5 good excuses for being late to work

Updated on January 28, 2023
Excuses for being late to work

Being late to work is a sure sign that your workday is not starting in an ideal way. But these things happen every now and then. 

There are excuses for being late to work that are perfectly reasonable, such as a family emergency or injury. You will be forgiven by your boss and colleagues if you are dealing with something that is a genuine hardship, especially if you had a good track record at work. 

Whether it is our own fault or just bad circumstances, nothing can be done about it unless you have a time machine. But we are just human and we all make mistakes. And sometimes the odds are against us.

So it is time to forgive yourself – or to accept the unfavorable circumstances that caused your lateness – and move towards handling the situation. Here are the best tips that I can give you on how to handle being late for work.

Best excuses for being late to work

Reasons to be late to work that are acceptable

Here are at least 5 good reasons for being late to work that are perfectly acceptable and every boss or manager in their right mind would forgive:

1. Family emergency

I think we can all agree that there's nothing more important than family and work shouldn't be an excuse to ignore an important family matter.

2. Injury or illness

If you're not feeling well and won't be able to work to your fullest, perhaps you should call off work and tend to your health and wellbeing. Work isn't going anywhere, so take the time to properly heal.

3. Heavy traffic

Another thing you can't predict and have no control over is traffic jams. Call your boss and tell them that you'll be a few minutes late and you'll make up for the lost time.

You can also send them a picture of the traffic situation if you think your boss may have doubts.

4. Public transport delay

In some circumstances, it's better to use public transportation rather than your own. If your bus or train has regular delays, you may consider catching it earlier.

5. Bad weather

Complicated weather conditions such as snow or heavy rain are among the most common reasons for being late to work. Nothing can be done when the gods of bad weather are against us.

The bottom line is this...
When disaster strikes, there is little we can do about it. You might not feel well or you might trip and fall badly. Perhaps a family member or a good friend required your help. Maybe your commute to work did not go as expected. Maybe there is too much snow on the roads.

When you are being late for work because of reasons that are outside of your control you should have every expectation to be understood and forgiven by your boss and colleagues.

Protip: Wake up an hour (or two) early on a workday that is important when your physical presence at the office is required if you know that the weather or traffic might give you trouble. This way you should be able to avoid being late.

How to handle being late to work in 5 steps

How to handle being late to work

So, it looks like you will be late for work today for whatever reasons. Or worse, you are already late when you should have been at the office 40 minutes ago because, say, you had an important meeting. Now what? Well, here are 5 simple things that you can do to mitigate the situation.

1. Inform your boss and coworkers as soon as you can

Text the people you work with as soon as possible. Let them know that you will be late. This way they won’t be wondering what is going on and they will be able to adjust things on their end in case your presence there was required.

2. Give a good reason but don’t go into too much detail

It would be best to share why you are being late. Be honest, tell them what happened, and apologize. But keep it light, there is no need to go into details. Just give one general reason, that will suffice.

3. Give your best estimate when you will arrive

Consider your circumstances and, if possible, tell your boss and your colleagues when you will arrive at the office. This way they will know that you will be coming after all and maybe you will be able to amend the situation.

4. Let them know you will compensate

Assure your superiors and your colleagues that you will do what was required of you or that you will compensate for being late. Maybe you can stay an hour or two extra that day? Adjust according to your circumstances.

5. Get to your duties immediately when you arrive

When you finally get to the office, make sure your boss and your colleagues are aware that you arrived. If necessary, apologize in person to whoever suffered most from your lateness. Then get to work.

This way you will show everyone else that you truly care about your work and you won’t let being late for work stop you from doing your most important tasks for the day. And in case you missed a work meeting, then here is how to apologize and ask for an update from your coworkers.

How to explain you overslept for work

How to explain you overslept for work

Maybe you had one too many drinks last night with the boys. Or maybe you thought it was Saturday so you didn’t set an alarm. Now you are 2 hours late for work with no good excuses. I am not ashamed to admit that this has happened to me. More than once.

But I believe in honesty, transparency, forgiveness, and atonement.

So my advice to you is this: don’t ponder over last-minute excuses to be late to work. Be honest instead. Just text your boss and colleagues, tell the truth, apologize, down a mug of coffee, and get to the office to do some good work.

Employers and managers are willing to forgive a lot when you are a reliable person who does great work. So do your best to express remorse and compensate by being productive.

Of course, do your best not to be chronically late for work (especially if you are new to the job) because this may give your boss and coworkers a bad impression of you.

Worst excuses for being late to work

Worst excuses for being late to work

While some excuses for being late to work are perfectly acceptable and will be forgiven by an understanding manager and colleagues, there are excuses that will be frowned upon. Here are a few examples.

  • I had to go to the gym.
  • I had to walk the dog.
  • I didn’t notice the time.
  • I didn’t know what to wear.
  • I wanted to catch something on TV.
  • I wanted to finish my breakfast.

In other words, anything that puts your comfort before being on time to the office can be considered a poor excuse. In case your manager and colleagues are forgiving and kind, don’t abuse the situation like this.

Besides, being chronically late for work without a respectable excuse can be grounds for failing your probation and eventual termination. So adjust your lifestyle to go to work at the appropriate time.

Key takeaways

  • Some excuses for being late to work are perfectly acceptable, like illness, injury, or family emergencies.
  • When you are late for work, make sure to inform your boss and your coworkers as soon as possible.
  • Do your best compensate your lateness by being extra diligent in your work.
  • Some excuses for being late are not acceptable and will be frowned upon.
  • We analyze how far is too far to commute to work here so take a look to see if this could be your problem.
  • In case you can't make it at all, here is how to say to your boss that you won't be able to come to work.

Written by:
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co-founder / office worker
Alex has been an office worker for more than 10 years. He is dedicated to helping other office workers to achieve the perfect life-work balance through well-being, effective communication, and building productive habits.

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