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I'm a Junior Web Developer at a small agency in the UK and all the staff have now been offered flexitime.

I am excited for this as it means that I can now work 8 to 4:30 rather than the usual 9 to 5:30. However my managers and seniors are using this to start and end later, working 10 to 6:30.

We're quite a feast-or-famine company and being a junior this can often leave me with few or no tasks I can carryout without having someone to explain something or to give me the green light to actually work on a task.

So my question is, is it ethically wrong or unprofessional to use this Flexitime when I know there will be instances where I can't do any work for (at max) an hour and a half?

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    Make it a habit to plan your tasks for the next morning and get the green light for them before you go home. – Roland Jul 18 '17 at 9:15
  • This 100% seems like one of those cases where you just need to decide for yourself whether your personal ethics allows for this. Choosing to do nothing for 1.5 hours of your work day is not very professional and would be frowned upon - that seems totally obvious. If you just want to know how to handle this, that seems more appropriate for this site. – Dukeling Jul 18 '17 at 9:30
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    Related non-duplicate - How do I keep busy during slow times, without looking like I have nothing to do? But the better option is to just plan ahead so you have 2 hours of work you can do by yourself. – Dukeling Jul 18 '17 at 9:53
  • @JoeStrazzere: No need to be rude :) In plenty of workplaces (eg ones dealing with highly confidential client information) it's quite normal not to be even allowed to work on something unless you've been explicitly told to, especially in a junior position. – psmears Jul 18 '17 at 12:24
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    I think it's more unethical if they expect you to turn up and leave later just because they do. Just make sure you have enough work to cover yourself for the few hours before everyone arrives. – ayrton clark Jul 18 '17 at 15:55
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So my question is, is It ethically, morally wrong or unprofessional to use this Flexitime when I know there will be instances where I can't do any work for (at max) an hour and a half?

There is nothing wrong (ethically, or otherwise) in using a perk offered by your company. If 8:00 to 4:30 is better for you, just do 8:00 to 4:30.

The real difficulty here lies with your necessity of supervision by your managers. This is something where you have to put some effort ASAP, as it may become a burden that can harm your performance in your current company.

A few suggestions:

  • Discuss the issue with your manager. Find out if there is any way to avoid this necessity of approving every step you walk. That has to be a burden for them as well, so they should be happy to help.

  • Learn to plan your work in advance. Gather requirements (and permissions) a few day before you start any new task. Get into the habit of asking these kind of questions every time you get a new task assigned (so you don't need to chase people afterwards)

  • Use the first hours in your morning to work on other things: Review documentation, improve the code base, write tests, review other projects of the team... anything that could make you perform better. Here you can also ask your peers or your manager for advice on what else to do.

  • If it is really necessary, you can compromise and schedule a day per week (or sprint) to come in from 10:00 to 6:30, and make those hours count. But this should be your last option.

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    "Use the first hours in your morning to work on other things" Never mind all the boring, administrative stuff that still needs to be done. Things like: making sure the software is up to date; filling in timesheets; taking care of the non-urgent emails that piled up over the previous day while you were focusing on work; looking over the backlog (if any) to see what might be good tasks to work on during the day; etc. This works even better if you typically function better in the afternoon than in the morning; then, you are saving your peak times for tasks that require your peak performance. – a CVn Jul 18 '17 at 13:33
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    I think a suggestion here that's missed is do a good job. I've found that my managers couldn't care less about what hours I work once I've established that the work I am going to do will be quality and delivered within the expected time frame. – USER_8675309 Jul 18 '17 at 14:16
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    Also, if the explicit permission is needed because "Junior" also indicates "less competent", then use these morning hours to improve your skills so they no longer feel it's necessary to hold your hand every step of the way. If "Junior" means "we're going to hold your hand no matter how good you are", then scratch that idea... – FreeMan Jul 18 '17 at 14:51
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    You don't need "somebody to give you the green light to work on a task" (unless they actually have to do something to allow you to access the data you need, or whatever) Discover what "use your initiative" means, and check later with somebody else if you feel you need to. If you always behave like a "helpless junior who can't tie his/her own shoelaces," you will remain at that employment grade in the company for ever! – alephzero Jul 18 '17 at 15:09
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While this wasn't a flex-time related thing, in a past position, we would get our assignments for the next day and prep the night before. That way, as soon as we got in, we could tackle all of the tasks without spending time getting ready. Being able to start work as soon as we got in was important to that role.

I suggest you do the same thing. Go to the more senior people the night before. Since they are leaving later than you are, you won't be holding them up, and they won't be in a rush, but will have the time to sit down with you.

