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I started this job a few days ago, and today is my third day working in the office. The employment process was pretty low key; I saw his ad, messaged him, and I started work. I get paid $15 an hour. I turned in my Form W4 today along with my employee details so I can be paid. The people here are really nice and what I'm doing is exactly what I want to be doing, so I'm pretty happy here.

My work consists of writing scripts that process and send PDF shipping labels to our Raspberry PI server, which then prints them out. Every day I've worked I've had something to do which occupies me the whole time I'm there.

The company is fairly small, with at most 6-7 people being in the office at a time.

Today, during a talk with him (my boss), I was told to "manage your own hours and manage when you come in to work for now, until we figure out a schedule for you". I took this as a little weird, but thanked him nonetheless after our conversation.

What I'm worried about is not being paid for the work I'm doing. I've gotten to work at around 10:30am, and stay until 4-5pm since I've started working. I really don't think this is a usual thing that happens when starting at a job.

I've been given NO information about when to come in to work and how long I should be there.

Right now I've thought of a couple options:

  • Don't come into work at all until the schedule is set.
  • Come into work and record my hours, hoping they pay me off my records.

The worst thing I can think of happening is they don't pay me, and since they have no record of hours I've worked, they can keep from paying me. I'm sure the Notes app on my phone won't be that much use if I decide to go to court, which isn't likely.

What should I do?

  • How are other coworkers handling this? – AsheraH Dec 23 '19 at 20:36
  • Are you using an hour tracker / tagging software? For example, we use manicTime. I don't think that your situation should ring any alarm bells persé – M. Doe Dec 24 '19 at 8:46
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    “The employment process was pretty low key; I saw his ad, messaged him, and I started work.” Did you sign a contract? – Paul D. Waite Dec 24 '19 at 10:11
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    As @PaulD.Waite said, do you have any written contract? You submitted a W-4 so you're an employee not a contractor. But do you have a written contract, even a short one? Anyway, I'd just document the tasks you're working on weekly/daily by email to boss, including a one-line on hours worked. As long as boss acknowledges by email that you're working on the right tasks, sounds ok. Presume you work the same hours as other coworkers (8 hrs?) – smci Dec 24 '19 at 10:37
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    "I've been given NO information about when to come in to work and how long I should be there." As a developer, I've had many jobs like this, at small and large companies. When your work isn't necessarily tied to a particular time of the day, employers may be inclined to allow you flexibility in the time that you work since 1) why would they try to enforce rules that don't matter and 2) many employees prefer freedom when possible. Embrace the freedom! – Scott Dec 24 '19 at 14:59
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I was told to "manage my own hours and manage when I come in to work for now, until we figure out a schedule for you"

Do that. Come up with a schedule that you think is reasonable and would be acceptable. Send it to your boss. Track your hours in a spreadsheet of some sort. Send it to your boss at the end of the week. Ask your boss when you should expect to receive a formal work schedule.

I've been given NO information about when to come in to work and how long I should be there.

But you have. Your boss told you to manage your own hours and schedule.

As for not being paid for your work, do you have any reason to believe that will happen? It sounds to me like this company is unusually informal, but that in and of itself needn't be a point of concern... yet. If you haven't gotten a formal work schedule or a more formal definition of your work schedule, pay schedule, etc. within a week then I'd suggest having another conversation with your boss about it.

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    It is hardly unusual, especially in a professional environment in a small business, to be told to track your own hours or to have a somewhat flexible schedule. – TimothyAWiseman Dec 24 '19 at 16:44
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    Yeah really everyone else complains about the hours they have to work and the exact times they have to be in - he’s let you have initial control to see if you can handle the responsibility. Set a schedule that works for you, this is a big perk. – mxyzplk - SE stop being evil Dec 25 '19 at 16:21
  • I work for a UK government organisation with 77,000 employees. I record my own hours, and can arrive any time after 7 am and leave any time before 6:45 pm. I am paid for 37 hours per week. – Michael Harvey Dec 25 '19 at 18:51
  • @MichaelHarvey Off topic, but to keep sanity: You do have to clock the 37 hours to get paid for them? Or working for MoJ, can you come in for an hour a day, and get paid for 7.5 hours? ;) – Sebi Dec 27 '19 at 0:51
  • 'I record my own hours', I wrote. I record them accurately. I have to work an average of 37 hours each week, calculated over 4 weeks. I can carry 14 hours surplus or deficit over into the the next 4-week period. More surplus is usually lost; more deficit gets you in trouble. – Michael Harvey Dec 27 '19 at 7:08
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Today, during a talk with him (my boss), I was told to "manage my own hours and manage when I come in to work for now, until we figure out a schedule for you". I took this as a little weird, but thanked him nonetheless after our conversation.

What should I do?

Whenever your boss gives you instructions and you don't understand them, there's only one thing to do - ask for clarification.

Talk to your boss. Keep asking questions until you understand what you are supposed to do. Don't leave it as a little weird without knowing what you need to do next.

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Many employers allow staff flexibility in their work schedule, and many employers have (hourly paid) staff that self-report what hours they've worked. Although your current employer sounds fairly unstructured, these things in and of themselves are not unusual.

