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I'm a software developer working remotely at a lab here in the US. I recently finished college, and I've started working here after past internships at this lab (and at another different lab before). I've been on the fence about something- remote work specific- and would like some input.

I've been trying to meet with a friend outside of work (someone I haven't really talked to since before covid) for a while- she works retail full-time so catching her with a day off especially a weekend off is challenging. After a month of trying to find a time, we came up with one later in the day this week (3:30ish- during work hours, but later in the day. I planned on starting earlier to make up those few hours mostly). Now that I've scheduled it, a family member has been on me about it- and not without reason.

As far as my work situation goes, I was comfortable scheduling it- I only work with one person- my boss- and I've worked with him in the past- and we've been on great terms. He's always been like "I don't care when/how you work as long as the work gets done". I do everything locally and often offline so it's not like they monitor me, and I don't think the lab does things like that. But, he is on a different time zone, so my later afternoon is the start of his.

My understanding of remote work and frankly salaried work as a whole is that as long as I'm getting the work done and the work done well (which I have been), I have the freedom to plan my days however, and one meetup every now and then like this isn't going to hurt anything. Part of this comes from a friend who's been doing the two remote (full-time) jobs thing, the reasoning basically being the same.

What is everyone's thoughts on this? I'm going to reschedule the friend anyway, but for future reference especially with remote work, what should I do in these cases? Should I talk to my boss about situations like this?

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    You say a family member "has been on me about it- and not without reason" - what is their reason, exactly? If your boss has told you they don't care when you do your work as long as it gets done, what on earth does it have to do with your family member?
    – Chris H
    Jun 13, 2022 at 7:05
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    You write "lab", what kind of an environment is that? In my experience at several different workplaces (and with one notable exception), in an academic or R&D environment, even back when remote work wasn't that common / easy, there is a lot of flexibility (and an implicit expectation that you work outside office hours too).
    – Relaxed
    Jun 13, 2022 at 14:31
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    You made a plan that everyone you work with/under is okay with, but a family member's comments have convinced you to reschedule. It seems that this isn't a work issue at all. Not that it's bad for you to ask here, but it might help to reframe this in your mind as a family-dynamics issue. Jun 13, 2022 at 21:02

5 Answers 5

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What is everyone's thoughts on this? I'm going to reschedule the friend anyway, but for future reference especially with remote work, what should I do in these cases? Should I talk to my boss about situations like this?

As a courtesy, it's always best to run it by your boss.

Since you indicated that he is of the opinion "I don't care when/how you work as long as the work gets done", he almost certainly won't have a problem with your plans. And he'll appreciate the heads up.

I tell my friends to treat their remote work the same as they would if they all worked in the same office. If you were in the office and you'd tell your boss "Hey, I'm going to knock off a few hours early to meet a friend. I'll come in early to make up for it.", then do the same remotely.

As a manager, I always appreciated knowing and not being surprised if something came up. Most managers don't like surprises.

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    "As a manager, I always appreciated knowing and not being surprised if something came up." => This, very much this. Your manager and teammates will be contacted in your absence by people looking for you. It's uncomfortable for everyone if nobody knows why you're not available, and when you'll be available again. Nobody knows whether to wait for you to return (is it a coffee break?) or whether to proceed without you. So the very least is to tell your manager and teammates about the period you're off. Your manager may ask for the reason, depending on style; that's orthogonal though. Jun 13, 2022 at 9:50
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    I came here to write exactly this answer. My remote team are finding a lot of advantages of home working, including not having to book appointments during their short lunch hour. I often get messages or emails along the lines of "Hi ThaRobster, I have a dentist appointment at 11 can I arrange my day around that?" or "My Mom is in town and we plan to see a show at 3pm, is that ok?" and invariably the answer is "Yes, that's fine". At least if an emergency happens OP's boss knows there isn't much point trying to contact them and wont waste time trying.
    – ThaRobster
    Jun 13, 2022 at 14:34
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    As a manager, I don't even want to know this much. "You need to be out for a personal appointment? Does it affect your weekly commits? No? Marvelous. Thanks for letting me know." Jun 14, 2022 at 16:18
  • I'm surprised no one has mentioned booking time off. Maybe it's ridiculous but I feel better being all the way off if I just use two hours of PTO. Jun 14, 2022 at 22:03
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You already have your answer:

I don't care when/how you work as long as the work gets done

That's it. That's the only thing you need to know. You can schedule your work as you please, including taking time out to meet other people if that's what you want to do. There's absolutely no need to run this past your boss or feel bad about it.

