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I have a full-time work contract for 40 hours per week. However, the working time is not actively controlled, but completely trust based with a 4 hour core time. I was told informally that it's not really important to be in the office during the core time as long as I'm available for meetings, etc. I have also the (un?)fortunate situation that neither my direct manager nor his manager are on site, so there's also no indirect control for me.

I've noticed that I can do my work with 4-6 hours of daily effort. My direct manager likes my work and thinks I'm doing well. Hence I'm inclined to go home after around 6 hours, technically not putting in the 40 hours. Otoh, my contract is trust based and I do the work I'm assigned (and do it well).

Actually, I wouldn't have a problem with this, but I fear that my colleagues here in the local office might get upset. However, staying in the office for the full amount of time every day is very frustrating for me. I should also note, that I strongly dislike being in the office and try to get my time and work here over as fast as possible. I don't go to launch like everyone else for example (which they do during the core time, what a joke). Theoretically, there's also the option to do some work from home, but I was denied that for arbitrary reasons.

So, how could I deal with this, without risking to get fired or upsetting my colleagues? Those colleagues are not my direct colleagues, more like office mates. They have a different manager and different work. I'm the only one from my "team" here.

As suggested in the comments, here's a bit more information to clarify my situation:

The current situation is a complete mess. I've talked to my manager about the low work load, that I'm unsatisfied and under-challenged more than once. Nothing changed. He keeps thinking that I have enough work to do. I've come to the point the embrace the situation and make the best of it, i.e. do my work and leave asap.

To be more general, if my work time is trust based, why is it not ok to leave early when I have done all my work for the day?

Addendum: There are many good answers, so I have a hard time to decide which one to accept. I'd love to accept them all, because every answer has it's one unique facet to it, providing a new insight. There are also some very good tips and discussions in the comments, so make sure to check them out as well. I have to make up my mind and decide which answer comes closest to what I think is the best answer. Until then, thank you very much to everybody who contributed or still wants to contribute!

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    What are you trying to accomplish? Your post reads more like rant than a question that has practical answers. Are you bored because of a low workload or do you want to make the argument to your boss that he should be paying you full-time while you only work half-time? (Hint: the latter is unlikely to go over well.) – Lilienthal Oct 13 '15 at 10:31
  • I agree that the question is kind of rant-ish. The problem is, that the situation is a complete mess. I've talked to my manager about the low work load, that I'm unsatisfied and under-challenged more than once. Nothing changed. He keeps thinking that I have enough work to do. I've come to the point the embrace the situation and make the best of it, i.e. do my work and leave asap. To be more general, if my work time is trust based, why is it not ok to leave early when I have done all my work for the day? – CuriousMan Oct 13 '15 at 10:49
  • That information is quite important and I encourage you to edit it into your post. I've retracted my unclear vote but you may want to clarify what outcome you're looking for in the question as right now I'd say that your question is probably still borderline off-topic. This question is highly relevant regardless. – Lilienthal Oct 13 '15 at 10:58
  • I also find this question quite relevant and informative. How can I "link" another question? – CuriousMan Oct 13 '15 at 11:02
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    "if my work time is trust based, why is it not ok to leave early". <-- Because if you leave early when you shouldn't, then you will lose the basis of that trust. – Brandin Oct 13 '15 at 11:48
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Consider using the extra time you have available to do self-training, own projects, or other improvements that will grow your skill-set.

It's valuable to the company, because it means they'll be able to give you more complicated work when it comes available. It's valuable to you, because it gives you more marketable skills. It probably won't bother your team-mates, because they just see you're in the office and busy.

Alternatively, you could also check whether you can (and are allowed to) help out colleagues. If you leave halfway through the day, that generates bad blood. But if you help everyone wrap up their own work and then you all leave an hour early, that's going to make you the most liked person in the office.

  • I've accepted your answer because it aims in the same direction as Dan's answer below, but more constructively. Ultimately, improving my skills will help me find a more fulfilling job, hopefully at a different company. The other answers emphasize on communicating the issue with my superior, but I've done that already and it was unfruitful. – CuriousMan Oct 29 '15 at 9:36
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If you are hired for 40 hours, you have to work 40 hours. If your work is done in less hours, you have to inform your manager that he can assign you more work. If there is nothing to do, you may choose to ask your manager if it's ok to leave early. Me in your place would keep track of the hours I did not work. If sometime in the future there is more to do, I can use those hours. Maybe it is also beneficial to keep your supervisor in the loop about your "minus"-hours. If you do, he can see that you have free capacity.

That said, of course you can make any other agreement with your manager. I just wouldn't work less without confirming with the higher ups.

