85

I am doing an unpaid internship as a requirement for my college degree. When I started I was told that working hours are from 8:00 to 16:00 and I perfectly kept to that schedule for some days.

However, I noticed that only a small number of people come in before 9. We are a small company, with no more than 10 people in the software department. I rarely see more than 5 people in the first hour. Even the employee who's responsible for me comes in after 10.

Because of that, I started arriving at 9:00 and leaving at 16:30 based on what the other developers are doing. Should I stop doing that and stick to a strict 8 to 16 schedule? Or am I allowed to be less strict if they also aren't? No one complained about it so far and I was never explicitly told what my hours should be.

UPDATE! Listened to your advices and stopped it, coming in today (06-17-2016) in time. Two devs were already there, one of which is the person with who I talk the most. I don't want to make him assume I arrive late, so I'm going to kill this bad habid.

  • 8
    Where are you? In some parts of the world unpaid interns are explictly not employees -- they are more like tourists in the workplace. And one of the indicators the ombusman uses to check if interns are being used as slaves, is if they have set hours (It is not the only one and not on its own a deciding factor) – Lyndon White Jun 18 '16 at 1:49
  • 1
    If the question is "how does it work in my company" then the right answer is "ask your supervisor/manager." If the question is "what does employment law say" then the country and state you do the work in will TOTALLY change the answer. For example, a monthly-salaried employee in Sweden is different from an hourly worker in Mexico is different from an "exempt" employee in California. And, also, if you are an unpaid intern, it's unlikely you are actually an "employee" at all, and the question is: What are you expected to accomplish to get whatever you expect to get out of it? – Jon Watte Jun 18 '16 at 22:02
  • 1
    @ZoltánSchmidt I've made an edit to the title to remove the word "gaming", since I think that's the part you're most concerned about showing up in future searches. The changes that inverted the yes/no question were problematic because of some of the answers that start with "yes" or "no" -- after the edit they were backwards. Anybody who wants to flip the title also needs to edit the affected answers, and I don't think it's worth all that work. If you don't like the edit, though, you're welcome to edit further -- just don't invalidate any answers in the process. Thanks. – Monica Cellio Jun 19 '16 at 22:05
  • 1
    @MonicaCellio Of course, I tried to keep the context of the original answers, but if you think it didn't happen, I recheck that. – Zoltán Schmidt Jun 20 '16 at 8:49
  • 3
    When I was first appointed manager, management meetings supposedly took place every Monday at 8:00am. Next Monday I turned up. Nobody there. Eventually the receptionist opened the office around 08:55. Six months later I was asked why I hadn't been attending the meetings. I replied. The meetings were immediately rescheduled to 3:00pm to agree with reality. Six months later they were cancelled altogether as they consisted of nothing but reviewing the left over agenda items the convenor hadn't done anything about since the last meeting. Moral: nothing is cast in stone, especially timetables. – user207421 Jun 20 '16 at 12:09

14 Answers 14

138

Should I stop deciding my own working hours?

Yes.

You don't know if the other employees are contracted to different hours, or regularly work from home, or have private understandings with management. For example, they may have traded some regular hours for being on-call over evenings and weekends should problems arise. It might be considered acceptable for more senior people to come in late provided they are demonstrably up to date on all work, in return for overtime when deadlines are approaching. You are simply assuming everyone else goofs off; you may be right but it's a big risk to take so early in your career.

You also don't know if you are being observed by management. You should expect more scrutiny as an intern who has not yet established their long term value to the company. And it's probably not a good idea to post under a recognisable name here...

