what comp time policy should I set for my team?

A reader writes:

I head an agency with around 40 employees. I’m struggling with our policy on compensatory time for travel. For years, every waking minute during travel, from departure to return, has been counted as work time, with staff receiving comp time for any time over eight hours per day. For example, an employee leaves at 8 am to drive five hours to conference destination, participates in an evening event ending at 10 pm. Employee counts a 14-hour day. Important to note that this employee is exempt, a division head, and earns in excess of six figures.

I would contend that conference attendance is a perk and she is not an hourly employee, so this should really be an eight-hour day. What is a reasonable policy here? Is there a distinction between a conference (often at a desirable destination) and required travel to perform ordinary work tasks?

I answer this question — and two others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • How do I keep a client out of my personal space?
  • Cooking a roast at work

{ 226 comments… read them below }

    1. RussianInTexas*

      So much drama.
      Raw beef shouldn’t smell that strongly, right? Unless it’s particularly bloody, which a supermarket hunk of meat shouldn’t be. And you don’t leave it out for hours? It smells different while it’s cooking. What other “weird” smells would a roast have? Carrots? Potatoes? It’s possible the brand new oven was giving out the “brand new plastic warm” smell.
      I mean, it’s a kind of a weird thing to do at work, but this is too much drama.

      1. Specks*

        Too much drama from the cooks for sure. Other people are entitled to work without awful smells. When I was pregnant any meat (especially hot) would make me retch or throw up. Sitting through hours of that would’ve boot been possible physically. I totally get how someone wouldn’t have thought of that, but once people complain keeping going or getting defensive about it is an asshole move.

        1. Christine*

          I’m vegan, so I would be extremely upset if I were forced to endure the sight and smell of burning flesh at work. It’s bad enough that I have to put up with it at my relatives’ homes during the holidays.

      2. Petty_Boop*

        My thought was that the smell was the oven being used for the first time and probably releasing some chemical/manufacturing odors. I always turn a new oven on for a couple of hours empty to burn off any odors before I actually cook anything in it.

        1. Trout 'Waver*

          Yeah, this was my first thought as well. Ovens put off some funky smells the first time they’re heated up. You’re really supposed to do that before anyone tries to cook with the thing.

        2. Really?*

          That is the likely explanation. I would actually have been concerned about eating that roast if the off gases hadn’t been burned off first. A few years ago, my sister was christening her new kitchen, including her new oven at thanksgiving. Since she’d never tried it, I started reading the instructions, and noticed that they said to turn it on at a relatively high temperature for several hours. My sister was all for putting the turkey in the oven, but I pointed out that after she had spent all this money, we may as well follow the instructions and we were glad we did! The odor was awful, and at one point the smoke set off the smoke detectors! Thanksgiving dinner that year was spaghetti, we cooked the turkey on Friday!

          1. Recovering the satellites*

            Oh, @Really? thank you so much for posting this! I poured over the instructions of my new convection mini oven (like a giant toaster oven with convection) several times and did not see anywhere saying it was supposed to smoke so badly it would cause the smoke alarms to go off. It had me really wondering if I did something wrong or if there was something wrong with it! Thanks again!

      3. Belles Chaussettes*

        Agreed. It wouldn’t smell of raw meat for hours. It would smell of cooking meat. The odd smell may have been the new oven.

        It doesn’t come off as cliquey to me. If a group of 8 decided to buy a pizza for lunch everyone would smell it. They have no obligation to share it. Food has smells. I may not care for the co-worker’s chili dog, but I’m not going to complain about it.

      4. dawbs*

        unless it’s an unusual type of meat?
        (My family cooks a lot of venison but the gamey smell it gives off while cooking is kinda horrid. ditto rabbit. It was forbidden to start it unless I left the house when I was pregnant)

      5. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

        I was wondering about the new oven smell until they got offended by the comments which makes me wonder if it was heavily seasoned with some strong smelling spices.

      6. Also-ADHD*

        A new oven sometimes smells the first time it heats, so I wonder if that was it, mixing with the raw meat?

      7. YouwantmetodoWHAT?! *

        Roasts are the only meat that I absolutely cannot stand the smell of. I find it revolting and I would be VERY unhappy if I had to smell it at work. It’s bad enough at home.

    2. Star Trek Nutcase*

      I’ve only ever worked once in an office with a full kitchen. I was very glad to be able to witness the cooking hygiene used by my coworkers and boss. It was eye-opening and the reason I never ate anything they prepared – or at future jobs’ potlucks. (I’m not a germaphobe but can’t deal with not washing hands, repeated dipping same taste spoon into pot, running hands through hair & then touching food, etc.)

    3. Carmina*

      Definitely odd – but it’s a bit weird to even _have_ an oven in the first place! I’ve only ever seen microwaves at work, sometimes kettles (and coffee machines of course)

      I suspect it was a jokey “going all out christening the oven”-type thing. I wouldn’t speak up unless they start doing it regularly – and even then, probably the odd smell was only a first-time thing and it won’t be as disruptive next time.

      I am also assuming that they thoroughly cleaned the oven afterwards!

  1. Caramel & Cheddar*

    I feel like #1 didn’t really get answered? I appreciate that hour-for-hour with exempt employees is maybe not the way to go, but there’s nothing more dispiriting than having to travel for work and having so much of the extra hours associated with travel and conference attendance chalked up to “well, you’re exempt, so sucks to be you.” Even if the conference is a perk and even if the destination is desirable, it’s still work to be there.

    If you have to arrive the day before because of the way the travel shakes out, are you just supposed to eat that? If you normally work eight hour days but all the conference days are 9am-9pm because there are sessions during the day and networking events in the evening, are you just out of luck? Surely there’s a happy medium in here between “you don’t get any extra hours of comp time” and “you get literally every additional hour you work in comp time.”

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      Yeah, I thought the answer kind of left things hanging. How exactly, if at all, should the employee be comped?

      1. Petty_Boop*

        I think it comes down to benefit. Are you attending an industry conference to network and do some professional development that you ASKED to go to, or are you attending something that your company and/or client has asked or directed you to attend, participate, take notes, give a briefing, etc…

        I just attended a week long HUGE expo and demo in Florida. My company manager asked me if I wanted to attend and I’ve always wanted to go so I said yes (yayyy CPEs), but it by no means benefitted the company or my govt. client. So, I charged time actually attending, and any time I spent in my hotel room working on client work, but I didn’t expect comp time for social events, etc.. in the evening.

      2. Lucia Pacciola*

        Ultimately, comp decisions are retention decisions. The employee should be comped however best attracts and retains the kinds of people the employer wishes to attract and retain. That will vary from industry to industry, job market to job market, and employer to employer. There’s no one size fits all answer. Other than the obvious legal requirements, there’s no answer that anyone outside this particular company can give, for how this particular company should compensate its people for travel time.

        1. Also-ADHD*

          I think the question of should speaks to ethics and productivity too, not just retention.

          Your answer suggests the market handles it via retention (no ethics), but some will disagree. I think I do, but I also think companies with a history and culture of being ethical will get better retention. Ethically, I think even if you can get staff to work tons of extra hours and travel with no compensation or extra time, and keep retention on target, you just shouldn’t. It’s bad practice.

          Realistically, just because you can retain people doesn’t mean they’re engaged, productive, or at their best. It’s a question of burnout too, not just retention.

      3. Jenny*

        Ours is set up based on work hours. So let’s say that my normal work hours are 7-3:30. But the conference is 7-5:30. I’d get 2 comp hours. The rest of the time I’m technically free so I don’t get any comp time. Meals don’t count as comp time. Travel counts. But oddly enough airport delays don’t. Luckily none of this matters too much because we don’t travel often.

      4. AngryOctopus*

        My employer basically says “hey, if you’re at a conference and have two late nights and two weekend days (one a half day), go ahead and take a couple of days off in the next couple weeks” (this is based on my last conference, where Sunday was over at 1). But it’s not really formal, so I don’t know how OP might want to codify that.

        1. NoExtras*

          to give a contrary view, I get nothing. attending the conference is for my job. I get my normal pay.

        2. Allonge*

          We have a cap of how many hours we can count as work on travel days, just as there is a limit to how many working hours on normal dayswe can register and reclaim later.

          There is a possibility for a manager to override the cap in cases where it does not cover the work (e.g. you go to a fair to man the company booth, if it’s open 11 hours, you get to count all 11). But not for travel necessarily.

    2. Flying Turtles*

      My supervisors have usually set a policy that travel hours and conference hours are eligible for comp time, but networking hours/social events are not.

      1. ursula*

        This is more or less what we do, also, but ballpark it to the nearest half-day rather than hourly. Senior staff are also expected to be more flexible about this than we ask junior staff to be.

    3. Bee*

      Yeah, I think where I come down (as an exempt person who travels to conferences and does NOT get comp time, sigh) is that if it falls on a workday it’s just a workday, but if it’s over a weekend you should get at least one comp day, even if it’s just the Monday after the conference. It sucks to work 12 days straight and just be told “well you’re exempt, so.”

      1. AndersonDarling*

        Yeah, I once had to travel on a Sunday to a training and then travel back on a Saturday. I was driving alone and it was exhausting. I was bitter that I was supposed to suck it up because I was exempt. I worked two extra DAYS, on top of the extra hours for the training. I was dumbfounded that I wasn’t offered at least a day off as comp time to recover.

        1. Velomont*

          I’m non-exempt so I have no stake in this but I am curious, as I work in an organization in which becoming exempt could be a possibility given different circumstances. So, in your situation AndersonDarling, could you not, because you’re exempt, just take some comp for yourself based on your own assessment?

      2. iglwif*

        That’s how all my past employers have handled it, too. That said, I’ve never worked anywhere that accounts sick time, vacation time, personal time, or comp time / time in lieu in *hours*, though.

      3. Grey Coder*

        This was the policy at ExJob — weekend working (including travel) was comped, generally nothing else. We were encouraged to travel during the working day though, so we didn’t usually have long work days due to travel.

