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I work as a developer in an IT company. The work isn’t the type of work where the hours need to be set. There are deadlines, but as long as they are met, the work can be done at pretty much any time of the day. I was hired as full time to work a 40 hour week, but it seems to be more of a 40 hour minimum and some periods I do much more than that.

Sometimes if there is lots of work to do I will be working till late at night and there has been some weekend work. The fact is, I don’t really mind. I’m single so it’s easier for me than some of my colleagues who might need to take care of their kids etc. If the work needs to be done, I’m happy to stay till it’s done. The weekend work there is a little bit of a compensation - but it’s not like 1 to 1 sort of deal - it’s more like if I spent all weekend working, I might be able to come in after lunch on Monday.

Anyway, I feel from my perspective, I’ve been fairly flexible. So I thought it would kind of work both ways. So last week, I had some personal business I had to attend to and I had to take off at 3:30. The next day I was told that I would need to take half an annual leave day for that. I was a little taken back - I don’t get much annual leave so I was saving them to go on a holiday at some point - I didn’t want to be wasting them. And I just figured that it’s two hours - I’ve given them much more than two hours of work - and given the nature of my work, I can easily make them up the next day even.

However, I was told the policy is that I have to be there during core hours. That to me sounds a little one sided. I have to be there during core hours - but if they need me, I have to be flexible enough to be there outside of core hours too with no or little compensation. However, if I need to occasionally move my hours around, they won’t allow the flexibility for me to catch up those hours another time.

My question is, is it reasonable for me to expect my workplace to be flexible for me if I’m willing to be flexible for them?

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    This kind of one-way "flexibility" is not really flexibility at all. They call it flexible when it benefits them, but not when it benefits you. You are not at all being unreasonable. I would instead recommend not being taken for a ride, just do as much work as your "company policy" requires you to do, and go home. – Masked Man Mar 28 '17 at 12:07
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    Do they require you to be there after hours? It sounds to me like you are voluntarily staying late. Doing so doesn't make it "ok" not to be there during the core hours. – Brandin Mar 28 '17 at 12:27
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    If they're making you lose 4 hours of vacation time for 2 hours missed yesterday, then I would leave 2 hours early again today to balance out the other 2 hours they're charging you for. I would also use that time to look for a new job, because the company doesn't have any respect for you as an employee. (Yes, I know it's petty and passive aggressive, but it is also by the timeclock that they have.) – krillgar Mar 28 '17 at 14:10
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    @JoeStrazzere What would be the point of leaving 2 hours outside of the "core hours"? They charged you 2 additional hours of "core" vacation time. Using vacation to offset non-required hours is absurd. With a company behaving this way, I would immediately stop putting in any non-required hours for them. As I said in my original comment, use the time to look for a new job. – krillgar Mar 28 '17 at 14:33
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    @krillgar I agree. That company must be pretty stupid if they cannot excuse 2 hours of absence for an employee who has worked through an entire weekend. Whether he was "required" to do that work or not is besides the point. Even if he worked voluntarily, the company benefited from his efforts. Some people just find it so difficult to understand this: humans make rules, rules don't make humans. – Masked Man Mar 28 '17 at 16:07
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My question is, am I being unreasonable? I’m thinking that if this is the policy, then I’m just going to stop doing extra hours.

We all get to decide what we think is reasonable and what is unreasonable. Employers get to decide that as well.

What you describe about having to work core hours is pretty common in IT. That makes coverage and scheduling meetings more practical.

What you describe about feeling that you are asked to cover other situations after hours is pretty common as well. There are often tasks that simply must be handled during "off-peak hours" and often only a few people can perform those tasks.

I always wanted my team to get the work done. If that meant working a Sunday night for a release event for example, then that was expected. But I also made it clear that they each had the flexibility to take off early if their home schedule required it, or come in late to miss the morning rush hour. That only seemed fair to me. The work was far more important than the schedule. They were adults and were almost always able to figure it out themselves. The only thing I asked is that they let me know if they weren't going to be around the "usual" hours, so I wouldn't worry about them and could schedule appropriately.

I personally like it that way. I appreciate being treated like a professional and being relied on to find a way to get the work done while being given the flexibility to manage my own schedule within the needs of the business. And I think my team liked that as well (of course I specifically hired people who like that kind of culture, so it wasn't a surprise).

You've now learned something new about your company's expectations regarding hours.

You could feel hurt and attempt to retaliate by "working to the clock" and only doing what was required. But I suspect you know that won't be good for your career there in the long run.

Try to take a step back and decide how much effort you want to put into this job. Decide if the extra effort of a few nights and weekends is worthwhile or not. Learn what you have to do in order to take care of personal business (maybe if you had asked ahead of time to leave at 3:30 it would have been okay, maybe you will have to handle your personal business at other times). If it were me, I'd want to talk to my boss about it during a one-on-one session before I decided to chat my work habits.

Every shop is different. Some shops are very flexible and leave scheduling mostly up to the individuals, some are not. Some shops only expect people to work a fixed schedule of 40 hours, others have more varied expectations and opportunities.

You should try not to "expect" your workplace to be a particular way. Instead learn their norms and try to work within them. If their norms don't fit your needs, then you may need to find a different company with a better fit.

