which the cost is yours.. the first 7 km are often not paid out.. and the mileage reimbursement is about as much as you spend on fuel and maintenance/depreciation if your car is very small and very fuel-efficient, otherwise you need to add money.

        (You would not believe the amount of fuss this created when people who were working from home because of the coronavirus were no longer getting their commute reimbursed.)

        Our labour laws allow employees to give up certain rights in collective bargaining – so I’m not sure if the law is “Employer pays for the commute, which may be capped by a collective bargaining agreement” or it doesn’t say anything about a commute and that’s what the unions negotiated.

        Collective bargaining agreements are by industry, by the way, and then the Minister signs them and then they apply to all employers and employees working in that industry.

        I haven’t heard any stories about people not being hired because of mileage reimbursements.

  6. Nessun*

    LW3, I work for a C-suite level employee in an international firm, and she is open about being dyslexic. It came up naturally in a conversation, along the lines of an additional fact to consider when I was providing administrative support, like how she likes her letters to be double-spaced and prefers her salutations a certain way. The tone she took was similar to that, or maybe telling me she was left handed and that’s why her mouse was the way it was on her desk. It was just a piece of how to work with her, and it has never impacted our respectful work relationship. She’s amazing at what she does, and I’m responsible for checking for typos so she can focus on other things.

    All to say, disclose as you wish, and be matter of fact, and people will take their cue from you. It doesn’t define you, it’s just another piece of how you think, and that’s as it should be.

    1. Alice's Rabbit*

      I’ve worked with a couple of dyslexic bosses, and I enjoy proofreading their memos, emails, etc. First time, I was nervous approaching the boss to offer my editorial services, but he was thrilled with my proposed solution. He started sending me almost all his correspondence, to tidy up and shoot back to him for proper dispersal.
      Most dyslexics love having someone who is willing to do this cheerfully and unobtrusively. And if you end up with one of the few who has a chip on their shoulder and scoffs at your offer, then don’t want about it. It’s not your problem, and you don’t have to solve it. You politely offered to help, and were refused. The end.

      1. Allonge*

        Indeed! On the other side of this, one of my past bosses was dyslexic, but refused to let us look at memos and emails before he sent it out, despite us practically begging him in some cases to let us help. He was fired for incompetence, not dyslexia.

        OP, reasonable people will understand and help you where it matters and ignore where it does not. As Alison says, far too many bosses are too busy to check for from/form and there are a lot of people who can spot these things easily. You can delegate this bit of your work!

      2. WS*

        My dad is dyslexic but had a job as a surveyor where he didn’t have to do a lot of writing – it was all numbers, programming or drawing. When he was eventually promoted out of fieldwork and into supervision he was fine because it was still mostly numbers or drawings, and the rest my siblings and I would proof-read for him. When he was promoted out of supervising into managing contracts, it was too much and he retired.

        1. Pocket Mouse*

          Were you and your siblings being paid for proofreading? Was this part of his accommodations? Hope you got paid, at least, since it was for work products.

      3. Not A Girl Boss*

        Yes, it was such a relief when my past boss mentioned she had dyslexia!
        1) I felt more comfortable casually pointing out typos when she made them instead of sitting there itching all over waiting for her to notice because I didn’t want to be rude.
        2) I had a higher opinion of her once I realized they weren’t careless mistakes (in an industry where attention to detail was important).

        Its one of those things that was a non-issue once she mentioned it. But I would wait until you take the new job and start to mention it, otherwise it can end up sounding like a bigger deal than it was.

    2. MK*

      I have to say I was surprised to hear Op say people associate dyslexia with being smart. The condition wasn’t widely known when I was a child at school, so many dyslexic kids were thought to be not smart or lazy, but now that it is, I haven’t noticed any particular stigma, other than “this person will have atrocious spelling and possibly illegible handwriting”.

        1. MK*

          Typo. What I meant was, you arem9re likely to be dubbed not smart if people don’t know you have dyslexia and see you makings errors.

          1. macropodidae*

            I think things are changing a bit. My son is dyslexic and got the dx in 2nd grade. He was evaluated and put on an IEP but one of the things that struck me most was in the initial evaluation meeting.
            The school psychologist was all, “This kid has a vocabulary like nothing I’ve seen in a dyslexic kid.”
            “Well, yeah, he can’t read or spell, but he knows how to use words appropriately in a sentence.”
            I’ve never seen more back-pedaling, ever. Heh.

    3. Just a PM*

      Yep, same here. Our CEO was dyslexic and he was fairly open about it with everyone. I don’t think you have anything to worry about if you disclose it. You sound like a great boss and I bet there’s someone, maybe an executive assistant or a colleague, who can proofread things for you.

      I’m sure you already know about this since it wasn’t part of your question, but don’t forget there are several technologies you could ask for as reasonable accommodations. Just because you’re moving into senior positions or higher into management doesn’t mean you can’t ask for reasonable accommodations to help with your dyslexia.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Not exactly the same but the general idea is there. I worked with a person who was losing their sight. It was a non-issue to me to change font size, remove backgrounds and so on. I fully appreciated being told what would actually work so I could do it right the first time. I also appreciated being able to ask questions when something out of the ordinary came up, for example, I learned gridlines are GOOD.

      Eh, it comes back around. There were times I was so cold because of no heat that I was near tears. (nothing worse than a cold building in the winter) My person, who tends to run warm, took off her sweater and said, “Crank up the portable heater.” Everyone has something that helps to keep them working and keep them comfortable in their work space.

    5. Sparkles McFadden*

      Yes, LW#3 should say something. It shouldn’t be a big deal. It’s like telling people you have to sit closer to a display in a conference room since your eyesight is bad, or to use a different headset because you have hearing issues. We once rearranged the open area floor plan so a guy who’d lost an eye would have a better overall view of the entrance area from his workstation. I always had a step stool because I couldn’t reach the higher shelves. This is the same.

    6. macropodidae*

      I agree. My late husband was never formally diagnosed (our son is) but he was very successful in his chosen field because he would just say, “I can’t read. I want this to say this and I’m relying on you to make sure my vision is executed, I trust you.” They’d have to read stuff to him, but he was consistently a top performer in…let’s go with “a professional services firm with three competitors.”

      The only time it was ever an issue was when he had to do video with an outside firm who wanted him to read from teleprompters and he’d basically come home ready to cry. It broke my heart every time.

      Please disclose, this is a legit disability with a super easy work-around. I mean, who doesn’t have stuff proof-read? That’s all you need.

  7. Retail Not Retail*

    I had a coworker who would come in at 7 minutes after (latest you can come in and not be late) and then go out to her car for her stuff. The days I didn’t get a lunch and needed to leave on the dot, I would be so pissed. One of the last times, I chased her to the time clock and shoved the self checkout control in her hands and clocked out. (9 hour day, one break, snow panic, someone dropped a gallon of milk right at 11)

    And of course she’d never stay until 7 after, nor would anyone expect her to since it’s the correct time in the system.

    At my current job, it’s expected we’ll clock in by 5 til, so the person who’s late is the one clocking in on time. This system also rounds but we can’t leave until the exact minute which is so annoying when we have nothing to do.

    I don’t do ANY work off the clock, not even going into the office to grab my radio or put away my lunch. I’m on time, but those are work tasks in a work space.

    Is it really true, in the American “office” world that you can be so flexible? Actually scratch that, I know it is because the salaried office staff do not come in at the same time so you’re just guessing. This is especially annoying when you’ve injured yourself before the safety person arrives.

    1. Moeg*

      If you’re relieving someone of their shift, I’d absolutely put that in the category where it *does* matter to be on time. But it’s generally fine to be loose with arrival times for a job where no one’s waiting for you to arrive before they can get on with their day.

    2. anon73*

      Hourly shift work is completely different than a typical office job. When you’re in a customer facing job and relieving your co-workers when you come into work, then being on time IS important. It would be similar to a customer service rep in an office that answers calls all day.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        Or even a non-customer-facing job. Lots of labor jobs run on shifts. And yeah, needing to wait for someone to come in before you can leave can be its own hell.

  8. Elm*

    If your contract says 9-5, you’re only required to be there 9-5, not 8:45-5 so you can get coffee and use the bathroom. Telling people they MUST be there outside of contract hours…well, some of the jobs I’ve had, the union would have jumped on you.

    1. Allonge*

      But see, this depends also. If you need coffee and whatnot to be able to work, that is absolutely fine.

      If you have a meeting or need to open a door / pick up the phones at 9, then you should arrange your life in a way that you can do that (so either get coffee before or after). If you just need to get started with report B, it does not matter so much.

      Mind you, if you are a company and do need to open the doors at 9, and you are assigned a starting time, that should be before 9. Our ‘open the library at 8’ shift started at 7:45 so the library could actually be open at 8. This way people had time to start up the systems etc. but also to do their thing.

      One of my current colleagues though – we have a small huddle every day at 9. She arrives at 9, takes her coat off, gets coffee, starts her computer and joins the meeting 10 minutes late every day. We have flexitime! So this is the annoying lateness.

      1. TechWorker*

        We have daily standup meetings – they are late enough to allow even the latest starters to get coffee (Eg 15min after core hours start), but if people still manage to be late they’d be expected to come to the meeting in their coat and do the coffee and computer start afterwards. Have to say I did judge my colleague who was consistently a bit late to the meeting if he’d already got coffee :p (it wasn’t miles away either, just a flight of stairs!)

      2. Mookie*

        Sure, but just as the LW mentions manning one’s “station” on the dot, the value of precise timing varies according to the role. If you’re working a line and you’re not there, your job is gone or as close as and such stipulations are clearly marked, universally known, and your union, if it exists, will not argue such a dismissal. But the dynamic the LW appears to be describing is punctuality having less utility and more symbolism in her workplace. Late colleagues are not being turned out or chewed out as she’d like them to, which suggests her employer’s tolerance level (and that of her peers) differs from her own personal one, and that such lateness is subject to varying degrees of tolerance rather than a hard and fast rule with an obvious purpose.

        1. Allonge*

          Oh, absolutely! One of the best benefits of flexitime is that it cuts way down on the opportunities for people to monitor the comings and goings of colleagues – ‘he came in at 9:25, as he has the right to’ is a lot less juicy than ‘again he was late’.

          Honestly, if OP considers this important, I am sure they will find plenty of companies where people are held to a strict start time – it’s like any other work culture preference, they get to select their next workplace with this in mind. Other than that though…

      3. Overeducated*

        If someone has to be present for a meeting at 9 every single day do you really have flexitime though? Sounds more like core hours starting at 9 (which isn’t the earliest I’ve heard of them, my old job had “core hours” 8:30-4….)

        1. Allonge*

          Yes, flexitime in the sense that whenever you get there before 9 counts as working time. But there is a reason we have a meeting, and it’s the best method we came up with to get things done, so it’s just how we roll.

    2. Middle School Teacher*

      Ah, you’re not a teacher. There’s assignable time, instructional time, prep time… and the rules are different for all of them. Technically I’m required at school 8:15-3:30, but I actually only teach 8:30-3:10. Thanks to assignable time I’m at school 30 min early and 20 min after my end time.

  9. Observer*

    #1- Not only are you asking people to be punctual “just because” you are actually demanding that they are early.

    The real question is, though, why is this supposed to be non-negotiable? Yes, there are absolutely jobs where exact timeliness is non-negotiable and specific situations where timeliness also needs to be a given. But otherwise, why does it matter?

    1. GammaGirl1908*

      This is exactly how I feel about it. There absolutely are jobs where being on time is critical, but that is not every job. The idea that You Are Supposed To Be On Time is fine, but it does not filter into the results of those positions where I can do a great job accomplishing what I need to accomplish that day regardless of whether I get there at 8:50 or 9:10. There is nothing magic happening at 8:59. If punctuality is not a critical function of the job, and how well I do my job is not in any way measured by the exact minute that I arrive, then I don’t see why it matters.

      That is especially because, as a person who often runs late (and, not for nothing, who has learned to self-select out of jobs where punctuality is critical), the level of drama and fuss and stress and snapping at people and sweating and spilling food and tripping over my bag on the way out the door and speeding and sprinting in order to be there at an exact minute is just outsized compared to whatever importance someone is putting on my being at my desk at 8:59.

      The person who is seriously concerned about my being there at 8:59 is also usually not as concerned about the elements of my job that actually make me great at my job. They spend 90% of their effort worrying about the administrivia of 8:59, as opposed to spending 90% of their effort worrying about whether I’m doing the important things well.

      I understand why “between 8:30ish and 9:30ish” is important. I don’t understand why 8:59:30 is important, and worth that level of scrutiny. There are people who are not good at being on time. Does it really matter to the quality of their output? Are they good at their jobs? If you don’t know the answer to those questions, you are focused on the wrong things.

      (also, I realize that drama and speeding and sprinting mean that I should leave earlier. That is true and is where I struggle. I cram in two more tasks before I leave the house, so I don’t leave when I should; I don’t want to get to my destination early and have a whole bunch of unscheduled time, so I don’t want to be super early and just sit around waiting; and I don’t allow enough time for emergencies, so having more than one thing go wrong means I have a problem. I absolutely take responsibility for all of that in my daily life. I understand that the people who are never late are usually super early, which means they allow a lot of extra time for each activity; I don’t want to be super early, so sometimes I’m late. But here, on a daily basis, I’m just supposed to get to work 30 minutes early just in case and waste time? Not if you’re not paying me for it.)

      1. IndustriousLabRat*

        +1 for “administrivia”.
        What a wonderful new word for the lexicon! And describes excessive time-policing in non-punctuality-critical positions perfectly!

      2. Lady Meyneth*

        “I’m just supposed to get to work 30 minutes early just in case and waste time? Not if you’re not paying me for it.”

        So much this. I’m horrible at calculating emergency time and always leave way way too early for everything. I have worked 1 job where I didn’t have flex time and it was awful, it was like my whole life was work and nothing else. Now I aim to start around 8AM (because I like having my evenings for myself), get to work at 7:30AM 90% of the time, and just end up leaving even earlier. Unless I’m actually about to starve, I will never work a rigid schedule again!

    2. Djuna*

      I remember working in retail where we were expected to be 10 mins early every morning, and to hang around later if we were with a customer at the end of our shift. What fascinated me was how quick they were to dock pay if you were “late” but how they were magically blind to any extra time you were on the clock.

      I absolutely never judge another person at work for being “late” even though I still somehow feel like I’m late when I’m merely on time. That’s my problem, not anyone else’s. It really does help that with pandemic WFH we were all told to work when it works for us to be working, just to try not to miss/be late to meetings. That’s not true for every team in our org (coverage is important for some roles) but freedom to manage your own work time is definitely a thing for us – and our manager leads by example rather than clockwatching which is how it should be.

  10. Dan*


    If you’re not talking about flex time jobs, then what are you talking about? For that matter, if you’re not their manager, why is this any of your business?

    I have a “9-5” job, and as I write this, it’s 2:15am. I don’t know what time I’m “supposed” to be at work, but people I work with will be lucky if I “show up” (covid being covid) before 11am. It’ll be closer to noon if I had to hedge my bets.

    Dan is not present (absent prearranged meetings) much before noon. The flip side is, Dan will happily email everybody and their brother at midnight. But no, Dan does not expect emailed responses before normal people begin work for their normal day. Dan is a computer programmer, who gets lots of work done after 4pm when nobody is around to distract him. Dan also has a sleep disorder, for which he will happily file a doctor’s note with HR and get an ADA “reasonable accommodation” if push comes to shove. Do you want to be the person who makes push come to shove?

    1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

      It can ding morale if some people have to be on the dot and others don’t (as we can see here). In some cases where I’ve worked it has smacked of privilege. Maybe not a big one, but if John gets Spoken To about being a few minutes late on the days he drops his kid at school and Tom is routinely plain late by the same amount of time (seen this scenario more than once), it can look like favoritism when everybody might appreciate the same flexibility. Yes sounds petty, but some workplaces are just that petty.

      1. Delta Delta*

        It can also hurt morale if certain people are always late and others aren’t. I worked somewhere that opened at 8, and generally people arrived anywhere between 7:30-8:15. One person regularly rolled in around 9 or 9:30 and it felt very out of touch. It did have an impact on her work and on others’ work. And before anyone starts making excuses for her, no she didn’t have a good reason – she just believes her time is more valuable than everyone else’s.

        1. Observer*

          You are talking about something very different than what most people are talking about. For one thing, pretty much everyone agrees that if the lateness affect’s people or the work then that is a perfectly legitimate reason to require punctuality. Also, there is a difference between “comes in withing a typical 45 minute window” and “comes in at least an hour after everyone else gets in.” While the latter is sometimes acceptable, the bar for that is a LOT higher that 10-15 minutes in the morning.

      2. Observer*

        Yes sounds petty, but some workplaces are just that petty.

        The solution, though, is not to then punish everyone and wastes time and effort on making everyone adhere to a rigid schedule. The solution is to change the culture. And step one is to make sure that punctuality policies are reasonable, tied to business necessity and fair. Secondly, be transparent about the policies and the drivers of those policies.

      3. anon73*

        If people are being treated differently then yes it’s unfair. But all things being equal, some people just need to stop worrying about everyone else unless it affects them directly. You don’t know what someone else has worked out with their manager, and they may be working from home sometimes to make up for what you don’t see in the office.

    2. Myrin*

      If you’re not talking about flex time jobs, then what are you talking about?

      I mean, presumably… non-flexitime jobs? The fact that this is even a question makes me think that there might be bigger cultural aspects at play here than I previously thought (and by “cultural” I don’t even mean country-specific but maybe relating to industries or regional differences in the same country). Or maybe I’m just misunderstanding you?

      Like, where I am, you either have flexitime or you don’t. Flexitime means either (and more commonly) that there are certain core hours where everyone has to be accounted for but beyond those, you can come in as early/late and leave as early/late as you wish or that the building is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. (or whatever) and during that time you can do as you wish as long as you work X hours (although in the end, that probably amounts to a certain kind of core hours anyway just by the way math works).
      Not-flexitime means that your work hours are from e. g. 8 to 5 with an hour-long lunch inbetween and that means you gotta be there at eight and leave at five. But from your comment, it reads like that model simply doesn’t exist at all?

      1. LDN Layabout*

        I think there’s an in-between stage between flexitime with core hours and rigid 8 to 5 though?

        I’ve had jobs with fixed hours where lateness was an issue (e.g. covering shifts) and those where 15-20 minutes either way? Eh, not an issue as long as you made up the time or didn’t miss any meetings, but it wasn’t officially flexitime, if that makes sense?

        1. Allonge*

          I think this depends on whether the company has an official and/or unofficial policy. Officially, on paper, there may not be an in-between solution – would it say it’s ok to be 15 minutes late every day? Unofficially, the supervisor can certainly decide that for certain positions it matters very little if Joe comes in 5 minutes later once in a while, and that can very much be part of the company culture. But that is more a lack of consequences for being late than an official third option.