    4. Yeah...*

      My place recently changed from this policy. It has greatly lowered morale in a place that doesn’t give “perks.” We now only get credit for Monday through Friday 8-5. If you travel and are able to log onto to network while in route, you get credit for that too.

      Morale has been lowered.

      1. Project Maniac-ger*

        Effect on morale is what I thought of first too. I personally think this hour-for-hour comp time for exempt is crazy and not in the spirit of exempt work BUT downgrading that perk will not feel great to the folks who enjoy it.

        Industry matters here too – if this is a situation where the average employee travels once every three years, I think it will be less of a hit than if people are on the road monthly.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          Years ago, I spent a few months helping set up an office and train new staff. It was 2.5 hours away from HQ. I had to leave Sunday night to get there, work a 40+ hour week, stay in a crappy hotel room, and drive home on Friday evening, dropping off the pool car on the way home.

          We got 2 hours of comp time as a “thank you.” (We were salaried, but only two very narrow pay grades above hourly pay.)

          1. Just Another Cog*

            This sounds like a bank I worked for. I spent the better part of 1999 driving/flying to offices all over the state to get them trained on new systems before Y2K. I worked very long days and weekends. There were no cell phones and I had to pay for long distance calls from my hotel room to my family at home. It sucked. There was zero extra compensation, and not really any acknowledgment from them that I had sacrificed a huge portion of my home life for the company. It would have been nice to get an extra week of vacation at least as a thanks. I wasn’t there much longer after that.

    5. Person from the Resume*

      I agree. There’s a general question. And there’s a specific example for an exempt employee, a division head who earns in excess of six figures.

      I’d expect a division head earning 6 figures to not nickel and dime those 6 hours when presumably some of it might be personally beneficial networking. Also did he arrive and start participating in the conference? Or was the first conference activity the evening event so he could have had 3 hours in his hotel room, getting lunch, chilling out? Or maybe he did have 3 hours before the conference but did work. There’s not enough details. Is this the only late night or does every day go 12 hours?

      I imagine that the majority (greater than 50% but perhaps not much more than that) of people attending conferences are exempt. The rules would be clear cut for non-exempt.

      1. Really?*

        Been there done that. I was frequently required to travel to attend conferences and other business meetings, sometimes in nice destinations. Personally, I never considered this a perk, it’s a pain in the posterior. I’ve always been exempt, and 12 hour days at conferences usually count as a normal workday; no comp time. (Over several different employers!) And it is hard work being “on” for 12 hours. Most of the time, it didn’t matter how “nice” the destination was; conference rooms and ballrooms tend to be the same the whole world over. If my flight got in really late on a weeknight, I might roll into the office at noon the following day, if I didn’t have meetings scheduled. Occasionally, if I lost an entire weekend day, I might be able to sneak a day of comp time the following week depending on the workload. But that was all very ad hoc, and depending on the boss. No one will ever convince me at conferences are a perk – they are very hard work!

    6. Siege*

      I’m really considering this against the “salary us a scam” response yesterday. One of the ways to make it not be a scam is to compensate people hour-for-hour, particularly if you don’t actually get to take advantage of slower weeks. Forcing managers to think about the actual cost of doing business is generally useful.

      I work at a place now where I keep most weeks to 40 hours and get hour-for-hour comp (and time and a half comp if it’s work on Sunday or a holiday). I worked at a place that gave no comp and expected that you would work 60 hour weeks, minimum. And I worked at a place where my boss did actually pay attention and while there was no formal comp time policy, if you worked significantly over one week (like the week I did 100 hours) he made sure your next few weeks were lighter.

      Of them all, the place I’m at now is the one where I’m able to have the most predictability on my schedule, which I enjoy. My boss has to think about whether she wants to incur comp time before she does it. Being salaried/exempt feels least like a scam here.

      1. Claire*

        I agree. At my first nonprofit job comp time was given hour-for-hour based on time worked over 40 hours. It was great because it meant none of us were overworked just because we were exempt. I think it’s the best way to avoid the problem of “being exempt is a scam.”

      2. Debbie in Development*

        Thanks for this perspective. I was also thinking about this letter against the “salary is a scam” letter for yesterday.
        I just joined a nonprofit and am running into this issue where there is a lot of travel (roughly once a month) and while my boss has a comp time policy that if we work on a weekend, we get a day off the following week, the larger organization doesn’t acknowledge this policy and is actually pretty stingy about PTO in general (80 hours accrued during the year that you then lose if you don’t use it by the end of the year).
        I expected some nights and weekend with local events but the cross country travel is new to me and feels a bit like a scam.

        1. smirkette*

          I’ve mostly worked for non-profits and have had a couple roles that involved extensive traveling, frequently leaving home at 4–5am to get to the airport and getting back 11pm or later Friday night only to do it all again the next week. No comp time, and surprise, this role had a lot of turnover! (I lasted a year.)

      3. samwise*

        Agreed. Especially since exempt/salaried for me means that if I’m taking off a couple hours for a medical appointment or whatever, I’m expected to use my PTO. But if I’m working extra hours, I don’t get compensated in any way for those hours. (State employee at a state university, we do in fact get “comp time” for some outside-of-hours work, but it’s not on the books anywhere — state does not allow comp time for exempt employees.)

      4. Massive Dynamic*

        Agreed – salary is a scam because it doesn’t value the actual hours that an employee works. So therefore the solution has to be: value those hours. For conferences, a strict rule of time in motion and time at conferences seems fair, with time at networking events added too if the company requires attendance at those.

        I think there’s also sometimes a broken mindset of work ebbs and flows… at an old job, they gave not a hoot if I had a week or weeks over 40+ hours but you’d better believe they noticed when I had a week less than 40. They wanted those 40 hours/week no matter what or they thought I was scamming THEM. As a salaried employee.

        1. Siege*

          Yes, this is an excellent point. Even aside from whether you ever have a slower week, will you be penalized for taking advantage of it? My experience is yes.

      5. ferrina*

        I think the amount of the salary matters. I’ve worked 60/hr weeks when I made 40k/yr and when I made 100k/yr. It’s a very different feeling.
        At 40k, it was definitely a scam. It was an excuse for the company to keep their expenses low.
        At 100k, it felt like a proper business arrangement. The company knew I’d be working some long hours and made sure to reflect that in my annual compensation.

        That said, it doesn’t erase the issue of needing downtime. When you have to work a bunch of days in a row, that gets exhausting .

      6. Also-ADHD*

        If you’re tracking hourly and not letting people go when it is slow at their own discretion, it feels like the job isn’t really salary. I think that’s the issue.

    7. Specks*

      My org used to do a day of comp for every 5 days of travel. It felt a tad stingy but not off by much

    8. bamcheeks*

      But isn’t the point of being exempt is that your employer isn’t counting your hours, you are, and your targets and KPIs aren’t based on hours worked? I would have thought the expectation here was that the employee decides how much time they came reasonably take back, and the employer tracks the amount of work they’re getting done, not their specific working hours.

      We don’t have “exempt” in the UK, but I had a job where I travelled a lot and nobody was formally tracking my hours. If I was out from 6am-8pm on Tuesday, I’d start late on Wednesday and probably finish early on Friday. I didn’t do and hour-by-hour count, but I made pretty sure I wasn’t doing more than 2-3 hours extra a week on a regular basis. I also did most of my travelling by train and read my own books (rather than working), so I tended to count travel time as half my time half work time.

      1. UnCivilServant*

        Not necessarily.

        I am overtime exempt, but still have to enter my hours into our timekeeping system. As long as my hours per time period are at least X, I’m paid my normal rate. If my hours are below X, I must cover the difference with PTO or lose pay.

        Being overtime exempt merely means that you don’t earn overtime. The true salaried version of “whatever hours so long as the job gets done” is practically nonexistant these days.

        1. Loredena*

          That doesn’t sound quite right if you are salaried From the DoL “So, it’s not legal to deduct an hour here or there when an exempt employee comes in late or goes to the dentist. If you do, the government assumes the employee should be paid on a non-exempt, hourly basis.” PTO would only be impacted if you took a full day if you worked at all your salary cannot be reduced “You can reduce an exempt employee’s salary only in limited circumstances, as follows:
          1) When an employee is absent from work for one or more full days (NOT partial days) ”

          It’s trickier if you are hourly as there is still a minimum wage you must be paid weekly/annually to qualify as exempt

          1. Nocturna*

            To my understanding, the rule about not reducing salary does not prohibit employers from requiring reduced hours to come from PTO, because PTO means the employee is still being paid.

            1. Loredena*

              That’s true, so long as they have PTO to deduct from (if they do not, a partial day must still be paid in full though of course the employer could have other policies such as allowing going negative)

              What the person I replied to said was he would have his pay reduced if he didn’t work X hours and didn’t have PTO Which it appears if salaried can only be true if it was a full day not worked (so not a case of only worked 32 but did so by shorting each day by a couple hours as opposed to a full day out)

        2. Also-ADHD*

          The last two jobs I’ve had, and many in my field, were closer to “whatever hours gets it done” (within reason—if you were not traveling but never around during core hours, someone might talk to you, as an availability issue). I’ve not had to clock in in ages! Those jobs definitely exist and I’m not sure there’s any sensibility they’re less available now than they used to be (for me, early career was by far the most restrictive, outside of fields where the nature of the work required specific coverage, which weren’t actually salaried exempt—I did a stint teaching and that was restrictive but I was a union contract employee and had contract hours I personally stopped working over without stipends pretty early, though many teachers work extra and think they’re salaried even if they have contract hours—but I had a union). In corporate, whenever I’ve been salary and above the assistant level, I’ve had flexibility and decision making like that poster notes and I’ve worked in multiple functions at the individual contributor, lead, and manager level.

      2. Cyborg Llama Horde*

        I would have thought the expectation here was that the employee decides how much time they came reasonably take back, and the employer tracks the amount of work they’re getting done, not their specific working hours.

        At all the exempt jobs I’ve worked, it sort-of works like that, but if I’m going to take back a half or full day, I should probably at least run it by my manager.

