At some point in your career, you’re going to need to leave work early. After all, employees are human beings with obligations that can’t always be controlled or delegated to weekends and non-working hours. In most cases, a reasonable supervisor will understand, and grant, a request to leave work early or to come in late, provided your excuse is legitimate, important, or urgent. It’s typically not a big deal.
That being said, there are definitely factors that can help or hurt your chances of being able to get out of work early. Organizational culture, your relationship with your supervisor, and your work history in terms of attendance and punctuality will all impact how an early departure will be perceived by your employer. For example, some employers expect workers to report early and stay late in the office to prove their dedication, while others encourage employees to maintain their well-being and keep a healthy work-life balance.
In general, employees who are viewed by supervisors and colleagues as dedicated are more likely to be treated favorably in the workplace and, in some cases, get special privileges. Company policy may provide for excused absences for part of the work day.
However, employees who skip work, arrive late, or leave early without a solid reason will likely have trouble getting their requests approved.
Here’s a guide to how to leave work early without your request impacting your standing as an employee.
Good Excuses for Leaving Work Early
Although there are both legitimate and illegitimate excuses to leave work early, remember that your employer’s response will likely depend more on your standing as an employee than on the reason you provide.
The more often you attempt to leave early, the more difficult it will be to do so without criticism, whether or not your reasons are valid. Ultimately, you should be honest about why you want or need to leave early. Although it depends on your company’s culture, as long as you are in good standing and your supervisor is a rational, empathetic person, he or she will understand the situation and grant a request to leave early every now and then.
Here are commonly accepted reasons to leave work early:
Religious obligations or community-related work, such as volunteering at an event offered by a local non-profit community organization (especially if your organization encourages volunteerism).
Business networking activities, including participating in a local chamber of commerce meetings, or attending industry events or conventions (particularly if networking with potential business partners is valued by your employer).
Client-related obligations, such as traveling to a client assignment that will take place early the next day, or going on an outing with an important client.
Professional development pursuits, such as attending a workshop or leaving early for a class or to work on a group project for a course which your supervisor has encouraged you to take.
Productivity-related requests, including taking your work to a nearby coffee shop or library to focus, or leaving early (when work is complete) after staying in the office very late the night before.
Employment-related activities, such as a job interview if you have been notified of a future layoff at your current employer.
Family obligations, including sudden illness, accident or death, or if you need to pick up a child early if their school has closed early or if they are sick. (In some workplaces, you may also be able to leave early to take your child (or pet) to the doctor (or veterinarian). Only you can judge your supervisor’s flexibility and understanding.)
Personal reasons: Illness, for example, or a condition such as severe cramps, migraine, allergic reaction, or a dental emergency such a root canal or a toothache. Doctor’s appointments or medical tests can also be valid reasons to leave the office before closing time, though in general you should aim to schedule these outside of business hours if possible. (If you do need to leave work early for a medical appointment, it may be beneficial to note that you attempted to schedule the appointment before or after work, or during your lunch hour, but no appointments were available.)
Urgent or important home and finance issues, including a meeting with a mortgage counselor, attending the closing for the purchase of a new home, emergency problems at your home such as a burst pipe, fire or break-in, or the delivery of furniture, appliances or some other item that requires a signature and must take place during business hours.