          1. doreen*

            My employer has an official policy – but it doesn’t say being 15 minutes late is fine. It says the supervisor can excuse a certain amount of lateness per pay period and that the supervisor can allow the employee to make up time , and also that both of those things are at the supervisor’s discretion.

        2. Spencer Hastings*

          Yeah, my company’s office hours are 8-5 and the core hours are 8:30-4:30 (huge difference, LOL). Some people officially flex their hours more than that due to childcare issues or the like. People who are involved with the physical running of the office do have to be there earlier. But at the very least, for those of us that doesn’t apply to, the half-hour window in the morning serves to mitigate commute variance.

      2. Ali G*

        A lot of salaried positions have built in flexibility without formal “flextime.” So if you have an appointment and need to leave an hour early one day, you can just make it up another day that week. Also, as Alison mentioned, if being 100% available at start time isn’t required for your job, then arriving a few minutes late, or using the bathroom doesn’t matter. No one is 100% productive all day, and so if 10-15 min here and there someone isn’t available for whatever reason, it’s not something to get all bent out of shape over.

        1. InsufficientlySubordinate*

          And some of them are loose enough that nobody cares if you don’t “make up” the hour this week, because next week or the week before you spent a little longer talking with someone or a meeting ran long or whatever. Our boss told us to get our work done (and we’re usually asked how long it will take) and that we were all adults and boss didn’t have time to keep track of that shit… In other words, if you consistently miss deadlines or are unavailable for impromptu talks if you missed a meeting or it’s a problem and someone complains then get your shit together, otherwise…shrug.

    3. Analyst Editor*

      The way you describe it sounds like it can cause a lot of inconvenience to anyone who relies on whatever technology you support, as well as any of your co-workers and collaborators who keep more standard hours.

  11. Dan*


    Interesting question with more nuance than initially appears. I had an old boss tell me once, “There are two types of employees, those who make my job easier, and those who make it harder.” So I think what you’re really trying to figure out at this point is whether you should cut your losses, and if so, whether the next person is more likely to make your job easier or make it worse.

    I had a different old boss tell me that he figured it takes 2 years before they could break even on a new hire;. Whether he was technically correct, I do not know, but ten years later I can tell you that I’ve had people cut from projects who make as much or more than I do cut because I determined they didn’t have the skills necessary to do the job needed. Keep in mind, when I get to this point, it’s because I’ve spent the time trying to bring someone up to speed, and then decided they can’t get up to speed, and that my time is better spent trying to bring a new person up to speed with the hopes that they can function independently. Trust me, if I spent three moths bringing someone up to speed, I really hope they can get there, because the last thing I want to do is repeat that same three months with someone else and put the project six months behind.

    I don’t know what OP’s line of work is, or what is normal for her field. So, my advice is that OP needs to discuss this with her manager. Unless OP has carte blanche hire/fire authority, OP’s boss will have to be looped in on any personnel decisions. If OP’s boss tells her that OP is stuck with said employee, that will indicate one set of responses. If OP’s boss says OP can cut said employee, then OP has a choice on her hands.

    We recently cut someone from my team at my direction. I first asked my boss two questions. First, what is said person’s history on this project? (Not good.) Second, what are future plans for this person? Because, right now, whatever time I spend with him is an investment in the future. If you want to keep him, then this is training time and it is what it is. If you aren’t going to keep him, I can get this done faster on my own, and babysitting him will be a waste of time.

    Cutting someone is subjective. But if you’ve gotten there, you’ve gotten there.

    1. Yoz*

      LW #2

      I also work for a consulting / accounting firm and I just want to say first up that I feel your pain. It sucks when you do all the work to get someone up to speed and it doesn’t work out, and even worse when your job actually becomes harder.

      That’s the empathy part; now let’s talk practical. My advice is that something needs to change, and I think you know this as you said that you’re overwhelmed. You cannot feasibly keep redoing your staff’s work, especially in the evenings, for two key reasons: (1) when you have to work evenings and redo this work, you’re at risk of your own deliverables suffering, and (2) the opportunity cost, i.e. because you’re doing this additional work, what are opportunities are you not doing. Other reasons for change is that this kind of situation can lead to pent-up resentment of the staff member, as well as increasing the risk of burn-out from the additional hours.

      I think that Alison is right that you should flag this to your reporting manager. Ideally, you would have been giving regular performance updates from the time of hiring so this won’t be the first time they are hearing this. When you go into this meeting, make sure that you have clearly identified the issue, with examples, and bring possible solutions. Be factual.

      The other part of this is that the staff should also be getting feedback on their work, and I don’t see you mention this in your letter. I’m not sure how comfortable you are giving feedback since I don’t know how long you’ve been in the role or how many staff you’ve managed. There are a lot of great articles by AAM about how to give effective feedback. If you have a good reporting manager, they can also help you in this particular situation, e.g. you could brainstorm together on how to give the feedback

      1. CA Consultant*

        OP2 – I’m also in consulting and can’t imagine expecting an entry-level employee being able to produce any work that’s “client ready” after only a few months. Maybe your field is different, but if it all takes subject matter expertise plus communication skills, entry-level is probably a wrong match. In my area I’d need someone with 2 years experience minimum and would have expectations for them to independently produce client quality work with light editing after a year.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          I don’t do consulting, but I am in a professional services field, and I agree with this. I also hire a lot of true entry-level people, and they are great, but they have to be trained, mentored, and coached pretty heavily in the first six to twelve months and would definitely not be put in charge of a client-facing deliverable without oversight. They do a lot of proofreading, research, and updating a template document, but none but the truly exceptional could draft from scratch after such a short period.

        2. AVP*

          I was just coming here to say this – I’ve always worked with the types of companies that do direct client consulting and deliver intellectual work product to clients, and it was years before I could produce something that could go out directly (and I still appreciate a review from a colleague when I can get one!)

          I think you may need to think about what you really need from this role – either someone higher-level, or to see if the entry-level employee can do the background research and initial drafting of more pieces, freeing you up to only edit and revise.

        3. sofar*

          Co-signing this. I’m in communications/online publishing, and I’ve yet to meet an entry-level person who can produce work I don’t have to check, make revisions on, offer feedback on, and review multiple drafts on. We’ve hired people with excellent internship experiences as well, but, often, with those jobs, they are being mentored heavily and the work in their portfolio has often been touched by many more capable hands than theirs.

          As others have said, two years experience tends to be where (at least for me), I’m like, “This person has the skills AND the judgment to produce work that needs only a light touch from me.”

          Our newest team member was brought on in January. There have been times this year where I’ve been out of office, and my boss didn’t have time to review, so stuff was sent out/got sent live with just our employee using her own judgment, and … let’s just say there were problems.

          We’re thinking of growing the team, and I’m already making the case for bringing on someone more senior because I cannot coach two entry-level folks.

      2. IlseBurnley*

        I’m also in consulting and have coached multiple totally inexperienced consultants, and it is so painful and time-intensive. A couple things that have worked for me. 1) Focus on your team PROCESS. I’ve had team members who genuinely didn’t realize that I expect them to take ownership for quality. They were sending me extremely low quality work because they thought my role was to edit and fix it all. I had to explain, actually, you need to get this as close to perfect as you can; I want you to be MORE worried about mistakes than I am (this isn’t actually realistic but it helps them understand the mindset to strive for). 2) Engage early. Frame out the skeleton deliverable, explain the steps you expect them to follow, etc. 3) Edit live together with a screenshare. Talk out loud and explain every little nit picky thing you are looking for. Experienced consultants do a lot automatically that is simply not obvious to new people. Narrate your thoughts. Show a clear before and after. 4) Focus on specific behaviors you expect them to exhibit. For example, always send me your meeting prep a minimum of 1 day before the client meeting. Prepare meeting notes by x time. Edit in this specific way. Check your work in this specific way.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      OO2, There is a middle ground between backing off and redoing their work: Mark up their doc and make them redo it learn your style & standard.
      Yes this means building in time for another cycle, but it’s how to learn industry phrasing & vocabulary.

        1. OrigCassandra*

          … though there’s a wonderful The Prisoner fanfic in this, where the latest Number 2 almost lets Number 6 get away because new assistant Number 17 is just not getting the work done right…

      1. KRM*

        Yes, I think OP2 needs to sit down with this employee and go over some documents together and edit them in real time, so they can really see what they need to do. Sometimes if someone says to me “I fixed this and this and this” and then it’s due soon, I don’t have a chance to really internalize what I should do differently next time. I just know there were issues but I’m not clear on how to fix them. It’s possible that if you put a little more time in up front, your employee might do a lot better overall when they can SEE the issues and how to fix them.

      2. DarnTheMan*

        Agreed; my first job in my current profession, one of the more senior staff warned me pre-emptively that she had pretty exacting standards and it would be a blue moon for anything I did to get past her without edits. And while that was true, I did get to a point where my output had only 1-2 minor changes before she’d sign off, specifically because she had me redo work until it met her standards.

  12. Chocolate Teapot*

    My office has flexible hours, but (pre-lockdown) we were expected to be in by 9.00am. The clocking system would be printed off every day and checked by HR and Management. This could have been due to norms handed down from the overseas parent company.

    Even now, I hate arriving at work at 8.59am, although I can usually blame the traffic!

    1. Lady Heather*

      Ugh, I was so used to always being 20 minutes early (transportation was difficult so that’s how I planned it) that one time I was only 10 minutes early I was convinced I was 10 minutes late, and I barged into the room I thought I was supposed to be in, apologized for being late, and realized- oh, this isn’t my meeting.

  13. Lady Heather*

    OP1, I encourage you to browse Reddit’s “Malicious Compliance” subreddit which is full of bosses insisting on excessive punctuality and employees refusing to be flexible or work late in return.

    By all means address it when employees routinely* are late to meetings or other commitments, but “late to paperwork” isn’t really a thing provided it’s finished on time.
    *routinely – alarm clocks break, so do cars. No need to address that if it happens once in a while.

    Also, consider that ideally, when an employee that’s stuck in traffic thinks about work, they are thinking “How can we best do X project? What about Y approach? Didn’t that work well last year with Z?” and not “What if I’m late? How will my boss react? What will they think of me?”
    A punitive punctuality culture doesn’t make employees more effective or efficient, it just makes them stressed and possibly distracted and/or resentful.

    1. AnNina*

      Ooh, I like your “stuck in a traffic” -example.

      I’ve also seen this happen. At a previous job the management got tired of people “flexing their hours” and they changed the system so that practically, you were either just in time or you were late, without the possibility to make up the time in the other end. So when people were one minute late, they would start the day by complaining about the system for the first hour. And at 6.30 EVERYONE was just waiting for the day to end and be able to leave right when the clock hit 5.

      This was a “white collar” office job, where we were expected to manage our own calendar, workload etc. The strict hours made absolutely no sense.

    2. Harper the Other One*

      I love your point about being “late to paperwork.” If I sit in an office for eight hours a day doing data entry, it’s unlikely to matter if I start entering data at 8 or 8:15.

    3. anon73*

      Yep, a “punitive punctuality culture” will guarantee that I do not work 1 minute more than my 40 required hours per week.

    4. Sparkles McFadden*

      I’ve always thought that if you took the time to watch staff that closely (and who has time to do that?) , you’d find they were shortchanging themselves more often that not. In one work situation, I let my staff choose their arrival/departure times because they all took different mass transit lines. I don’t like feeling rushed or having to get to work an hour early because of my train schedule, and I figured they wouldn’t either. One guy was still chronically late (as in an hour late). I explained that I wanted him to keep to an actual schedule because it made us look unprofessional if someone came looking for him and his coworkers said “I have no idea when he’ll be here.” The guy said “Oh. That makes sense” and was never late again.

  14. cncx*

    Tangential but related to OP1- one of the reasons i’m not a stickler about being on time is because my coworkers don’t care at all, they literally could not care less, what my working hours are, if they see me in the office, they’re riding me for stuff and coming to my desk- most days i can’t get my coat off before people start aggravating me for stuff that really could have been an email or otherwise waited. I NEVER get the 15 minutes to make my coffee and check my emails, heck i don’t even get the 30 seconds to take my coat off and put my bag down.

    So me showing up at 845 to start at nine means I start working at 844 actually and no, i’m not gonna do that. If my coworkers cared about leaving me alone, i would love to come in early but they don’t so i don’t.

    1. Jennifer Thneed*

      CNCX, I agree with anon73. If these coworkers are your peers, you are allowing this behavior. (If they’re all your bosses, you have a different problem.) You are allowed to say, Starting today, I’m not answering any questions until 9am. Or, Starting today, I’m only responding to emails for the first 30 minutes. If that sounds difficult, maybe tell one person at the end of your day and ask them to spread the word. If anyone asks why, the answer is “As soon as I walk in the door, I am deluged with requests. If I come in earlier, I still get deluged. I want my computer to actually be logged in before I have to answer questions.” Most people will see that this is reasonable. Most of them don’t see themselves as part of the horde, so you have to make it clear that everyone’s “just one question” adds right up.

    2. nonegiven*

      Tell all of them, “Shoot me an email and I promise I’ll read it right after coffee.” And never do anything for them unless they do.

  15. Elle by the sea*

    I grew up in a culture where punctuality is non-negotiable, but I still think OP1 is being overly pedantic about employee lateness. Especially if it’s an office job. If you are, say, a teacher, lateness is a really big issue – you are essentially wasting your students’ time. But in an office job, that shouldn’t be a deal-breaker. People who come later usually leave later, and as long as they do their job responsibly, that shouldn’t be an issue.

    1. Rayray*

      I agree.

      My first job as a teen was at a call center and while we did have set start and end times, we also got a paid 7 minute “set up” period. This was for hanging up coats, putting lunch in the fridge, using the bathroom, booting up your computer (this was back in 2007 and computers took a long time to boot up sometimes – especially the old machines we were on)

      As a grown up, no one was ever babysitting me at work nor did my hours get counted by being logged on a certain program and setting productive. However one job did have me on a strict 9-5 and I had to talk to my boss in advance and make up time when I had appointments. And the exact thing that everyone else has talked about with malicious compliance is what happened. I came in at 9:00 on the dot and left at 5:00 on the dot. If I had to stay late one day due to my boss’s demands, I came in late the next day.

      Now that I’m back somewhere air flex scheduling, it’s so nice to not be nit picked or controlled for no logica reason. My stress levels are much, much lower.

    2. Just Another Manic Millie*

      But they don’t always leave later! A former co-worker always showed up 20 – 25 minutes late and ran out the door at 5:00 PM on the dot. One of his responsibilities was filing. So that was 100 – 125 minutes of filing that weren’t done each week. (There was always tons of filing to do, and needless to say, he was never able to get caught up.) He bragged to me that he got paid just as much for showing up late as he would have gotten for showing up on time. I asked him why he didn’t try to get in earlier, and he said that he didn’t see why he should, because he was paid just as much for showing up late and running out the door at 5:00 PM.

      One day, out of the clear blue sky, the owner of the company told him that since he was always late, his hours were being changed to 9:30 AM to 5:30 PM. And if he started showing up late again (meaning after 9:30 AM), his hours would be changed to 10:oo AM to 6:00 PM. He was always on time after that, because he really hated having to stick around until 5:30 PM, and no way did he want to have to stick around until 6:00 PM.

      So not everyone who comes in late leaves late, and I don’t see how short-changing the company by approx 2 hours of filing each week was doing his job responsibly.

  16. Roeslein*

    OP#4, wouldn’t you need to communicate your address change to your employer for administrative reasons? Personally I would be wary about “hiding” a move, it can create a lot of stress and could make you look like you have something to hide when evidently that’s not the case.

    OP#1, I’m producing high quality work and regularly working evenings and weekends without complaining, and I try to be reachable by phone / email / chat regardless of whether I’m actively working or not, so if my boss ever wanted to nickel and dime me into sitting at my desk at 9am on the dot I would quite literally laugh in their face and proceed to start a job search. I suspect they know it too. I’ve been working for 10 years and have never even had a professional job where anyone would check what time I came in.

    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      Also, it’s not clear from the letter but (assuming OP4 is in the US) is the new address in the same state? While I’m not in the US myself I had picked up from this site that living in one state and working in another can sometimes be an issue.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        I assume she must be in the same state since she is already living in and working in the new location, at the relative’s house, and she said the job is cool with it for now because pandemic. I suppose it’s possible it’s a nearby state that’s got a temporary “ok fine” deal with the other state, but based on the way it’s framed in the letter, I’m assuming the work she’s doing from where is now is already kosher, at least right now.

    2. Mt*

      Not only admistrative but legally. If the new residence is in a different tax jurisdiction, the company could get into trouble for not paying the appropriate taxes.

      1. Mt*

        Or if the new residence has different labor laws than the original could get the company into trouble.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          Yes and yes. I had an employee who went to live with his parents in California when work-from-home started and didn’t tell anyone. Both HR and payroll *loved* that, since we’re in DC with no presence in CA at all.

    3. AnotherAlison*

      The address issue is what I was wondering about with OP #4. I would guess initially they left their permanent address the same and forwarded everything to where they were staying, but you can’t do that forever, and changing states could be an issue.

      Years ago, we moved 4 miles from our previous house and changed school districts, but my older son was going into high school and didn’t want to change, so we used my parents’ address in the original school district (we actually lived there 3 months between houses). It was a hassle, and I would never do it again. For the OP, I’d keep things as-is as long as they’re remote, but once they have to share where they are permanently, I’d be honest about it.

    4. Mona Lisa*

      Agree on the address change. I work for a entirely remote company, and it was a big point during on-boarding that we need to let HR know if we’re planning to move (happens frequently once people have a location-independent job) because of the tax implications. The letter writer can probably still get away with saying the permanent address is the home she owns right now, but if they sell that residence and purchase a new one, she’s going to have to notify her work of the new permanent location.

    5. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The employer already knows that they’re working from that area; they’ve been open about that part, just not that they plan to stay there permanently.

      1. Mt*

        Of there perm residence didnt change or havent met the test for having residency test in the new location then nothing would have changed. But losing their perm residence in their old location and or meeting the requirement in the new location will def set in motion what laws cover them

      2. JSPA*

        There are ways to treat your permanent residence as your residence for tax purposes, even when you’re temporarily elsewhere–especially during Covid, when people have been trapped on holidays or prevented from travel due to health considerations. That doesn’t fly, once you change permanent residences. You’d need to know a LOT more about the tax situation, and how work is handling it.

      3. L.H. Puttgrass*

        A “plan to stay there permanently” is what defines a permanent residence, though. There are other factors—some states consider you a resident and subject to state income tax after six months regardless of whether you intend to stay there indefinitely—but an intent to stay there is pretty much determinative.