    9. (Mr.) Cajun2core*

      I have never had an exempt job where I could work less than 40 hours a week (without taking PTO) just because we were slow. So, the concept of “ebb and flow” never existed for me.

      I have known one person who was lucky enough to have such a situation but he had COVID and ran out of sick leave. They did keep paying him until he was able to return to work full time.

      1. It Might Be Me*

        At previous job I developed the rule for the few exempt employees (me and two others) that anything over three hours and we had to take sick or vacation time. But, I also knew we were all putting in more than 40 hours a week.

        The non-exempt employees didn’t care because our attitude was once we had no clients and we were done with the closing up. We didn’t watch the clock. It was go-home and enjoy. Oh, no! They didn’t work that 20 minutes! /s

    10. Spencer Hastings*

      Also, there’s exempt and then there’s exempt, right? I’m exempt, and have been since entry-level, because that’s just how my industry is (we’re considered “learned professionals” from the moment we graduate). But this person is some kind of higher-up director, right? I think there’s a case for making a difference between the LW’s situation and that of a first-year accountant, even though they’re both exempt.

      1. Also-ADHD*

        I think directors should actually claw back time and tell their reports they do so, to set the tone it’s normal and work/life balance matters. I think part of being good leaders is modeling those behaviors too. Now that only works if they’re happy to fight for their staff and their comp time, but I disagree with the comments here and the LW suggestion that it’s somehow less valid because they are higher up (the hour by hour is weird, but if that’s a company practice, the issue isn’t with the individual case).

    11. Wilbur*

      In my experience-travel outside of work hours, especially on the weekend-is comp time.

      I very rarely go to conferences, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen one where you need to go to every session and event every day. I do travel for work a few times a year and when that happens, it’s typically long days (~12 hours, some of it business dinners). I would not consider that comp time, as some weeks I need to put it more hours to meet deadlines and others I can leave a bit early. The caveat is when this is clearly part of a longer period of high demand on your time. For example, there was a change in a project where we needed to travel every month for two weeks, working 12 hour days plus Saturdays. In that case I negotiated overtime despite being exempt, because it was a significant change in quantity of travel/hours worked.

    12. 1-800-BrownCow*

      I’ve been exempt my entire career, 5 different places and have never been comped for travel. Just earlier this month I traveled to a big conference (at my request, although quite beneficial to my company for me to go); left on Sunday, came home Thursday, and was expected to return to work on Friday. No comp time at all. I’ve also been sent by the company to 2 different trainings that included weekend travel, and again, I was not comped for my travel time. Basically, what I’ve been told by others, “the company pays all travel expenses, they don’t owe you anything”.

    13. 40hoursaweek*

      I agree. While I understand the sentiment, as exempt salary employee your work ebbs and flows and therefore it should essentially “all work out in the end”, but that’s not the case for many of us. Where I’m at, I’m expected to work my 40 set hours each week, and then also do evening conference calls, webinars, etc. Additionally, I travel and am often gone for the weekend, or working 14-16 hours days while I travel. When I have asked about leaving early on a Friday because I have a webinars earlier in the week the answer is that I’m salary and work till the job is done. As it turns out my definition of the job being done is leaving early on a Friday to offset the extra hours, and my employer feels that the extra hours are expected. I personally feel that they are paying me a salary to do a 40 hour a week job, and to consistently expect me to work 45-50 hours with no offset is abusive. While an hour for hour tracking doesn’t make sense in most cases, I don’t think it’s reasonable to assume that it’s a minimum of 40 hours, when that should be the maximum.

      1. AnnaBanana*

        My organisation gives a half day of TOIL for every night away from home, so a conference from Monday to Wednesday might involve 14 hours per day, including lots of evening socialising/networking but you’d just get one day of overtime back. Everyone has always seemed happy enough with that compromise, but conferences are generally something people want to do for networking and development rather than something the company is telling them to do, which I think makes a difference!

    14. AcademiaNut*

      In my job, we get formally comped time when we need to work on weekends or holidays (sometime necessary, but not standard), but for things like a long work days or travel, we’d be able to flex time around the trip. For the LW’s case, if it were a five hour one way trip we’d be expected to get a hotel and spend the night, coming back the next day. For longer trips, not coming into the office the day of an afternoon departure, or coming in at noon after a late arrival would be normal, as would taking time to deal with life stuff that’s disrupted by the trip (you could drop a pet off at the kennel, or do a grocery run after getting back during work hours). It would also be pretty normal at a week long conference to skip out of some of the less vital sessions, or for an afternoon, to get a break and recharge a bit.

    15. Also-ADHD*

      Personally I think hour for hour is weird, but if I work a weekend day, I claw a day back (even if I only work/travel part of it) and expect to be able to. If I work a night/significant extra hours(including travel), I take a half day somewhere per. Usually right away on either side or if that won’t work out because of business needs, I put the day on my calendar with the trip (even if it is far out, just send it as I book), and I’ve not had a problem doing this at multiple jobs. Most people assume I’ll take some extra time. The difference is if I’ve asked to go to the conference (which I do sometimes) and my company totally doesn’t care—then they basically let me go without taking PTO already which was cool and maybe paid for it. But that’s when I’ve brought it up myself fully.

    1. dot*

      Why do people insist on filling in these sorts of details that are totally irrelevant and have no indication of being true or not based on the OP?

        1. Snow Globe*

          The context is complaining about the smell of raw meat when the roast had been cooking a while. The smell of meat cooking would not be described as “raw meat” by most carnivores.

          However it could be just a weird smell from the first time use of the oven, which will go away after a couple of uses

          1. BubbleTea*

            I’m vegan and my assumption was the oven smelling weird because it hadn’t been used before. Even those of us who have never eaten meat in our lives know what cooking meat smells like; if that was the only smell, commenting that it smelt weird or odd is rude – which isn’t a trait specific to or exclusive to vegetarians.

            1. Clisby*

              I’m not a vegan, and I agree with you. If this was the first time the oven had been used, that’s most likely the cause of the weird smell. I get a weird smell when I turn on the heat every year – I live in SC, so that often doesn’t happen until late November, and by March I turn it off. It’s not a scary smell – just kind of a dusty smell, if that makes sense. After a day or too it’s back to normal.

              1. Charlotte Lucas*

                I vote new oven smell. Especially if it’s electric.

                Also, it might not have been cleaned properly before it’s first use.

                This is why you don’t christen new cooking appliances with anything that will take a long time to cook.

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

        exactly. I love roast and all sorts of meat. But I HATE the smell of raw meat. I’ve gotten better but when I was younger if my mom was making meat loaf I would have to leave the kitchen because the smell was gross to me. Some people just find the smell of raw meat gross.

        I think a lot of it was 1. people weren’t expecting the smell/ 2. what type of seasonings were used. 3. Its the first time they try to use the oven and they did a roast. They should have started small and did like a frozen pizza or something. The oven probably smelled weird because it hadn’t been used before

    2. Petty_Boop*

      That’s a take I hadn’t thought of. My first thought was, the oven had never been used, so I’m betting there were chemicals or whatever in that needed to be cooked off. Before I use a new oven/air fryer or even new cast iron or carbon steel cookware to cook in, I always set it to a relatively high temperature for a couple of hours and there’s a noticeable smell.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          Yeah! We vegetarians often eat in places that cook meat and don’t complain about the smell!

          1. Christine*

            I don’t complain out loud, but I surely am complaining bitterly inside my mind. #donteatthehomies

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        I thought the same thing. We had to get a new range last year, and the setup instructions included info on letting it bake at a specific temperature for 30-60 minutes before cooking anything in it. It definitely smelled a little weird.

        Similar situation with the new dishwasher (run once on quick wash to flush out all the tubing, very minor smell pre-run) and new fridge (run a half-gallon of water through the water line before drinking, throw away the first 3 batches of ice).

        And yes, I have terrible appliance luck and have had to replace/repair too many of them in the last few years.

      2. DrSalty*

        Me too. New oven smells weird, I don’t think we need to make up stuff that’s not in the letter.

      3. Impending Heat Dome*

        Yeah, you’re usually supposed to give the oven a trial run before making anything in it. New oven smell + roast probably was not a great combination.

    3. Someone Else's Boss*

      Interesting. My mind jumped immediately to the food being traditional in a culture and perhaps the complaining being xenophobic. Of course, we’re not to make up our own answers to unanswered questions in this comment section, but I’m sharing my thoughts just to say – it could be anything, and this is why we don’t speculate :)

    4. LaurCha*

      It…. doesn’t sound like that at all. No mention was made of people’s dietary preferences.

    5. pocket sized polly*

      We just heard this story on the blog like last week and there wasn’t any mention of “vegetarians vs. non-vegetarians” so this is a weird take

  2. TheGrinchess*

    “ More typically, comp time for exempt workers would be for times when a person’s workload is heavier than the normal ebb and flow. It’s intended to provide a break after someone has gone above and beyond what’s normal, not be strict hour-for-hour compensation.”

    Hold up. Exempt (aka salaried) workers can get comp time if they go above and beyond the normal? Huh. I have never seen that in my company nor been told that existed as an option. Interesting!

    1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      It’s legal to do this for exempt employees, but it’s not required. My company actually has a policy against giving comp time to exempt employees (although management does allow us to flex our hours within a given week).

      1. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

        Oh, I always thought flex and comp hours were the same. Because we can use our hours over the two week pay period so if I work 50 hours week 1, I only really need to work 30hours week 2. Thus I get ‘comped’ for the extra hours I worked via travel by not having to work so much on another day within the pay period. Are they trying to say that they get vacation in addition to the flex? Because that would be weird, then how do you prevent someone from working a 90 hour biweekly and claiming that they are owed comp time?

        1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

          You wouldn’t get both the flex and vacation in a comp time scenario. Your extra 10 hours from week 1 would go into a bank of comp time that you could use whenever you wanted. It could be in week 2 (functionally the same as a flex time scenario), but it doesn’t have to be, and that’s the difference.

          I’m pretty sure the issue of having someone working 90 hours in a pay period and tracking that comp time is a big part of why my company doesn’t allow us to do that. (It might work better at a company where you have to track billable hours, so there’s already visibility into how much time each person is working.)

