Employee lateness – how to deal with it?

  • Kat Ciesielska
  • December 5, 2022
  • 7 min read

Employee lateness is not as rare as it was. According to a survey prepared by CareerBuilder 29% of employees are regularly late – at least once per month.
Moreover, younger employees are more likely to be late than older ones. If you’re a business owner or manager, you surely want to deal with the problem. Let’s check out how you can do this without turning into a boss no one likes.

Employee lateness costs

Before we go further, let’s think about the money your company loses because of late employees.

Studies show that each minute an employee arrives late costs a business owner $2 and $2.50 in lost productivity and revenue potential; meanwhile, a full hour of employee lateness costs up to $1,000 per person.

Also, due to things like lower morale among other employees and the lost opportunity to network with clients or vendors during lunches outside the office.

How to detect late employees?

Before dealing with employee lateness, you need to find out who is late and how often. Without these data, there is no possibility of improving things. Back then, it was not so hard when almost every organization worked offline. Employees just showed up, typically using some card to check in at work.

But even if it was working like that these days, how would you know that employee had started working already? They could go for coffee, gossip, or whatever else.

The right time-tracking software is your answer. You will detect all chronically late employees easily and quickly. And that’s not all. You will also find out their patterns to understand them better. Employee lateness always has its source.


How to address lateness with an employee?

Let’s say that you have already detected chronically late employees. So, what’s next? How to make the first step to dealing with this problem? As you kept these arriving late workers in your organization, it means you find them useful after all.

How to address this issue without making anyone feel uncomfortable?

All your staff members are people. Like you and me. The best idea then is to start by talking. Simply ask them why?

Honest conversation

Conversation with the late employee is a must. Perhaps they have had some problems recently. An employee’s behavior is always affected by their private life, and you can’t forget it. Being professional is one thing, but having a sick partner, parents, children, or animal is second.

There is also stress, chronic tardiness, and poor work-life balance (and it may, but doesn’t have to, be your fault).

Arguments with other staff members can also be a reason.

What’s important to understand, a tardy employee may grow in them an ergophobia, which is a work phobia. Excessive tardiness at work can also be a symptom already. Sounds funny? Well, it’s not at all. It’s an existing disease, similar to school phobia, and it’s a type of anxiety neurosis. Not being treated can destroy one life.

That is why detecting your employee’s working patterns will not only help you… it can help them.

Respond thoughtfully

Employee lateness disturbs you, yes. But the first thing to do is to be careful not to overreact. If you’re feeling angry, take a few minutes and calm down before you confront an employee about their lateness.

You don’t want your emotions interfering with how you handle the situation and end up saying something that could get you into trouble later on down the road. Especially if the employee’s tardiness is caused by something else than oversleeping, e.g., serious traffics, public transport delays, really bad weather, or a broken subway (again).

You could always say that other employees can manage to be on time despite traffics… but maybe your late employee lives in a place, where it’s a bigger issue?

There can also be many other unforeseen circumstances, and if you get angry, you will achieve just one thing… your late employee won’t be honest with you next time. And that’s not what you want to achieve.

Employees lateness clocks


Establish an employee lateness policy

Establish a policy that specifies the rules and consequences of lateness. Make sure that your policy is clear and easy to understand, and make sure it’s applied consistently. You can’t expect people to follow the rules if you are inconsistent in enforcing them.

While preparing your lateness policy, remember about unforeseen circumstances. Usually, people would rather not be late for work. It happens because of something. Every company policy needs to consider reality and implement a fair work ethic. 

Make sure that employees understand it by explaining it thoroughly at orientation or training events—and then follow through with disciplinary action when necessary. Clear expectations are easier to follow. If one is regularly late, remember to talk to them in private. There’s no need to embarrass anyone.

Moreover, remember that you need to obey the rules as everyone else. After all, you want to be a leader, not a dictator. Your staff members should feel that respect is mutual. Arriving late every day just because you are a business owner or manager won’t help you. Show them a good example. Don’t hide your own behaviors. Creating transparency in the workplace is always a good idea!