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    "If there is nothing to do, you may choose to leave early". This may be OK but only if you ask your manager. One reason you can't just say "Well, there's no more work to do. Time to go home!" is - what if an issue comes up and you couldn't address it in a timely fashion because you skipped out early? – Brandin Oct 13 '15 at 11:47
  • @Brandin: Yes, this is what I mean. The OP has to keep his manager in the loop about what he is doing. But as we have no exact information what the job of the OP really is, I assumed it is nothing time critical (as he is already leaving early, so this is no problem by now). – jwsc Oct 13 '15 at 11:52
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    +1 For the last sentence of your answer. But I would suggest you rephrase you may choose to leave early to you may choose to ask your manager if it's ok to leave early - as already expressed in the rest of your answer, clearly the OP is in no situation to make this decision himself. – s1lv3r Oct 13 '15 at 12:01
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    @s1lv3r: I used your suggestion, thank you. For me it is not a big deal to leave early, IF i report it. But it does add some clarity if I ask beforehand. You are right. – jwsc Oct 13 '15 at 12:08
  • If you leave early without permission, it's not just a lack of clarity: it's a breach of contract and potentially grounds for dismissal or at least disciplinary procedures. Either stretch your work out, ask for more work, or get permission to leave early. It's a very rare person who has done all the work possible to the best possible quality, and for whom the manager can't find something else to do... – Jon Story Oct 14 '15 at 11:12
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Your manager is satisfied with your work, but is concerned about you leaving early. You, meanwhile, don't like being in the office and do your work quickly as a result, which raises a bit of a red flag for me.

I've had team-mates in that situation. On probing, it turned out that their work was seen as satisfactory but not as good as it could be -- when you work quickly you cut corners, are less likely to do the extra thing that would really help, are less likely to notice another task that ought to be done (or done differently)...

So I recommend talking with your manager and pursuing two threads:

  • What should I be doing to make my work better?
  • What should I be doing with downtime to be better able to do the next assignments?

He might ask you to flesh out your work more (better unit tests, better documentation, more-robust code, whatever). He might ask you to start learning about such-and-such technology that's going to be relevant soon. Or he might even have side projects. You should be ready to work the full 40 hours, and he should guide the activities with which you fill that time.

Once you do this, he might be more open to that work-from-home option, too. Usually, in my experience, managers want to see people doing more than the minimum they need to get by before they'll grant that.

  • Thanks for your answer. About the first point: I've talked to my (technical) manager about that and he doesn't give me more challenging work. It really is quite "stupid" work, our apprentices learn how to do it. I, on the other hand hold a Master in CS, so by all means, this work is a joke for me. Second point: I'm supposed to do "research" without intermediate outcome. Such fuzzy, undefined term. Whenever I attempt to do so, I have to justify myself to my tech mngr, which is not really reasearch. – CuriousMan Oct 14 '15 at 9:21
  • Last point about Home Office: this won't happen here, because it's against the company policy. My technical manager would grant it, but there are more higher-ups. And it's beyond infuriating that said higher-ups, who enforce the policy, and directly told me that I can't work from Home, work from Home themselves. Anyhow, the conclusion I've come to some time ago already, is, that I need to find a new job. I'm already doing that, but in the meantime I was looking for some relief to keep my sanity. – CuriousMan Oct 14 '15 at 9:26
  • Please don't take these comments as offense, your answer is good & valid, I'm just trying to get across that I don't think it's only me who is to blame. – CuriousMan Oct 14 '15 at 9:26
  • @CuriousMan no offense taken, and I wasn't trying to assign blame either. If your technical manager doesn't have better work for you, perhaps look for things you could do on your own to make the tedious work more efficient? – Monica Cellio Oct 14 '15 at 14:29
  • Thanks for your suggestion! I'm trying to do so already, but through this whole situation my motivation is sometimes lacking. Then I ask questions on stackexchange. :) On the other hand, if I start to seriously script my day-to-day work, I'll be done in even less time, which means that I'll probably want to leave even earlier.. But I'll give it a try and look if I can do something for my self-improvement. – CuriousMan Oct 15 '15 at 14:39
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To be more general, if my work time is trust based, why is it not ok to leave early when I have done all my work for the day?

It might very well be okay to leave early every day. Ask your boss specifically about that.

You indicate that your work time is "trust based", yet you are conflicted about leaving early as you would prefer. That makes me wonder if you really believe you are as trusted as you indicate.

To resolve the conflict would be very simple - ask your boss if it's okay to leave early every day, once you have finished what you believe to be that day's work. You will quickly learn if that is something your boss will trust you to do correctly or not. And it won't matter if your coworkers get upset - you will have the explicit approval of your manager, and you won't risk getting fired (as you indicate worries you). If you are hesitant to ask this of your manager, ask yourself why.