    2. The Other Evil HR Lady*

      Only if it exists as an option. Comp time is often seen for hourly workers in government. For exempt workers in non-government, it works more ad hoc: “Hey boss, I worked till 6pm last night, and I’m beat. Do you mind if I duck out at 4pm today?” That type of thing. The last conference I attended, I had to drive 2 hours on a Sunday, then it was a full day plus dinner on Monday, a full day plus dinner on Tuesday, so when the conference ended at noon on Wednesday, I drove home and took the rest of the day off. My boss was fine with that. I think Allison means comp time should work more like that, than the exact hour for hour that the OP laid out.

    3. NotAnotherManager!*

      Yep. We don’t do hour-for-hour comp time for exempt employees (just general flexibility to do what you need to do if you’re getting your work done); however, we have a few big projects every year that get insane because of client demands/external deadlines, and we give the people who push those through a comp day or two, depending on the specifics, once the deadline is met.

    4. Nesprin*

      Most salaried places, the expectation is you work the hours you need to, so if you have a 60 hour week in a heavy period, light weeks could be 20-30 hours.

      1. (Mr.) Cajun2core*

        I never had a place where I could work 20-30 hours in light weeks. It always had to be 40.

        1. ferrina*

          Yep- I worked at one place where we were chronically understaffed, and exempt meant “the employer doesn’t have to pay you for the extra hours). There were no light weeks, and the few times I tried to leave even 30 minutes early, my boss demanded I take PTO (even if I had already worked 40 hours).

          I’ve also worked places that were fine if I left early as long as my work was done. It really, really depends on the culture of the company and the boss.

    5. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      At some places, but “above and beyond” generally doesn’t mean an extra couple hours. More like “You worked all weekend to meet this deadline that just got moved forward, go ahead and take Friday off”.

    6. MHG*

      I had a boss who was adamant about giving her staff (all exempt) comp time. It worked well for me because I work a whole lot of nights and weekends. When I was laid off, it was even nicer because my vacation payout was bigger than my severance.

    7. Freya*

      Depends on the company. My workplace has an explicit policy that we either get paid for every hours work we do at the time we did it or we get time in lieu / extra PTO ie get paid at a later date.

    8. Also-ADHD*

      My job is salary and if I work extra and can’t flex it in the same or next week, I can book time some other week and be off a day or whatever. If we’re slower, because we’re waiting on others usually, then I can just take off early etc. I really look for flexibility in salary jobs and work/life balance. I know not everyone has options etc, fields differ, but it’s definitely a thing. I had a Big Crunch last fall at my prior company and I didn’t work a Friday in January but took no PTO. I did also job hunt, but that was unrelated (just wanted a promotion and we were in a freeze that seemed long term). My new job similarly gives time back if I travel or work late/early due to time zones etc. But it also has unlimited PTO (and not a scam, there’s a minimum I must take and my days are pretty chill). These jobs do exist and it’s worthwhile to look for them if you can find them. You may have to build particular skill sets, a good network, etc

  3. Pastor Petty Labelle*

    Do not nickel and dime your employees. They aren’t traveling to the conference exclusively for their personal benefit. They are traveling because it benefits the company. If you start limiting comp time because they are salaried and so all work is counted as an 8 hour day, what you will get is people who put in exactly 8 hours, no more no less. 5 hour drive to a conference, day 1 they attend 3 hours of the conference. Only. Day 2, they attend 8 hours and skip any evening activities.

    Also, people have choices. You get stingy with the comp time they will go somewhere that is not.

    1. Nobby Nobbs*

      And be careful about taking away existing perks! It’s a recipe for demoralization no matter how minor they seem (I bust my butt for this company and they don’t even think I’m worth a stale donut?!), and comp time isn’t particularly minor.

    2. JFC*

      I think this is why the tone of the letter bothered me. It sounds like LW is saying the fact that the conference is for the person’s professional benefit and in a desirable (at least to them) location makes up for the fact that they are on a work trip. Conferences are WORK. You have to be “on” for several hours at a time, between travel, paying attention during sessions, maybe presenting, networking, etc. It’s part of the job in that this isn’t something an employee would do if their employer didn’t ask it of them. Not to mention, most people are still somewhat doing their normal duties (responding to emails, quick calls or meetings, etc.).

      I would just count the conference days as normal workdays for the exempt employees. No comp time is really needed, IMO. If you wouldn’t do comp time if they worked 14-hour days in the office, I don’t see the necessity of doing it for work travel.

      1. I am not a patrician*

        In the world of government conferences, where I live, this tone is par for the course.

        The nicer the locale, the more appreciative we plebeians must be (assuming we are allowed to attend).

        1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

          My wife is a government employee and she HATES when the academic professional society holds its meetings in nice locations. (She has to attend as part of her job.) So much scrutiny for a government employee to go to New Orleans or San Diego when all she does is spend all day in a windowless conference center!

          1. an infinite number of monkeys*

            At our state agency we often can’t attend conferences in nice locations at all, if the group room rate exceeds GSA per diem and we can’t find a cheap-ass hotel close by!

            I mean, we technically could. But we’d have to make up the difference out of pocket.

          2. ferrina*

            all she does is spend all day in a windowless conference center

            This! When I travel for work, the entire time I’m either traveling or working. I’m not lounging on the beach or sampling the night life. Some trips I don’t even really eat outside the hotel or conference center. The “desirable location” argument is a joke.

            1. amoeba*

              Depends on the conference! In my field, there’s definitely ample opportunity for trying out local restaurants (and bars…), a trip or two to the beach, some sightseeing… at least one afternoon is generally off, with an optional “social programme” (think stuff like guided tours, a visit to a winery, whatever). Or you could just chill at the beach or look around the city yourself. There’s also typically a quite nice conference dinner, often with a party after.

              I know this is not the case everywhere, but I’d definitely side-eye anybody who tried to claim the hours spent at the optional tour to the winery as “work”.

              (For us – travel typically counts as 8 h days, we just put in “away for work travel”, nothing extra gets compensated. On the upside, if you actually spend less than 8 h that day working, that also counts as 8. Like, conference ends at 13 h on one day, you go back the next morning and arrive in the afternoon – both of those, full days. )

          3. Beth*

            One of the conferences I attend regularly has its own tradition of throwing what the organizers obviously think is a wild fun party on the evening of the last full day.

            I soon stopped going to these parties except for ten minutes of face time at the beginning; they were AWFUL. Insanely crowded, ear-splitting music, terrible food, and usually a lame theme for each party that managed to be awkardly sexist or worse. This is for an industry with deep pockets, so they were big-budget parties; but they were lousy parties.

            For their 10th year, the conference was held in Las Vegas. I skipped the whole thing: based on their track record, I bet the whole event was one long drunken binge. I go to these conferences for work reasons, ffs.

        2. overeducated*

          I don’t get this. Whether a conference is in a nice locale or not, if I’m there on work time, I’m spending my days in the conference center. Most of the time there aren’t even windows to gaze longingly out of while wishing you were actually enjoying said nice locale.

          1. LaurCha*

            Precisely. You don’t get to see the city unless you tack on days before or after, which is only an option if you have PTO and can afford it.

      2. Angstrom*

        In my experience, the “desireable location” part only comes into play AFTER the work is done. And if you’re putting in a full day at a conference/trade show/customer you’re probably still going to do your email and reports when you get back to the hotel.
        Our company doesn’t do hour-for-hour comp time for exempt employees. Most managers realize that trips are addded stress and will try to adjust the employee’s workload to keep things balanced.

      3. LaurCha*

        Exactly. Conference attendance isn’t a “perk”. It is professional development and benefits the employer as much as the attendee.

      4. CommanderBanana*

        It bothered me too – it seemed snarky-bordering-on-nasty to point out that the employee makes six figures and is a director. So what?

      5. engie*

        It really depends on the conference and the kind of work that is expected to be done. From the comments here I’m reading that some people only know very boring conferences and you’re really there mostly for the company’s benefit. But I don’t get the impression that that’s what the LW is talking about. If these are very popular interesting conferences, also consider the effect on other employees. My company has been going through budget cuts for years now and while we used to be able to go to technical conferences, now only our a select group of people gets to do that. I wish people who didn’t really care for these kinds of conferences would give the opportunity to others because at least in my company, these high profile conferences are definitely a perk, and there would be others who would love to go during work time, and don’t see it as such an enormous burden. In such a situation, if the people who get to go to the conference also get almost an extra day off for the trouble, that would be bad for morale of people who did not get to go.

      6. Parakeet*

        Yeah how is a conference a perk? I was confused and put off by that assertion in the letter. Conferences (even enjoyable ones) are exhausting and they are work.

        1. amoeba*

          Very much depends on the field – my colleagues and I definitely all consider our scientific conferences perks! (Everybody’s really upset when travel to those gets restricted as a cost-saving measure…)

    3. Siege*

      I’m fascinated by the idea that a desirable location could factor into this at all. I’m not enjoying the gorgeous setting of this resort if I’m stuck in a windowless room doing team building all day. I’m not in charge of my own time, and therefore the desirability of the location is 100% irrelevant.

      1. Orange You Glad*

        Agreed. Also what is “desirable” is relative to each person. My boss’ favorite destination is my least favorite and vice versa.

      2. engie*

        Is there a different definition of conference where you do team building all day? I don’t think this is the kind of thing that LW is writing about.

        1. Siege*

          No, but the time I’ve done business travel have not had me dunking myself on the beach any more than the time we did a retreat away from the office, which is the experience I described there. Standing in a windowless room staffing a show booth or sitting in windowless rooms listening to presentations about next years teapots is not materially that different; it’s a windowless room where I have no control over my time. Doesn’t matter if it’s in Paris or Peoria or Podunk.

      3. Drago Cucina*

        My husband’s profession (now retired) is known for its conferences having a recreational vibe. There’s the cruise meetings, the golfing meetings, the skiing meetings. If it’s a golfing location in the desert, the continuing ed sessions are all set later in the day so the golfers can be on the course in the early morning.

