In my job I have a lot of small tasks all the time, and typically two or three larger ones at any given time. I'm also the go-to person for a number of things in my team, as I'm the one who understands them best. This leads to a lot of interruptions throughout much of the day, so I usually wait until some folks have started to leave before I even attempt to work on the bigger tasks - things where stopping and starting can massively increase the total time needed to complete them. (My schedule is 9-5, whereas most of the team is 7-3 or 8-4.)

As a result, I almost always wind up staying past my scheduled end time, since once I get focused on one of those more-involved tasks, I don't even notice the time until I either finish or reach some kind of halfway-decent stopping point, only then to discover that I ought to have left half an hour ago. As an hourly worker (and contracted through an agency, not a direct employee, in case it's relevant), overtime is not permitted (except when preapproved due to a specific business need), so I basically always wind up leaving early on Friday whenever I hit my hours.

On the first workday of the new year, my team was brought into a meeting where several changes were discussed to kind of "tighten up" our processes. Some of them were much needed, but on this one I'm really struggling. Management is now insistent that everyone needs to be sticking to their schedule and staying late should be the exception. I'm concerned because those end-of-the-day hours are really where I'm most productive - the idea of just stopping right in the middle of something, at the time when I'm at my peak performance, and then trying to pick it back up the next day amidst all the bustle, just seems inefficient and frustrating. And I'm not the only one - the two other people on the team who also have 9-5 as their normal hours would likewise often continue working until anywhere from 5:10-6:00 from time to time, for the same reason - being engaged in a task and wanting to complete it before leaving rather than stop partway through and then try to pick it back up the next afternoon.

How can I show my boss that it's in the best interest of the entire team for us to continue to operate the way we have been?

A few other notes for context:

  • My position is similar to an administrative assistant, but with a greater focus on more technical skills (e.g. competency with MS Office including Visio, setting up online meetings, basic SharePoint services, etc.). My team is the pilot group for a new approach to centralizing the role - rather than assigning an individual to several projects throughout the department to handle all the needs of those project teams, the rest of the department has been asked to now send requests for each specific task to my team, and then whoever has availability (or is just really good at that particular task) will take it, greatly reducing the staffing needs for the position overall.
  • My team's official hours (as advertised to the department) are 7-4; this is presented in the context of setting expectations on turnaround time, to discourage e.g. submitting at 3pm a request that needs to be completed by 9am the next day.
  • The fact that my schedule is already later than most others is not at issue; the only concern appears to be that of my leaving earlier than scheduled on Friday. And I only leave early on Friday to avoid overtime - it's an effect, not the cause, of staying late during the week.
  • This focus on specifically-scheduled hours appears to only be applied to my team; in the department in general, as long as you're reasonably reachable, and get your work done, nobody really cares what time anyone arrives or leaves. There are no time clocks to punch, everyone enters their own total hours for each day into the timekeeping system.

How this question is different from Our work-week policy changed drastically. It used to be a perk. How to let them know I'm unhappy?

  1. This question is not about a personal preference, but about productivity. It's not that I'm personally unhappy about the change, it's that I find the change to be counterproductive to the best interests of the team.
  2. Vacation time is not an element of this question. Most of the answers to the other question include the vacation time aspect of that question to such an extent that those answers don't translate to this question.
  3. In that question, it's a company-wide change, where in this one, it's a change to a single team, from being the same as everyone else in the company to following a different standard. My position is that there's a reason the company operates the way it does (stopping work in the middle of a task results in lost productivity), and this team should be no different.
  • 4
    If management insists that you leave right when you feel most productive, then just leave - and be less productive. Jan 10, 2017 at 21:01
  • 2
    It is not management's fault that you start things without enough time to finish it before COB. It is also not management's fault that you consider yourself to be at "peak performance" after COB. Neither of these things are good reasons why your manager should let you be the exception. However, your "few other notes for context" do bring up relative points which you could make to your manager. If you decide to talk with your manager about this, don't bring up your personal reasons for wanting to stay later, it will make you look selfish in some ways. If you do want to mention them...
    – Prodnegel
    Jan 10, 2017 at 21:20
  • ...I would suggest to do it after you point out the actual reasons that do make good points (your other notes for context).
    – Prodnegel
    Jan 10, 2017 at 21:20
  • 1
    @IDrinkandIKnowThings that question is about a worker's personal preference, where in mine, me staying late M-Th actually benefits the company because I get more work done in less time. Jan 11, 2017 at 14:25
  • @DanHenderson - I am not sure that makes enough of a difference here. It is still a personal preference for you to work later then take off early on friday... that seems to be the problem here. Jan 11, 2017 at 15:36

3 Answers 3


I once read the advice to schedule one or two meetings where you are the only participant and which last 2 to 4 hours (together). Ask your customer for a single room and for the time of your "get things done" meeting lock the door, switch off the mobile and close the mail app...