        Work location and residency is complex and messy right now, so it’s entirely possible that OP4 is still being taxed as if they were a resident of their old location despite working from the new location. But planning to stay in the new location permanently would change that.

    6. OP4*

      OP4 Here –
      Our lease in original state ran out at the beginning of summer so we’ve already switched everything to the house of the family member we’re staying with in new state.
      Once we’re fully moved into the new house though I’ll need to decide whether to switch my address there and if so whether to be clear as to why (like I could hypothetically say we wanted our own space while still being close to family, but that feels like a lie of omission).

      1. JSPA*

        Ah, OK; you’ve already bitten that bullet, changed permanent residency status, have no place to move back into, at Old Location, and work knows.

        If your permanent residence has already changed to New State, and all tax stuff and regulations are squared away, then Alison’s response works.

        If work does not know that you’ve not merely “moved in for Covid / changed mailing address” but literally changed permanent / tax address, you’re already in an awkward spot. “I’m working from X and staying with my folks for childcare” ≠ “X is my permanent residence for now and for the foreseeable future; I’m telling you for tax withholding purposes, so neither of us get in trouble with the tax authorities.” Make sure you’ve had both conversations.

        1. JessicaTate*

          Exactly. This is the first thing that I thought – there are serious tax implications for a company that employs someone who lives and works in another state. Not just income tax, but unemployment insurance tax and worker’s comp insurance – which are beyond what an employee sees on their paystub. (I’m confident my remote employee has no idea all of the things that went into keeping her employment on the up-and-up with her state and ours.)

          Some rules have been relaxed during COVID, but setting up a permanent residence might move beyond relaxations. So, I 100% agree with what JSPA said: be really clear about what your company knows and has dealt with. And if others are reading this and in the same boat, I thought this article was helpful in highlighting some of the issues: https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/compensation/pages/out-of-state-remote-work-creates-tax-headaches.aspx

          1. OP4*

            This combined with JSPA’s comment below had me look into this a bit further. It does seem like I’ll have to let my office know that this isn’t a temporary move because at that point it will have tax implications. It didn’t in my new state as long as it was temporary.

    7. JSPA*

      OP #4,

      Alison’s answer was uncharacteristically off-the-cuff, and not in line with her previous answers about working remotely in a different state. You can search the site to find those more substantive answers.

      I’d be hugely wary, given issues for firms with employees based in states where they don’t have tax / payroll / local employment law expertise. Those may be moot during a temporary situation, where you’re held away from your ongoing legal address by Covid; they are NOT moot when you formally change location. You presumably will become a full time (or nearly full time) resident of a different state; your state witholding (etc) MUST reflect this, or else it’s tax fraud.

      Per a website I’ll link in an additional post, state-specific withholding is required for,

      Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin

      In any of those states, needing state-specific withholding means your workplace MUST be informed. And that, in turn, sets you up for potentially being told “no, we can’t continue to employ you as a formal resident, rather than temporary visitor, in that state,” if there are state-specific complications. Sure, you can blindside them on the day you close, or the day you sell your previous house, or the day you change your driver’s license…if you don’t mind being blindsided by, “well, then you’re fired as of today, because we have no mechanism to pay you and do state tax withholding in your state.” Or they may be able to employ you, but realize they’re no longer on the hook for providing benefits. Or any of many other suboptimal outcomes you may not have considered.

      Now, if the company is already doing state-specific withholding for your temporary address, and your temporary address is what they have on file as your address, and if they don’t give you benefits anyway, or have enough employees in said state and region that they’d have to continue benefits, or if you simply have some huge level of trust in their willingness to continue the benefits, even if someone notices they’re no longer required to provide, then Alison’s response might hold. (I don’t know if she truncates letters, and some essential details were dropped.)

      1. OP4*

        Hmm interesting. Early summer when our lease was up (per earlier comment) I informed my HR and bookkeeping of the new change of address and that I no longer had an address in original city. We recently went through open enrollment so this is also reflected on all of my insurance etc.
        This didn’t really cause additional conversation though which leaves me a little concerned. I wonder if it helps that we moved from one state on that list to another so they already have mechanisms in place for withholding? My partner’s job was similarly disinterested but had a lot of remote employees prior to the pandemic so may be better equipped.

        1. RG2*

          As someone who’s done this for my company, it matters 100% whether we’re already set up in that state to do withholding, etc. It sounds like you moved to a place on your company’s list of locations, in which case, they’d need to switch your location their payroll system to make sure they’ve set up withholding in the correct location, but wouldn’t need to register for the first time with the secretary of state, department of taxation, unemployment insurance office, etc/add benefits coverage/etc.

          (I’m convinced we’re losing GDP growth to how difficult it is to have a multi-state business for small/medium employers. It’s such a pain).

    8. Shelboss*

      #4 Not sure how you are planning on funding your home purchase, but if you are taking out a mortgage, the lender will need to verify your employment in order to qualify you for the loan. Depending on the size of your company HR could take this call or your boss could take this call (as was the case for me when I recently closed on a house). While the lender will not reveal anything about your purchase such as the location of the home, this could prompt a conversation from whoever took the call. These verification calls are common but if you are at a smaller company or this call is likely to raise conversation you might want to consider that.

  17. Grand Mouse*

    Chiming in to #1 as a blue collar worker- I do take starting times seriously, as they need me at certain times for cleaning. It does make a difference. However, none of the jobs have been sticklers about starting time, which I appreciate especially since I take the bus. Oftentimes the choice is between rushing it to be exactly on time or taking an extra 30 min (unpaid!) to get there early

    When I had tasks to complete before the store opened? It was just as much my benefit to start asap. These days? It’s more of a “I’m not dead if you don’t see me by ___” and possibly a heads up if it changes other plans, like my boss meeting with me as I start.

    I could be just exceedingly lucky, but it’s been fine within 10 min of starting, or more with notice. Honestly, the real stressor with starting time is a later leaving time, and I don’t want to miss my bus!

    1. TechWorker*

      Yep – my first job was reception and until I started cycling it involved taking 2 buses with a walk in between and at both ends. I had to be about half an hour early every day or risk being late – and on the days the bus didn’t come or was delayed I sometimes ended up taking an alternative one and practically running the last mile to get there in time. If you weren’t there the relieve the previous shift (and provide the slightly more experienced reception that was meant to start at 9, vs the overnight security staff) that was a major problem.

    2. Allonge*

      Yes, this is something very visible in hourly jobs: if you cannot start (paid) earlier, but are penalised for being late, then the only reasonable option is to be exactly on time.

      Which is not possible, not long term anyway. Being on time in the normal human world means planning to arrive early. Planning to be exactly on time usually comes up in magical thinking on how time works.

  18. Alex (UK)*

    #1 – I’m kind of on the opposite end of this right now. My boss has always been a bit of a stickler for punctuality, and since we moved to WFH she’s become even more so, I think because she feels it’s something she can control in a world where there’s not a lot that’s in control right now. She insists on her team being logged in & visible on our messenger service by 8:30am when there is no business need for this to be the case, and certainly no need for to-the-minute punctuality.

    As someone who constantly runs 5-10mins late regardless of what I try, this is a struggle although I’m almost always logged on by 8:40 at the latest, but this isn’t good enough and is a constant source of tension. I have tried pointing out to my boss that I routinely stay logged on for 1hr or longer at the end of the day, with no compensation or time off in lieu (not in the US, overtime doesn’t apply), but that fact is brushed aside when talking about start times.

    It takes a lot of mental energy to get logged on for 8:30 (which I know sounds stupid, it’s 10 minutes earlier, how hard can it be? I don’t know, but it really is), but I’ve started doing it. In return, I’m making sure I log off at 4:30 on the dot. If my boss wants to nickle & dime me for a few minutes in the morning, well I’ll do the same in the afternoon.

    1. allathian*

      Your manager’s being silly and I’m so sorry. I would be a lot less sympathetic if you were always late to meetings, because that would be disrespectful of someone else’s time. But in this case, I think your boss is an idiot.

    2. Batgirl*

      I think you’re right about it being ‘something I can control in an out of control world’. I also consider it to mean ‘I don’t know how to assess employees’ work, but I can assess their punctuality’.

    3. Xavier Desmond*

      Worth mentioning it is illegal to make you work longer than your contracted hours in the UK without overtime pay or time off in lieu

      1. JSPA*

        Could be the source of some of the push-back; if it’s being framed as “I work late for an hour if I come in late by 15 minutes,” and there’s no mechanism to pay you for the extra 45 minutes, they’re going to say, “just be on time, don’t work late.”

      2. BigBrain*

        She’s making the choice to work later, work isnt making her.

        Work is telling her to be on time. At this point, it’s all her own doing if she gets disciplined for it. For being late or working late.

  19. Green great dragon*

    A colleague of mine has a line in his email signature: “I’m dyslexic, please ignore errors, let me know if something’s unclear.” As far as I can tell it’s a complete non-issue, and I think there’s something about the way he’s so up front about it that really reinforces the point that it’s just a thing he has to work around, doesn’t mean he can’t do his job.

    1. allathian*

      Exactly. Some of the most successful and ambitious people I know are dyslexic. They’ve been able to compensate for that through hard work and determination, and through self-knowledge. They know their strengths and their weaknesses. All of them definitely know that when clear communication and proper spelling and grammar are essential, they’ll let someone else proofread their writing.

    2. Ashley*

      For the more informal notes Grammerly is great. The free version seems to catch my most obvious typos. I tend to just use it in Word though because it slowed down my email program but I just copy and paste from Word in to the email.

    3. I Herd the Cats*

      As the person whose job is is to clean up typos for my dyslexic boss — he’s one of the smartest people I know, and a delight to work for, and is pretty open about his dyslexia, which I’m hoping is helping to de-stigmatize it. I also wanted to add since I don’t see it mentioned in comments so far: a lot of programs like Word and Outlook have an “assistant” built in that will highlight the wrong word (form/from) and suggest the correct one. It’s not perfect but it works pretty well.

  20. Malika*

    LW 1:
    A couple employers back, the timeliness issue wasn’t raised by management, but it became a competitive subject among staff. The early birds who came in to beat the commute (and worked just as many hours as the people who came later) could be rather holier-than thou about it, and as someone who came in a bit later with the blessing of management, it irritated me to be greeted with ‘Good Afternoon’ at 9:30. Never mind a teammate who regularly worked in the evening due to transatlantic video meetings, and was perceived as a slacker because she came in an hour later in the morning.

    If you are at the front desk or have a customer-serving role, you need to work on your punctuality, it is unfortunately a non-negotiable. For any other role, and if you don’t have a meeting at nine on the dot, it works best if there is more leeway and people can be judged on their deliverables and allround quality of work.

    1. Workerbee*

      Those “you always come in late” faux-jovial types are often flummoxed by a loud, “Why do you always leave early?” response. :)

      1. Lady Meyneth*

        Works the other way too, for when people complain us early birds get to leave early! :)

        And this reminds me of the one time I was summoned by HR at my previous job. We had flexible hours, any time between 6AM and 10PM was fine. I had a coworker who always got to work between 11:45 – 12:15. Our jobs didn’t intersect much, so I couldn’t care less, but I wished her good afternoon fairly often (since, you know, it was after noon). She complained to manager and HR that I was harassing her and policing her arrival time.

        It was the funniest meeting ever after she said what the “harassment” was. The outraged coworker, me trying not to laugh, the manager getting increasingly annoyed at the waste of time, and HR person actually speechless. After that, I stopped acknowledging her if she got to work after noon and, wouldn’t you know it, she complained again and was laughed out of the manager’s office.

        1. M. Strick*

          If a coworker said “good afternoon” to me, unless they greeted everyone that way, I would assume they were in fact making a special point of noting the time (presumably to police my arrival). And since your response to her complaint was to ignore her entirely (instead of saying hello or hi) I’d bet you were closer to the former than the latter.

    2. cncx*

      i worked with a receptionist whose job was front facing who came in at SIX AM to beat the traffic and was always looking for someone to cover the phones from 3 to 5 and it’s like…i get beating the traffic but two whole hours when, if you job is front facing, there are no phones to answer…it was annoying. She too would have stuff to say to me when i waltzed in at 930 with my starbucks. at the same job i had a coworker whose boss is in a time zone six hours away and they always had stuff to stay about her starting at ten…no one said anything about her working until 8pm overtime tho.

      1. Malika*

        Depending on her job responsibilities, it could actually be a good move to come in two hours earlier. Any office management duties can then be carried out without missing phone calls and incoming guests. The drawback is of course that no one wants to deal with the phones when you want to leave early. As a receptionist I actually had more sympathy with the people who came later and worked later. I saw what they were doing more than most through the correspondence and Front Office tasks I had to do for them, and am surprised that this receptionist did not have the same view.

        1. WellRed*

          If she’s responsible for answering the phones though, two hours a day is a lot to ask others to cover.

          1. Observer*

            If she’s also the office manager, that’s the employer’s problem though – it can be EXTREMELY difficult to do what you need to as an office manager when you have to deal with people in person or on the phone.

            1. Malika*

              Quite often the jobs get merged in the country I live in. It is extremely difficult to be accurate at details and be the first port of call for anyone that walks through the office. Hence why I had an early start at my OM jobs and why i am also trying to avoid front office duties in my job search, though beggars can’t be choosers at the moment.

              1. Observer*

                It’s common here, too. And it just makes no sense. As you say, being highly detail oriented is very hard when you keep getting interrupted by random stuff.

          2. Malika*

            It depends on how many calls you get through at the main reception. At my last job, customer service Marketing and HR had their own direct lines. As a receptionist, you then only deal with sporadic calls.

            It’s a tough sell, though. It only works if management clearly communicates who covers when. If it’s up to the receptionist to find cover, you’re f-ed. No one wants to cover a duty that leads to such intangible results.

      2. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

        I once worked a job where the bookkeeper worked this shift. It let her beat the traffic, and get 2-3 hours of uninterrupted work before everyone else came into the office. But she also had no front-facing responsibilities (or at least none that weren’t shared by everyone in our small office).

  21. Bobina*

    OP3: I think being open, but matter of fact about what you need in terms of accommodations is the best way to go. When I worked with someone with dyslexia, though their job didn’t require much writing, they simply had a line in their email signature which was along the lines of: “I’m dyslexic, please excuse any typos or incorrect grammar in this mail. If you cant understand something, please give me a call” – or something along those lines. I think something like that for internal work is fine, and for more formal – external communications, I would go the route of building in proofreading.

    It depends how open you want to be about it, but honestly – no one was bothered and we all did our best to work with it.

  22. Lifelong student*

    At the risk of being an old fogey- I think that people who consistently ignore set times to do things demonstrate an attitude of not caring about details. That attitude often carries over into their performance in accomplishing tasks. It seems to me the attitude is highly self-centered and shows a lack of awareness of the needs and wants of others. Note- I am not talking about the occasional deviation- just consistent violation of norms.

    1. Magenta*

      I would say this is out of touch and focusing on things that don’t matter. It is one thing to make sure you are on time for meetings, calls etc where other people may have to wait, but really not important when you are talking about bums in seats.
      People appreciate flexibility and generally behave like adults when you treat them that way. I trust my team to do the work that needs doing and put in extra time when something is important, they are happy to do this because they know that when they have something going on they get the same flexibility.
      Some people prefer to start earlier, some later I let them and they do better work for it.

      1. Harper the Other One*

        +1 to this. Set start times, if they exist, should MATTER. They should be about things like relieving someone else’s shift, a meeting or a client call, or a report that has to be turned in at a specific time. If the start time doesn’t really matter, trust adults to manage their time and address any issues if they’re not doing it.

    2. Forrest*

      For me it’s about priorities. I will be on time for anything client-facing and for meetings. But if I can only drop my kids off at daycare from 8.30 and then it takes me 25-30 minutes to get to work, and there isn’t anything that specifically *needs* my attention at 9am, then insisting that I run to work or drop my 2yo on the daycare step the second it opens and then charge off without saying goodbye or making sure that she’s settled into to be absolutely 100% sure I’m at my desk at 9am is way more inconsiderate.

      1. Delta Delta*

        And knowing that, it seems inconsiderate for your office to schedule you for a client meeting at 9. It might happen from time to time, but if you’re regularly being scheduled for something you can’t attend because you have to get your child situated, that’s bad on the office.

    3. Dave*

      I think there a lot of the comments are trying to say there should be a difference between a working start time for most jobs and actual set times. Sure constantly being late for a meeting with others is rude in my opinion. If I start work 10 minutes early or 10 minutes late shouldn’t really matter if I am not relieving someone of their shift or needed to greet customers, opening the building, etc.
      Plus the more flexibility I am given the more flexible I am willing to be. When my office starts getting nitpicky on certain things I give it right back even if I spend an hour doing something that should take 5 minutes because they created some new policy without any input sometimes you just say ok.

    4. Sylvan*

      Depends on the job, but if you’re relieving someone else, preparing to open a restaurant, working in a medical office where people have set appointment times, etc. I agree. In other roles, I don’t care so much, but it still shows that someone thinks they’re exempt from the standards everyone else is working to meet.

    5. NotAnotherManager!*

      Sorry to disappoint, but I am routinely late to work, and I have amazing attention to detail (or so over a decade of reviews in jobs where it matter tell me) and I have a reputation for being the person to talk to if you want to get something done and delivered. In 15 years of managing, I haven’t noticed a correlation between my punctual folks and the top performers, and attention to detail is a big thing in my world.

      I’m late mostly because of DC traffic and despite trying the standard “just leave earlier!” advice, the DC commuting gods decided in the late 90s that any attempt at leaving early could be easily counteracted by a metro fire or derailment, and it’s not worth the stress to worry about it any more. Plus, my kids’ school is not interested in moving their start time to accommodate a “just leave earlier!” schedule. Fortunately, my boss is a performance over punctuality person, and it’s worked out just fine for both of us.

      The flip side to that, I guess, is that I find that clockwatchers – when there is no reason for it, because some jobs *do* require adherence to time schedules – do not tend to be the best performers because they’re more focused on rule-following than actually achieving business objectives. People are a lot more flexible with me when I need them to work through lunch or stay late when I’m not tapping my watch at them all the time or insinuating that being late is a narcissistic personality flaw.

    6. anon73*

      You don’t sound like an old fogey, you sound out of touch with reality and judgmental. I am usually early to everything, am extremely organized and detail oriented, but (when I was in an office) was usually 5-15 minutes late most mornings. If I had to be there at a specific time for a specific meeting or event, I was on time. But in the daily routine of my job, being there at a specific time (within reason) was just not relevant.

    7. MCMonkeyBean*

      This disregards late “chronotypes.” For many people, getting out of bed and getting ready for the day is genuinely more difficult than it is for other parts of the population. That doesn’t mean they won’t do a great job once they are awake and at work.

    8. Jenny F. Scientist*

      I’m an academic. Nobody cares what time I get to work; nobody cares when I do my grading; the only requirement is that I do the work. Maybe not every workplace has the same norms! Maybe not everyone actually needs something from me at 9 sharp and the time I get to work is an *irrelevant* detail.