        We often did family resort meetings with our kids. The course work would all be in the morning and the afternoons free.

        1. Siege*

          Pretty different from my experience of the four types of business travel I’ve done. Of mine, I fall back on “is my time mine to control? If no, I should be compensated for it.”

    4. NotAnotherManager!*

      If the exempt employees are already given greater flexibility, it’s not nickel-and-diming them to not give them comp time down to the hour. Being exempt means I can run over to my kid’s school tomorrow for an awards presentation, leave early today to help set up for another end-of-school-year event, go to a doctor’s appointment next week, and not have to use vacation time for any of them. If the employee is not given flexibility for their own time, then that’s a different story.

    5. Orange You Glad*

      Yea I’ve never had a formal policy around this – just a general common sense policy by managers. Oh you had to fly across the country on a Sunday to attend an industry conference? Well then of course you are taking the Friday off when you return.

  4. ag*

    I worked in a division where the new space had a full kitchen and the very first week, admins fried chicken making the entire office smell like a KFC. Immediately the director created a policy that no cooking beyond heating up lunch in the microwave was to occur except for authorized staff parties like the annual pot luck AND that no strong smelling foods were to be heated in the microwave. He didn’t want clients to be coming into a space with strong cooking odors. It was clear and we didn’t have problems going forward.

      1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

        I once made donuts at work — but it was an event for clients as well as staff, with the blessing of the relevant managers. I can’t remember what the event was, unfortunately.

      2. Your Mate in Oz*

        Several of us split the const of an air fryer and made hot chips on a regular basis back in ancient times when going into the office was a normal thing. I also used to make pizza in it for a lunch a few days a week. I’m pretty sure it’s still there but on my five-yearly visit to the office I forgot to check on it.

        But it’s outside on the balcony next to the offical company gas BBQ so the smell doesn’t make it into the office. Possibly a very different thing?

    1. Juicebox Hero*

      One of my mother’s coworkers once brought in a hotplate and frying pan
      to cook a hamburger at lunchtime, right at her desk because they didn’t have a break room.

      Their big boss told her that it was an office, not a Burger King. She was the receptionist and so she was the first person people saw when they went in, and seeing her play short-order cook wasn’t very professional in his opinion.

      This was the same office where someone else once microwaved something that smelled so bad that the big boss smelled it through a closed door, around a corner, and down a corridor. He told her he didn’t know what it was, but never bring it again. According to my mother, everyone was grateful.

      1. Juicebox Hero*

        Oh, and Hamburger Lady made such a fuss that her SO started bringing picnic lunches to the office so they’d have lunch al fresco on the lawn in front of the building. Yes, on a blanket and everything.

  5. The Other Evil HR Lady*

    Just putting it out there that, sometimes, new ovens have a strange smell when first used – and since they were using it on a several-hour-long stint with a roast, the mix of both smells *could* have been a bit much, even for a roast-enthusiast. They should have started with a small batch of cookies or something…

    1. Lady_Lessa*

      I was thinking the same thing, that the coating and/or final cleaning needed to be heated well before using.

    2. Zona the Great*

      Installation should have included a plan for off gassing. I can’t imagine the fumes from using a brand new oven to cook with. The roasters weren’t getting roasted and they need to stop taking this personally.

    3. SALC*

      Yeah I recently bought a new oven and there was an extensive burning-in cycle instructed, without food in the oven… it did not smell pleasant (and ruined our plans to cook with the oven for the evening because we didn’t start two hours early lol)

  6. Richard Hershberger*

    LW2: You can also mutter about confidentiality and work product, while maneuvering the client away. This works better if you still have paper files.

    LW3: The smells strike me as odd. When I cook a roast at home, “raw meat and some other weird odor” is not what I experience. I wonder if there was some chemical residue on the inside of the oven that was outgassing. If so, this likely is a one-time problem. This doesn’t explain the raw meat odor. Indeed, I’m not sure what a raw meat odor would be, assuming it is reasonably fresh. I wonder if it weren’t simply the smell of a roast cooking, as interpreted by people who don’t cook roasts at home.

    1. JFC*

      Yeah, my guess is the LW is not a meat-eater or meat-cooker and thus is unfamiliar with what those normal odors smell like.

      1. Butterfly Counter*

        Unless there’s some cultural aspect that was left out, it’s hard to imagine large portions of society (to account for the number of people complaining in the office) who haven’t smelled cooking meat.

        In the US, a vegetarian or vegan just walking down the street on a weekend is likely to smell someone’s barbecue or some restaurant’s cooking smells.

        If more than one person in the office says it smells weird, it likely smells weird. It might be the new oven, an unconventional ingredient or sauce, or something beyond just cooking meat.

      2. JPalmer*

        Yeah, I feel like LW3 is leaving something out or there’s some very different culture thing at play.

        Like it’s possible the roast-chefs were doing something wrong, or using culturally familiar spices that are more pungent for those unfamiliar. Like if it was using a lot of Mediterranean or Indian spices. Like that’s probably a more difficult issue to pass judgement on without more context.

      3. Safely Retired*

        That caught my attention too. The only “raw” meat I’ve encountered that had a strong smell was spoiled, and the smell would be described as putrid. Not something anyone would cook.

  7. Nesprin*

    In fairness, employee starts travel at 8, drives 10 hours round trip and returns home at 10 it sure sounds like they get a day off.

    It might be worth considering if your travel reimbursement policies are fair- like if employee travels 5 hours, they should probably be on a plane or get a hotel for the night at the end of the trip.

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

      I don’t understand your comment. how is it a “day off” if they are stuck in a car for 5 hours?

      1. Claire*

        I think they mean that they should be given a day off. Not that the driving/conference day should be considered a day off.

    2. NoExtras*

      I once took a day trip from Boston to DC for work. I had to be at Logan by 5am, worked from 9-6, flew home on a 9pm flight that was late, and got home at about 1am. I was expected to work a normal day in the office the next day with no extra compensation or time off. I think I even had to pay for my own food at the airport because dinner isn’t covered on a day trip.

  8. Consonance*

    The comp time thing is generally driven by state law, so if people are wondering about their own situation, I’d look there. It’s moot for this specific situation since they’re exempt employees, but wanted to raise it for other readers. My own position has had to increase compensation in order to remain exempt, because we’re expected to travel to conferences (that academic life) and that type of activity can determine whether you’re eligible for tenure, so really needs to not be messed with. The state laws about travel, comp time, overtime, etc. are really onerous for non-exempt employees, and seem to be more in line with what the letter writer described. But again, in this letter there seems to be some conflation between exempt-employee activities and non-exempt-employee accounting of time.

    As an aside, for our non-exempt employees, work time even differs between whether you’re driving a car or a passenger in a car. It’s complicated to track.

  9. Festively Dressed Earl*

    What’s LW’s goal regarding the comp time policy? Are they trying to be fair, trying to match industry standards, trying to cut costs? It helps to remember what your goal was when you started the task. Regardless, I’d say it’s reasonable to give employees an extra day or half-day off on either side of a business trip no matter what it is, to prepare/recover. Add another day on either side if it’s international travel.

    1. Project Maniac-ger*

      Maybe I’m reaching, but I think the goal is to get this executive to be more available since that was the example. Or at least one of the goals. I could see how frustrating it would be for an executive with lots of approval power that travels once week a month then takes off another week a month thus is unavailable for essentially half of the working year! I loathe a situation where a policy is changed because one person is causing the problem, but maybe this policy is creating coverage issues everywhere.

      1. PotsPansTeapots*

        That was kinda my read on it, too. I’m a low-level exempt peon in an industry that has a fair number of conferences. I’d be pretty frustrated if a comp time policy meant I had a hard time reaching the people I need to reach. ESPECIALLY because going to a conference *would* be something I’d think of as a perk. I realize that’s not universal, especially when attending conferences is a big part of your job, but I think the perception of fairness might be an issue here.

        1. PotsPansTeapots*

          FWIW, we don’t have comp time, but do have unlimited PTO and a culture that’s pretty good about encouraging people to take it. If someone’s at a conference, I assume they’re taking a day afterwards.

  10. Yellow Flower*

    I work for a company that does comp time for any hours over 40 to exempt/salaried managers, not just travel or conferences. For example, if they need a manager to work a couple of hours on the weekend or to go to an after-hours event, they will then take that exact amount of time off (or a little more) another day. During our busy time, they work over 40 and “save” the comp time and take if off another time.

    I always thought it was work more when necessary, work less when not busy, but I guess that’s not how it works anymore. I figure if upper management doesn’t care and it doesn’t affect me then so be it.

      1. UnCivilServant*

        My guess is that non-managers are not exempt, and thus earn overtime pay.

        1. Clisby*

          Nah, it’s more complicated than that. When I was a computer programmer (27 years) I was never a manager, but was an exempt employee. Which I liked, because my company had a great deal of flexibility in work hours.

          1. Doreen*

            The law doesn’t say that only managers can be exempt – but it’s not terribly uncommon for an employer to either have no exempt non-manager employees or to pay some sort of overtime to all non-management employees even though it isn’t legally required.

      2. Isben Takes Tea*

        I’m guessing because only managers would be exempt. If you’re non-exempt, you would be getting paid overtime, which is (financially) a better deal.

      3. Yellow Flower*

        Until recently, only the managers are exempt employees. They added 2 non-exempt managers 2 months ago who are required to clock in/out. Our employee handbook states that you must obtain written approval to work overtime if you are an hourly employee or you will face disciplinary action. In cases where overtime is needed by an hourly employee, they will encourage you to find a way to somehow fit it into our work week by taking a day off before or after, depending on where in our work week it falls.

  11. kiki*

    I’m wondering if the unknown odor from the roast story might have been new oven smell mixing with the aroma from the roast? In my experience, new ovens often emit a pretty intense odor the first time they are used that wears away after a few uses. I would feel bad if everyone in the office was blaming the roast crew for the bad smell if it would happen for whoever first used the oven, you know?