  • 25
    @ZoltánSchmidt - no, at worst they have documented proof that you've been skiving off...as an intern/temporary or new employee to any workplace NEVER assume no one is watching. Because someone will be noticing, and your supervisor will be asking questions about you, they just may not be directly to you. – Thomo Jun 16 '16 at 11:45
  • 19
    @ZoltánSchmidt - true to a point. From a management perspective though, if it were one of my team members I have two problems. First, you've proven yourself unreliable in that immediately after starting you've decided to alter your hours without telling anyone (for 5 days) and secondly - you started the conversation about whether this is ok with strangers on the internet instead of your supervisor. While not necessarily a black mark, it's certainly a warning sign. – Thomo Jun 16 '16 at 11:55
  • 5
    @ZoltánSchmidt not hiding it if you have done something wrong is admirable. But it still might come with a cost. – user45590 Jun 16 '16 at 11:57
  • 5
    @Thomo in fact, no one has ever stated directly and strictly that I have to start at X and leave at Y. I would have never done this otherwise. Second is right, though - I worried of asking my supervisor as I thought I may seem lazy. This way, I just made it worse but I couldn't notice without you or Julia highlighting. – Zoltán Schmidt Jun 16 '16 at 11:58
  • 5
    @ZoltánSchmidt - (cont.) - and while it varies with culture/industry - one thing I've always done (and was always taught) is that when I'm new to a role/organisation - if my start time is 8am, I'm there at 7:55. If I finish at 4pm, that's the earliest time I shut down (unless of course you cannot access the site etc). This shows that you're reliable, interested and punctual – Thomo Jun 16 '16 at 11:58
78
+250

Never assume that work hours are flexible--or that they're inflexible.

Joe Strazzere said this in a comment, but for some reason none of the answers so far say it, so here goes:

Ask your boss if those hours are okay. If you are worried about asking her/him, then you know this isn't something you should be doing.

In fact, even if you are somewhat worried, ask anyway. This will make it clear that:

  • You want to have open communication with your manager.
  • You are observant and want to fit in with the company culture.
  • You take initiative to voice your comments, questions, and concerns.

...etc.

Additionally, when you were told that "working hours are 8 to 16", there may have been some miscommunication--especially if most people there do not start at 8.

Now, the way in which you phrase the question is somewhat important. Do not make it sound like an accusation; what you want to know is how flexible your manager is regarding your personal working hours, not whether your coworkers are just "shirking." Additionally, be willing to stay a full 8 hours even if you come in late (i.e. 9 to 17 instead of 8 to 16), or to revert to the standard 8 to 16 if your manager insists. And, of course, do not conflate schedule-flexibility with "gaming" your work hours. Flexibility allows employees to use their best judgment about what time of day they're most productive; gaming implies some kind of tactical underhandedness. You should carefully examine and try to adjust your own internalized attitude toward your proposed schedule-shift (and toward your coworkers' habits) before meeting with your manager.

Finally, someone accused you of "stealing" by working a half-hour less. This is obviously not the case for an unpaid intern, but even for a paid employee I don't think this accusation would make sense. If you were paid by the hour, your time-tracking would reflect your 9-to-16:30 workday, so you wouldn't be paid for the missing half-hour anyway. If you were salaried, you'd be expected to use your professional judgment about how you provide value to the company and when you do your most productive work.


As a concrete example of why it's good to ask about discrepancies between communicated timetables and observed office behavior, I've taken the liberty of quoting a comment from EJP on the original post:

When I was first appointed manager, management meetings supposedly took place every Monday at 8:00am. Next Monday I turned up. Nobody there. Eventually the receptionist opened the office around 08:55. Six months later I was asked why I hadn't been attending the meetings. I replied. The meetings were immediately rescheduled to 3:00pm to agree with reality. Six months later they were cancelled altogether as they consisted of nothing but reviewing the left over agenda items the convenor hadn't done anything about since the last meeting. Moral: nothing is cast in stone, especially timetables.