      I have to drop my daughter off at school at 8:15. It matters a lot that someone should be there, at work, at that time. The grocery store and the doctor’s office have set schedules; they probably care what time people get there. I have scheduled office hours; it would be rude of me to not be on time (though sometimes, something happens and I’m late). I have to teach at 11:30; my students would be distressed and confused if I didn’t show up. But my ability and privilege to manage my own time have no correlation with how much I care about details.

    9. Elsajeni*

      On the other hand, I think people who think everything needs to happen at a set time demonstrate a lack of flexibility. Of course some things happen at particular times; Alison’s response addresses that, and the letter doesn’t say anything about people showing up late to meetings or not being available to cover the phones. But there are tons of jobs that don’t need to start at any specific time of day, and tons of tasks in all sorts of jobs that don’t need to be done at any particular time to get done. Rigidly holding people to a 9:00 start time, when their jobs can get done just as well and thoroughly if they start at 9:10, doesn’t demonstrate caring about details; it demonstrates a lack of respect for their time, their autonomy, and their decision-making.

    10. oranges & lemons*

      I think the thing to consider is whether strict punctuality is really something worth employees and management spending their time and energy on, when there isn’t a good reason for it. If an employee is regularly sloppy, rude to others and also comes in 10 minutes late most days, it seems like the really crucial matter to address is not the 10 minutes. That’s just taking time away from the more important things.

  23. DesignTime*


    I have a close friend who had a lot of success with a dislexia specific font called Dyslexie. Might be something to consider if you haven’t tried it already. It is designed to help readers with dislexia and may be a good option for your internal work. It looks a little too informal for external publications but it might help inter-office comms.

    1. Moi*

      To piggy back on this, it should be possible to install additional fonts onto a Windows machine and have all text on the machine display with a specific font. IT may be needed to help set this up as a couple guides I’ve read involve modifying a registry key, but it should make all incoming or outgoing font using the default System Font be displayed in Dyslexie without it being evident to co-workers as it’s limited to the individual’s machine.

  24. squirrel!*

    My current job is super flexible about work hours (especially now — what is time in 2020, even?), but for almost a decade I had a job where there were actual reasons for being on time, and as LW1 said, ideally getting there a few minutes early so you were actually prepared to start working at starting time. IDGAF about when my co-workers start their day now, but for that near decade at the other job I had co-workers who were chronically late, and whose lateness caused me real trouble and anxiety on a regular basis. It was a real problem, but we had an ineffective manager, so those of us who were on time every day just dealt with the stress and rush almost every morning. It was a really messed up situation, and assuming this is why LW1 is so upset, I totally get it. It was so disrespectful of our chronically late co-workers and of management — they knew that two of us would be on time, and our reliability was rewarded with daily anxiety from dealing with a predictable morning rush while being understaffed.

    I totally agree that if it’s not a job where being in at a specific time matters, LW1 needs to pay attention to their own work and let it go. But if it’s anything like my old situation, I totally get their frustration, and that feeling of being used by co-workers and ignored by management. It is so infuriating on so many levels.

    1. Observer*

      Yes, context is key. The problem is that the OP doesn’t provide any context, but from what they say is seems to be more about “this is the way we’ve done it” rather than “this is the business impact.”

      OP, if it’s the latter, then you need to articulate that clearly.

  25. Random Commenter*

    If work starts at 9:00AM, I think that the employee should be there at 9:00AM.

    BUT, work should only start at 9:00AM if it has to. I think that flex time should be the default unless there’s a reason that it’s not practical.

  26. Jh*

    #1 Lateness to me is an issue when other people can’t do their job, or are otherwise inconvenienced. People who show up late to meetings without notice are the worst, particularly when outside individuals are invited. Pretty rude. Makes the late attendee and their colleagues look unprofessional.

    Also, some people take advantage in flexible environments and get away with it when others cannot. I worked at a place once where this dude showed up at 2pm… We all typically arrived between 8:30-9:30 am. Then he’d complain if he missed client meetings and advancement opportunities. Our boss wasn’t happy but never did anything about it. Thing is, new employees saw this and started coming in later and later. He also managed to get a work from home arrangement once a week… My coworker became pregnant and asked if she could do the same as she was commuting an hour each way… Nope. She left a few weeks later. I left a few months after that!

    Ultimately lateness needs to be fair to others. People shouldn’t be inconvenienced because someone else is late, and should be awarded the same leniency if they themselves are late. It’s tricky…

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      I think this is the right way to look at it, and “others being inconvenienced” is pretty much the standard my team works by. If your team needs you there, be there on time. If there is a meeting, be there on time and prepared. (If you’re going to be in court, be there early.) If someone else needs you to relieve them, be there on time. Otherwise, just get your job done.

      I would feel differently if I did shift work, retail, reception, or something that required coverage requirements, but I don’t. I don’t have a ton of patience with people who want to extend this level of rigidity where it’s not needed for the job. I worked for years under an HR that dinged folks for showing up five minutes late but then expected them to stay hours late on no notice any time the company needed them – made it very hard to get things done and keep people feeling like their time was respected.

      1. Dan*

        I did shift work for years before getting into a office job. The environments are totally different.

        At one job, I had to give everybody a 30 minute lunch break, but only one person could go at a time. So yes, it took a few hours to get through all the breaks. The interesting thing was that the way our workflow was set up, the last person on break could take an hour. As a sup, I certainly appreciated having a carrot to incentivize someone to take the late break. I made it clear with the team that there wasn’t any slack on breaks, because straggling back from breaks would cascade and the people at the end are going to get pissed. Also, as a sup, my rule was that the team got breaks before I did.

        One day, I had a guy come up to me and say, “hey dude. You ride our butts about 30 minute breaks but you take your sweet time. That’s not cool.” My response was twofold: “First, did you get your break yesterday? [Yes]. Well, I didn’t, because work was FUBARd and I work through break. Second, the last guy who takes a break gets an hour, and that’s not news to anybody. So if you want the hour, feel free to call dibs on last break. I ask everyday who wants it, and it rotates.”

        That was a short conversation. Now I have a job where start times aren’t things, and breaks aren’t things. Vastly different worlds.

    2. Observer*

      Actually, I don’t think it’s tricky at all. The problem at your workplace was not that the manager was navigating a complex situation, but that they were NOT navigating, and penalized people for their failure to navigate.

      Your coworker was making his own hours without regard to the needs of others, and your manager was letting him get away with that. And then they turned around and refused any flexibility to someone who was enough of a rule follower to ask instead of just doing what she wanted. That’s ridiculous.

    3. anon73*

      It’s really not that tricky. You treat people like adults, be flexible when you can be, and enforce consequences when it becomes a problem.

    4. RobotWithHumanHair*

      Oof, that totally reminds me of a couple jobs ago. I was one person in a two-person department, the kind of active job where there were often multiple tasks going on at once, where I would often have to be in two places at once. I was in at 7am every day and ordinarily wouldn’t leave until 5:30-6pm, depending on what was going on that day (sometimes as late as 8pm). My coworker? Most days he didn’t stroll in until after 11am and too many days, I didn’t see him until as late as 1 or 2pm – and a lot of time he would mysteriously disappear before 5pm. In ordinary circumstances, this would hugely inconvenience me because someone had to be on call within the department during working hours (think responding to help desk calls on a cell phone) and more often than not, I wouldn’t get lunch breaks because of this. The catch was, my boss loved this guy and would never do anything about it – meanwhile, I had to check in with my boss daily via email when I arrived in the morning and left in the evening because for some reason, he didn’t trust me to be present at work when I needed to be. Go figure.

      Mind you, if this coworker had at least been competent when he actually WAS around, it might not have been AS irksome, but over time, I found myself being more efficient when he wasn’t around because I wasn’t forced to clean up his messes. And other colleagues saw this and would often give me a pass if I was delayed responding to a call, etc. because they knew what my workload was like.

      My last job, I was always cognizant of the potential of inconveniencing others due to lateness, leaving early, etc. During particularly busy days, I would first ask “Am I cool to take a lunch break or will it put you guys up against a time crunch?” or if I was particularly late due to traffic or whatnot, I would always make it up at the end of the day to keep things moving smoothly.

  27. Rao*

    A fundamental, baseline job expectation is that you will be on time. Alison is just in a bubble world. I am talking Jobs 101 stuff that applies to hourly service and professional salaried workers across the board.

    1. Alex (UK)*

      No, I think you’re wrong here.

      Of course, in many retail, hospitality, manufacturing jobs (amongst others), you need to be punctual to relieve a co-worker’s shift, or to make sure you’re opening for customers at a certain time, or you’re ready to cover the phones. In those cases, being punctual is an important part of the job, but that’s clear from the outset and something an employee signs up for.

      However, in many jobs, particularly office-based jobs, that to-the-minute punctuality just isn’t important. It makes no material difference if I turn up at 8:55am, or 9:10am – the work gets done either way. In fact, in many professional, salaried jobs, the expectation is that you use the flexibility afforded to you keep your home/work life balance in check, which keeps you more productive, more engaged and generally a happier and better employee. An employee who is stressed about never being a minute late to the office for a job which doesn’t require it is not an optimal outcome. Nor is an employee who sticks to the rigid start time, but in return also sticks to a rigid finish time and isn’t motivated to put in extra work when it’s needed because their boss nickles & dimes them over 5 minutes in the morning.

      1. Jennifer*

        You’re right that it makes no material difference in a lot of jobs what time someone arrives – unless there is a meeting scheduled for 8 am on the dot. However, there are a lot of people out there who have an old-fashioned point of view about this and will judge you for being a few minutes late. It’s a good idea to get a feel for the office before you make a habit of turning up 10 minutes late. I’ve learned from experience. There’s how the world should be vs. how it actually is.

        1. TTDH*

          I feel like some of the reason for the split in thinking here is that OP1’s position is pretty ambiguous from their letter – are they setting the start time, or just following it? It’s very true that a person shouldn’t read this advice and think it’s going to be OK for them to show up late, but a lot of what is written here is geared towards a situation where OP1 is setting the start time expectation – in which case it makes sense to remind OP that a rigid start time doesn’t necessarily translate into any tangible business results.

          1. mgguy*

            The OP mentions that they consider “on time” to be 10 minutes early. Even IF my job requires me to be there punctually at 8:00 or whenever, what’s it to my boss if I sit down at my desk and get right to work at 8:00 exactly or if I show up a half hour early to settle in. I lean more toward the latter because that’s just how I work best. My wife is a nurse and 7:00 on the dot is an expectation for the shift change to work properly and safely, and she prefers 20-30 minutes before also to allow for traffic, parking issues, elevators, and just settling in before going to work.

            Still, though, if you DO need to be there at a specific time and, again, if you can nail it, more power to you. My father-in-law works part time at the local grocery store. He has a 10 minute drive where he takes the back roads, and has parked in the same spot for the last ~35 years he’s been there. He’s there ready to work at his designated starting time, but rarely more than a minute or two early.

    2. HelloHello*

      The office job I’ve worked at for nearly ten years would be surprised to find out about that requirement, given I’m free to start my day any time between 7:30 and 9:30 (or even later, if need arises.) And no, we don’t technically have flex hours. We’re just all expected and trusted to manage our schedules and show up on time when it matters for deadlines or meetings.

    3. justabot*

      I think it’s one of those things where perception is reality. If the office work day starts at 9:00 a.m. and a few coworkers saunter in at 9:20, 9:30, 9:40…. yea, people notice. Right or wrong, there is a perception. And that the people who are sitting at their desks at 9:00 a.m. (even if they are on Facebook) are the ones who look like the disciplined, dedicated, and productive employees.

      I remember an ex-boyfriend once told me, “It looks far better to be at your desk 5 minutes early than walk in 15 minutes late” – and after working in several different corporate offices, I fully agree.

    4. Khatul Madame*

      On time for what???
      In the exempt, white-collar world there is this notion of core hours, say 10am – 4pm. Meetings are normally scheduled within this range, and people need to be in the office/online. When they start and end work is irrelevant, as long as they get their tasks completed on time, at the expected level of quality.

      1. Anya Last Nerve*

        So what happens when one of these employees decides their core hours are 10:20-4:20? Is that okay? If so, what if one person decides they aren’t productive until 11? Or 12? If those are fine then core hours don’t matter either.

        1. Elenna*

          Well, the idea of core hours is that you can set meetings within that time and reasonably expect that everyone is there. If the “not productive until 12” person is showing up to meetings between 10am and noon, and they’re getting all their work done, then sure.

        2. Lady Meyneth*

          Core hours are supposed to be a time when everyone is available so meetings are preferably scheduled then. If someone has no meetings scheduled at 10AM, then yeah, I’d say it’s ok to get to work after that as long as their work gets done on time and they don’t inconvenience anyone else. That should be the whole point to the company: work getting done.

        3. Jackalope*

          Then they’re late. Whenever I’ve had core hours you could show up any time between when the office opened (had to have someone input the security code to turn off the alarm, etc) and the beginning of core hours, or for shift work any time between the beginning of your shift’s flex window and the end. Then you work 8 hours from when you arrive and you’re done. If core hours are 9-3 and flex arrival is 7-9, then starting at 7:00, 8:21, and 8:59 are all on time, but 9:01 is late. There’s still some expectation of punctuality but a lot of flexibility which means you don’t have to stress about daycare drop-offs or late buses. In all of my years of working for places like that I think I’ve been late once, and that was due to a snow storm, flat tire, and late bus all on the same day.

        4. DarnTheMan*

          My office’s core hours are 8:30 to 5. One of my co-workers has a long commute so routinely works 10-6:30 to avoid the worst of rush house traffic. At a previous job, our core hours were 9-5 but I had a co-worker who came in at 7 and left at 3, also to avoid traffic on her commute. In both cases the employees had proved themselves to be exemplary, trustworthy workers so were rewarded by being allowed to flex their schedules in ways that worked for them. And if anyone complained, their proven track record for being on time for their personal set hours, as well as their high performance on the job, was usually enough of an explanation.

      2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        Exactly. For me, “on-time” is any time between 6 am and 12 pm working until whenever (generally 7-10 hrs). “On-time” is only relevant for specific scheduled events

    5. Researcher*

      Right, but the definition of “on time” varies by job, and rightfully so. Arriving at exactly X minute is a whole other job in itself depending on your location or your other personal responsibilities. Don’t put undue burden on people if it’s not necessary.

      Unless you live next door, being on time *to the exact minute* usually takes careful planning and built-in contingencies. It means worrying about punitive consequences of not arriving at the exact minute. This is also labor. It’s emotional labor, and it’s unpaid.

      For most professional jobs where employees have decision making authority with broad impact or 24/7 accountability, this isn’t how I want them laboring. This kind of minutiae is not worth their emotional labor when I need them to be strategizing and solving big problems. If stopping for a coffee and being a few minutes late helps you do that, great.

      As it relates to hourly workers whose jobs necessitate a specific time of arrival, it would go along way for employers to recognize that in order to arrive at exactly X minute, countless unpaid minutes of emotional labor go into making that happen.

      1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

        The thing about most professional *career paths*, though, is that you’re not allowed to get to the point where you’re not spending your emotional labour on being on time unless you’ve already proven that you can consistently be right on time, all the time.

        If an entry-level employee rolled in and tried to justify being a few minutes late because it saves them emotional labour and prioritizes their energy for actual work deliverables, most managers would want to laugh them out of the room or backhand them. You earn career advancement through showing that the emotional labour of being on time isn’t a big deal for you or doing your best to make it look easy. At some point, as you pointed out, its importance starts to fade in comparison to other job duties, but by that time it’s ingrained.

        Do I think it should be that way? Not at all. But when you have people come up through the ranks expected to prioritize these things to maintain their professional image, it’s understandable why some people struggle to defend being a few minutes late.

        1. Researcher*

          Yes, many people have “paid their dues” by being perfectly punctual over the years and that’s how they earned advancement, but the fact remains that the status quo is changing in many industries. Applying out-dated expectations (when they’re not truly needed) is going to drive good people away, especially folks with skills that are in high demand.

          If there are two places where I can work, and one of them evaluates me based on my skills and my work product and is ok with me arriving within 15 minutes of start time, whereas the other makes me feel like I have to exceed the speed limit in inclement weather for fear of diminishing my opportunities for professional advancement, the choice, for me, is obvious.

          1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

            I agree with you, and I’d choose the place that gives leeway as well – but I sure didn’t have the kind of luxury of choosing those kinds of places until I successfully ran a short gauntlet of managers with bad expectations. Now I’d never look back. I suspect that my experience isn’t at all uncommon; even in white-collar fields, entry-level jobs can have expectations that aren’t much different than what you’d expect if you were flipping burgers.

            My point was that entry-level candidates, even those whose skills are in high demand, are at more risk of being subject to irrelevant punctuality expectations and they have zero political capital to push against that unless they want their careers to come to a dead halt. Early-career folks don’t get to write their own rules; what they can do, though, is play by someone else’s game until they’re deemed a golden child, and then they can use their stellar references to get out of dodge.

          2. DarnTheMan*

            +100; at old!job I arrived early most days because I like to not rush around in the morning and have time to settle in before “work” hours kick in, but eventually it became expected that I’d be starting 20-30 minutes (of unpaid time) in advance and senior management tended to make snide comments if I arrived anywhere closer to actual core hours about how they thought I wasn’t showing up that day. At current!job I did the same thing and eventually my manager told me she wanted to flex my schedule so if I kept showing up early, then I would get to leave early. Flexibility makes people happy.

    6. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Ha, no. There are loads of professional jobs where literally no one cares if you’re there at 9 or 9:10. You may not have had those jobs, but there are plenty of them.

    7. anon73*

      No, you’re the one in “a bubble world”. Outside of certain jobs (shift work where you’re relieving a co-worker, customer service on the phones, receptionist to greet customers, etc.) is makes no fundamental difference if you show up at 9am or 9:15am. You focus on productivity not the hands on the clock, and you’ll get a lot more out of people. Because for me (and I’m sure a large majority of adults), if you’re insisting that I be in my seat and ready to work at EXACTLY 9am, then you’re also guaranteeing that you will not see me one minute past 5pm.

      1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

        It doesn’t make a fundamental difference to your productivity, but it might in terms of how your character is perceived, and perception is everything.

        1. anon73*

          If my co-workers are going to be so petty that they judge me for being 10 minutes late every day, even though I get my job done and stay late when needed, and don’t cause them any issues with getting their stuff done, that’s a THEM problem, not a ME problem. As long as my manager is cool with my schedule and perceived “lateness”, that’s all I care about.

          1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

            That’s fair, to a point. I was referring more to managers’ perceptions, because you don’t have control over where you manager sets the goalposts, even if you think they’re setting them incorrectly.