    I think it’s a fun, appropriate thing to use the oven for unless your workplace specifies otherwise. Most office kitchens that I’ve worked in don’t include ovens or stovetops, so it doesn’t come up as an issue. But I assume if your office refurbished the space and opted to have an oven, they intended for it to be used by staff.

    1. Reebee*

      I just wonder about a group using an oven for hours that wasn’t to the benefit of all (like an office-wide potluck).

      Outside of a benefit-to-everyone cooking session, seems pretty rude to take over an office appliance for hours.

  12. Fluffy Fish*

    #1 – how it works at my place is salaried don’t get comp time except occasionally for special projects or extreme situations that require an obscene amount of extra work (so working lots of hours during an emergency or a major software upgrade).

    what we do get is flex time. so within a pay period if I have to work 10 hours one day, as long as there’s nothing pressing, I can take off 2 hours early another day.

    travel and conferences count as a full day of work – just a straight 8 hours regardless of how many hours were spent. if we’re paying for it it’s work time – and while yes its a perk in the sense of its a want not a need, its not a perk in the sense that its a reward. its work full stop. if you’re sending employees to conferences that aren’t benefitting the company in some way, you should look at your policy for approving conferences and training.

    however, if an employee spends all day at a conference and then has to do additional work (like having to go back to their room and work on a project) they can include those as additional worked hours.

      1. PubintAtty*

        I’ve had both the ‘minimum 80 hours per pay period- how and when are up to you’ and ‘every hour over 40= 1 hour of comp time to use whenever’ policies and definitely felt the latter encouraged employees more and works better for the business. If an employee has travel coming up you dont neccessarily want them to take 1/2 days or flat out take off the rest of that pay period to avoid donating time. Whereas with accrued comp time they can take it during slower times of the year.

        1. Fluffy Fish*

          “latter encouraged employees more and works better for the business”

          Debatable. I don’t want employees “working more” unnecessarily. I want employees with a healthy work life balance. If an employee is traveling and it only take a half day, I do in fact want them enjoying the rest of that day to unwind from traveling and maybe do something enjoyable.

    1. Your Mate in Oz*

      IME a lot depends on whether people are running a stall, giving a presentation or “just” attending a conference. A few years ago the coworkers who just spent a day (in our city) trapped in a windlowless room watching people talk got no comp time.

      I got about 10 hours of prep time for the hour-long presentation I did, including a rehearsal involving my coworkers as audience (that was part of their normal work day, they weren’t voluntold to do it after work). Plus I got the kudos and performance review credit for putting the company name on stage etc.

      OTOH a different job tried to pull the “you can go if we’re not busy” then refuse at the last second, so I took a couple of days of personal leave and went to the conference. In completely unrelated news (/s) I quit that job not long after.

      1. Fluffy Fish*

        Well yes, of course some businesses will have different needs, but I’m speaking about attending conferences as an attendee.

        Not working conferences as a vendor. That should be calculated as work time for sure.

  13. m0rgan*

    Some other potential options for #2 (especially if the client is hovering at the desk after the meeting):
    – Stand up and say some variation of “let me see you out” and begin to walk them back to reception. Or even “let me see you out and you can tell me about x on the way.” If you’re walking, they will follow away from your desk unless they can’t pick up on any social cues.

    – Excuse yourself by saying you have a meeting you have to prepare for, or another client coming in, or you’re scheduled to be in a conference call right away, etc. I think the polite thing to do would be to escort them out, or at least asking if they know their way back to reception, but either way that ends the conversation and politely implies you are busy.

    – If what the client is saying is of a private nature, say so! “This sounds confidential, let’s go back to the conference room to talk.”

  14. Maisonneuve*

    The travel time letter reminds of yesterday’s about salaried staff being screwed often because there often isn’t that much ebb and flow in the work.

    Travel compensation is clearly defined where I work. Travel days, work starts when you leave your house to when you get the hotel. Long layovers have a special rule I forget now. Other days, work starts when meeting/conference starts and ends when it ends unless there’s a required social event.

    Despite the clarity and fairness in how it’s paid, work travel–even to places like Paris–stopped being a perk for me many years ago, especially as the actual travel part got more and more cumbersome. It got more preferable to come into work at 3 am for a video meeting instead of travelling just for two days.

    I know many people will never get to travel work, or travel at all. I have been lucky. But, employers should remember that the operative word in “work trips” is work.

  15. Lucia Pacciola*

    #1 – Ultimately all such decisions are retention decisions. You should set whatever comp time policy best helps you attract and retain the talent you wish to attract and retain.

    Also, conferences are not perks. They’re part of the job. Parts of your job that you find more enjoyable or rewarding aren’t perks. You don’t do those parts of your job for free. You don’t write off the opportunity costs of doing those parts of your job, instead of spending more time with your family, or your hobbies, or anything else you could be doing with that time and effort.

  16. Student*

    If your aim is to give out less comp time, the solution is to change the travel time/hours worked per day policy, not the comp time policy.

    In your example:
    For example, an employee leaves at 8 am to drive five hours to conference destination, participates in an evening event ending at 10 pm. Employee counts a 14-hour day.

    That’s five hours of driving, then 9 hours of work on top of it! I’m guessing that the event was hopefully not actually 9 hours long, though. Then there’s the matter of coming home, which I notice you elided. That’s another 5 hours of driving, presumably the next day?

    Solution is that the employee needs to drive 5 hours on day 1 and fill up another ~1-3 hours with normal work that day, attend ~9 hour event on day 2, then drive home on day 3 for 5 hours and fill up another ~1-3 hours with work. Your company spends an extra day of money on the hotel room, but that’s probably cheaper than the 6 hours of comp time. If you don’t want to give comp time, you don’t ask people to work extraordinarily long hours in a single day.

    Personally, for a 5-hour road trip, I’d give the employee guidance that they only need to work about 1 hour or less to finish up their travel day workload, and that can be preparation for the conference like planning their day or reviewing the event agenda or something. I assume there will be some time beyond that 5 hours of road driving engaged in work-related travel activities, like time spent in hotel check-in, a reasonable amount of time spent on the road doing things like getting gas, finding food, etc., and usually some time troubleshooting basic travel issues. That’s things like “missed this turn” or “how does parking work here” or “sorting out hotel room problem” or “in dire need of travel supply that was unforeseen” – something always comes up.

    If, however, it’s to the company’s benefit for the trip to be condensed into two days, then you’re going to be stuck eating some comp time because you want everything done in a period that is too short to accommodate the workload.

  17. Ruby Soho*

    Back when I used to travel fairly often, there was no hard and fast rule, just use your own judgement and let your manager know what you were planning. Typically, the business day before travel was an off day (not PTO), which I used to pack, drop my dogs off at my parents’ house, pick up materials from the printer, ship stuff to a conference center, whatever else I needed to do before I could leave. And then the day after I returned would also be a day off (again, not PTO).
    My travel also usually involved trade shows, and I had to be there on a Sunday to make sure our booth was set up correctly (no actual work for me, we hired people to do it). So I’d be off (not PTO) on Friday to prep, fly in on Saturday (most of our team did too), pop in to check on the booth on Sunday morning, enjoy the rest of the weekend, then buckle down for a long week, and usually fly home Friday or Saturday. My boss was totally ok with any of us – but especially me, because my job required me to be nearby in case something happened with the booth – flying in a day earlier and the company always paid for it. We had a great team, and those extra nights made all the difference; we always had so much fun. So that’s just another aspect of comp time – being able to sort of have a long weekend arranged around a tradeshow.

  18. soont*

    Exempt employee with a company with a no comp time policy – we don’t get comp time for many reasons including we aren’t required to take pto for doctor’s appointments, and other personal business. Managers have discretion to let us have a bit more time off though. And we don’t have to adhere to the lunch “hour” limits.

    But for travel, they generally let us take a day off on the return trip without formal pto being used, if the trip was long. It works out well.

  19. Lily Potter*

    Years ago when I worked in municipal government, the rule for conference travel was that you were compensated for travel time, conference presentation time, and conference included social time. Downtime between the last presentation of the day and the conference sponsored social time wouldn’t count, for example.

    Non-exempt folks had to be paid time and a half for their time (either in OT cash or comp time – our state allows governments to “pay” in comp time; private employers must pay cash) Managers would do their best to give employees time off within the same pay period so that the OT didn’t rack up too much, though.

    Exempt folks (not allowed to formally claim OT cash) were at one point allowed to accumulate comp time at straight time for conferences – that is, until the city attorney got wind of things. She said no more formally accumulating comp time in any way for exempt employees – they could informally flex their schedules with their managers but were no longer allowed to keep comp time “on the books” for a future need and it was no longer allowed to even informally tracked. The attorney’s contention was that exempt employees are paid for their job as a whole, not the by hour – so doing anything that tracks their work on an hourly basis was risky. Makes legal sense to me, but the exempt employees were NOT happy to no longer be able to bank the extra time.

  20. Ginger Cat Lady*

    Work travel is NOT a perk. Work travel is work. Just because sometimes employees enjoy travel doesn’t make it not work.
    If there’s enough benefit to the company to send someone there, it’s work.

    1. Lost academic*


      it’s also EXTRA. work. I have to work harder and more so I can make the travel at last not a huge detrimentn to being out of the office. Even a short trip comes at a personal cost, often literally, so I can get my home obligations managed.

  21. Emily (Not a Bot)*

    If you trust people to manage their own schedules once they get to that senior level, you don’t need to award comp time for a conference, but you also shouldn’t expect them to use PTO if they want to take the next morning off or whatever. The point of the flexibility is that it goes both ways — they work some extra hours, but then they don’t have to use PTO for taking a few hours off. If it only goes one way, where you award comp time but then they also have flexibility in their schedules to take off, I understand that feeling weird. But if the awarding of comp time goes with a culture where if you’re going to be an hour late the next day because you’re tired, you have to take PTO, then I understand if people wouldn’t want to give up the comp time part.

  22. nnn*

    I’m thinking if conference attendance is a perk, the employee should be free to shrug her shoulders and say “No thanks!” with no negative impact on her career.