  • 13
    Thank you! I was going crazy reading the other answers. Ask your supervisor if hours are flexible! – brian_o Jun 16 '16 at 16:20
  • 3
    Great answer. All this essentially goes double for someone in their first internship. Learning about workplace norms is part of the deal and asking these types of questions should be encouraged! – Lilienthal Jun 16 '16 at 20:38
  • 4
    This is, by far, the most mature answer on here and doesn't have nearly enough upvotes. Communication is the most important skill you can develop in the workplace and the top two answers shamefully skirt the issue altogether. – Kittoes0124 Jun 16 '16 at 23:02
  • 1
    Also review what type of work you can do by yourself in the period that few people are around. If you are unable to do anything for that 1-2 hour period, bring that up to management and tell them so. They're supervising you, but aren't micromanaging you (which is a good thing), so you need to let them know if your intern hours don't work. – Nelson Jun 17 '16 at 0:50
  • @Kittoes0124 Thank you! In all fairness with respect to votes, though, I did write my answer many hours later than some of the higher-voted ones, and since then it's been one of my fastest-vote-gaining answers. – Kyle Strand Jun 17 '16 at 1:39
55

Grow up, don't worry about what other people are doing, focus on yourself and do your job professionally. You're just an intern: you're there to learn, and one of the things you're learning is exactly this.

Developing bad habits this early on isn't a good way to start.

  • On a workplace, especially as an entry-level worker, it's risky not to deal with supervisors' opinion. – Zoltán Schmidt Jun 16 '16 at 10:14
  • 12
    @ZoltánSchmidt - yes, it is. It's even riskier not to do what you were instructed because "other people don't" – Thomo Jun 16 '16 at 11:49
  • @Thomo oh, I'm sorry then, I put it to a wrong context. – Zoltán Schmidt Jun 16 '16 at 11:50
15

It depends on a lot of things, starting with your country and the company culture. For instance, I already find odd the fact that you have precise working hours, because where I work, no one cares as long as your job is done.

Since you are apparently not paid, it might not be a big deal. But since you just arrived, you should find a way to ask your colleagues about that in a smoothly manner. You're an intern, after all, so you're here to learn, and it's OK to wonder about such things since for your point of view, some people do not respect working hours. It might be a bit late for that since you've been coming late for almost 2 weeks now, but better late than never, I'd say.

In the case where it actually matters, you might reflect as not very motivated, or lazy, though.

  • There are no fix hours, exactly that's what I'm saying. On my first day, I already found devs at 8:00, meaning they were coming sometimes in 7.A.M. - I assume, "no one cares as long as your job is done" is also the mentality here, but you were right when you told me to ask about it. – Zoltán Schmidt Jun 16 '16 at 8:52
  • 5
    Fixed working hours are not universal, but they are certainly not "odd". Lots of places have them. And in this case, I think there is nothing to ask, since the OP was already told what hours to work. – user45590 Jun 16 '16 at 11:55
  • 4
    There's a difference between what is written in the paperwork and what people usually do. The fact that people in this company do not respect the fixed working hours is proof of that. What OP should ask is if it is generally tolerated or if they have a good reason for not following the rule. – Sheldonator Jun 16 '16 at 12:19
  • @Sheldonator It's odd for lower level jobs to not have fixed hours. Higher level jobs typically come with more flexibility, since you are far more experienced and proven. – SnakeDoc Jun 16 '16 at 14:59
  • 2
    I only have 1 year of experience and I've had flexibility from the 1st day at my current job, so I don't think it is linked to "being experienced and proven". I believe it's more along the lines of "Work time and productivity are not simply correlated in higher level jobs, thus it makes little sense to have strict working hours". – Sheldonator Jun 16 '16 at 15:25
9

Firstly, don't risk it. If you've agreed to be there at 8 and aren't there at 8, then someone might notice you aren't reliable. Even though you're an unpaid intern a bad review or being dismissed could hurt you. Even if that kind of reliability isn't highly valued in practice by this company, they'll probably still value it in principle and object if they ever find reason to pay attention to whether you've done what you said you'd do.

Secondly, if it really isn't useful to the business for you to be there as early as 8, but is useful to the business for you to be there later than 4, then they've set the "wrong" working hours for you.

Contradicting your manager over a management-related judgement this early in your career is quite a difficult thing to do, so don't go around saying this is a mistake. But you could make the suggestion, either to your boss or to someone you're regularly working with, that your official working hours don't match the majority, and that you'd prefer to move them to match the busier times if that's convenient.

