Employees arriving late; is it an issue?

Employees arriving late; is it an issue?

A generally accepted prominent feature of good work ethics is arriving at your job on time. The practice of an employee coming in on time speaks volumes about richness and effectiveness of company’s culture and work environment, respectively. Additionally, by any standards, being on time is always considered a good habit to adopt. Therefore, we can assume with much certainty that coming to job in time is a very good quality that has positive impacts. On the flipside, let’s talk about the employees coming in late for work. Since we’ve mentioned above that it is a generally accepted practice to be on time for all commitments, not just professional but personal as well, does this mean that coming in late is necessarily an evil worth rooting out? Through this article, we will try to ascertain where it is important for a manager to raise a red-flag for employees coming in late and where it’s not even worth considering.

How to figure out?

Discussion around following factors can help you determine when employees coming in late is a problem and how to deal with it:

1. Nature of Job

There are certain jobs that require resources to be on time without exceptions. Some of the examples are cash counters of banks, Marketing/Pre-Sales Guys interacting with Client for business meetings, 24 x 7 Helpdesk etc. These jobs require resources to strictly follow the timings laid out by their management and any deviation might impact the business directly. Hence, taking measures to rectify in timing problems in these departments makes perfect sense.

On the other hand, there are jobs which only require 40 hours a week from employee regardless of how the hours are scheduled and/or distributed. These jobs may include development or coding of software solutions (exceptions are there), internet based jobs involving data entry and technical writing etc. These jobs are termed as flexible jobs in which employee chooses his own work hours for a day. Binding employees to observe timings strictly may be counter-productive as there are usually no requirements to come or leave on time and the performance of the resources is determined by the quality of the finished product.

There are some other type of assignments that do not require employees to be in office at all. The examples may include a property agent or a field support engineer working in the field. In fact the use of internet devices, smart phones and other devices has made it possible to be virtually available from anywhere if and when such a presence is required. Asking these employees to follow office timings cannot be beneficial and will only disrupt their daily work routine, affecting their operational performance.

There are some customer centric jobs which cover different time zones and requires the resource to remain online. The example may include on-call IT support, scheduled infrastructure maintenance, so on and so forth. These jobs may not require 8 hours a day but being available anytime when it is required make it challenging enough. It is difficult for these resources to follow an office timing when they have to response to six clients a day sitting in different time zones. It will not be possible for the resource to remain in the office around the clock so the better way to sort this out is to cover as much as possible in office timings and then review the rest remotely from home.

It is therefore very important to analyze the job requirements before getting into the timing management mania. Be sure that if you are applying a timing policy, it should match the job description so that you are not make life more difficult for your employees. Considering the last types of jobs we discussed, it is not possible to bind these employees as it will adversely impact their morale and the business as well. The timing is, therefore, relative to the nature of job.

2. Allow space for personal life

You might have some employees who are good performers and occasionally they need some time off during the day to do some of the personal work that is only possible during the work hours. Considering the employees good track record, a manager should allow these employees some leeway. However, he should monitor it closely to ensure that this luxury is not being misused.

3. Look for behavioral patterns

It is understandable if employees give excuse of late coming due to traffic jams, incidents, accidents, personal issues etc. However the frequency of these excuses is what matters. A manager should look for a behavioral pattern in these excuses. For example, the traffic jam excuse could not be true for the whole year. In case the reason of being late is casual and just because employee is not putting effort to come in on time, a manager should take measures to discourage it. This can be in the shape of warning letter or other disciplinary actions.

4. Evaluate the impact

A good manager should be able to identify the impact of his team mates coming late. Will it really matter if someone is coming late? If this is not a business hurdle and employee is generally a good performer than it should not be considered as an issue. However, if this practice is creating issues for the manager or the customers, then it is better to make employee realize of the impact and consequences immediately.

5. Making up for late coming

If you see that the employees that come late to office for some reasons are working late hours to ensure they are completing their assigned task then there is no reason to make it an issue. However, it is important for the manager, again, to look for behavioral patterns. Habitual late-comers and late-sitters tend to inspire the same practice in their peers, so it is important to break the habit every once in a while. With sitting late, operational and other costs are associates and hence to restore the cost vs. benefit balance, you might want to discourage this practice.


In a nut shell, coming late of employees is a relative phenomenon and should be looked upon as a quantitative factor by using the derivatives mentioned above or more, before dealing with it. Moreover it is not a threat that needs hard thought strategies with rigid implementations rather it is a concern that either should be justified or catered as per the individual or business needs. Micromanagement is therefore required here to ensure you have visibility of the complete picture so that you are neither discouraging nor demotivating any employee – the employee could have genuine reason for being late.

Last but not the least, emerging trends in IT have made it possible to remain online and available whenever and wherever required so just focusing on the Office Timings might not be a good strategy, at least for IT related jobs.

Hopefully, this article will help you identify if late arrival in your staff is an issue for you or not. In my next blog I will share some of the tips to deal with it. Meanwhile you can share your valuable comments regarding this article in the comments section.

Zaheer Abbas's picture
Senior Manager IT Projects & Service Delivery at Systems Limited with over 10 years of experience in IT and Project Management, Muhammad Zaheer Abbas is based in Lahore and is a regular contributor of the Systems Limited Blog.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Systems Limited, or any other entity related to Systems Limited.


Balal Ahmad's picture
Submitted by Balal Ahmad on Mon, 02/08/2016 - 16:53

Well Explained Mr. Zaheer.

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