I'm salaried, and my employer's corporate culture is fairly lax about when we work as long as we cover our expected spans of time each day. I've occasionally had trouble getting to work, and I'm never sure if I should stay late or show up early on the next day(s) to make up for it.

I'm a programmer/systems analyst, so at least some of my work can be done regardless of when I'm at work.

Most of us leave before 5 o'clock. My boss usually leaves before I do, so I don't think staying after gives the same appearance as showing up early, but either way I get my work done. My time's not directly monitored in any way.

Should I show up early or stay late to make up for late appearances?

  • 7
    We track our time using Harvest: getharvest.com Even if your time is not monitored from above, you should monitor your time expenses for your own purposes. If it ever comes to it, you can defend yourself using your timesheet. Apr 12 '12 at 19:25
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    I use ManicTime: manictime.com for the same purpose. It will automatically track time for you based on criteria you provide.
    – Atif
    Apr 12 '12 at 20:04
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    My observations over many years is that you are much more likely to perceived as a striver if you come in early, as opposed to working past the time when most folks leave. No cite, just my personal observation. May 17 '12 at 2:38
  • @JimInTexas that's psychology. People in the morning tend to be drowsyer, and thus, when they see you are already there when they arrive, they naturally assume you have been there for a while. Likewise, they're more alert around 5, and thus they tend to figure you're just finishing something up before leaving.
    – acolyte
    Jul 11 '12 at 13:26
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    @JimG. I disagree, I'm in the same situation, and I always wondered the same, I think this could applied to every environment where your time is not strictly monitored.
    – user1544
    Nov 19 '12 at 16:00

I think if you talk to your supervisor, and the people around you, they are the best source of information on how they measure and/or value the clock. Totally depends on your company culture.

In some places, when you're salary the concept of "late" has basically no meaning. So long as you show up for important meetings with co-workers and clients, you get things done, and you turn your work in when you say you will (because deadlines still definitely matter). Being in the office beyond this often has a very high networking and collaboration benefit to you, especially before and after "official" work hours, because that's when much of the networking happens, so I generally try to be around beyond just when most people are there at least a few days a week, but that's my personal approach.

Back to your question, some people who are salary still carry the concept that "work" is done between certain hours of the day. However, your workplace can also be the other way around, where deliverables and measurables are the only thing that matters, and when you're physically in your seat makes absolutely no difference. When I transitioned from being hourly to salary within the same job, it was very hard for me at first to shake the "I need to be here exactly between time X and time Y," because that's what I'd always known.

  • I know it depends on the place, but I think even for a lax joint (and provided your work is getting done), it would still look bad if you are not available for contact during core hours. Especially, for ex: you decided to work at night and not during the day (without telling anybody)
    – Atif
    Apr 12 '12 at 20:08
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    Agreed. And if there's a shared sense of what those "core" hours are, then I think you've definitely got something. I think asking people if there are such shared concepts of time common with the group, and talking openly about where the limits are, you'll find some common ground.
    – jefflunt
    Apr 12 '12 at 20:45
  • On the other hand, you could just keep coming in and "make up the time" as you suggest. I don't think you can go wrong with this approach, I was just giving a different perspective, that maybe the clock/time doesn't actually exist in your situation. Won't know unless you ask. :)
    – jefflunt
    Apr 12 '12 at 20:45
  • I really do not understand this answer too. All planning and hence deadlines is done based on 40 hours weeks. How is it possible to say that hours in salaried position do not matter?
    – smith
    Sep 9 '17 at 20:05
  • Hours in a salaried position shouldn't matter because the job isn't supposed to be about how much work you produce per hour -- otherwise it would be an hourly job. It's supposed to be about paying smart people to do creative problem solving, which sometimes requires sitting around and just /thinking/ rather than looking busy. This gets perverted in all sorts of ways that are bad for both companies and employees, but that's another topic.
    – jefflunt
    Sep 14 '17 at 1:28

I work in a similarly relaxed environment, where the basic rule is "Put in the time and get the work done". Sometimes this means 35 hour weeks, sometimes 50 hour weeks, and if you're in late you're pretty much on your honor to stay late and make up time (or take the work home).

If your work is getting done and meeting (or preferably exceeding) standards/expectations you're probably fine with whatever method you pick to get your time in. If you think there might be a question though you should pull your boss aside and ask.
At my last company I mentioned it during every performance review, something along the lines of "I know we're doing the flex time thing, and I think it's great. If you would prefer I were here on a specific schedule just let me know."

  • I really do not understand this answer. All planning is done based on 40 hours weeks. How is it possible to say that you may be done in 35 hours? This means that the planning is messed up
    – smith
    Sep 9 '17 at 20:04
  • @smith There's a big difference between 'assembly line' type work and 'knowledge work'. When you work fewer hours at assembly line work, you produce proportionally less. When you work fewer hours at knowledge work, there's no easy way to tell if the extra time would have helped you achieve the task. In some companies, they expect you to be physically there for 40 hours a week anyway, but in others they expect you to complete the tasks that you are given, independant of how long or short it takes you.
    – Cronax
    Sep 11 '17 at 13:53
  • @Cronax: so how can you estimate in advance during planning phase how many tasks can be completed within the period planned? The only way to do that is to define in advance that the hours allocated per person is 8 hours per day.
    – smith
    Sep 11 '17 at 20:58
  • @smith There's more than one way to solve the problem of planning. Some companies follow the same line of thinking you do, defining tasks and expecting their employees to be at their desk for 40 hours a week working on those tasks and asking for more work if they are done. Other companies simply define the list of tasks with deadlines for when the tasks need to be done, leaving the employee free to decide when to work on the tasks and for how long, as long as they complete the task before the deadline. In this case the planning is simply the list of tasks and their deadlines.
    – Cronax
    Sep 12 '17 at 9:14
  • @Cronax:so for the second type of company: 1) who decides if the deadline is feasible? 2) what are the employees expected to do if the tasks are completed way ahead of time? It sounds to me that what you are saying is that it is acceptable for someone to finish something in 2 hours, not say anything and watch YouTube the rest 8. I really want to understand the reasoning because I have heard this mentality before. If I owned a company and my employees were super fast and we didn't utilize them properly I would question the viability of the business
    – smith
    Sep 12 '17 at 19:30
  1. Have dependable hours. Often just having a set pattern is really helpful for the employer.

  2. Communicate that you value time. Both your and theirs. Stay late and it will stand out from your usual schedule (See 1 above), and make sure you mention "oh I'm making up for soem for x'. Or work at home and make sure you email or do whatever to show that you were active. Over time it will be noticed but it has to be consistent.

  3. Talk to your manager. Ask them what the right thing to do is. Explain your situation. Make reasonable requests if necessary and then go wit what your agree on and be true to your word and expect them to do the same.


Besides depending on company culture, the answer certainly depends on your personality: If you often come late to work (measured against your normal time), there has to be a reason for it, and I would guess that this reason would make it difficult to make up for the lost time by getting in earlier some other day. Based on this assumption, it would probably be easier to just add the hours in the evening when you were late.

  1. Get your work done. Do it well. All else is secondary.
  2. If you work for a "pointy-haired boss" (PHB) who cares about "butts in seats", make up that lost time when your PHB will notice so that his mental accounting will be correct.

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