That said, it is understandable why you're nervous, since you've just started this job and have no real relationship with your boss or any other way to judge why he's treating you so informally.

It sounds like you like your job, so in the interest of preserving your relationship while still covering yourself, it may make sense to reach out to your boss and describe your plans, since it sounds like communication has been verbal (or at least not formalized) so far. You may consider something like,

Hi boss,

As we agreed, I'll be recording my own hours worked. I plan on coming to the office at 10:30 and leaving between 4 and 5 most days, this will give me about 6 hours a day of work time. Please let me know if you had another schedule in mind. I will send you my record of hours worked every Friday unless you indicate otherwise.

Thanks, Linny

This way, you have a written record of your plans, and what you've agreed to, and you are giving him the opportunity to direct you otherwise if it turns out he did in fact have something else in mind.

Since you mentioned in a tag that you're in the United States, it's worth making sure your projected total hours per week are clearly understood, since much of employment law is built on differentiating between part time and full time employees. For instance, if you routinely work a full time schedule, you may be eligible for certain benefits that don't apply to part time workers. So, at the very least, you should make sure you have a written record of what you've agreed to in terms of your typical weekly hours.

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    I'm in the UK, which does have a different work culture. But six hours a day certainly doesn't seem like full-time. – Andrew Leach Dec 25 '19 at 9:23
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    I'm in the US, and 6 hours per day 5 days a week is generally not considered full-time here. But if it gets the job done, it gets the job done, and the employer may be happy with that, especially if it's an hourly position. It sounds like it is hourly. The one danger to note about working less than whatever is considered the minimum full time hours (maybe 35, but check your jurisdiction) is you're not required to be given "benefits". That can be really important. Note your employer can choose to still provide benefits, but it's important to get this stuff spelled out exactly before any issue. – Ed Grimm Dec 26 '19 at 1:32
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This isn't unusual in smaller places. It allows everyone flexibility without dealing with a lot of paperwork, but is built on 1 thing: trust.

The boss trusts you by allowing you to record your own hours. You trust the boss hoping he won't make a mistake on the paperwork (and if he does, just point it out politely and all should be fine).

Come in, work your hours and don't make a big deal out of it. Unless it's very much not what you want, but I'd suggest looking for a different company then.

For the record, I've worked at multiple companies where we tracked our own hours (either full-time, part-time or even in shifts). At the end of the week, the boss would sign-off as a matter of administration and be done with it. As long as nothing was amiss, not many questions were asked. As long as you and the boss are both reasonable people and don't have a reason to suspect the other from something they shouldn't be doing, it's usually fine.

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    Mmmm. Small companies often don't have (or need) the sorts of formal processes that big companies thrive on; with few people and lots of visibility, trust works well. It's probably a good sign that the boss is prepared to trust a new employee; OP should repay that trust by picking a reasonable schedule (9 to 5 is probably the most standard, but try to fit in with what others are doing), trying to stick to it, and recording their hours honestly. And since the boss said “until we figure out a schedule for you”, this situation will only be temporary, probably just for the first week or two. – gidds Dec 24 '19 at 11:29
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I fail to see where the problem is. I also fail to see why you would think they wouldn't pay you. If they're going to withhold your pay, which is a crime, then they would do so no matter what your schedule is.

It sounds like you have a great opportunity! I generally demand, or at least request, exactly what you're being offered. I've never gotten it into a contract, but I usually start a position with the understanding that I'll manage my own time coming and going as I see appropriate. You didn't even have to ask for it, they just want to give you this on a platter for free, congratulations!

What should I do?

Enjoy it gratefully! And please for the sake of the rest of us who are trying to make this normal, do not abuse it!

Possible side effects

When I do this, eventually some strict 9-5 coworker complains that I'm not available at the exact moment they wanted - which can happen anyway even if I were in at 9am sharp every day but they don't like accepting that logic - so they complain and get my manager to request a set schedule. :(

When I'm forced to make a set schedule though, the joke is on those who are being pushy since I just set my official in-time to the latest time acceptable, usually 10am or 11am, and then I'm in early less often than I was before... so the person who complained "He wasn't in at 9:15 that one time and I had to do something else for a little while" did nothing but make things worse for themselves.

So you do need to be careful. Although "manage your own hours" can be a great blessing, it can cause friction even if you don't abuse it. You just need to approach it carefully and balance scheduling needs.

Some benefits

There are benefits to both you and the company. You can work your schedule around your personal needs. You can sleep in and come in later if need to (you feel better, and company gets better work performance from you). You can work late when needed to get something time critical done, then work less the next day.

When doing development work, I find it very helpful to work later when less people are around to slow me down.

Some responsibilities

People tend to take up a lot more of your time than they actually need if you let them, which is why it's nice to work when fewer people are around; however, sometimes you are truly needed. You need to make sure that you do make yourself available as necessary.

Even when I've been allowed to manage my own hours, even when my manager doesn't care what I do or when I do it, I have found they tend to backpedal hard and complain at you at the slightest boat-rocking. I've found it doesn't hurt and sometimes helps to keep my manager aware of some of the larger deviations even if they don't care about my schedule. Definitely send them an email about days off, half-days, if you're coming into the office on the weekend. Even if your manager doesn't care, it makes things easier for the manager if anyone asks them about you and they are aware of such things.