    Is that actually the case here?

    1. Salty Caramel*

      I’d lay even money it isn’t. I’d also lay even money that the LW doesn’t believe in remote work because all time away from the office is a perk.

  23. Over Analyst*

    We don’t generally get comp time except for extreme circumstances, but we do get travel comp time for any travel outside our normal hours. We get travel comp counted from when we leave our house until we arrive at the hotel or meeting, minus our typical commute if we’d have one that day. If that fits within your typical hours, you count it as a workday, but if it’s a weekend or outside your hours you get 1 for 1 comp time. Conference socials and stuff wouldn’t count as work time for me so no comp time there.
    I’d rather, even with the travel comp benefit, travel on weekdays during the day instead of work. Traveling is a lot and you can’t do anything in your free time you’d normally do. When I travel on a Sunday it kills my entire weekend between laundry, packing, and getting to bed early Saturday for my flight the next day then missing a day to travel. Travel comp doesn’t even make it worth it in my opinion, but I definitely think it’s good to have. I’d recommend keeping at least that aspect, but people networking can choose not to or can try to enjoy themselves at social events, so I understand removing comp time for that.

  24. Lacey*

    The oven almost certainly smelled weird because it was the first time using it. I bought a new oven a few years ago and it absolutely had an odd odor the first time I used it. It wasn’t harmful, just… weird.

  25. Gaia Madre*

    #2, elbowed you and coughed on your keyboard?
    “Ow! Please don’t elbow me, thanks.”
    “Oh, gosh, I’ll just disinfect my keyboard real quick before I show you out.”
    Or just “oh, I can’t have clients in here, let’s go out to the lobby…”

    1. HR Friend*

      This is somehow simultaneously passive aggressive *and* confrontational. Not the tone to strike with a new client you’re trying to cultivate.

      1. Zona the Great*

        I don’t agree it was passive aggressive but I would leave out the disinfect part of it. Definitely say Ow when someone pokes or elbows you. That’s just wild unacceptable behavior no matter who it comes from.

        1. Gaia Madre*

          I thought this was a safe space for budding comedians. I would certainly wait until they were gone from the building before actually disinfecting my keyboard.

          I will say this, though. “Simultaneously passive aggressive *and* confrontational”:
          Thank you; my parents would be proud.

  26. I should really pick a name*

    I’m curious how old the first letter is, because the answer seems a bit surprising following the “exempt is a scam” letter.

    Maybe comp time isn’t how exempt is supposed to work, but it sounds like exempt isn’t such a great thing in the first place.

    Alison often talks about the ebb and flow of work for exempt employees, but how often do exempt employees actually work less than 40 hours a week? I suspect (with no data to back it up) that it’s quite rare compared to working more than 40 hours a week.

  27. CommanderBanana*

    Important to note that this employee is exempt, a division head, and earns in excess of six figures.

    The only part that’s relevant here is that the employee is exempt. I’ve honestly never thought about comp time for employees that are attending conferences vs. staffing them, but personally, as a 15ish year events/conferences organizer, I won’t work anywhere that doesn’t offer comp time.

    Every place I’ve worked, with some variations, at least offers one day of comp time per weekend day you’re working at an event. Some offered a little more if you had a particularly ridiculous travel schedule.

    Employers that are going to nickel-and-dime exempt employees over comp time are crap employers and I wouldn’t want to work for them.

    And, it doesn’t matter how “desirable” the location is, if I’m spending 12+ days locked in conference rooms staffing events, it doesn’t matter if we’re in Hawaii, Detroit, or on the moon, I’m still not getting to see any of the “desirable” location or do anything fun. The inside of a conference room is pretty much the same no matter where you are.

    1. Just Thinkin' Here*

      Right? I had a prior job that required travel – often to New York City. Despite spending the equivalent of months there I have not seen most of the sites, museums, etc, since they are only open business hours. So… no, not a vacation and got to pay premium for the expensive food as the per diem never covered the actual costs.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        And I’m away from my dogs, which meant paying more for dog walking/dog sitting, plus I would inevitably forget some crucial toiletry or need to buy new stockings or something, and my organization only reimbursed for food, plus having to get the required work suits dry cleaned when I got back, plus getting stuck with travel delays…I always ended up losing money on travel. Working a 12-hour day to go back to my hotel room to eat junk food because everything is closed and room service food is awful and stupidly expensive is not a vacation.

        I’m not saying nobody enjoys work travel, but aside from the few handfuls of places I actually liked enough to want to spend another day in (and that stopped once I got dogs and wanted to get back to them), it was not a perk.

    2. Jo*

      I’ve done all sides and being event staff, speaker, exhibit rep, or attendee are all very different roles.

      On the attendee side, training and travel dollars are often in short supply. For some events, the person is truly “sent” to represent the organization and may not personally enjoy attending. For many others, the ability to attend is a BIG perk (which may have nothing to do with location). We had many popular annual events with 50-75 people begging to go each year but only 10-15 slots allowed.

      There was one national conference I was allowed to attend once every 8-10 years. Definitely wasn’t going to quibble about comp time in those situations.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        I’ve only ever attended one conference as an attendee. All other events I was either running or working as an exhibitor/sponsor. Emphasis on working.

      2. Parakeet*

        I think it’s important to differentiate between “enjoyable” and “perk.” There are many aspects of my job that I enjoy. There are projects that I asked to be the one to do. They’re still work, not perks. Work doesn’t become a perk just because you like or want to do it.

  28. Just Thinkin' Here*

    The problem with #1 is with the “ebb and flow”. Most companies only pay you your 40 hours if you work all 40 hours… but if you work 60 you get nothing extra. So, you work an extra 20 hours for free one week and you get to use your own PTO the next? That’s not really ebb and flow. Companies often have policies that give the benefit both ways to the company.

    For the original question, I’d argue if the company is willing to pay for the conference, then it’s work and all travel time and conference hours should be covered. So the question goes down to, what is the policy for attending conferences? Many are good training opportunities. If you don’t send them to training at a conference, what other options do they have for maintaining their credentials? If they are WORKING the conference, such as hosting a booth, speaking etc, then absolutely that should be comped the entire way.

    1. Ginger Cat Lady*

      Companies treat salaried employees not as ebb and flow, but CONSTANT FLOW OF MAXIMUM with no ebb because you’re exempt from the ebbs!

      1. Cynical B*

        Right! They hold it out as a carrot then hit you with a stick if you dare use it.

  29. Kindred Spirit*

    I once worked for a large tech company and had to attend 4-6 conferences a year on average as part of my job. As corporate attendees, we were expected to do a rotation in the company’s booth every day (and the hospitality suite if we were hosting one), network on the floor, make connections with customers for our products and with other companies with whom we might co-develop or bundle a solution. We were also expected to attend conference sessions as time allowed and bring back useful take-aways from those sessions to the team.

    I was exempt (most of us were), and the conferences nearly always spanned a weekend. There was no official comp time policy that I recall. Depending on one’s manager, we would usually be offered a comp day to make up for the lost weekend. But… our work didn’t go away while we traveled. There was always a bit of a backlog or deferred work to return to. And aggressive deadlines. It was hard to detach and actually take a comp day, even though we earned it.

  30. Jo*

    #1 Comp Time – like some others, I didn’t feel this really got addressed.

    If by “agency”, OP refers to a government agency, Comp Time for exempt/salaried employees is common/expected. The thought is all time should be tracked – both for the employee’s benefit and to track time and resources used to support various operations. Plus, government salaries are usually lower than market, so benefits like these help offset the deficits. Regardless, the situation in the letter is that comp time is awarded. The question is “how much and for what circumstances”?

    In this same situation myself, we’ve never been given clear guidance and it varies manager to manager. I truly get how hard it is to pin down. Training and travel funds are limited, so it can be a big deal to get approved to attend some events. Others are a chore and one literally goes only to represent the agency – not by choice. The 8 hour work day and any actual travel time are usually counted. But there are so many other variables:

    * Evening networking events attendee doesn’t personally enjoy but necessary to attend to represent the organization
    * Employee may participate in the professional organization hosting the event. This might mean being part of committees, helping with setup, arriving a day early, staying late. How much is personal volunteer time and how much agency representation?
    * The event may have pre- or post-conference workshops, some of which fall on a weekend.
    * Many employees still juggle their own tasks when out of the office and may spend entire evenings working remotely.
    * Breakfast or evening meetings may also be part of the expectation – with vendors, other stakeholders, committee members
    * Some conference start Sunday afternoon with optional social activities and maybe one speaker.

    It was never documented, but we typically counted 8 hours per work day and any travel time. If a workshop happened on a weekend, that counted. But if it was more informal networking or committee work, no. On the other hand, many of our conferences ended at noon on final day. If we got back in town early, like 2:00 – it wasn’t necessarily expected we’d return to office.

    Maybe OP should sit down with his team and discuss what everyone thinks would be fair. Honestly, if too much time is available as comp time (like everything except time sleeping) then likely less people will be approved for out of town conferences in the future.

    1. Lily Potter*

      Jo, it sounds like you work for a public agency (“in the same situation myself”). My city manager set up our conference comp time accruals very carefully because travel by public employees is subject to public scrutiny. As I noted elsewhere, we were allowed to “count” travel time, time actually spent at the conference itself, and conference sanctioned evening social events. We had to think about what Joe Public would say about what “he” was paying for – so for example, we weren’t allowed to claim comp time/overtime for time between the end of the conference day and the conference sponsored social hour (“I’m not paying for someone to take a shower!”) or time to eat in restaurants unless it was part of a conference (“Must be nice to get paid to eat a fancy hotel breakfast!”) For the same reason, an unofficial policy was that the city would never approve training or conferences in Orlando or Las Vegas under any circumstances – there was just too much risk of Joe Public causing a stink about “government waste”.