Just carry on getting your work done and all is good.

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    This seems like it should be the top voted answer. The manager has already spoken. Jun 13, 2022 at 15:16
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    @Dragonel The OP describes a position without fixed hours, frequently offline, and in a very different timezone: there is no need to tell the boss in this situation where they have already communicated that it is not important to them. Listen to your boss. Jun 13, 2022 at 15:43
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    @JackAidley OP also says they have been "on the fence" about this and talks about "my understanding is" so they are a little unsure which is why they asked the question. So from their side, letting the boss know gives reassurance that they will be told if it is a problem. On the manager side, as Joe Strazzere's top-rated answer points out, they will appreciate knowing, so it would be a win-win for now. Some managers may not want to be told every time but once in a blue moon like this is not going to bug them with insignificant emails.
    – Dragonel
    Jun 13, 2022 at 15:49
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    @Dragonel: Do not casually discard your freedoms. Jun 13, 2022 at 15:57
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    @JackAidley. Note I did not say to ask for permission, only to inform. In my view letting someone know is politeness.
    – Dragonel
    Jun 13, 2022 at 20:07
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It definitely depends workplace mentality, even within the same company.

Where I work (35 employees), there are two departments working almost completely remote.

In my department, 5 of 6 colleagues have little children. It's the most normal thing for us, that someone is unavailable or even completely out of office at some times during the day, but we often chat late in the evening, because most of us are making up for the lost time.

I even schedule medical appointments in working times regularly, because it's so normal for us.

In the other department, there are more older colleagues with completely different workplace mentality, most of them work 8 to 5 and expect all colleagues to be available during these times. If one of them misses working times, they have to justify to their colleagues.

...so if you work with just one colleague (your boss), just be open about your intentions and see what their mentality is like. If your boss already told you, he doesn't care about your schedule, most certainly it will be no issue.

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Adding to the other answers, especially for remote working, it's a good idea to note your absence in an accessible work calendar if that's available. It will give people an idea of when you will be back, and will prevent them from scheduling you in a meeting you can't attend. One of my biggest annoyances in doing remote work has been determining whether people are present at a given time. Prior to the pandemic, it was easy to walk by a teammate's desk to talk to them. Now, it's often messages that may or may not be replied to for days. If I see that a teammate will be out of touch between, e.g., 2-3 PM on Tuesday, I know not to schedule them for a quick chat on memory pointers during that time, and I know that there's a decent chance I can drop them a line around 3:30 and get some answers.

I recognize that there may be some concern about privacy, or providing documentation on absences, but most workplaces I've been at don't require specifics, just an indication of whether you're busy, or "out of office", which usually means you won't be checking email, chat, or phone calls for the time. And as regards documenting absences, that's generally only an issue if you're consistently unavailable, and generally you'll get an aside from your manager before any sort of a formal reprimand is given, unless part of your contract is being available during a specific period of time, such as if you are "on call" for support.

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    If the workplace is such that you often "schedule them for a quick chat" without asking if that time works for them, then a calendar for tracking availability is a good idea as is setting their message status to say when they will next be available. But in a lot of cases the meetings are agreed by both parties, so they can track their own availability.
    – Dragonel
    Jun 13, 2022 at 15:38
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@JoeStrazzere has an excellent answer already which is specific to your situation.

However, Joe's answer falls slightly short in that it is specific to your situation.

The more general answer is, it depends on your workplace. While the general philosophy behind a salaried position is that you're being paid to accomplish the work, your employer can very reasonably that you accomplish that work at a time which is convenient and efficient from their perspective (i.e., you work the same hours as everyone else). Very often, it doesn't matter when you do the work, and good employers will recognize and accommodate that, but they are ultimately paying you to do things, and they have a right to demand to control how you do them as long as they're paying.

So. In this circumstance, read Joe's answer. You should communicate with your boss and coworkers. In other circumstances, you should also communicate with your boss and coworkers, but the end result and your expectations might be different.


*Whether they should exercise that right is highly situational as well, and is fortunately out-of-scope here.

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