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    +1 for You should try not to "expect" your workplace to be a particular way. Instead learn their norms and try to work within them. It's very hard to drive a culture change at an established workplace. – grfrazee Mar 28 '17 at 13:44
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    "You could feel hurt and attempt to retaliate by "working to the clock" and only doing what was required. But I suspect you know that won't be good for your career there in the long run." - that might not be viewed as a retaliation, but as normal behaviour. There are few people who will complain about their staff putting extra effort into delivering tasks, but that not necessarily means they will take "no" as overly negative. On the contrary maybe it's worth not to overindulge managers, and keep their view of effort-budget realistic. – luk32 Mar 28 '17 at 14:14
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    I was going to write-up my own answer, but this answer includes all my points already. The only thing I would add for the person asking the question is that what you described here is essentially almost every Development/IT shop I've worked at in the past 10 years. Flexibility is not a one-way street, but the employers street is much wider than than the employee's street. I very much agree with "follow the culture mentality", but keep in mind there are privileges beset to certain folks and pointing the finger at a supervisor's "golden boy" is a good way to become a target. – user32685 Mar 28 '17 at 14:17
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However, I was told the policy is that I have to be there during core hours.

Whoever said it is confusing two very different things: flexible hours and overtime "recuperation". It's very common for companies that allow flexible hours to require people to be on-site during core business hours like 10:00 to 16:00. So it's not outside the norm for them to tell you that you need to use vacation time (PTO, holidays, whatever you call it) for that.

However, what you are actually doing is putting in overtime, even if it may not legally be called that, for instance if you're overtime-exempt in the US. But even when employees aren't legally putting in overtime, it's very common for those who do a lot of it to get those hours back as flexible paid-time-off, especially if this overtime is done outside normal work days or at odd hours (nights or weekends). So if you cover an 8 hour day on Saturday you might take the next Friday off to make up for it.

Working long hours without accumulating PTO in return is common in certain industries such as big law or video game development while it's unheard of in others. Most IT jobs involve some kind of flexibility and almost all employers will allow employees who put in a lot of overtime to take extra days off to compensate for that. Typically such an arrangement is written down in an employment manual somewhere but it can also be a casual understanding.

So what your employer is telling you is that they want you to put in overtime without getting anything in return. Whether that is "acceptable" is something you'll have to decide.

Now, before you start refusing to do overtime, I would suggest having a conversation with your manager or HR where you explain that you'd expect to accrue PTO or extra vacation hours when you're doing a lot of overtime. You might also add that you'd expect to be able to take that extra time off fairly shortly after you put in the overtime. If they push back you can drop something to the effect of "Since I have a number of commitments outside work I won't be able to put in this amount of overtime if I'm not able to recover at least some of that time by taking a day off during the week in exchange."

Keep in mind that in some companies this can indeed be a CLM, though you seem to be aware of that. There are a lot of employers who don't go in for this kind of arrangement, even if it's otherwise the norm in your sector. Some make up for it in other ways such as higher salaries or bonuses. Some don't. If you ask and they don't budge you'll have to decide whether you'll also dig your heels in at the cost of professional reputation, whether you'll accept this as a condition of the job or whether you want to find other employment. You'll need to do one of those as the alternative (not doing anything and continuing to stew) will gradually erode your motivation to work.

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I'm assuming that by "no compensation" you mean no retributory free hours, not that you don't get paid for the overtime work. If you're not getting paid, absolutely stop doing the hours; your company should not have you doing hours with no pay.

As far as having to be there during core hours, it will totally depend on the corporation / company for which you are working. Let me outline two possible scenarios.


1. The superiors prefer to be able to count on having you around during core hours.

This could be for several reasons:

  • They want to know for certain that all their employees are doing their minimum quota of hours (departmental standard; has nothing to do with you in particular)
  • They prefer to have a minimum number of workers in for company image
  • They want to be able to count on getting a given amount of work done during the core hours
  • ...

Whatever the case, it boils down to preference. In this case, you could be an exception to the rule. I would suggest talking to your employer every time you want to take time off during core hours, and make sure you have a specific time you will fill out those hours. This is good policy everywhere, anywhere, all the time, at any company.


2. From the superior's perspective, you are a necessary asset during core hours.

This could be for several reasons:

  • You are needed for consultation
  • You are needed to maintain a smooth workflow
  • There is a minimum number of people needed to keep things running
  • Clients need to be able to contact someone in your department
  • ...

If this is the case, again, you should talk to your employer. Try to understand why he believes you are necessary at your company during core hours. After having reflected on his reasons, you may well be able to come up with a work-around plan. Whatever the case, whenever you take hours off, you should communicate with your employer beforehand and know exactly how you are going to compensate for the hours you took off.

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    A salary covers overtime - you are being paid a salary to work when asked to, not just 40 hours a week. – Stephen S Mar 28 '17 at 14:07
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    @JoeStrazzere You are technically correct, but be very careful, because every extra hour you work dilutes your per hour pay. I was getting paid a very generous salary for a position that required an enormous amount of my time to get the job done. I was salary, but by then end of the year if I divided that "generous" salary by the number of hours I worked, then the U.S. dollars per hour I was getting paid was equivalent to someone working as a cashier at McDonalds restaurant. That thought bothers me to this day. – user32685 Mar 28 '17 at 14:31
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    @JoeStrazzere OK maybe NOT a cashier, but definately less than a McDonalds shift manager. Let me try a very real example. Let's say you work 98 hours a week on average. You get paid $110k US dollars a year. That comes out to $9,166 a month, which is $2,291 a week/98 hours = $23 dollars an hour. Your $110K a year salary means you are now at a higher tax bracket, which means you get taxed higher, so essentially you are making about the same as a McDonalds manager earns an hour or possibly less. I confirmed a McDonalds manager makes $21 an hour in my area. – user32685 Mar 28 '17 at 14:51
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    @JoeStrazzere In a response you mentioned "in the US, most IT workers are salaried and thus exempt from overtime pay." I responded with a word on caution about doing more than 40 hours, because it dilutes your pay. – user32685 Mar 28 '17 at 15:07
  • @StephenS - "A salary covers overtime" - There is no way is this the case everywhere. If it is, it would usually have been negotiated at the time of hire when discussing salary. – GWR Sep 13 '17 at 14:41

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