  31. straws*

    I once stepped into an HR role for a company where a top performer had convinced the CEO that comp time for conferences should be hour for hour for ANY time spent not at home. Travel, conference time, social events, visiting bars alone, attending strip clubs, sleeping not in his own bed… He went away for a multi-day conference that barely benefited the company, ran up a bunch of tabs (paid for by the company, because he wouldn’t have been drinking there otherwise amiright?), and came back to I think 38 hours of time off to spend as he pleased with no expiration. It took longer than I expected to change that policy to a more reasonable flextime policy based on working hours only and with a time limit. I highly recommend the latter.

  32. Coverage Associate*

    Does unlimited PTO solve the comp time issue? That seemed to be one good thing about unlimited PTO, is no one had to think too hard about whether missing some business hours after intensive travel was basically part of the business cost of the travel or was vacation.

    I have still had office optics issues where a team travels together and different team members feel differently about travel, but at least no one is worried about the payroll consequences of my needing 24 hours off after flying 3+ hours west compared to my boss not needing recovery time.

    Also, I did raise with my national firm that it was unfair that lawyers in the time zone of the national conference missed only a half day traveling, while others missed at least a whole work day. Even though the time didn’t need to be made up for pay purposes, it did need to be made up for billable hours.

    I agree that “desirable location” is nonsense for work travel unless there is a policy encouraging extending work trips for personal reasons. I have never heard of such a policy, but I can see a business, for example, agreeing to pay for hotels past the work events in a city if it was where most of their customers were. For example, if the company made buses or trains, they might want employees to take a day actually using such systems. But such policies have to be rare.

  33. Conference Location Not A Perk*

    I’d argue that the desirability of the conference location is a red herring, a distraction/excuse for the issue. I just presented at a 4-day conference last week. From 8am to 7pm each day I had presentations, meetings, hosted a booth on the conference floor, set up appointments to have lunches and dinners with prospective clients, etc. There was absolutely no time to sight see. I had to be at the top of my game at 8am everyday for 4 days and had to go promptly to sleep at 8pm every night and came back from the conference exhausted.

    1. Pita Chips*

      I came to the comments to say, “Conferences are not a perk!” rather loudly, but you said it so much better.

  34. EngGirl*

    Comp time is a topic that I could talk/debate about for hours.

    I used to work for Company A that had some of the worst policies for salaried employees in regards to flex/comp time. We were allowed to flex our time for an hour or two provided we worked a minimum of 40 hours in the week. We were frequently asked to travel on weekends, for what would be about a 15 hour travel day. (Leave the house at 3AM to catch a 6AM flight, fly on three different planes, land at 4PM in a different time zone then get to the hotel at 5PM if everything goes well). My team asked about comp time for these days and were told it was part of the job. So we said ok, we’re not traveling on the weekends anymore. Management was not pleased but there wasn’t much they could do about it unless they wanted to fire us all.

    Now I work for Company B which in theory is more reasonable. I don’t have to make up a couple of hours for a doctors appointment or if I’m late because of a car issue it’s not a big deal… but I am expected to be in office regardless of my workload. So for example this week I probably have 2 -2.5 days worth of work to do, but I’ll be here all week working my regular hours. Now in two weeks when it hits the fan I’ll also be expected to stay late to get all the work done or bring work home with me. It seems like things are flexible here as long as you have a good reason, and “It’s really nice out and I have nothing pressing to get done today” or “Hey I would love to leave at 2 and run all the errands I put off last week because I was here until 6 a few nights,” aren’t really good reasons. To be fair though, I’m still working this place out.

    I think no comp time is fair if your employees have truly flexible schedules. But comp time is definitely warranted if you expect your employees to keep to a schedule and give you a minimum of 40 hours a week.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      Yes, my current employer is the first one I’ve worked for that doesn’t run events on weekends, so the question of comp time didn’t come up until I was asked to go staff events at other orgs that do run on weekends.

      I asked about comp time, was told that the organization didn’t offer it, told them I sadly would have to decline any staffing assignments that involved working/traveling on weekends, and then *~magically~* we suddenly had comp time.

  35. Jennifer C.*

    LW#1: In the days of Zoom, a conference that requires 10 hours of driving and an overnight stay is not always a valuable perk. For me, there’s no conference locations within 5 hours of my office exciting enough to make the conference worth all that driving.

    Last year I went to a conference at one of those “Great Wolf Lodge” places (I think it’s a chain?) and it was probably great for people who brought their kids and had those costs covered by their company, but I couldn’t bring my cats so I just found it annoying. :-)

  36. workswitholdstuff*

    LA in the UK.

    We use a mixture of Flex and TOIL (Time off in Lieu), and as far as I’m aware includes travelling time outside our normal commuting. To use a recent example, a manager (not mine) and I travelled to the midlands and back on the same day and spent most of the day in training sessions. We left my house at quarter to seven and got back to mine 12 hrs later. We both tracked a 12 hour day that day – which went towards our standard 37.5 hrs. Anything over that is tracked and taken back when convenient to ourselves and the service.

    I could use it to work a few shorter days, or I could use the time to take a whole/half day depending on what I’ve accrued. We’re not supposed to carry more than 7.5 (ie a day) of flexi over -though I often have around 8 or 9 (depending on when in the month I’ve worked the extra time).

    If I’m flexing the odd hr – later start early finish, no prior approval needed – just tracking the hours and being sensible to make sure commitments met.

    If using a half/whole day, it’s submitted as TOIL and approved. I keep a spreadsheet with all my hours tracked in case we’re ever asked for a breakdown!

    1. Workswitholdstuff*

      and to use an older example, I once had a conference in Edinburgh, which started at 8.30 on a Monday morning, but didn’t finish till 6pm.
      Defo couldn’t make it travelling the morning of, and catching a train after it would have got me in near midnight.

      Instead, I travelled midmorning on the Sunday to get in mid afternoon, check in etc. counted hrs travelling as work time, and same on the Tuesday when I got back home early afternoon- it basically evened out to a whole day’s worth of time, so when I got home on Tuesday, I wasn’t expected to work the rest of the day, or take leave. The off peak travel also balanced out the two nights in the hotel.

      Monday, we just closed it as a ‘working’ day. It worked for me quite nicely, even of I did get a rotten cold! (the two evenings, rather than sit on my own in the hotel room, I met up with relatives instead….)

  37. BirdJinks*

    oh, man, this is pretty similar to what I dealt with at a job a long time ago. Part of the job was putting on trainings/events around the state, funded by state and grant money, which of course all had lots of strings. For YEARS, we had been doing what is described in this letter: any time over your normal time was simply paid out in OT. You had to leave at 6am to drive to a location, and didn’t get home until 9pm? that’s 6+ hours of OT.

    And then someone ran the numbers and saw that our group had more OT than anyone else in the org. By a LOT. and they instituted a rule that no one could get paid for travel time outside of their normal working hours. ie, if your working hours are 8-5, you can’t get paid for travel outside of those hours.

    This was done in response to our funding sources, and the solution was supposed to be to travel the day ahead of time if you need to, and stay overnight. It might “cost” more, but it didn’t look like gouging on staff pay. But in practice, this was seen as incredibly inefficient, and people didn’t necessarily want to spend two nights away from home when they could have done it as a very long day trip.

    It caused a LOT of consternation.

  38. Never Knew I Was a Dancer*

    “ You can do it that way if you want to [i.e. give hour for hour comp time], but it’s not in the spirit of what exempt work is supposed to be.”

    Holy whiplash, Batman. Not what I expected from the same person who answered yesterday about how being exempt is a scam.

    Does it even matter what “the spirit of exempt work” is considering how often companies and management take advantage of it to mean that the employee will get all kinds of 40+ hour weeks but never see a week shorter than 40 hours again?

    So what if that person is “well paid” (which might not mean much if they have a house payment and college tuition or day care or medical expenses to pay for anyway). They were required to give up significant amounts of their life for this work duty. Just give them the comp time so that the stress and exhaustion and time away from home sucks a bit less.

  39. Knittercubed*

    Re: comp time for exempt employees….the answer assumes exempt employees have an ebb and flow to their hours as salaried. That has never been my experience. In my last salaried job, 50-60 hours a week was expected and never once in 10 years was I allowed to flex to anything less than 40, ever. Not one half day, not one leaving early Friday. And I think that’s far more common than people think.

    And yes, I left that job for retired bliss.

  40. Prof*

    Sorry, but I just started laughing at “conference attendance is a perk”. No, it is really, really not. I’ll bet the employee has to go, whether they want to or not. A desirable destination? Irrelevant because I’m in some hotel conference room all day. Actually, that’s worse because you feel like you’re missing out. You’d better minimum consider actual work time, heck, it every hour I’m away from home should count. I want to sleep in my own bed, in my home.

  41. Elsa*

    The first thing I thought of was that nobody has burned in the oven, you need to do that with new ovens or it will smell of burnt plastic.

  42. Alice*

    Recently I participated in a virtual conference that included a weekend day, and was a few time zones west of my location.
    In advance I asked my boss, “can I take a comp day for the Sunday conference?” and she just didn’t respond to the question. I ended up taking a day off using my PTO bank.
    I’m getting sick of my boss avoiding conflict. It’s a simple question, just answer it.

  43. purplist*

    LW#2…how about a “ooh, I was just going to make a coffee…can I get you one?” as soon as they appear, then lead them into the break room? I hate people standing over my desk when I’m in the office so have used excuses like this regularly to get away.

  44. Christine*

    New ovens have coatings and linings that need to be burned off before their first use.

    “[N]ew ovens smell. The best way to get rid of the smell is to run a proper burn-in cycle. It’s recommended that you not cook any food prior to a burn-in, as the smell (and potentially the taste) can stick with your food.”

  45. Youth Librarian*

    Ah, this reminds me of the epic week when a library patron tried to set up a wok and sterno and roast strips of raw meat…. in our teen area.
    The funniest part of this to me will always be that my staff forgot to tell me about it until the next week, it was such a minor occurrence in a week that was full of…. events. (said patron was informed that food was not allowed in the library, including cooking food, yes definitely raw meat, and then tried several times to cook their meat in other areas of the library. it is… not a large library? so i’m really not clear on why they thought we wouldn’t notice them elsewhere.)

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