should I stop using my office’s flex hours since my coworkers have earlier schedules? — Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

My organization has a very generous flexible time policy. Our office’s “core hours” are 10 am – 3 pm, and all employees must be working during this time. We’re told to arrange our eight-hour days around those hours however we like.

I’m not a “morning person” by habit, and I typically come in at 9:30-9:45 when I don’t have morning meetings or important tasks that need to begin early in the day. I stay until 6-6:30 pm on an average day, and my work regularly necessitates staying later for big projects. I am salaried/exempt and have occasional weekend and evening tasks. Most of the team arrives between 8 and 9 am, and there are a few that arrive at 7 am. We always have a receptionist at the front desk when our office is open to the public.

I am one of our youngest employees, but due to turnover and staff growth, I have been here longer than 75% of our team, and I am in a relatively senior-level position. My supervisor expresses that he is generally very happy with my work.

I understand that coming in late in the morning might reinforce negative stereotypes about young people in the workforce. I sense that some of my coworkers (whom I “outrank” but do not manage) have a bit of resentment toward my work schedule. They are of course allowed to do the same, but due to their other life obligations (families, a second job, etc.), it’s not realistic. On one hand, it frustrates me that employees who benefit from being allowed to leave early are the ones who stigmatize people coming in late. At the same time, I understand that my hours might complicate teamwork and make early-arrivers wait on me to answer questions. I also worry about the optics of vendors or partners calling the office for me after 9 am and being told “he’s not in yet.”

Should I work harder at changing my habits for the sake of my perception and professional reputation? Or, given that I’m in line with our policy and doesn’t seem to negatively affect my performance, do I stand my ground?

It’s incredibly irritating that people who work a schedule like yours in an office that explicitly allows it are sometimes seen as lazy or “getting away with something” when people who do the same thing in the other direction (arrive early/leave early) are not. It’s undoubtedly linked to our puritan roots, where getting up early is a virtue and sleeping past sunrise is an indulgence of the debauched.

I look forward to the days when sleeping in will be seen as admirable self-care and a virtue. I consider it that right now.

Anyway. I do not see any reason you should change your schedule. Your office asks you to be in by 10 am, and you are. Your office tells you to arrange your schedule around its core hours any way you’d like, and you do. You’re in a relatively senior position, and your manager is happy with your work. There’s nothing here that indicates you should change what you’re doing.

It’s true that early arrivers might have to wait to ask you questions. That is part of what having core hours means. In fact, the whole reason for core hours is to have a set time when everyone will be available to facilitate communication, and you are abiding by that. They’ll need to accept that that’s how your office works … just like you need to accept that you can’t ask them questions at 4 pm if they left at 3. That’s how core hours work. You aren’t doing anything wrong by utilizing your office’s system, just like your coworkers who work 7-3 aren’t.

If you want to, you could run this by your manager and make sure she agrees, but I don’t see any reason to. If your manager herself had been bristling or hinting that she didn’t like your schedule, it might make sense to raise it with her … but that doesn’t sound like it’s the case. If the people showing resentment with your schedule were senior to you and had the power to affect your career trajectory, that’s something you’d want to factor in (because, fairly or not, on some teams and in some roles there are consequences if you take advantage of a benefit you’re supposedly entitled to) … but that doesn’t sound like it’s the case for you either.

You’re following your office’s policy and your manager is happy with your work. If other people with no power over you feel a little grumbly about that and can’t point to any actual work problems it’s causing, that’s something they’ll need to deal with on their own. Carry on.

And for that matter, carry on with pride. You are arranging your job and your life in ways that work well for you, and that’s a victory. By doing that, you are modeling healthy habits for less senior people in your workplace who might have the same worries as you but less capital. These are all good things and you should feel good about them, not worried that you are some sort of indolent libertine.

Also! I always think that when you’ve attained a certain professional level and respect, there’s real merit in letting your own behavior be a form of advocacy for Things That Are Different From The Traditional. When you have the capital, it’s a social good to spend some of it challenging people’s norms — whether it’s openly talking about needing time to pump, or taking mental health days, or having blue hair, or working your kind of hours, or all sorts of other things that people with less capital might not be equipped to push their workplaces to accept but you are. You have to be careful that it doesn’t become a thing where action X is okay for you and no one else because of your positional power, but if you do it the right way, you can exert an influence that makes things better for everyone.

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