If there are many late employees, hold regular meetings and conversations with your employees about their tardiness habits.

Remind yourself that every employee deserves a fair chance at success—the ability to be punctual isn’t easy for everyone!

Serve a warning

The first step in dealing with an employee who is habitually late is to issue a warning. Explain why you are issuing the warning and what will happen if the behavior continues. Chronically late employees need to understand that you notice their behavior, but also that you give them an opportunity to become better.

Try to give the employee a chance to explain their lateness, but don’t let them use this as an excuse for further tardiness or absences.

Help late employees learn how to be on time at work

Most bosses just want to quickly deal with employee lateness, but they forget to look at this problem from an employee perspective. If one is always late for work, they may have serious problems with time management… or employee tardiness.

There are a few ways to help your people. You can hire a psychologist to calm your staff, send employees for some time management training, and implement a motivating bonus system for those who clearly try… but!

There is one thing that will help more (as it also lets you implement other strategies): tracking time. Is time-tracking effective? Oh, yes.

Tracking time on phone

Why? Because every strategy begins with analyzing data, and every data needs to be collected first. A good time management software – like TimeCamp – guarantees data. The automated app collects information about your employees’ behaviors on their desktops.

You will learn:

  • when they log in (turn on the computer),
  • what tasks they work on and for how long,
  • what distractions affect them and how often,
  • when they make breaks,
  • when they finish work,
  • and more.

You can also generate complex reports, just in a few clicks! It couldn’t be easier, really. Both for remote and office workers.

Having all this data, you can help your chronically late employees understand how often they come late to work in reality. It is highly possible that they don’t even know it. You can also fight with employee tardiness, not letting them work longer than 8 hours per day. Many remote workers like to work longer than it’s needed. And effects? They are going to be late the next day.


Consider implementing flextime

Employee’s lateness can be very hard to handle, yes. Especially if this one persistently late employee is a great specialist in their field. Maybe instead of sending a written warning one after one, you can consider flexible working schedules?

A huge number of businesses aren’t so tied to the schedule. Late arrivals won’t be a problem if you simply change the policy of working hours. Does it sound crazy? Maybe, but these days, when we have so many tools, it’s possible. Your employees can work at different times than you – you can check their progress with time-tracking software, for instance.

Flexible work schedules are a great idea, especially if you have many night owls on your team. Being on time at 8 AM is real torture for these chronotypes. They won’t be very useful, their performance will be poor. And it’s not because they are lazy. They have just different bodies, and that’s perfectly natural. Over 30% of people are defined as owls.

You want them to start work after morning birds. Trust me.

But again, how to be sure that they do their job when you’re already eating dinner with your loved ones?


Be patient

After introducing your new lateness policy, helping these consistently late employees to handle the issue… wait. Be patient, and give those who are usually late for work some space. You have some valid reasons to keep them, so don’t rush the process.

If they experienced some personal problems, it can take even more time. If one employee learns time management quickly, it doesn’t mean that the rest will do it at the same moment.

Chronic attendance problems are difficult to fight. If you remain calm and patient, you will get better results. Trust me.

Reward improvements

It is obvious that you need to address the problem, but never forget to reward improvements. There is nothing worse than a person who points out one’s mistakes and never notices improvement.

For chronically late employees, improving was not an easy task. It could have been harder than you imagine. Especially if you’re a punctual person.

Ask the staff member who recently stopped being late or drastically more often is on time – even if you can’t consider him as one of the punctual employees yet.

Other employees will notice it, and it will surely boost their morale. If one chronically late employee could do this and start being punctual, they can too!


Traffic jams, medical issues, or some personal reason. Employee lateness is caused by many factors. Hence, you need to use different strategies to handle it. But some tips always fit. Honest conversation, keeping a proper work ethic, patience, and… collecting data from TimeCamp, and analyzing them 😉



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