Get all of your questions answered before you leave, take time to make sure you understand, and have at least two hours of work laid out that you can do unsupervised.

Take this approach and you'll be setting up the win-win for all concerned.

  • It demonstrates initiative on your part
  • It shows that you can be trusted to effectively use flex-time
  • You will be able to seek help from senior people when they will have time
  • You will be more productive
  • You won't be in that awkward position of having to say that you got nothing done because you had nobody to answer your questions.

This will take some careful planning on your part, but something you could turn into a very good thing

  • +1; Also have a backup plan worked out with your supervisor. Try to get 3-4 hours of tasks instead of the 2 hours, and ideally you would have a list of tasks and if you are unable to work on one you can jump to the next one. – Phil M Jul 19 '17 at 0:15
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Flexitime individualized for personal preference doesn't work out for people who need to work very closely together. When you are on such a team, you need to coordinate with them and agree on a common work schedule.

But software developer is usually not one of these jobs. Usually software developers alternate between phases of working together and working alone. Having everyone on a team on a very different flextime schedule usually works quite well, as long as there is at least some overlap for meetings, knowledge exchange and pair-programming sessions.

You might want to see this as an opportunity to get more self-reliant in your work. Having two "unsupervised" hours at the start of each work-day might help you to learn how to solve problems on your own and take more responsibility for your actions.

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I am in the same boat as I am also a junior for a software house with flextime. As my team leader works fewer hours overall and usually comes in the afternoon, my situation stands out even more than yours.

The obvious solution is to sync your hours to your seniors. Now, the whole point of flextime is to be able to work when it best suits you so the above is a bit counter-productive. Instead what I recommend you do is to always make sure you have enough tasks laid out from the day before to cover the time you'll be unsupervised.

As for actually working on a task and needing assistance, I doubt you would so dearly need someone over you all the time. If so many things that need explanation pile up so quickly, I would even say you may overly depend on them. A quick rule of thumb is to use your personal time trying to troubleshoot something for 15-30 minutes, and only if you can't Google your way out of it should you nudge your team lead about it.

So to sum up, it's neither immoral nor unprofessional to use your flextime to work some hours off the rest of the team as long as you don't over-do it. That would obviously affect the communication that you need, being a junior in the company.

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In the companies I have worked for that allow flex time it is always at the discretion of the manager/customer. It doesn't work for all projects or tasks.

That being said.

You can use this opportunity to take on different roles. Look for items that need to be done by the team everyday, and since you are the first to arrive on your team it makes sense for you to do them. In the past I have used this to review new tickets, review the overnight builds, test parts of the systems or to review logs.

Take this time quiet time to cleanup your code or improve how you document your work. This is always the hardest things for me to do If I am constantly being interrupted. That hour or two everyday allows me to complete those tasks.

Ask for the more autonomy. You want to be given a list of task to complete instead of being given them one at a time.

As to it being ethically or morally wrong. No it isn't wrong. If they allow flextime, and they approve flextime, then taking advantage of it is not wrong. Now using that opportunity to make you a more productive worker is exactly what flextime is for.

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Once things settle down this can work really well. You'll need to invest a little in planning in the early stages, along with your boss as tasks appear to be given out at fairly short notice.

You can be quite productive in a quiet office in the morning, and can use the time you're on your own to get quite a lot done. If you then need clarification when your boss gets in, make sure you've got a well-formulated question.

It always helps to have a background task or two in hand (low-priority work, reading/learning, whatever's appropriate in your workplace culture). The amount of background stuff will tend to increase over time naturally anyway.

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The best advice is to talk to your supervisors and find a sensible solution.

The non-overlapping times here seem pretty small so it seems unlikely that this will be a massive issue. The key thing is probably that you plan your work in advance so that you aren't starting of finishing jobs when unsupervised.

When you have an unpredictable workload this is a problem anyway, even if you are self employed/freelance as there are sometime awkward gaps when it's just not productive to start a new job for just for the sake of doing a few hours before you need to switch tasks again.

So my advice is :

  • Think about how you plan your work to avoid this as much as possible
  • as long as you are working effectively and not deliberately slacking off don't worry too much about odd periods where you get stuck, this happens, if if is a regular and predictable thing talk to your supervisors about what you can usefully do in these periods.
  • a sensible supervisor will recognize this and give you at least tacit permission to do what you like, sometime is is more effort to find someone a job than just let them have an extra break.
  • even if you haven't been given the go ahead for a task you can at least start planning it or thinking about how you approach it.
  • If you want to be really professional you can always spend any slack time doing research or study relevant to your job.

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