            But yeah, co-worker perception matters too, but to a point. Sure it’s a “them” problem, but why make choices that’ll make it that much more difficult to build rapport? Sometimes demonstrating that you know that you’re subject to the same rules as everyone else counts for a lot, unfortunately.

            1. anon73*

              If you have a flexible and reasonable manager, you are adhering to the rules for everyone. I do my job, I’m civil and kind to my co-workers and if they want to judge me or gossip about me behind my back because they “think” I’m late, I honestly don’t care.

  28. Tarry*

    OP1 I would ask is there a reason for your start time? I work a job with no start or finish times and so if there’s no meeting scheduled there’s no concept of “late”. However, when I’ve been doing team projects rather than individual, we needed a degree of common overlap for efficiency. So even though there was still no start or finish time, it was a problem if we weren’t overlapping – and we did have to work this out with both early and late starters in the team.

    If there’s a work reason to have a start time I can understand being frustrated that people turn up late. But if the only significance of your “start” time is that this is the start time, you need to let this go. For many people having a flexible start time, or starting slightly after the hour, makes work-life so much simpler. Think the public transport that runs only once an hour, the before school care that doesn’t open early enough to arrive 5 mins earlier. The one car family that is doing multiple drop offs. The person who has a great exercise class that gets them to work at 5 past. The person who starts working from home and then shifts over in the quieter traffic by starting a bit later. Or even just the person who sits in variable traffic and so will arrive within a 15 minute window.

    Employers shouldn’t make work frustrating, stressful or less compatible with life outside without cause.

  29. Strawberry Red*

    OP #1, please don’t be *that* boss.

    I’ve always been punctual; I’m usually one of the first people to arrive in the morning. But there was one time at my last job when I was two minutes late; literally two (think 9:02 vs 9:00). I was spoken to by the boss about it. The reason why I was two minutes late? I was taking a call from my doctor with important test results.

    I started job-searching that very day.

  30. pretzelgirl*

    OP#1- If you live in an area that has snow or other inclement weather you may want to consider that too. I am a person that is usually early for work. I have an hour commute and I like being early (although no one cares if you are on time or later at my job). However there are times I leave myself plenty of time and in the winter I can be upwards of an hour or 2 late sometimes 3-4 times a winter. If it snows during my commute, or there is an accident traffic is terrible. Sorrynotsorry I am not leave 2 hours early everyday during the winter months “in case”.

    Once during my first week and my FIRST POST COLLEGE JOB I was 4 hours late bc of snow and an accident. I was horribly worried. My boss didn’t care. She was like “it happens”.

    1. CheeryO*

      This is very regional, I think. I live in the Great Lakes snow belt, and the expectation is that you’re on time regardless of the weather, save for actual blizzards that might affect the commute once or twice per winter (and even then, you’re expected to make up the time). I’ve had days where I was an hour late because it took me that long to chip the ice off of my car, and even though I didn’t get disciplined, people definitely judged me for it (“why didn’t you wake up earlier?”).

      1. anon73*

        Yes there are certain areas of the country that are more prepared for snow. A foot of snow in Buffalo – not a big deal. An inch of snow in Atlanta – the city shuts down. Regardless, it should be taken into account when someone is late to work, just like traffic or any number of mishaps that could occur any morning of any day.

      2. Pretzelgirl*

        I live in the Great Lakes region as well and most places (I have worked, except maybe retail) are pretty understanding about commute times in bad weather. But I do have friends that have struggled with this mentality in my area. They hate it.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Good boss.

      I drove across glare ice to get to work. A huge plow truck skidded off the road, it was that bad. Scary stuff. It took 2 hours to get to work. I only left 1.5 hours early so I was a half hour late. (I left an hour and a half early to make what is basically a 20 minute trip.) My thanks for coming in was to get the silent treatment all day from the boss. After that I just called in sick when there was an ice storm. I still got attitude. but at least I wasn’t scared out of my mind by the road conditions. No job is worth dying for.

  31. Person from the Resume*

    LW4, I recommend you wait until you are told a firm date that you need to return to the office or until you find a new local or full time working from home job.

    If you’re very certain that you cannot work from home full time, you should begin taking care of yourself and start job hunting now. Or perhaps wait until the task of building a house and moving is complete, but you shouldn’t wait to start looking until after you get the notice that you have to return to work. The job market is difficult now and you prioritize your need for a job now. Knowing that you are planning to resign soon makes it more likely for you to be let go if your management needs to let anyone go. That’s actually the best business decision to make in such a situation.

    Who knows how much notice that firm return date will be? I think January is unlikely to be much safer than now, but July might be. OTOH some people and companies want to pandemic to be over so the are choosing to pretend it’s over and have returned to work when it is not any safer than before so maybe you might return in January.

  32. Jennifer*

    #5 I’d leave all the work stuff out and just check in on her and ask how she’s doing. Let her bring up work if she’s interested. She may not be. Or she may have already heard that you still work there.

  33. NotsorecentAAMfan*

    #4. Maybe get a green screen now and start using virtual backgrounds (“It’s so much easier than making sure my place is tidy”) so that you can just keep using that after you move to avoid awkward questions.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      I think people are less likely to notice your background than you think they are. But you could always say “oh yeah, I’m in a different room now” if any comments. And it’s the truth.

  34. blackcatlady*

    For #1 you are unreasonable if your employees are getting the work done. Do you clock their lunches? Use a stopwatch to time bathroom breaks? I will say punctuality is CRITICAL for meetings. There is nothing more annoying than sitting around a table waiting for the last person to show up. But please don’t get your knickers in a knot over 10 minutes if your people are good. You will just drive excellent workers out the door.

    1. Anya Last Nerve*

      Punctuality is also critical when you are starting a conference call. I feel it is so disrespectful of my time for people to start calls late or join calls late. I have put aside my other work and joined the call – I expect you to do the same, especially if you scheduled the call with me and are asking for my time.

  35. DArcy*

    The OP isn’t even demanding being on time, however; they’re demanding ten minutes early. For those of us who are paid by the hour, it is grossly unreasonable to demand that we show up before we’re scheduled and paid. If you need me ten minutes early, fork over the paid time.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      I disagree. If a person needs to be ready to interact with customers then when the office opens, then they need to be ready to do that. If the office opens at 9 and you need someone on the front desk and phones, they can’t walk in at 9 and then spend the next 10 minutes to hang up a coat, use the bathroom, putting lunch in the fridge and making coffee in the kitchen before sitting down at the desk ready to work.

      It’s work dependent, though. A knowledge worker, an office worker who doesn’t interact with outside customers don’t have the same limitations but some people do.

      It sounds like LW1 is unnecessarily hard-ass about being on time, I think Alison’s answer is correct.

      It’s like since security software and policy makes me shut down my computer every night, I start work in the morning when I turn on my computer and begin the process of logging in. If you needed me logged in every morning to serve customers at 9, then you’d have to have me start my shift around 8:45 – 8:50 to ensure I was logged in at 9. But you don’t have to start paying me at 8:30 so I have time to grab a coffee and getting settled before I start the log in process.

      1. Idril Celebrind*

        Sure, if someone needs to start interacting with customers at 9, then they need to be ready to go at 9. However, I think the point a lot of people are making is that when that is the case, the business needs to start paying people at 8:45 when they are expected to arrive and start getting ready for customers to arrive at 9, just like if a business closes at 5 and then employees are expected to do cleanup for an hour after that, they need to be paid until they leave the building at 6.

        1. D'Arcy*

          Exactly. If you need me “work ready and on shift” at 8:45, you pay me for 8:45. Claiming my shift starts at 9:00 *but I have to actually be there doing work things at 8:45* is nothing less than wage theft.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      And if you demand that people who up at 8:45 so they can be ready to go at 9:00, you also have to expect them to start shutting down at 4:45 so they can be ready to go at 5:00.

  36. Angelinha*

    Also, you can’t say you want people there on time and then say in the next sentence that “on time” means 10 minutes early. It doesn’t! If there’s an actual need for people to be there 10 minutes before you open, you need to be totally clear with them about that (and pay them for that time). If you open at 9 and there’s a business reason for folks to start at 9, all that means is they need to be there and starting at 9.

  37. HailRobonia*

    It’s taken me years to relax about my commute to work and when I will arrive. I used to stress about it way too much, which resulted in me being on the verge of having a sleep disorder… trying to get to sleep I would obsess about my wake-up time, will my alarm go off, what will traffic be like, etc. If my bus or train were late I would get very anxious. It was not healthy.

  38. IDK*

    OP 3, my mother is dyslexic. My son has 2 friends who are as well. I think now days it’s more common because people are aware of what it is. As a result, I think most people (as least in my experience) don’t bat an eye at it. It’s just how your brain works and if I worked with someone who was dyslexic, I would have not problem proofreading to assist. Shoot, I’m not dyslexic, but still like to have important documents proofed.

  39. Annie Porter*

    #3: Have you ever tried a service like Grammarly? It’s relatively inexpensive and its premium version does catch things like form/from. I think they offer a basic, free service and you may even be able to try the premium version free before you buy (full disclosure, I’ve never personally used the premium version but I had a colleague and a previous job who swore by it).

  40. VanLH*

    LW4: I agree that it seems unlikely that the remote work could continue once the physical office reopens but, since the LW isn’t looking forward to the job search, isn’t that the place to start? All the bosses can say is no, they can’t shoot her.

  41. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

    I feel OP#1 though . . . even though a lot of people can claim ‘it’s not a big deal’ it can be. I mean how many AAM letters has Alison gotten about people who were tracking when their coworkers left early? Or people who were concerned about the optics of an agreement that was made because Employee needed to leave early on certain days for a reason that is important but no one else’s business? If the grace period is applied equally to all, then I feel like it might be OK. But sometimes there is an inequality (or a perceived inequality) where someone is coming in on time, doing all of their work, and there is always one person who shows up late, goofs off, and then leaves early, and nothing happens. I was on a contract where we had core hours 9-3. My coworker would show up at 10, go to lunch at 11, come back at 1 and then leave at 3. Management would pretend they didn’t see (one coworker was told “oh, we didn’t know that you all noticed that too” – we were an office of maybe 20?). And no, there was no agreement nor reason she was doing this, it was just that management did not care (she was recording 40 hours every week, and sometimes claiming overtime) so she took advantage. Eventually they did fire her.

    I know someone above mentioned that people coming in late hear “good afternoon” but the converse is that same organization probably has people who tell the early birds who leave at 3 “oh leaving so soon?” or “we just started.” Some people are ok with joking like this, some people take it VERY personally, and some people say those things not meaning to joke.

    Bottom line, I get it OP#1. Yeah, you probably should relax a little bit, but as a person that used to get annoyed as well when I was on time and no one else was, I get you. Like Alison said, focus on the quality of work/support the co-worker produces, not the times they worked. And also, maybe show up a little bit late one day yourself and see that it likely isn’t the end of the world. You’re making yourself frustrated over something you cannot control and (for the good workers) doesn’t impact much.

    1. Jennifer*

      Yeah, I agree with Alison that it shouldn’t matter, but I also think in a lot of workplaces it really does matter. A lot. It’s a bigger deal than some are making it seem. As you said, if it didn’t matter there wouldn’t be so many letters/comments about it.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        In fairness, a lot of those letters are either people who care about timeliness trying to police their coworkers when the boss doesn’t care and/or the failure of the boss for not addressing lateness issues that *are* impacting coworkers or work. It’s not about lateness as much as poor management or people trying to impose their values on others rather than keeping their eyes on their own paper.

      2. Observer*

        The thing is that Alison is not responding to someone who works in an office where this is an issue for some reason or another. She’s responding to someone who is working in an office where no one seems to care, and where there does not seem to be a business necessity for this. And the question is SHOULD it matter (and, presumably, should the OP do something about it.)

        The answer to that is unless there is a real business necessity, do NOT try to make it into a thing.

        Now, Alison has told people who complained about their office’s attendance policy that, like it or not, if that’s the policy and the boss won’t budge, then that’s what they need to do. They can decide that they would rather work elsewhere and start job searching, but they need to follow the rules while they are there. But if you are the boss and have the authority to be reasonable or not, be reasonable.

    2. Observer*

      So, two things.

      Firstly, most of the letters we see here contain a fair amount of dysfunction – coworkers who are getting into stuff that is none of their business, coworkers who are trying to force their way into “management”, managers who are not managing, coworkers who are messing people over but the only thing people think that they can reports is the lateness, etc. But in all of those cases, someone being late is not the real issue.

      Your case is a perfect example – your coworker was “goofing off” and just not doing her work. You don’t need to be someone who tracks people’s time to resent that. And it’s terrible management to just ignore it. So, I could see someone tracking that to force management to stop pretending that it’s not happening. But the issue here is not coming in 10 minutes late. The issue is incompetent management and a person who is not pulling her weight.

      1. Sparkles McFadden*

        Yes! I was trying to figure out how to say exactly this. The lateness is never the real problem. The people who are late because they feel like they want to get away with something, or because they just don’t want to work very hard, will likely be doing all sorts of unprofessional things that need to be addressed.

        1. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

          I agree, the lateness is more just an example of ‘oh, look they yet again are getting away with things.’ It’s something that adds to the already perceived unfairness. The employee I referenced worked at my previous job, and there were many many many issues that surrounded that job, and that employee. That is why I could see even if she showed up ten minutes late I’d be internally annoyed.

          In my current job (pre-COVID), I have an awesome co-worker that gets in after 9 because she does daycare drop off. But she would stay until after 5pm and she does fantastic work. So I got over myself real fast with that one (I was carrying over residual angst from previous job).

    3. anon73*

      The whole optics thing bothers me…a lot. A lot of the letters we see where this is brought up are places of toxicity and dysfunction and THAT makes a difference. But assuming you’re working for a company and a manager who treats their employees fairly and equally, being on time generally is less of a big deal than people make it out to be. When you’re salaried, you may work extra hours one week or work through your lunch breaks to get something completed. Then the following week you may leave a few hours early on a Friday or take a longer lunch break. When you start nitpicking about the time spent away from work, you’re making the person feel like the extra time they put in the week prior was unnoticed, and then you will get the bare minimum out of them moving forward. Everybody needs to just mind their own business and only worry about it if it’s keeping you from getting your own work done. Things aren’t always as they appear.

  42. KCinDC*

    OP 3.: Fellow dyslexic here. I have never disclosed my learning disability in the office, but I have found a few things that help me cope. #1 have someone proofread your work. At my old job I would just build in a day or two to have one of the junior staff members review my work. At my current job we have tech writers who’s job is to review everything. When I was interviewing for my current position I made a point to ask about the review/proof reading process. Someone above mentioned Grammarly, which I don’t think would be an option at my job for IT security reasons. But when I can’t have someone proof read something for me, like an email, I just reread it a lot. I also read it out loud and will print it out if it’s super important and that helps me catch a lot of mistakes. Also for words I know I will get tripped up on like “minute” which I always want to spell as “minuet” I just make a point to Google them. Also one think I have learned over the years is that honestly a lot of people are either bad speller or maybe the invention of spellcheck has made people lazy spellers, because I’m not the only one making spelling mistakes/typos. So it has become less of a me problem and more of an everyone needs a proof reader problem.

    1. Product Person*

      Besides Grammarly, many tools like Gmail, Outlook, and Microsoft Word can be your friend. Grammar tools are now leveraging AI and will identify issues like using “from” vs form by looking at sentence structure..

      So make sure you are writing things in a tool that provides feedback on your writing — the cloud version of Microsoft Word even suggests rewriting parts that are correct but too wordy with shorter equivalents, for example.

  43. Skippy*

    LW5: Please reach out to your friend! So many people treat their laid-off colleagues as if they have some sort of contagious disease and any kindness you can extend to her will be much appreciated. Ask about her and how she’s doing, and if your good fortune comes up, just tell her. She may already know, and if she is as lovely as you describe, she will probably be very happy for you.

  44. CheeryO*

    For #1, friendly reminder that those of us in government/union jobs are often beholden to rigid rules about lateness. If my coworker who answers phones has to be on time, then I do too, even though it doesn’t really matter when I start. In reality, no one is getting fired for being five minutes late every day, but people absolutely watch the clock and keep tabs on everyone’s comings and goings, and it will affect people’s perception of you, if nothing else.

  45. voyager1*

    Serious question AAM, this line “for example, if you cover the phones and you’re not there at the start of business hours so someone else has to answer them for you — but they’re increasingly in the minority these days.” What is this based off of? I mean this pretty describes any call center, law office (for staff at least), hospital, medical office (maybe not doctors), school. And that is just off the top of my head. I mean that is a huge part of the workforce to be described as a minority.

    1. Kimmy Schmidt*

      To me, jobs that require strict punctuality will make that clear from the get go. You’ll know you’re in one of these jobs because the duties require you to be there exactly on time. Maybe a better wording would have been “Jobs that require to be on time simply for the sake of being on time (with no real business need) are increasingly in the minority”.

    2. EventPlannerGal*

      I agree, I am really confused at the idea that this is a minority of people. Almost any kind of public-facing job will need you to be there between certain hours; so that’s most of the hospitality industry and retail, for a start. Medical workers, the emergency services, a lot of tech support, that’s a few more – and I know that on this site there seems to be a tendency to treat those sectors as an afterthought but there are also white-collar professionals like certain government workers and non-profit service providers, who have to be available at set times.

      I’m not saying that all jobs require strict timekeeping but I’m just puzzled by the assertion that jobs where there is an actual good reason for it are a minority.

      1. Anya Last Nerve*

        Even white collar jobs that are tied to trading markets fall into this bucket. Markets in US are open 9:30 am – 4. Traders are usually expected at work by 7 for premarket trading, meetings and to prep for market open, as are the lawyers and finance and operations folks who support the traders (who can’t meet during the trading day because they are trading). These are exempt employees with no flex time and they are most certainly expected to be punctual. I remember years ago during a transit strike in NYC, a colleague told the junior guy working for him and commuting from the burbs that he was expected in his seat by 8 am. And he got there!

    3. My Brain Is Exploding*

      I was thinking this, too! Also manufacturing (running equipment lines) and any small retail/restaurant, etc. (there were only two people working at a time in the small shop I once worked at, each minding different things – and also for safety reasons it was good not to be alone).

    4. Retail Not Retail*

      So many of the reasons people are giving for being late involve interacting with jobs that do in fact require timeliness – starbucks, the gym, public transportation, day care, school. Jobs like those aren’t the minority of the workforce.

      My employer has a mix of salaried and hourly workers – some managers work the exact same schedule as their staff (mine does!), some don’t. What’s annoying is not knowing the ~culture~ in the admin department. “Oh HR comes in between 8 and 9.” Great I’ve been here since six in the frigging morning, I’d like to know what other people are working so I can get ahold of them! (My position is not one where email is expected if that makes sense, I’m paging or stopping in and that is expected!) that really really put me in a bind this summer with an early morning injury. No one to report it to, no way to start the paperwork.