By asking this, you might find that there's some good reason why they specifically want you there 8 to 4 and not 9 to 5, 8.30 to 4.30, or 9 to 4.30. For example they might feel that there are too few people available in those early hours, and that even though it's rare for you to be needed, having an extra warm body available that those times is useful to the business sometimes even though you haven't yet seen why. Finding this out by asking is a lot better than finding out by being disciplined the first time someone needs you and you're not there.

Alternatively you might get an answer like, "oh, you don't have to be too strict about hours since you're completing your tasks", in which case you can carry on as you are but feel comfortable about it.

I'm assuming your goal here isn't to do as few work hours as possible, but rather to fit in better and to avoid hanging around an empty office!

  • "I'm assuming your goal here isn't to do as few work hours as possible, but rather to fit in better and to avoid hanging around an empty office!" - this, and to feel myself useful and productive. – Zoltán Schmidt Jun 16 '16 at 11:18
  • "Being around an empty office" is the key here. I had a job where the "official" entry hour was 9AM, however most of the workmates I often had to deal with only arrived between 1030AM-1100AM. – Rui F Ribeiro Jun 16 '16 at 14:00
8

Other answers added theoretical reasons for "should stop". I will add a practical one:

  • Many companies actually use internships as a way of finding and retaining future talent. So the way you conduct yourself during internship may likely reflect on their decision to offer (or not) you a job post-graduation.

    So, if you'd like to get that offer, you want to be seen as a great hire. Which gaming the hours most certainly won't be a path to.

    And even if you aren't interested in working in that company later...:

  • People in the industry talk. Especially in 2010s. Meetups. Conferences. FOSS projects. Networks.

    Do you REALLY want to take the risk that you'll be going through interview at another company, and someone mentions your name to someone they know, and hears back "Oh that dude? Lazy. Don't hire".

  • If a company decides whether to hire me based on how early I can show up at work, I don't want to work there anyway. – njzk2 Jun 18 '16 at 4:48
7

I'm pretty sure they can fire you for this. For all you know your colleagues have negotiated less or different hours than you and you're not following your contract as you promised.

I myself am a Dev and have negotiated with my boss I do 8-17:00 and take half day off, on Friday. My Dev. colleague is 9-17:00, another one is 10-17:00+. and so on.

Your manager might not notice this right away, but eventually he'll, and he'll make a note of it. This is an especially big gamble as you are an intern and working on your contact and experience. Getting fired from your first (i assume) job for doing sketchy hours is gonna be a huge black mark on your CV.

Edit: Also you gotta know they can track your activity on any electronic device you might use. Even though I'm a dev. and know my PC inside and out, and know all the software I have and know some software that can be used to track me, I'm a bit paranoid that my Employer can install something on my machine and I wont ever notice it, which can give him every key stroke I make on my key board, screen cap my screen, log of how and when I've used my PC etc. etc. etc.

  • I had no contract, not in this sense at least. The only thing I signed was one about keeping secrets. The rest were done for the direction of the university (as here internship is mandatory for the state exam). – Zoltán Schmidt Jun 16 '16 at 8:41
  • So your hours might be tracked as part of a report towards your school I introduced an edit to my answer with some more info you that might benefit you. – Иво Недев Jun 16 '16 at 8:47
  • Yes, it was also coming to my mind, but given the fact that sometimes I barely get direction, and also the fact that I definitely show signs of interest, learning and productive work, I'm not worrying. Of course, I consider worst cases all the time, so I'm not overestimating myself, but I assume I can hope positive feedback. Anxiety wouldn't improve my performance anyway. – Zoltán Schmidt Jun 16 '16 at 8:49
  • 2
    @ZoltánSchmidt The fact that you took the action to come here to ask about that show that you are at least someone ethical. Being part of real software dev is a good thing. What are you doing at work ? Testing ? debugging ? featuring ? – Gautier C Jun 16 '16 at 8:55
  • 2
    Let us continue this discussion in chat. – Gautier C Jun 16 '16 at 9:14
4

The answer is not clear cut and varies with the importance/balance your culture gives to norms and informal habits.

