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I ended a job where I had trouble arriving arriving on time. I don't own a vehicle and rely on the buses. This job was in a different city than I'm used to and the buses really are bad. I feel this is a silly excuse but majority of the time they were not on time or had a problem. Also the general atmosphere and culture in the town is very laid back and slow paced, for example I had a bus driver pull over to talk to his friend (which caused me to miss the next bus I was to catch). Should I have explained it to my boss each time something went wrong with the bus?

Also is it reasonable to ask how much after my expected start time is considered late? For example if I'm expected at 9am and am at my desk by 9:05am is it late?

One issue was it became a cycle to stay late. I often was the first to arrive and my colleagues would show up much latter because they got stuck on calls that started early in the morning so they'd have to take it from home. Then when it was time for me to leave they started interacting with me and working with me so I had to stay. What could I have suggested? IMO it would've worked better if I showed up latter so I had more time to work with my colleagues but my boss wanted me there earlier in case anything were to go wrong there was someone in.

closed as off-topic by Jim G., Rhys, CincinnatiProgrammer, Joe Strazzere, squeemish Oct 2 '13 at 12:08

  • This question does not appear to be about the workplace within the scope defined in the help center.
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    Did your employer know how you would get to the office prior to hiring you? Were there any discussions about transport at all prior to there being problems? Did you relocate for this job, and despite the transport situation decide to live somewhere you had to change buses after getting the position? There are also several questions you are asking (is 5 minutes late? Is it reasonable to ask? How can I be on time? How could I suggest changing working hours?) so this doesn't seem to be a great fit for the site. Read our help center and edit your question to get better answers! – jmac Oct 2 '13 at 7:25
  • Amakester, in addition to jmac's suggestions, you can also ask for help in The Workplace Chat to better focus your question and get it reopened. – yoozer8 Oct 4 '13 at 12:26
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Should I have explained it to my boss each time something went wrong with the bus?

No. If it happened once, then it's reasonable to use this as an excuse, and tell your boss. But if it happened repeatedly (which you indicate that it did), then it's up to you to find a way to deal with it.

Your boss was clearly expecting you to arrive on time. How you make that happen is your problem, not his.

If you don't have any transportation other than the unreliable bus, then you'll simply have to plan on leaving for work earlier - perhaps a lot earlier, to account for that unreliability.

Leave for work two hours earlier than normal for a while, and see how that works out. If that's too much, then start leaving one and a half hours earlier, then one hour, etc. At some point, you'll just make it on time - then you'll know you are cutting it too close.

If you are allowed to start your job earlier than "on time", then you'll be demonstrating to your boss that you have great work habits. If not, find something useful to do before your work time starts. Perhaps you can skip breakfast at home and eat it after you have arrived early instead.

Also is it reasonable to ask how much after my expected start time is considered late? For example if I'm expected at 9am and am at my desk by 9:05am is it late?

No. That's unprofessional. If you are supposed to be there by 9:00, then be there by 9:00. Anything after that is late. Playing the "can I be 10 minutes late and still get credit for being on time" game is for children and college students.

Then when it was time for me to leave they started interacting with me and working with me so I had to stay. What could I have suggested?

If you need to leave, and others want to chat, you simply say "Hey, I'd love to chat, but I have a bus to catch! Let's pick this up again in the morning." And then you leave.

You can't make unreliable buses reliable. Those things are out of your control. But you can control your own actions. Start making it a priority to get to work on time, avoid trying to figure out "how late can I be and still not be considered late", and avoid making excuses.

  • Would it be reasonable to ask when one is considered to have arrived? For example we had clean desk policy and the time between walking in the doors and actually having everything set up to do work was 10 minutes. A past job I had was working at a fast food chain and they said it was time fraud to clock in before changing into the uniform. I'm wondering if this would be considered the same? – Arnakester Oct 2 '13 at 22:03
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If you need to be at the office by 9:00am, and public transport is unreliable, sadly, the only real option you have is to aim to be in earlier. That way, if you have public transport problems, you should still be on time. Of course, on the days when everything runs smoothly, you'll be at work rather early.

If you don't want to be in the office too early, maybe you could find a place near work to have a coffee, read the newspaper, etc., on the days when you get in early?

However, it might be better to just get in early and start work early when transport goes smoothly - this assumes that you work the sort of job where this is feasible, e.g. an office job where you have tasks lined up that you can get on with. That way, yes, there will be times when you are late due to serious transport problems, but at least this will be balanced out by times when you are early.

Now, whether that is OK or not is a question that will have a different answer in every workplace. Often, it is completely fine to have some variability in your arrival time. However, if you are being relied upon to attend meetings at specific times, provide support coverage, be available to clients, etc., then it may not be. In such cases, sadly, you will really have to aim to be early, so even on the bad days, you're still on time.

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