    5. Fiona*

      Yeah, I agree. I think the answer should have been clear that we’re talking about a very particular type of work environment.

  46. RagingADHD*


    I didn’t realize that healthcare, teaching, customer service, production, and jobs that coordinate workflow and meetings across time zones were “increasingly rare.”

    1. Barb*

      They’re absolutely increasing, and the fact that people not in those jobs won’t acknowledge it, explains a lot about dismissive attitudes towards those in customer service-type (including health care) and shift work positions. They are the majority of the work force yet dismissed as outliers here. It’s out of touch and pretty callous.

  47. Anya Last Nerve*

    I know the commenters on here all day they come in late but stay even later and get their work done, but in my experience, the chronically late employees tend to not actually work late and when they do, they tell everyone how hard and late they worked (neglecting to mention coming in late). I think that’s why I am bothered by being late – most of the people I’ve encountered where this is an issue have ultimately ended up having a bad work ethic overall.

  48. Perspective*

    Considering we are primarily a service-based economy, it’s actually offensive to pretend that most jobs don’t require timeliness. Over the last few months it’s become quite clear what jobs we depend on most as a society – and they all require specific and defined hours. Shift work. Customer service. Health care. Teachers! All manners of support services. Etc.

    Office jobs that are completely self-contained and don’t matter when you do them because no one needs to be able to contact you reliably at specific times are in the vast MINORITY, and they aren’t becoming more prevalent. Reading this blog you’d think they are the only jobs that matter.

    1. Anya Last Nerve*

      I agree. I’m not in a customer facing job but I work in financial services and most other people are working at the very least between 9-5. If someone tries to reach you for an urgent matter that has popped up and you say you didn’t log on until 10 am because you are not a morning person and who cares when you do your work, it would seem completely and totally tone deaf and be a career limiting move. If you want to be able to come and go as you please, you need to do a lot of research and find the environment where that behavior would fly. Financial services is not one for sure

    2. Forrest*

      I think you’ve too hard a dichotomy there–between the jobs that require specific and defined hours, and the jobs where “completely self-contained and don’t matter when you do them because no one needs to be able to contact you reliably at specific times” are plenty of jobs like mine where people might need to get a hold of you at some point between 9-5pm, but given that you might have teaching responsibilities, meetings, and phone calls with other people, there’s no difference between “unavailable when I rang at 9am because you had your Wednesday morning meeting”, and “unavailable because you don’t get to your desk until 9.10am.”

    3. Observer*

      You’re missing an important point. Supervisors of coverage based jobs are not generally asking if punctuality is a relevant issue. But in non-coverage / shift based jobs (even in many service type jobs, by the way), it is becoming increasingly rare to need rigid punctuality.

    4. Dagny*

      You’re assuming that people do not keep tabs on work outside of the office. Before the pandemic and work from home, I would often scan through my emails first thing in the morning while I’m having my coffee. I’ve answered emails on weekends and even Easter Day. Does it matter if my butt is in the seat at 8:30:00 or merely in the general vicinity of 8:30?

  49. MissDisplaced*

    1. Am I old-fashioned about lateness?
    A bit, yes. But it depends on the context. If their work entails opening the office, answering phones/greeting customers, or relieving other people, than 100% yes they need to be on time, if not a little early. And my pet peeve, is the people who are consistently late to arrive at meetings (online or otherwise) because that shows a level of rudeness or dismissive attitude that others time is not valuable. But for people who are salaried, the time they actually start doesn’t matter! It’s an 8 hour day no matter how they slice it, and I’d focus more on that and on their outputs and not the time they actually put their butt in the seat.

    2. Should managing an entry-level staffer be this much work?
    For the first month or so, no. But if it’s been months and they’re still not getting it, I’d say this is not a good fit or the person is not ready, and you should relieve them as you need someone stronger in the skills you do need.

    4. When to tell my office I won’t be returning when they reopen
    I would wait until you hear a definite declaration they are reopening before telling them anything.

    5. Keeping in touch with a coworker who got laid off when I didn’t
    It’s fine! Reach out, offer support and friendship. Don’t feel guilty over your good fortune, it’s part of the hard choices companies have to make sometimes.

  50. CCJB*

    LW#2- Perhaps it would be more efficient to bring the staffer in and make the edits with them present. That way you can explain your reasoning in real time, but also ask them questions about their reasoning. That would give you an opportunity to redirect/coach better than making the edits yourself.

  51. anon73*

    #1 – your thoughts on lateness aren’t old fashioned, they’re out of touch with reality. As Alison said, unless your job requires you to be on the phone or at a front desk to greet people at a specific time, it’s not a big deal and you need to let it go. I am someone who generally shows up early for most things. But I am not a morning person and have always had a bad commute. So most of the time I’m a few minutes late to work. Then I say hello to people and get some coffee, so I may not start working for 20-30 minutes. But I also don’t always take a full lunch break and stay late if needed. And if I happen to walk in the door and there’s a crisis, my usual morning routine gets put on hold, I login and look into the crisis.

    So the bottom line is if you micro manage people’s time, you guarantee that you will not get one extra minute of work out of them. If you treat people like adults, they will be willing to go the extra mile for you when needed.

    And as an aside (since you don’t mention being a manager), if it “appears” that a colleague is coming in late/leaving early frequently, it’s not your concern. You don’t know what they’ve worked out with their manager. They may be working at night or on the weekends when you can’t see them. The only time it’s your business is if it hinders your own productivity.

  52. Bookworm*

    #1: If it means your work is affected (lack of coverage, means someone else has to cover, a deadline is consistently missed) then yes, by all means this is an issue. I’m someone who likes to get to work early so I can do all the things listed because it helps me adjust to my work setting (“Okaaay. It’s time to work.” :P ). But it doesn’t matter to me if my co-workers are 30 minutes are not.

    But if it really doesn’t and it’s a matter of people drifting in because maybe the line at the coffee shop was a little longer and the phones aren’t ringing? This seems like a bit much.

    I’ve noticed places that are really sticky about this tend to be not as happy, have management issues, don’t have effective managers, etc.

  53. EngineerMom*

    Dyslexic writer –

    I worked for a dyslexic manager for a while, and I was so, so grateful that he just told us right away. I’m really good at proofreading, and so when he and I were working on things like emails that would go to customers, documents to be used by our shop floor, quality documents that would be reviewed by auditors, he would have me check them out for typos.

    He also happened to be red/green colorblind, and so would also ask members of our team periodically to review Excel spreadsheets that were coded with color, because his choice of colors that were easy for him to see were sometimes quite glaring for a non-colorblind person. I also showed him how to change the color settings in Excel to make spreadsheets and charts easier for him to read when using “standard” colors.

    He was a great manager, and his openness about the disabilities he worked around, and his willingness to learn how to use technology to help and his humility to ask for help from subordinates only improved his relationship with his employers and employees. He was really great about always looking to improve himself and the group, to provide the best results for our customers (internal and external), without an ego getting in the way.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      This made me smile so much.
      I helped my work friend who was losing her vision. I set up a few things on her computer after discussing what we could do to help her along. She picked out what she wanted of my ideas. Oh my. HAPPY does not nearly describe her reaction. She went on to find her own ideas and she learned to google for directions that she could follow. My friend flourished out beyond what I had showed her.

      But I know just as a homeowner, if someone takes the time to explain how to do a simple repair or how to check for a problem, I am THRILLED. We can help each other spread our wings and fly.

  54. Elmyra Duff*

    I was a COVID layoff casualty at a job where my boss literally did not care when I got there, left for the day, or how long my lunch took as long as my work was done. The job I have now? The owner is very much like LW1 and it’s driving me insane tbh. Expecting me to be online literally from 9-5, even if my work is done, feels so 1993 to me.

    1. Anya Last Nerve*

      But the job that didn’t care about your hours had to let you go and the rigid job is hiring during a pandemic – I would argue it says something about how well run each place is.

      1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

        Eh, not necessarily. Some industries are thriving and some are suffering, and it has nothing to do with how these offices are managed.

      2. Elmyra Duff*

        My entire department got laid off at that job, though, minus the person who was my boss and like two other people. The place I work at now has always been remote and is in an industry that hasn’t really been touched by COVID, so they didn’t suffer much. (And they also pay literally half as much as my old job did, so I’m extra salty.)

      3. HelloHello*

        it doesn’t matter how rigid your schedule is if your organization is in an industry that has been hit heavily by COVID, and it’s a bit silly to pretend the difference here is more likely to be how well they policed punctuality and not, for example, one job was the hospitality industry and one was not.

  55. bluephone*

    “There are other jobs where it does matter — for example, if you cover the phones and you’re not there at the start of business hours so someone else has to answer them for you — but they’re increasingly in the minority these days.”

    That is…not at all accurate. Healthcare/retail/food service/IT/customer service (basically 99.999999 percent of jobs have some kind of customer service aspect), etc. are very much *not* in the minority. Does anyone patronize a retail pharmacy or store with a pharmacy attached? In PA at least, that store cannot open if the pharmacist isn’t there. (Yes, there are exceptions–my local CVS’s pharmacy section has different hours than the rest of the store. But for stores where that isn’t the case, employees and customers are stuck waiting outside if the pharmacist is late).
    The world isn’t completely made up of just white-collar, information-heavy, exempt, desk jobs and it’s kind of privileged and elitist to act otherwise.

    1. W.*

      I agree. I’m not sure where Alison got the idea that the number of direct service jobs is declining. If anything, those kind of jobs are increasing as the economy becomes more service oriented. 

      (I also agree that its pretty elitist to only think about “jobs” from a white collar desk job perspective)

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Those jobs are not declining. But among office jobs without obvious needs for strict hours, the trend is increasingly away from that. Bluephone is right that it’s not right to say “in the minority” though and I’ll fix that in the post.

    2. anonforthis*

      I totally agree with this statement. The reality is the world runs in a somewhat orderly fashion because people show up on time to work. And white collar workers that want an extra 20 minutes to hang up their coat, have a coffee, talk to a coworker about their weekend expect that a store are open when hours are listed, for schools to be ready to take their kids when the day is supposed to start, for doctor’s offices, car shops, public transportation to all be running on schedule. To imply that those rules shouldn’t apply to white collar works but should apply to service workers (many of them in much lower paid positions than service workers) seems very privileged.

      1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

        I am not disputing that it is an extremely privileged viewpoint. But the question is if there is an operational need for it, and if the answer is no, why, as a manager, should you tear your hair out over 5-10 min when there are 100 other things that should be taking up your time and energy? That’s Alison’s point, and I agree with it.

        That said, this isn’t the same and enforcing punctuality and keeping an eye on time abusers. If people are chronically late for meetings or not getting their work done by necessary deadlines, or even if they are showing up at 9:05-9:10 every day but are at the elevator with their coat on by 4:55, these are things you should absolutely address.

        1. W.*

          But we have no idea what kind of work LW does, so we have no idea if there is an operational need for it. Alison and commenters are just assuming that LW’s job fits into their own narrow view of the work world.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            LW indicates that “most employees and many managers” don’t care so I think it’s reasonable to assume that they work in a job where it doesn’t matter. The letter is posed such that they are the outlier and are wondering whether they are wrong. If they’re the only person at their office who cares this much about punctuality, then they should adjust their expectations.

        2. anonforthis*

          Sure, for the <1% of jobs that don't have true operational reasons for having start times, managers should not expend their energy on enforcing them (or frankly, even setting them). How "operational need" gets defined is also highly subjective. I don't think calling the OP "not just old fashioned, but genuinely out of date" is warranted when the vast majority of jobs reasonably require a start time. A more accurate response would have been "the majority of jobs reasonably have hard start times because there is an operational need. Teachers are expected to be ready to teach at the start of school, judges are expected to convene court at an appointed time, those in manufacturing are expected to be ready to relieve their workers at a set time, etc. In a small minority of positions – usually white collar, higher-paying roles – start times are seen as not important to overall outcomes, and in those rare cases, we are seeing some employers trying to be more flexible, mainly to try and retain high-performing, uniquely skilled employees. If you and your colleagues are in these types of roles, your expectation for a hard start time is out of date." I get that the majority of commentators (myself included) are in jobs where we can be 5/10min late and it doesn't matter, but let's not pretend this is the norm, especially when we as a society count on our childcare provider or coffee barista to be on time.

    3. Jackalope*

      Okay, this is kind of going against the general consensus on this, but as someone who for a number of years worked at a call center with flextime (of an hour and a half), I would argue that most employers can offer a 15-30 min flex window if they feel that it’s important. Example: at one of the schools I went to teachers were required to arrive by 7 and the school opened to students at 7:30; they could just as easily have had the teachers’ “core hours” begin at 7:30 and let them arrive anywhere between 7-7:30. Most retail positions I’ve had have shifts starting and stopping throughout the day; if you aren’t the opener or closer, then if the shift you’re replacing ends at 4:30, then having your start time be anywhere between 4:15 and 4:30 seems reasonable. If a receptionist has to start answering phones at 9:00, then the receptionist flex window could be 8:15-8:45 so there’s time to get the computer started, etc. I know it would take some work to make this feasible, but honestly, giving people a tiny flex window so they can account for traffic, day care issues, etc., etc., seems to me to be something that would be beneficial across the board.

      (Obviously there would still be some positions where this wouldn’t work – opening and closing shifts come to mind, although again a 15 min flex would still work for many of those – but I think starting flexibility is something we could extend to a LOT more fields.)

      1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

        I think this makes a lot of sense. Things happen – weather, traffic, pet-accident as you’re running out the door – and this would make it so others aren’t inconvenienced.

    4. The Other Dawn*

      I work at a bank in the back office. I’m in a “white-collar, information-heavy, exempt, desk job” and I still need to be working by a certain time. I may not need to be working at 8 am on the dot (and my boss doesn’t expect me to be), but my department has core hours, which means being available by a certain time to answer questions, get stuff done, attend a meeting, etc. I don’t have external customers, but I have internal “customers” I need to work with. Also, another department may need me for something that’s in connection with a bank customer and could be time-sensitive, which means I can’t just breeze on in at 9:30 am when the branches open earlier than that.

      1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

        “I may not need to be working at 8 am on the dot (and my boss doesn’t expect me to be)”
        That’s what we are talking about, though, because the OP DOES expect this. I don’t think anyone is saying it’s OK to breeze in at 9:30 every day when your start time is supposed to be 8am. I think they are saying, if you sometimes come in at 8:05, it might not be a big deal.

    5. Julie Noted*

      Thanks for making this point. The vast majority of jobs are not nonprofit policy/advocacy work. The OP said that they don’t work in a flextime job, so I thought admonishing them as being out of date was way off.

      I’ll also note that, in my experience, a lot of people are pretty myopic and not great judges about whether their behaviour affects others.

  56. Spicy Tuna*

    At my first salaried job, we were expected to be there at 8:15AM. Our manager would lock the doors at 8:16AM. Like others said, that ended up being a double edged sword because people would arrive at 8AM and then sit at their desks drinking coffee and reading the paper until precisely 8:15AM.

    1. irene adler*

      Our production manager does a version of this to the new hires.
      He explains that start time is 6:30 am.

      So the next day, they show up on time at 6:30 am. Or so they think.
      When they arrive, production manager points to the clock on the wall. It reads 6:40 am (he has advanced the clock by 10 min). He then talks to them about their tardiness. Don’t let this become a habit, he says.

      Some point out that the clock is fast. “Doesn’t matter, you are late,” production manager tells them.

      Next day, they arrive earlier, but the clock has been moved forward another 5 minutes. So they are late again. Production supervisor talks to them-there will be no more tardiness! Some again try to point out that the manufacturing clock is fast. So production manager tells them they must abide by this clock no matter what the actual time may be.

      Third day, the door is locked at 6:30am. They must ring the doorbell to be admitted. And they are told they will be fired if they are late one more time.

      So all resign themselves to arriving well before the 6:15 am actual start time.

      1. Empress Matilda*

        Yikes. That has nothing to do with being on time for work – it’s all about power and control. The time is what *I* say it is, regardless of all the other clocks in the building? Including everyone’s personal phones which are set by satellite and likely all tell the exact same time?

        You didn’t ask for advice here, but I hope this man gets everything he deserves in life. Wow.

      2. Assistant Librarian not to be confused with Assistant*

        What the actual F? I’m surprise this guy hasn’t been run out of his job by the employees. Has his car never been keyed? Fish left in his coat pocket? His work sabotaged?

      3. Observer*

        Does anyone in authority know this is going on? Because this guy is a pathological liar, and I cannot imagine trusting ANYTHING he says.

        Also, I’d be willing to bet that people are being shorted their hours – I hope that the company gets hit with a massive FLSA violation fine.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      He LOCKED the doors?! omg. I hope people could exit the building. I am thinking of The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire.

  57. Sara without an H*

    Re OP#1: This issue has cropped up here periodically. There seem to be two schools of thought: 1) punctuality is important because it’s an indicator of maturity and commitment to the job; 2) punctuality doesn’t matter at all as long as the work gets done and it doesn’t interfere with anybody else’s work.

    A few thoughts developed during 35 years of management: Punctuality is important situationally, and should not be confused with start time. I run a library, with a public service desk. My iron clad rule is that there must a sentient life form on duty whenever the service desk is open. If it’s your turn to open the service desk at 8:00 a.m., you need to be there by 8:00. Likewise, if you’re scheduled to take over the service desk at 1:00 p.m., but you are late getting back from lunch, while your colleague sits there starving, I will be displeased. But as long as you show up on time when it’s your turn to cover the desk, I’m not particular about start or stop times. (Note: everybody who works here is exempt.)

    Where punctuality matters is when it effects other people. In my book, anybody who is routinely late for meetings, then waltzes in, demanding that everybody stop and catch them up with the discussion, is a much bigger nuisance than somebody who routinely comes in 15-20 minutes past the hour.

    1. Anya Last Nerve*

      I think many commenters are getting confused between occasional lateness and chronic lateness. Even with the talk about core hours – late people will push boundaries on that too. If core hours are 10-4, and a colleague logs on at 10:10 every day, is that cool? What about 10:30? 11? If yes then what’s the point of core hours anymore? It’s a slippery slope and I think we’ve all worked with people who will push and push.

      1. Sara without an H*

        Hi, Anya — Yeah, I think it’s important to focus on whether something is a one-off or part of a pattern. A pattern of being unavailable before 11:00 a.m., when core hours are 10:00-4:00, is a legitimate issue. An occasional late sign-in from an otherwise hard-working and productive employee isn’t a problem, and shouldn’t be treated as one.

      2. DyneinWalking*

        There are ALWAYS people who will push and push for even more freedom – regardless of how much you are already giving them!
        Your “slippery slope” argument doesn’t stop that issue (the pushing people will still push and use every other loophole they can find to do less work), it just means that all the decent people are punished simply for the fact that unreasonable people exist.
        If someone has a pattern of never being available when they need to be, address that with that specific person.