For instance, in southern countries the informal culture once takes precence to norms. People will expect you more or less are available to them, and place more value in the time you leave office i.e. late. In some more busy cities they turn a blind eye to people arriving late, as long as they work more hours.

On the other hand, for instance in other germanic countries, you are expected to be there on your own alloted time, no earlier, and not leave late.

Ask informally one or more senior workmates that you trust for their opinions.

Be aware that several of the senior people may be exempt from following the normal working timetable in their contract while you may not.

I have never almost asked for this question, and usually picked up the habits from others; however you can also introduce the theme in a more light way while chit-chatting with peers.

  • In general expectations about working hours are not clear-cut. But if your boss tells you "working hours are 8-4" you should work those hours, right? There is nothing ambiguous about that. – user45590 Jun 16 '16 at 12:08
  • In my culture, not really, and even less with flex time. Between rules, formal exceptions, and corporate culture, I have seen it all. From jobs where it was expected to arrive at 1000am and be there until 0800-0900pm, jobs where it was expected I was at the customer from 9 until 5, and then in certain days go to the HQ after that, very lax jobs where I can pretty much go when I please as long as I fulfil the mandatory minimum of 160h per month, and jobs where I am expected to work Saturdays mornings. – Rui F Ribeiro Jun 16 '16 at 13:09
  • In fact, within reasonable limits, I do not even care if my interns do come and leave on time as long they do their job, get along with the team and show some initiative. – Rui F Ribeiro Jun 16 '16 at 13:14
2

To add to Иво Недев's answer, I think the problem is not about hours (tell me if you think it is not linked I will delete this answer).

You lack of motivation, else you would anyway be happy to stay longer because you have task which you love to do. It is not always your fault. As I said in a comment, you have to be proactiv.

Which means, you have to ask for interesting job etc... Prove your value ! For that, don't hesitate to tell them you really want to help with anything, etc... If they give you an interesting job, you will certainly stay longer (it works like that for me at least).

Just be careful for one thing, the problematic of working time is seen differently by everyone. In my country (France), going before a certain hour is really bad, and your manager will certainly tell you it is not acceptable. But I've been in other country where they don't care, if the work is done.

  • In fact, I'm happy with staying longer, but going to sleep has always been an issue for me. I do wake up in time, I can, but if I'm tired then I'm unable to work properly. It's not about leaving earlier, I'd never do that, but about going in later. – Zoltán Schmidt Jun 16 '16 at 9:07
  • 2
    @ZoltánSchmidt going later is not a problem, but you have to ask your manager, just to be sure. You ask him to do 9-17 instead of 8-16 and no problem (be careful not to leave earlier after you ask for that). – Gautier C Jun 16 '16 at 9:09
2

You are an intern, if they don’t like you or your work, they are likely to give you work they don’t care about and leave your in a corner. Unless you so something very bad, they will not go to the effort of telling you. But they will notice, and they will talk to each other about you……

Then when it comes time that you need a reference from them, the reference will not list what you have done wrong, but it will be less “glowing” then for someone they loved. Likewise if you every wish to get a job from them. Never leave right on the dot, as that will get notice, always work a few minutes longer then you have to.

If you would rather work 9 to 17 ask your manager.

However by getting in before other people, you can a chance to think about what you will be doing that day and have well thought out questions for when your boss gets in. You can also respond to emails before most people get into work, so the response is waiting for them, that makes you look like hard worker. But people will see you leaving before them and notice even when your contract allow is, they are likely to assume you got in 30 seconds before them when you get in early. Therefore a case can be made for requesting a change to your hours.