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    some strict 9-5 coworker complains that I'm not available at the exact moment they wanted - which can happen anyway even if I were in at 9am sharp every day but they don't like accepting that logic These people make me insane, since they are almost always also the ones that tend to take up a lot more of your time than they actually need. The good news is that as long as your manager isn't a total dolt, these folks usually get labeled as the productivity drains that they are. – Z4-tier Dec 27 '19 at 4:40
  • @Z4-tier Agree strongly, but unfortunately these peoples' complains often put the managers in an awkward spot because they fabricate a perceived problem, even if there is no real problem. "Why weren't you there at 9:30 when I looked for you?" I could say "Because I didn't get in until 10" or "Because I had to take a call from my Doctor" or "Because I was on the toilet"... why does it matter which one? Why is "I worked 10-6 today" any worse than "I was on the toilet 9:30-10"? But "I didn't work "9-5" somehow is a problem for many people. It's almost completely arbitrary. – Aaron Dec 28 '19 at 1:48
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Has your boss given you a reason to distrust him yet? If not, then don't worry about it. Your boss told you to track your own hours and you'll be paid for them, so that's what you should do. Track your hours, and submit them at the payroll deadline and ask to be paid. Then if you get paid, there's nothing to worry about. If you don't get paid, then it's time to have a serious talk with your boss about why he's jerking you around, and worst-case scenario if they don't pay you then you should leave.

The bottom line is, wait 1 pay cycle. If it turns out you're right and the company is sketchy, then you've lost a couple weeks of your life and learned a valuable lesson. If it turns out you're wrong and the company is trustworthy, then you've made some money.

The reason it's important to do this now is because it will help you in the future; if you go to your boss now and say "this is sketchy please make this more formal", your boss will be like "you're being too uptight, let it go", and you might even get a bad impression in the office. If this happens to you once and it goes badly, though, then at your next job when they ask you to do this, you can say, "I did this before at a previous job and they screwed me over, so I don't trust this situation. Can you please make it more formal?" and then they will have a harder time arguing with you over it, because you have a good reason.

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In every job I had in the last years for over a decade it was my own job to write down and report my hours worked and also had flex time. The exact details differed like in 1 company I recorded on an spread sheet and sent it to my superior once per month so I got paid the overtime or in another I wrote my hours worked into a software running on a server and it was my job to make sure that on average I worked the amount of hours in my contract. Some said that I had to be in house between 10:00 and 15:00 while others said that there is a team meeting every day at 14:00 which we should attend if possible and the rest is left to our judgement. So it is not that unusual but I see that it might seem unusual to someone who is used to get told a fixed time.

Now to your question what you should do:

  1. Look up your amount of working hours per week according to your contract if you don't already know it (and make sure you have a written contract)
  2. Talk with you coworkers about this topic to learn about the culture in the company, what the usual work time is for your coworkers, what expected work time there might be (like team meetings, when customers usually call, ...). Also ask how overtime is handled.
  3. Make a plan for each day of the week for the time you plan to work according to the information of step 1 and 2 so that you work the amount of hours according to your contract (better 1 hour more than less to be on the safe side as a beginner and in case the lunch breaks with your coworkers take a bit longer) and the time what is considered normal in this company

It might be a good idea to regularly make a copy/printout of the timesheet in case your boss has a different understanding about overtime or how it is handled but you will notice how much trust they deserve in the first 3 months.

Good luck with your new workplace :)

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I had almost exactly the same situation at one of the jobs i worked when I was an undergrad at university. There were 4 full-time permanent employees including the directors, and I worked as a "summer-ish" intern/temp/student employee (the job was also at the university, and the organization's purpose was to distribute a large annual grant for research on renewable energy).

I worked in the office some days, remotely other days, and never had a set schedule. They let me track my own hours, and the director signed off on the timesheet every week without a second glance. It was basic programming and scripting work, plus some other random tasks (which ended up being the most memorable work I did there). I could not have asked for a better way to gain work experience when I was just starting out.

It sounds to me like you have a good opportunity to learn and start building a résumé. You filled out the usual IRS documents, which suggests that you probably are not getting swindled and scammed. The job is what you want to be doing, and the office environment sounds pretty relaxing. You are lucky.

Unless there is something else that is making you feel uneasy, I don't see a thing wrong with what you've described. Definitely do as others have suggested: track your hours exactly as instructed by your boss and hand in your timesheet when it's due. I would avoid rocking the boat or doing anything to convey mistrust during the first couple weeks. After that, you'll probably look back and laugh about having been worried at all (or you'll have a solid reason to justify your worry... but that almost certainly isn't going to happen).

Although they are letting you control your schedule, it would be wise to try and keep similar hours to everyone else in your office, at least for the first few weeks. That will put you in a better position to decide what hours will work best for you and your employer. It will also help you gain trust and acceptance with your co-workers. Then, learn as much as you can, and don't be afraid to take on some extra work, even if it's a bit outside of your comfort zone. Have fun, do good work, and enjoy the time.

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