Without knowing the specific type of work you do, it's hard to tell if there is truly only 4-6 hours worth of work each day, and nothing more that could productively be done. If you are a knowledge worker, there is almost always more that can be done in a give day - it's hard to decide that "this is all I can do today" in that situation. If you work from a checklist, I suppose once the checklist is done, you could call it a day (although I would still advise that you discuss this with your boss and ask "when I have reached the bottom of the checklist each day, what should I do? Should I just leave?")

  • I can see two possible outcomes: Either I'm assigned more work, or I'm told that I already have enough to do. The latter already happened and I feel ambivalent about more of this work. It'll surely fill my day, but it won't be more challenging, just as dull as my current work. What won't happen is that they let me leave early. You're on the spot that I'm a knowledge worker and I start to think that I'm just overqualified for this kind of work. They hired the wrong person and I accepted the wrong job. The consequence is that I'm already looking for something new. – CuriousMan Oct 15 '15 at 14:34
  • They won't allow it explicitly, but it might be tolerated implicitly from what I see. Actually I'm very confused, because there are no clear rules. The higher-ups talk about the open culture and the freedom everyone has. Yet, when I ask about specific things like home office, remote contracts or part time I'm brushed off with legal reasons, like for example it's not allowed to work remotely within a certain distance of an office (I don't even know if that's true..). I blame it all on hypocrisy. I don't even have 2nd monitor, not to speak of a Laptop, but there's a BYOD policy... – CuriousMan Oct 16 '15 at 8:37
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As far as you are doing your work completely and perfectly, you shouldn't be worried about what your colleagues think.

But, as you say you are hired on a 40 hour per week contract, you might want to inform your manager(on mail or whatever mode of communication you are using) before leaving, including telling him what you have done for the day.

Some companies follow a rigid work hour rule, so the employee have to be there in the office for those hours. So, you might want to know about such regulation from your manager, before you see yourself in trouble.

I've noticed that I can do my work with 4-6 hours of daily effort. My direct manager likes my work and thinks I'm doing well.

Seems like the company doesn't have a rigid work hour regulation. But still, confirm it with your manager.

without risking to get fired

Unless you aren't doing the work completely, and not leaving early, you re definitely not getting fired.

upsetting my colleagues

Leaving office early after completing work (if the company doesn't have rigid work hours) is common and accepted, and you shouldn't worry about your colleagues getting upset.

  • Thanks for your answer. I already have to write a weekly work report (which is, compared to other work reports, quite filled). Also, my manager seems to be concerned about my daily hours, as I have the feeling that he's trying to control it by logging IM activity. Otoh, he tells me that my work is fine. I don't know what to think of that... – CuriousMan Oct 13 '15 at 10:53
  • Then, talk to him about that ASAP, before it's too late. – Dawny33 Oct 13 '15 at 10:57
  • Yes, that's planned, as it's not even legal in this country. However, our relation is already somewhat stressed, so I'll wait with this until my probation period is over. – CuriousMan Oct 13 '15 at 11:05
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    @CuriousMan: this is a little bit contradictory. Your relationship with him is stressed, but he is satisfied with your work. I have a feeling in my gut that you do not communicate enough. – jwsc Oct 13 '15 at 12:11
  • @jwsc Our relation is stressed because they won't let me work from home for not even one or two days per week, giving arbitrary and nonsensical reasons for why I have to come to the office. This does not impair my actual work. – CuriousMan Oct 13 '15 at 12:41
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I would suggest not saying much to managers, and 'sand bagging', that is, drag out your work so it takes 8+ hours. If keep bringing it up, or leaving early, they going to wonder why they are paying you full time.

Several years ago, I had a similar job at a huge company that liked the color blue a lot, but could get it done in 2 hours. Was pre-internet days, so didn't have much to do. Read newspaper, buy some old high school history books at Goodwill for $1 and see how wording has changed from the 1930s to now, take lot of smoke breaks. Take long lunches. Whatever had to, but was sure to be there at beginning and end of day.

  • @JoeStrazzere I like your answer to my question very much, it's solid and based on the ideal that everyone acts like a grownup and is open to a reasonable discussion. I consider it the theoretical best answer. Dan's answer on the other hand is in my opinion the practical, real world answer. A lot of people do this, just google for "Bore-Out". This behavior is driven by managers who measure performance by the number of hours spent in an office chair. Unfortunately not everybody has an open-minded manager like you seem to be. – CuriousMan Oct 15 '15 at 14:27
  • @JoeStrazzere Please also have a look at my answer to your other comment. I highly appreciate your answer and and input! :) – CuriousMan Oct 16 '15 at 8:39

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