    2. Assistant Librarian not to be confused with Assistant*

      This. I had a supervisor who was chronically late. Late to work, late back from lunch/break/you name it, late to relieve desks, start programs, late to meetings. Then when I was supposed to be catching a bus at the end of my day, that is when she wanted to “go over things with me.” As soon as my three year commitment was over, I took a job somewhere else. She took advantage of her position and as an underling I just had to suck it up and be resentful.

  58. Safely Retired*

    Lateness can vary culturally.
    An old truism. Say you are to attend a meeting at 3pm. Back east you arrive at 3pm and are on-time. West coast, you arrive at 3:05 and you are on time. But in the mid-west, if you aren’t there by 2:55 you are late.
    Which doesn’t begin to compare to say, Germany vs Italy.

    1. Empress Matilda*

      I once transitioned from a very relaxed position in a provincial government in Canada, to an international organization based in Switzerland. There was some culture shock, to say the least!

    2. I know how you feel*

      I used to work at a place if a meeting was called at 3:00 that is when people would actually leave their desks. I always was 5 minutes early to be ready to work. Never adjusted to that.

  59. Dr of Laboratoria*

    I totally get where OP1 is coming from.

    I work in a Teapot Repair Service, where appointments are scheduled so we know who, what, when, etc. I am salary and my counterpart is hourly. At the beginning of the day, there are some things that need to be done to prep for the day – about 15 minutes worth of work.

    Their shift starts 30 minutes before mine. They are late 10 -15 minutes every day. And Every. Single, Damn. Time, I come in at my shift, I get an excuse why some of the morning prep is not done. And the complaining that you had a “busy” morning when you couldn’t even get to work on time? Just….

    Some days, that may not matter. But it also happens when we are booked every half hour starting at 7:30am. And that to me, in inexcusable. This person also has horrific time management skills and steals time as well (like staying late for no reason) so that they can always leave early on Friday.

    It gets me so frustrated as someone who likes to get all the prep work done before a tea pot repair comes through the window. And it’s not fair to the other hourly employee we have who starts at 7am, and is here ready to go at 7am. Every day.

    So yeah, I get the punctuality & time thing.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      What you’re describing here, though, is an instance where time matters and being late is impacting another’s (your) work and also that your coworker sucks in other ways. You are in a position that’s time-bound and appointment-based and their being late has impact on you and on the people who hold the appointments. That’s not the same situation as OP#1 is describing and, just as it would not make sense to impose a relaxed time system on you when there is a schedule to keep, it does not make sense to enforce a rigid time restriction on others when there is not the same business need. And someone should speak with your coworker about their myriad performance issues.

      1. Dr of Laboratoria*

        I wish my boss would take notice, but they are a “as long as your hours hit 40, I don’t care how you get there”.

        I wish the OP put what type of jobs they were referring to – as many have pointed out there are myriad of jobs that you should be on time, every time.

        And I agree with you, office cultures where you have wiggle room, it’s not a big deal.

        1. Observer*

          Your boss is clearly missing the point. And if possible you need to point out to them that certain tasks are not getting done. In other words, your complaint to your boss is NOT about coworker’s hours, but their failure to get things done before appointments.

    2. squidarms*

      I wish LW #1 had put what general type of job they were referring to, because there are jobs where being precisely on time doesn’t matter that much and jobs where you literally aren’t doing it right if you don’t do it on time. If your job is to get certain things done by X date, it’s okay if you aren’t there right on time every day, as long as your work gets done before the final deadline. If your job is to get certain things done by 7:30 every morning and you waltz in at 7:15 knowing that it takes at least 15 minutes to do what you need to do, you aren’t doing what you were hired for and you know it.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        I feel like if OP#1’s situation was one of those where punctuality actually mattered, they’d have framed their question in the practicalities (Bob is constantly late relieving Susie, the desk is uncovered/door’s not opened, our meetings are always 15 minutes of waiting around for laggards, deliverables are late) rather than their general question about their belief people should arrive to work 10 minutes early and disappointment that managers don’t speak to the late people on principle.

    3. Observer*

      Well, no. Because the issue here is not punctuality per se, but the fact that certain things need to be done, and they are NOT being done. It would not matter if they showed up on the button and started at the clock instead of working. Or if they actually started working but worked at 1/4 speed and so did not finish stuff.

      This is something to bring to your supervisor. But what you need to bring to his is NOT “Coworker is late” but “coworker consistently fails to get prep tasks a, b and c done before our morning appointments.”

  60. Amethystmoon*

    #1 depends on the company. Mine for example just recently announced to hourly employees that we cannot be more than 7 minutes late to a shift or coming back from a break. If someone has a pattern of lateness, they will be sternly talked to by their boss and/or HR, and possibly written up.

  61. Lady Liz*

    Man have I found this conversation around being late interesting…

    I had no idea so many places were so flexible but perhaps it’s also because I’m an hourly employee and “hours” may matter more to me than others cause they have to, I have to punch in to a time clock. I currently work in a place where, except for our call center, people work flexible schedules (from 7:30-3:30 to 9:30-5:30) and you see most people treated with flexibility and others have their timesheets checked, depends on the manager… non-hourly folks do whatever they want…

    But I have a time to be at work and feel uneasy when I run late, usually due to traffic… even though no one cares. Good to know things generally seem to have changed quite a bit in the working world!

  62. mgguy*


    I’ve worked for minute-counting bosses and from my perspective, it’s obnoxious.

    I had times where I knew I’d better be there at 8:00 on the dot, and I respected that. I’ve had times where I knew(due to timing of other things, or other things I had planned for the day that I couldn’t hurry up and couldn’t leave unattended) that I might stay 2+ hours past my quitting time.

    At that job, I officially had a half hour lunch. Back when I was still hourly, that particular boss would sometimes take us all out to lunch in a “gesture” of goodwill. Needless to say, 8 people aren’t driving or walking to a restaurant(even if nearby) getting served, and getting back to the office in a half hour. Still, though, if we walked back in the door at say 1:06(no clock punching at that job) it was written down and it had better be on our timesheet(never mind that lunches invariably turned to work talk and getting “game plans” for upcoming projects and by a lot of standards could have been classed as working time due to that). If I purposely or accidentally take a long lunch, I’m going to work late to make up for it, but it’s a bit different if the boss pushes you into it in my mind.

    I’m someone who likes to get to work early. I like to get coffee, chat with co-workers, get my stuff put away/laptop out and then be ready to go at my starting time. I also like having a boss that sees if I’m meeting my obligations, especially those happening at a fixed time, get my work done on time or early(if that means staying 5 minutes late or 5 hours), and am available when others need to see me to trust me enough as a working adult to not watch the clock on my coming and going. If I’m going to be dramatically late, I’ll let you know(no, I’m not going to wander into the office at 9:00 when I was supposed to be there at 8:00 without a word) but please don’t penalize me if I end up parking in a far-away lot or get held up by a train(both things that have happened and made me late).

  63. Empress Matilda*

    OP1, I had a manager like you once. No matter how I tried, I could never make her understand that the day care opens at 8:00, dropoff takes 5 minutes, and then it takes 65-70 minutes to get from the day care to the office. So I would arrive at work every day between 9:10-9:15.

    She had absolutely zero flexibility about it. She would not change my official start time to 9:15, she would not let me work the extra 15 minutes at lunch or at the end of the day. Her position was the same as yours – the start time is the start time is the start time, and the start time is 9:00. So I arrived every day at 9:15, flustered and stressed, and worried that I was going to “get in trouble” for being late. And then imagine if there was a transit delay, or if I did have to stop to use the washroom on the way in! Then I was even later, and even more flustered and stressed.

    It takes a huge toll on a person, to start every single day like this. I was just miserable, all the time, and I had zero respect for the manager. In turn, my misery and stress and lack of respect led to a downturn in my work – how could it not? And there was no need for it! My job was not customer facing, and there was no practical reason I needed to be in my seat at 9:00:00. All this stress, plus the impact on my relationship with my manager and on the quality of my work, over 15 minutes. It’s just not worth it.

    1. I know how you feel*

      This IS the stupidest thing ever. Your supervisor was an A-hole. There was no reason not shift your schedule.

    2. Dagny*

      Your second paragraph is the key thing here.

      There is a tremendous amount of stress to ensuring that you are exactly on time every single day, even if the time it takes to get to work is consistent (commuter rail train that runs reliably or very predictable traffic). I’ve also found that people who expect your fanny in the chair, computer turned on, at 9 am are the ones who also expect (1) you to stay until at least 5 pm every day; (2) do not give you “credit” if you come in at, say, 8:40 am, and (3) expect that the end of the workday will often run over.

    3. NotAnotherManager!*

      This is crazy, and I kind of wonder if you work for the lady who used to run my HR department. She was that kind of unreasonable. Shifting a schedule by 15 minutes to keep someone from being stressed out from the moment they arrive seems like a no-brainer to me.

      That miserable, stressed out feeling is why I decided to stop caring if I was 15 minutes late to work. I cannot control the Metro or DC traffic (and it laughed in my face when I tried to), and there is rarely anything in the office that requires on-the-dot arrival times. Only one supervisor I’ve had gave me any grief about it or wouldn’t adjust my schedule to accommodate, and they backed off when I pointed out that if I was going to be clockwatched coming in, I was going to be more mindful and protective of my lunch, break, and end times (the had no problem eating into my time). Fortunately, my coworkers and bosses also commute in DC and have a more, “Well, that’s the Beltway.” approach to it.

  64. I know how you feel*

    #1 And that depends. Supporting number one in wanting people to be on time and ready to work. I am a department manager. Three things.
    One, Expectations- if there is a meeting at 10:00 and the report’s hours are 9:30 and they rolling at 9:40ish, go to the bathroom get a cup of coffee, wander over to their desk. Perhaps you as a supervisor wanted to go over something or received an email at 9:00 that needed responding to before the meeting, then yes I am going to be pissy about time. My time is of value. Why am I waiting for someone who reports to me?
    Let’s say I had adjusted the reports hours so that they didn’t have to come in at 8:30 with the rest of the crew and then three out of five days they are ten to fifteen minutes late to be available to work. yep, I am documenting. I need that person to be available when they have committed the time and we pay them for that time. If they aren’t that is a problem.
    Also for many hourly positions, it may seem like the “butt in seats” is stupid nit-picky-ness, but what I discovered a one job that being bad at your position’s duties was NOT a fireable offense but documentable lateness is. Truly absurd.

    Two, demonstrated dependability. I have an assistant for the past six years. Within six months she demonstrated that her work gets done in an accurate and timely manner. She can work independently. She lets me know by text when she is running late. (as do I her) She knows I am a morning person and really can’t be held responsible for information imparted to me after 4. She knows if she rolls in sometime around 9 thats just fine. I can’t remember the last time I gave any thought to what time she comes in.

    Three- peers and above. Our business has core hours- everyone needs to be available for meetings between 10 and 4:30. That way if you are looking for someone or need a turn-around response they are found.

    OK four- I had a previous job that I was pretty casual about arrival time because A. NYC subways , B. I might meet a dog in the two blocks to the school’s front door. That said I was never late to teach a class or be in a meeting.

    1. Observer*

      Also for many hourly positions, it may seem like the “butt in seats” is stupid nit-picky-ness, but what I discovered a one job that being bad at your position’s duties was NOT a fireable offense but documentable lateness is. Truly absurd.

      That IS truly absurd. It doesn’t make it less picky – it just highlights that over-focus on punctuality is often a sign of very poor management.

      I might meet a dog in the two blocks to the school’s front door.

      It sounds like there is a story behind this.

      1. feel*

        why yes, if someone came by my office at 8:15 and I wasn’t there, someone might say, oh just wait a few minutes, she’s probably just down the block petting a dog.

  65. FriendlyCanadian*

    At my current job people come and go as they please to a large extent. For example a guy I work with a lot one level above me doesn’t really work before 10 because he runs. But when work needs to go out for a big meeting or something it’s all hands on deck even at 2am. So if my manager started getting annoyed I wasn’t at my desk right at 9 even if I never missed an email etc I would be so much angrier about the 2am nights

  66. Sherry*

    I agree that being a couple of minutes late is not a big thing. Stuff happens. But when you’re continuously late 15-20 minutes late daily. What’s the purpose of having a set time then to start the day? Should employers start saying works starts from 8-8:30?

    1. Empress Matilda*

      That’s exactly the point – maybe there *isn’t* any purpose to a set start time. Obviously lots of jobs do require one, for appointments and customer service and so on – but lots of jobs don’t. If I’m just sitting at my desk writing policies all day, it shouldn’t matter if I start at 8:30 or 9:00 or 10:00, as long as the work gets done and I’m available to others when needed.

      I always like when Alison posts letters like this, because it gives us an opportunity to have the discussion. What does work look like in 2020? Especially now that so many people are WFH, do we really need to enforce a start time? If so, under what circumstances, and how much flexibility should we allow? I’m a big fan of questioning my assumptions, and this is a great opportunity to do it.

  67. Temp*

    Any boss who is that concerned about what exact time I get there is not one I want to work for. I had a temp job in my early 20s where my boss called me into her office to discuss my “chronic lateness.” We had to scan our hand to get in the building, and apparently she’d gone through the logs to see what time I was getting there each day. “You’re entering the building between 7:23 and 7:27 each day!” And? My shift started at 7:30. She informed me that wasn’t enough time to make a cup of coffee and get my computer turned on. And that I needed to be there at least 10-15 minutes early. I told her I didn’t drink coffee or have problems getting my computer turned on. There were a lot of other problems with that place, but anyway, I quit after a month. My “training class” from the temp agency had 10 or 15 people in it, and when I called the temp agency to tell them I would not be continuing the assignment, they were far from surprised. Apparently I was one of the last few people left after a month.

  68. Lisa*

    I really try to be an excellent employee, not just a good one. For me, that means doing excellent work and really paying attention to things that matter for my role. I left my last job because HR was a stickler for start times (it did not matter for my job! my manager did not even care! She even told me she had to enforce start times because of HR rather than her own preferences!). I relied on public transit to get to work and have some chronic health issues that affect mobility, so a combination of those factors meant arriving right on time most days, but up to 30 minutes late on other days (I would always email my manager from the train platform as soon as I knew things were delayed, and I would stay late to make up for this).

    In my exit interview with HR they asked why I was leaving and I mentioned the start time thing, explaining that I wanted to work for an employer who values what I do and how well I do it, rather than what time I’m at my desk in the morning. I doubt it led to any change for employees, but who knows? Maybe if they hear a variation of that enough they’ll consider changing their ways.

  69. Lalitah28*

    #2 – If you are hiring someone to make your life easier, you really have to define in very black and white terms what you expect the person to do so that you can test them, if possible, on the skills needed to make you more effective.
    #3 – Disclosing dyslexia is a lot less risky in professional services type of firms, less in more blue-collar firms, because of the push for diversity and inclusion. I would just ask that you get the accommodations of dictation software for this to your boss and reveal it only to her/him/them. It’s a legally protected status (disability). I work with someone like that and he doesn’t want to define what accommodations he needs which leads him to do things like ask female colleagues (professional sales level consultants in financial services) to correct his decks, etc. If you don’t disclose, you can’t get the accommodations you need. Check with the Job Accommodation Network for ideas on what to ask for.

  70. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    OP #1, I think there is room for you in the modern world. You’re just going to need to think outside the box a little bit–use flex time.

    The business day can start for you at 9:00 am, and you can be a stickler about that meaning at your desk, coffee in hand, restroom resolved, et cetera. Later is even better if you can get away with it. Let the day end at 5:00 pm per custom, or earlier if you can get away with it. Require 8 hours from your employees and the minimum legal breaks. Then… just watch it work.

    Joaquin arrives at 8:00 am, works through 5:00 pm, takes a half-hour lunch and his two 15 minute breaks.
    Sarah arrives at 8:45 am, works through 5:15 pm, takes an hour lunch and her two 15 minute breaks.

    Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera…

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      Nevermind; I’m not talking about flex-time jobs.

      Instead, what’s wrong with flex time?

  71. EasyCheesy*

    It’s not often I relate to two letters in the same post, but boy do I this time.

    #1: Our phone system sends everything to voicemail overnight while we are closed, and then at 8:30am the main line starts ringing through to the receptionist’s desk again. We currently have 3 people sharing the receptionist job (more on that in #2…) and their start time was set for 8:30. All three of them were arriving exactly at 8:30 and then, as the letter writer mentioned, there was about 15 or 20 minutes where they weren’t at the desk yet, and the phone answering would fall to me (I always arrive a little early to make sure I’m all set and ready to go at 8:30). Finally I went to my boss and we adjusted the start time to 8:15 to they’d be ready to go and at the desk at 8:30 when the phones came on. It’s been much better since. They are all paid hourly and punch a time card so they are being paid for the time, and none of them are in any danger of coming anywhere close to overtime, so it was an easy fix.

    #2 Wow do I sympathize with this letter writer. The three people sharing the receptionist job (which is also an admin support job) require so much oversight, repetition of training for simple tasks, etc etc that I honestly feel like I’m their support staff rather than the other way around. They’ve been here 1 year, 2 years, and 3 years, and it never gets any better. My boss keeps hiring more people who can barely do simple tasks, and all it does is create more work as the number of people who need my help increases. She just added a 4th person (!!) while I was out sick with COVID and it’s been a nightmare. I cannot do my job and also assist four other people with what should be easy admin tasks. This problem has not been as easy to fix.

  72. Wren*

    I agree about disclosing dyslexia, getting other people to proofread your work when that option is available, and asking for understanding with typos in internal low stakes communication, but a great proofreading tip I heard from a freelancer recently was to have a text to speech program read your work back to you because it makes evident the sorts of things that become invisible from rereading your own work too many times. It would likely also catch the sorts of typos dyslexics miss. (I’m assuming people use not just spellcheckers but grammar checkers, too.)

    1. Ada*

      Yes! Came here to suggest exactly this. I don’t have dyslexia but I use this trick when I know I’ve read over a document too many times to properly comprehend it anymore. Works great!

  73. Librarian trainee II*

    I just remembered this! On my first librarian position, I was due to start at 9:30. They were a stickler for the arrival time. Because of the bus schedule, I would arrive around 9:05. (taking the later bus got me to work at 9:20 sometimes but 9:35 others) This was great for me because I would have breakfast in the break-room, coffee, and because I was in graduate school get some homework done and be ready to work at 9:30. The only other person there was custodian. Everyone else showed up around 9:25.
    After my first two weeks on the job, I was called into the office by the Branch Librarian and reprimanded for arriving at work too early. The custodian reported me. No one I was told was permitted to be in the building more than 10 minutes before their shift started.
    So yes, for the next two years, I would have to sit in a coffee shop three blocks away for 15 to 20 minutes to get to work on time.