2

Yes, stop but also understand

I will give an example. Many years ago I worked for a company. My "On paper" hours were 9am to 5pm. However I had a responsibility for a task that needed to be completed at 7am. So I worked with my manager to adjust my hours to 6:30am to 4pm, and "always" get overtime.

Several months into the arrangement I had replaced the task that needed to be done at 7am with a computer program and VPN access to monitor that program. I adjusted my hours (with the manager again) to 11am to 7pm. This allowed me to work more efficiently, as I missed all the "arriving times" of everyone that would "hey could you do this for me real quick" allowing both of us to sidestep an issue (that people would actually do that).

Several months later, we adjusted this again to 1pm to 9pm because I like working later, and we had a client in a different time zone that needed the support during that time.

A couple months later, we adjusted back to 11am to 10pm with no Fridays. The client support was no longer needed but we discovered that having someone around latter was often beneficial.

The entire time, my stated, on paper hours were 9am to 5pm Monday - Friday. My manager caught some flack over this and had to do manager things, (including pointing out to other equal managers that having me there at night was a benefit to them too).

When I was promoted to manager of that department, I made the same arrangement with team members. Everyone worked different hours even though officially, the paper work said 9am to 5pm.

The point is this. You don't know what is going on. There could be similar arrangements, different needs, or odd requirements. Until you can full understand what is happening with people coming in at different times, then you should be there at your allotted time, and leave at your allotted time. If you were to show up constantly late to an internship that I ran, I would let you finish the internship (cause I would want to maintain good relations with the school), but it would not turn into a job offer, and I would not be a reference you would want to use on an application.

1

Yes, you should stop doing it. Another view: You have a big chance of shooting yourself in the foot: Your manager can come around, don't agree with it and have you go back to working 8-16.

So you go back to 8-16 But now other people who have gotten used of you being there till 16:30 will get annoyed of you not being there when they expect you.

And you end up annoying not only your manager.

1

I can't leave a comment so I'll leave a comment as part of my answer.

The comment: Why are all the issues you have with working 8:00 to 16:00?

I know the stated reason "I rarely see more than 5 people in the first hour. Even the employee who's responsible for me comes in after 10.", but are there any other reasons, i.e. commute times, lack of productivity (You need your colleagues help and they don't come in till 9)?

My Answer to your question: Start working 8:00 to 16:00 to avoid any further/possible consequences. Then, talk to your supervisor about how many hours you are expected to work, and when you need to work them, if they are flexible about the 8-16 work schedule, and talk about any issues you have with the 8-16 work schedule.

  • 2
    I have no real issues, I'm just simply lazy as hell Of course, I'm willing to change it, but you know human nature: I'm looking for shortcuts. – Zoltán Schmidt Jun 16 '16 at 21:47
  • 1
    ... and that ladies and gentlemen is the root of the problem here. – Paul Carroll Jun 20 '16 at 2:31
-4

No, you shouldn't stop. Like you said, nobody told you specifically, and you're also doing it gratis. If anybody ever gives you any grief about it, just tell them "I am altering the deal. Pray I don't alter it any further."

  • 1
    An internship, even if unpaid, agreed with a college or similar, is still an internship. Yep, they might not give you critical tasks, but it's a position you're filling. They're paying not in cash, but in degrees! Basically you're telling him to bid on failing the internship. – Korcholis Jun 17 '16 at 7:26
  • 1
    Even as an unpaid intern, you have some form of legal contract with the company. (If you don't, there could be big legal problems if the you were injured in an accident when at work, for example, and even in a "safe" office environment you could get an electric shock from some faulty equipment, or fall downstairs!) That contract should state your "official" working hours, you can't just change them unilaterally. Of course you may be able to agree with your local manager or supervisor that you can change them, but that's very different from just "doing whatever you feel like doing". – alephzero Jun 17 '16 at 20:35
  • 5
    Is that a Darth Vader quote? Sounds like one... if you have Darth Vader's abilities it's probably a good idea, otherwise not so much – Xen2050 Jun 17 '16 at 23:55

protected by Jane S Jun 16 '16 at 21:57

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.