[amendment] Downvotes show that I might be more verbose:

To me the OPs problem is "how to say 'no'". He has trouble to get things done during normal hours because there is always someone interupting him so that he likes to shift his workday to be partial at "silent hours".

Since the customers policy restricts him in working late he needs a possibility to organize "silent hous" at normal business hours.

IMHO the best way to do so is to clearly communicate to the co workers that there are times during the day where you are not availabe for meetings or accidental approaches (a regular daily blocked time in your calendar).
off cause you may shitf or shrink that reserved time if needed. But you should alway communicate that this is an exception.

The hard part here is the change to that schedule.
Coworkers may look strange at you when you start to reject their approaches where you once responded immeadiately. Therfore it's best to "disappear" for the "getting things done" time. (Out of sight - out of mind...)

In the long run your coworkers will get used to that and respect your "working time" mostly.

I do not say tat this is a solution for every one.

I just say that this is a possibility for the OP to organize time to "get things done" in his situation without working late.


Most likely it was your casual assumption that you can work late and then leave early on Friday that caused the problem. This is not something any employee should be doing without specific approval ahead of time - especially an employee who is paid hourly. In most workplaces, hourly employees do not have the same flexibility that salaried people have. That is one of the conditions of such employment and you have ignored that.

Others in your work group have likely seen this as you getting a flex time benefit that is not available to them and they resent it, hence the crackdown on hours. You caused this problem through your unprofessional behavior. You do not work in a vacuum, your actions affect other employees and they affect morale for other people. You don't get to do just what you think is most efficient for you. YOur management has to consider what is best for teh organization as a whole and clearly they think your Friday afternoons off are a problem.

I would say the chances are that bring it up now to your boss that you want to work this way is highly unlikely to be resolved in your favor. You might have had a chance if you had asked instead of doing, but now you are a problem employee and they will not likely be accommodating.

I would suggest that you need to look into better ways to manage your time instead. You also need to understand that if being interrupted is part of your normal work pattern, then you have to accommodate your work style to account for that. It is up to you to adapt to the company culture not the other way around. Companies are not always structured for the most effective way for one emplyee to work, they are structured to meet the most needs simultaneously. Companies know that this will mean that some tasks will take longer to do than they would in a different environment. They have agreed to the trade-off when they expect you to work in an interrupted fashion.

So, discuss with your boss the best way to get some uninterrupted time during the required work schedule. Discuss the possible delays in longer tasks if uninterrupted time is not made available and then work the way your boss suggests you work whether it is what you personally prefer or not. Accept that Friday afternoon off is not a viable option.

Also, since you are in a position that has frequent interruptions, organize your tasks so that you can get back on track as soon as possible after an interruption. This might mean, making a note of where you were before turning to the interruption or saving files before task switching. It might mean doing a better job of breaking the larger task into smaller chunks of work, so that you can more easily handle interruptions. It might mean, asking someone to wait while you finish a part of the task. It might mean, only checking your email at set times of the day or scheduling periods with no interruptions. Context switching is not the most efficient thing, but it is necessary at some workplaces, so if it is necessary, then get good at it.

  • See the last bullet in my question. The company culture is generally supportive of this practice, it's only my team that has recently been asked to be different in this regard. Jan 12, 2017 at 13:56

I suggest you stick to your scheduled hours, but also keep a log of how time is spent. This way when those big projects start to slip, and they will, you can point to how you spend a lot of time in 'support' mode and not much in 'getting work done mode'.

Expect that they will constrain how much you can help other people or that you will have 'support hours' where you can be contacted and times when they should submit thru channels.

Fundamentally people are abusing your kindness to meet their needs immediately. Having people follow a protocol will allow you to get your work done more efficiently and might also allow others to address mundane requests.

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