    1. WellRed*

      I’m really late here but aside from WTF, I also wonder what the janitor needed you out if the building for. Why care? Harmless?

  74. boop the first*

    2. In my experience, I’ve found training to be a completely different kind of skill set than just doing the thing. I’m wondering why you’re doing the edits yourself and not sending it back to be redone? I mean, I know why, it’s quicker in the short term and you have deadlines.

    Did the clients know there was a new employee who needed more time? I don’t think I would have learned very well if my work was simply redone outside of hours and just verbally described to me, especially if it’s a lot of edits. Rewarding good work reinforces good work. Pointing out mistakes reinforces mistakes. Perhaps employee needs to have done it correctly at least once in order to understand, but they’re not getting that opportunity? In fact, the “wrong” version of the work is being strongly reinforced because you’re letting employee do it wrong over and over. It’s going to be very hard to undo this now.

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

      Perhaps employee needs to have done it correctly at least once in order to understand, but they’re not getting that opportunity?

      As a general point, I think this is a huge thing. Yes, having ‘screwed up’ (in the eyes of the employee, anyway — OP doesn’t really seem to perceive it as screwed up but rather “needs more hand holding than I expected”) will put most people on edge about performing well next time, and so it becomes a vicious cycle.

      I remember once (can’t remember if I’ve told this story here before though!), as a line manager, one of my reports ‘Robin’ made a mistake that was essentially “fat fingering” two numbers that got transposed, and it somehow went unnoticed by the person giving it a second pair of eyes (probably because it was quite subtle and we tend to see what we expect to see — I won’t link to a study but it is readily googable), went out to a customer and resulted in very costly rework and the associated loss of customer confidence, need for ‘relationship manager’ to explain and smooth things over with the customer, etc.

      ‘Robin’ was mortified to hear of the mistake, as they were generally capable and had grasped the abstract and conceptual nature of what they were doing, but weren’t so good with attention to detail.

      This was a process that was repeated often in various guises, and my boss thought that I should ‘soft-ban’ (by not assigning that work any more) Robin from working on this part of the process again as they obviously couldn’t be trusted to get it right. We could do that as I had a team of a few people that worked on different aspects of the process… but I decided to disregard Boss and get Robin to carry out that part of the process next time (not gonna lie, I validated it myself this time though). Robin carried out perfectly and was much more attentive to detail in all areas with this vote of confidence.

      With OPs employee, I think it is a confidence thing in “doing it once correctly”, but also, I don’t think it is ‘basically the same thing every time’: it seems to me that every client report is different in some way and so (unless it’s relatively superficial things like editing it to “house style”, which I appreciate is complex but not necessarily ‘deep’) doing what OP wants seems like it would involve a level of background knowledge and ‘synthesis’ of that knowledge which the employee doesn’t seem to possess (and wouldn’t, especially at entry level — as a Senior level technical person myself now I’ve developed strategies for devloping this ‘synthetic’ knowledge, but even so, it happens organically to some extent).

      I wonder if OP could consider a kind of “pair programming” as it is in the tech world, with the employee where they sit together (actual or virtual) and collaborate over part of a client deliverable. Employee takes the lead with coaching from OP in real time. (Not necessarily ‘writing the document from scratch’ as I appreciate that is quite time consuming, but to come up with perhaps a draft and then go through it together). With “scaffolding” type of questions that OP already knows the answer to, e.g. “that figure in the top left of the table… is that correct?” or “is there anything else you needed to add under the relevant factors” or whatever suits the situation.

      I think the cliche “time is money” probably applies here and OP is unfortunately unlikely to get support from her own management in spending time coaching this person (or any other new person) but it can’t hurt to try.

  75. City Slicker*

    The expectation at my job is “if you’re awake, you’re on call….and if you’re not awake…then why not?” My “official” start time is 9 am (and to be fair, I’m a well-paid member of the leadership team) but the calls and e-mails usually start around 7 am. I have lost track of the number of times I’ve been 15-20 minutes late to work because my boss called me before I was in the office. I am a salaried employee. Unless there is a specific early morning meeting (pre-pandemic) or task that has to be done in the office, I don’t nickel and dime my direct reports over a few minutes here and there. I’d rather be flexible and cultivate more buy-in from my staff. Also, with the state of public transit I don’t think it’s fair to just tell them “leave earlier,.”

    Of course, I’ve been working from home since March, so now my bigger issue is how to “finish” up the work day and unplug when there’s always more to do!

  76. Catabodua*

    I was at one time a malicious compliance supervisor because of one employee. It was a union shop. She’d stop working every day at 15 minutes before her shift ended, went to the bathroom, gathered her things, then stood there by the door looking at the clock until it was time for her to leave.

    She’d be standing there for 7-8 minutes with her car keys in hand, ignoring her phone, telling coworkers she was done working and couldn’t answer questions. I had inherited her from a supervisor who let her do whatever she wanted because he didn’t want to deal with her. Because she did this, it only took a few weeks for others to do it too so we had 8 or so people standing around the door by 10 of. It drove my boss mad, and I was told to “handle it.”

    So, I told them to go sit down and work for the 8 minutes. She said the contract allowed for the 7 minutes early/late clocking in and she didn’t have to. I read the contract word for word over the weekend. Didn’t see anything about the 7 minutes thing. Monday came, I told everyone to go back to their desks and work until their shift was over. She said again I have the clocking in thing… I said show me in the contract where it says that. She said I will tomorrow. She spent HOURS the next day reading the contract, calling her union steward, but couldn’t find that wording anywhere and her steward wouldn’t put it in writing that that was allowed.

    Of course, it didn’t make any difference. She stopped standing by the door, and left her computer on with nothing open, while sitting at her desk for the 10 minutes she would have stood by the door. But, my boss saw them at their desks and not by the door and somehow thought that meant they were working so he got off my back.

    I was so happy that she took the early retirement payout a few months later when their contract renewed! And I was even happier to move on from that job a year or so later to a boss that was about work produced, not appearances.

    The amount of mental effort, paperwork (we got a grievance filed), meetings and just energy expended because of the stupid 10 minutes was ridiculous. I completely understood why her former supervisor ignored her standing by the door.

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

    OP2 – I can identify (not with the consulting aspect, but with having been in a similar situation other than that).

    Do you think any other ‘entry level’ person would have any more success in the role or is it more the case that you really needed to get someone with a little more experience to be able to start successfully ‘sharing’ your work on to them and they could run with it a bit more independently? I got the feeling that you weren’t directly involved in recruiting this person, but rather, you said that you needed help and were ‘assigned’ this person by… whoever manages the staffing in your organisation.

    Depending on what the work is, in my experience it was very much a lot of “hand holding”, re-doing, etc against tight deadlines so that it was almost always just a case of ‘get it done’ rather than ‘coach Jane on how to do it and go through the edits together’ sort of thing. Not ideal but there wasn’t really anything else I could have done, as (with the kindest intent possible) the salary being offered wasn’t commensurate with the ‘calibre’ of people we really would have needed.

    It’s hard to describe without outing the company/industry, but let’s say for example the company produces teapots and they produce a combination of standard teapots that can be ordered from a catalogue, semi-custom teapots that are individually decorated / altered according to the customer requirement, and custom-built teapots which are produced from scratch on a pottery wheel.
    Part of the work was to check the teapots for obvious issues (not broken, handle attached in the right place, etc) and on the more custom teapots, check that they were “fit for the customer” – this was a bit more subjective as it involved referring to the customer requirement and interpreting in some way whether the teapot was ‘correct’.

    The people would constantly miss things that were obvious teapot-mistakes to me, resulting in me having to go back through a whole batch of teapots and re-inspect each one as I had no confidence that if something was wrong on a teapot it would be picked up.

    Yes, we went through iterations of “why did you not spot that this one was painted blue instead of green?” and the response was always some variation of ‘I missed it due to not paying attention’ (there were issues of motivation and morale as you can imagine) or not being able to extrapolate from last week’s incident where they didn’t spot a teapot was painted purple instead of red and I had explained to look out for this, because they didn’t recognise that “blue instead of green” was part of the same ‘class’ of problems as “purple instead of red”. (Obviously the actual difference was a little bit more subtle than that!)

    I don’t know what the answer is OP2 other than you likely need someone with a bit more experience/suitability to begin with, if you think any other entry level person would similarly struggle.

  78. ImSorryICantDontHateMe*

    I had a job once where I was informed on the first day that there was an employee assigned to walk around at 9am, leaving post-its at vacant desks with a note to call “when you got in.”

    I had a very not-desk based job and several days a week I had early meetings. I quickly started ignoring these (yes, i wasn’t at my desk at 9am on wednesdays, i was running a weekly 8am meeting) and planning my exit. it created a very toxic atmosphere.

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

      I hope you started pre-emptively calling at 7.50 or whenever you arrived and left a message…

  79. Jennifleurs*

    Are you old-fashioned, #1? Undoubtedly. There will be some jobs when coverage needs to be available from the required minute, yes, but other than that … why? Are they getting done everything you need/want them to be doing in their current timekeeping? If yes, why bother policing their punctuality??

    I used to work somewhere with your mindset, including the “must turn up X minutes before and be at desk logged in by 08:30” view. Yet we weren’t allowed to count coming in early in the mornings if we needed to make time up.

    This was also a screwed up company in a lot of ways – the founder’s wife would barge into the room if she saw you talking with a coworker and demand to know what you were talking about, all of our screens faced the door so they could be inspected upon entry, and after I left the department had to write on the whiteboard every time they left the room to go to the toilet. So like, I might be extra resistant to clocking punctuality because of that bad experience. But like … it doesn’t teach anyone anything, other than fear and/or resentment.

  80. Conspiracy-Industrial Complex*

    Letter #1…

    My office has flex-time, so there’s no major lateness issue in terms of arrival times.

    However, I can’t stand lateness in meetings. If I’m running a meeting, I start at the designated time because all of us have other work to get back to. Those who were late will have to read the minutes later.

  81. nonegiven*

    #2 should wait until they give a return date, then ask about staying remote because you want to stay where you are. You never know, they might allow it. If they don’t allow it, then you know to look for something else.

    No reason not to watch for local jobs or other remote jobs in the meantime.

  82. PersephoneUnderground*

    OP on the lateness question- sticking to such arbitrary rules may really deprive you of good talent. Timeliness is open seen as some sort of proxy measurement of work ethic, but that’s a huge fallacy. I do great work- have multiple glowing performance reviews to prove it over the years- and I work hard and care about getting things right. But when I was just starting out and stuck in jobs where timeliness was important (retail, reception) I had a really rocky time of it. I quit on my last warning a few times because I didn’t want to be fired. I tried everything- multiple alarms, strict bedtime, playing things out the night before- but I have ADHD and I eventually had to accept that I can’t be consistently on time to save my life (time blindness is a primary symptom). I can manage short periods of perfect attendance, with a lot of effort, but if someone told me I would be fired if I was late again in the next few months, they’d essentially already fired me.

    And there are plenty of other reasons people stuck at this, some medical, others not. But it simply doesn’t mean they’re not diligent or dedicated. I’ve been specifically praised for my attention to detail in my work. But I had to get far enough in my career to get into jobs where quality mattered more than what time my butt hit the chair. And there are specific aspects of my ADHD that actually make me *better* at my work than I would be without them. So if the job in question doesn’t actually need strict attendance times, please resist the urge to see it as a virtue on its own, or a measure of other virtues or failings in a person. You’ll get more out of people if you can really look at the whole package and resist the urge to say “Well, if she can’t at least show up on time how can she write good code? ” See how unreasonable that is?

  83. Quickbeam*

    I just want to add something for #1. I’ve had 2 careers, both which were the 24/7 shift relief variety. I do think promptness is a virtue. You would too if you had to wait an hour for someone to show up to relieve you after a 12 hour shift. I personally can’t stand lateness…in my current job we have people who never show up on time and the crisis calls have to be handled by the people who are on time. I beleive there are a lot of jobs where being on time is a value.

  84. Geek*

    #3: re: dyslexia

    Malcolm Gladwell’s book, _David and Goliath_ has some interesting examples of several successful people with dyslexia that portray dyslexia almost as a secret super power. Something that is traditionally seen as a weakness might cause other compensations that not only make up for the alleged weakness, but outshine it.

  85. Penny*

    For OP 1, when I started at my current employer, they were much stricter on time issues and would use lateness as a means of firing problem employees without jumping through the hoops of improvement plans etc (this practice has since stopped and if you were a good employee, you could be late with no issues). An employee had gotten a reputation of being a bad worker largely due to her inability to stop chatting with her co-workers and so her manager started to document when she came in and harp on her for being late. Except the manager was also leaving early each day to pick up her daughter at daycare. So in the meeting with HR, the employee reported the manager and just said she was following her manager’s example and both were written up. And within 3 months neither worked there anymore. So be careful of being overly concerned with something that does not impact productivity and if you do, make sure you are above reproach.

    1. PersephoneUnderground*

      And this is why proxies like that are a bad idea! Just discipline the person for what they’re actually doing wrong, not a manufactured lateness issue that you don’t live up to yourself! That sort of thing (we have this on everyone so we have a reason to fire anyone we want) gets problematic quickly, especially because it obviously isn’t meant to be enforced evenly, so it gives a false sense of cover and encourages b.s. like illegal firings that end up being transparent anyway. Or they are forced to follow the letter of the policy and lose good people over b.s.

  86. cheeky*

    Being late is cause for discipline at my office job. I don’t think it’s true this attitude is behind the times- it just matters what your job is and what your company’s culture is.

    1. PersephoneUnderground*

      If there’s no business reason for it, your office culture is indeed behind the times and probably missing out on good workers who have real problems with timeliness but could be rockstars at the substance of their jobs. ADHD for example effects something like 10% of the population, and it’s just one reason people struggle with timeliness specifically while being great at other things (in fact people with ADHD also have a higher likelihood of being considered “gifted” as children, so often excel at work outside a few problem areas like timeliness).

  87. Mother Trucker*

    LW1, it depends on the type of work. If you’re a shift worker and someone can’t leave until you take over, then it is a problem. Other than that, it depends on the office. I’m on call 24/7. My boss knows that if he emails at 6:30 on a Saturday it’s taken care of. He also knows that he doesn’t know if I got a call at 1:30 in the morning to fix something, so there’s leniency. We’re required to get things done regardless of the time.

    1. Evan Þ.*

      That sounds exhausting. I just left an otherwise-great job because I was on call 24×7 – we were going to get overnight relief in a couple months, but I was burned out and still didn’t want to be on call evenings and weekends.

      1. Mother Trucker*

        It’s honestly not bad. There’s a strict line between right now emergency and take care of first thing tomorrow emergency. A real emergency can cost us $50k an hour, so someone has to be available. I also worked there 5 years before accepting the role, so I knew what I was getting into.

  88. Jess*

    LW #1: Not to pile on, but this sort of obsessive nickel and dime-ing of every second I was late from a former manager made me go from a stellar employee who frequently and cheerfully worked late to an incredibly depressed and anxious employee who did the bare minimum, left at 5 on the dot, panicked at every subway delay, and was desperately searching for a new job. It’s incredibly demoralizing, and in most office jobs there’s simply no need for it. A job should value my output, not my hours.

  89. Matt*

    Whenever lateness comes up, I wish that it would be specifically mentioned that retail jobs are one of the jobs where being on time is important.

    Attendance issues are probably the easiest way to get fired in retail. Those who don’t take it seriously will learn the hard way.

    I have had commissioned salespeople who have put 70K+ jobs at risk because they can’t get to work on time. If the store is opening late, people aren’t able to take breaks due to coverage, or customer service suffers due to improper staffing levels, you’ll be replaced.

  90. RagingADHD*

    #2, It sounds like your support person is tasked with preparing client-facing communications and written work product. (Hence the editing).

    That’s not entry-level work.

    Entry level work is simple, often rote work that doesn’t require the worker to exercise discretion, and where they only interact with clients in a basic capacity like taking messages, scheduling appointments, or greeting them. Because the definition of “entry level” is that the worker has not yet had enough experience to develop that discretion and the necessary skills to create work product.

    You’re trying to impart 3-5 years of work experience in a matter of weeks. Of course you’re overworked!

  91. Teapot Wrangler*

    I think the culture in the UK is somewhat different possibly due to our contracts of employment etc. It definitely seems much more chilled than here from reading this site, at least.

    All of the office jobs I’ve worked, the contract has said something like “Your normal working hours are 9.30am to 5.30pm” and that has been the case even when I have signed a working time directive opt out (meaning that I am legally allowed to work over 48 hours per week).

    I’d say the expectation is that by 9.30 you will have settled yourself and signed in to your computer. If that’s just taking your coat off, great, if that’s dump your stuff, pop to the loo, grab a coffee also good. I think how lateness is dealt with is probably the key differentiator. For example at my current job if (pre-Covid) my train was late and I was going to be ten minutes late, I’d just walk in ten minutes late and apologise to my boss as I walked past. In a previous role, it would be expected that I would ping an email saying I was likely to be late. It does vary though. I work in law and the teams that tended to work with the US, would often trail in at 10ish because they’ll have been in working until 10pm (earliest) and that was fine with the partner they reported in to.

    Generally, I reckon being late every few weeks wouldn’t be a big deal but one of my team members was in a few minutes late almost every day for about a month and it caused ructions!

    Flexi-time is becoming much more common (meaning you can work loads of hours one day then hardly any the next as long as you get in your 35 hours (some places have core hours and time off in lieu to complicate things) but sadly much more common in the civil service than in professional services.

    I do think the culture is slowly changing but it’ll be a long time before people aren’t getting into the building at 9,15 to allow enough time to get the lifts up and be seated, phone logged in, computer logged on by 9,30.

    Obviously, being late to meetings is completely unacceptable. I would always be logged in / at the meeting room at least a minute or two early with my drinks in hand. Pet peeve is people who arrive just on time but then wander off to make coffee!

  92. Brusque*

    I’ve been in a position where timeliness counted more than work and quality.
    The perspective of my bosses there was skewed and it didn’t feel good and wasn’t doeable at all to come one and a half our earlier and waiting two hours on a train after work with a 90 minutes commute on top just to accomodate the managements need of a strict starting time without any other reason than: that’s how we like it to be. I didn’t last a year in that job. It was impossible to have a life with that commuting time.
    Bad thing for my company: I was a very good worker and mooved a lot of workload. I also accumulated a lot of knowledge no one bothered to get from me. So when I quit ‘all of a sudden and without ANY reason’ they had a hard time to replace me just because they couldn’t be bothered to accomodate me with a ten minute flexibility. I guess they didn’t see what I really contributed till I was gone. I bet had they seen it they wouldn’t have insisted on the riddiculous stickling to a fixed starting time. Especially since there wasn’t any neccessity to it.

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