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25 Best Excuses for Being Late to Work (Ahh! Not Again!)

Being late to work is a frustrating experience. Not only does it make you feel disorganized and frazzled, but it can also set you back for the rest of the day. If you’re frequently running behind, it may be time to re-evaluate your morning routine. However, if you find yourself in a bind, we have compiled a unique list of good excuses for being late to work that may help you save face, and save your job!

Some excuses for being late to work will serve you better than others, it really depends on your situation, what type of work you do, and how forgiving your boss is. For that reason, we think it’s best to list these excuses in specific categories and by the amount of time you’re late by. Being 5 minutes late to work is a lot easier to explain than being by 2 hours!

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      The best excuses for being late to work

      Sometimes the best excuses for being late to work are also the most common excuses. These excuses are probably heard quite often by your boss, regardless if they are true or not.  They are tried and true, and shouldn’t give you much pushback when using them.

      1. Your car wouldn’t start.

      For this excuse to work, of course, you’ll need to have a car, or a job where driving to work is a thing.  The classic excuse of your car not starting is a good one though and can be used throughout the year. It does not depend on the weather, or time of day.  Car trouble can strike at any moment!

      2. There was a delay on the train/bus.

      Being stuck on the train or bus is always a good excuse because it happens to everyone, all the time. Chances are if you’re using this as an excuse for being late to work, it’s probably true. Have you ever traveled to a city or country that is immune from delays on public transportation? I didn’t think so!

      3. Your alarm didn’t go off.

      Perhaps it was daylight savings time, your phone battery died, or you made a mistake setting the alarm. This scenario happens to people all the time and when it does, they need to rely on their internal clock to wake up.  Unfortunately, that internal clock is not always so reliable!

      4. You were not feeling well.

      Feeling sick in the morning happens to people every day.  Whether it’s physical or mental is another story.  For the sake of this excuse, being physically sick with a stomach bug or a migraine headache is a plausible excuse for being late to work. This excuse is great because you can also use it for leaving work early as well.

      5. There was an accident on the way to work.

      If there is a car accident on your way to work, it can severely impact your travel time.  It can affect your travel time not only if you’re driving, but also if you take the bus or any other form of public transportation.  Road closures due to accidents are one of the top reasons people arrive late to work on a consistent basis.


      6. Your significant other did not wake you up.

      Maybe you and your partner got into an argument the night before and out of spite, they did not wake you up on time.  Perhaps they were too busy themselves and forgot to wake you up.  Either way, you are no longer going to rely on them to be your personal alarm clock!

      7. You had to take your kid to school.

      Normally, your partner takes your kid to school, but today you had to do it.  Not being fully used to the time it takes or the school route, it took you longer than usual.  Of course, for this excuse to work, you have to actually have kids!

      8. Bad weather.

      Using the weather as an excuse for being late to work is definitely believable, especially if you live in a region that gets a lot of snow, wind, or rain.  This excuse is harder to pull off if you live in sunny California for example but totally feasible for cities like New York, or even a country like Canada. You have to be careful using this excuse however because your boss is experiencing the same weather conditions most likely and they will know if you are lying rather easily.

      Excuses for being 5-10 minutes late to work

      Sometimes you are only 5-10 minutes late for work, which doesn’t seem like a big deal, but can get you in trouble if it’s a persistent thing. Most times your boss will understand depending on the industry you work in. Either way, having some excuses on hand for being 5 minutes late to work is always a good idea if you know you’re not a very punctual person.

      1. You had to rush to the bathroom.

      Emergencies happen, right? Especially if you ate Chipotle the night before. You were about to leave your house when all of a sudden your stomach started rumbling. Instead of leaving things to chance, you figured it was best to make a pit stop in the bathroom to avoid a potentially messy situation.

      2. You accidentally left something on at home and had to head back to make sure it was turned off.

      Maybe you left the stove on after you made your breakfast, or forgot to unplug the curling iron after doing your hair.

      Sometimes you aren’t exactly sure if you left something on, but either way, it is better to be safe than sorry. The last thing you want is to come home after a hard day’s work to find your house has burned down.

      3. Someone was in your parking spot and it took a while to find another spot.

      The audacity of this person! To park in your clearly defined and labeled parking spot is definitely a bold move. A move that has cost you precious time finding a new parking spot and made you late for work.  This excuse is exclusive for working scenarios with reserved parking, so use it at your own discretion!

      4. You had to clean up after your child.

      Things were running smoothly that morning until your child decided to hurl their half-eaten bowl of cheerios 10 feet across the room. On one hand, you were impressed with their newfound strength and ability to launch the bowl as far as they did, but on the other hand, you are now going to be late for work to clean up their mess.

      5. You got stuck at every single red light while driving in.

      This seems to happen whenever you’re anxiously trying to get somewhere quickly and voila, today is your lucky day.  Getting caught at a red light in every single intersection on your way to work is out of your control and unfortunately, costs you the time it would have taken to arrive at work on time.

      6. There was a long line to get on to the elevator.

      Maybe you work in a high-rise building and one of the elevators is out of service. Or perhaps you got unlucky and arrived at work when an uncharacteristically large mob of people showed up slowing everything down.  For the safety of everyone on the elevator, you graciously volunteered to wait for the next ride up.

      7. You slipped on some snow/ice when you got outside.

      Whenever it snows or is cold outside, you need to be careful, especially if you’re rushing to get to work on time. Today was your unlucky day and your usual precautions self let their guard down and took a tumble on a patch of ice.  Thankfully you were okay and your clothing suffered most of the damage.  As a result, you needed a few extra minutes to clean yourself up.

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      Excuses for being an hour late to work

      So you’ve exceeded the acceptable amount of time for being late and the window of simple forgiveness is closing quickly.  Your boss is usually cool with being a few minutes late, but now you’re pushing an hour and you aren’t entirely sure how they will react. Excuses for being an hour late to work will need to be believable. Hopefully, you get a bit of sympathy from your boss at the same time!

      1. You hurt yourself at the gym that morning.

      Look at you! A real go-getter. Going to the gym in the mornings is commendable because it shows the extra grit and dedication you have for improving your lifestyle.  Unfortunately, this morning was a bit different and you hurt yourself doing a routine exercise.  As a result, you needed to take a bit of extra time stretching and working the area where the injury occurred, thus causing you to be late for work.

      2. Your child spilled something all over your clothing.

      Laundry day is tomorrow and because of that, you are running low on clean outfits.  Your child obviously knew this and decided to spill his juice all over your fresh pants.  Instead of looking like you peed yourself, you scrubbed out the stain and had to manually dry your pants with a blow dryer.  You would have normally just changed into some new ones, but as mentioned, you had no other clean options!

      3. Your elderly parents needed help with something.

      Maybe it was to shovel snow from their driveway to pick up a large package or to help clean up the pieces from a giant decorative vase that shattered everywhere. Providing help to your parents while they are in need shows compassion. Your boss will surely understand.

      4. Your credit card was compromised.

      As you were paying for your morning coffee, you noticed something was wrong with your card.  You spent the next hour on the phone with the credit card company going through security questions and retracing your spending habits. You had to sort this out immediately in fear of a criminal going on a spending spree with your card.

      5. You missed your stop on the train or bus.

      You got distracted on your way in to work and accidentally missed your stop. Unfortunately, there wasn’t another train/bus coming in the opposite direction for quite some time so you decided to hoof it on foot. This was probably a bad idea because you totally misjudged how long that would take. 

      Excuses for being 2+ hours late to work

      You’re really going to have to dig deep with the excuses for being 2 hours late to work.  At this point, you should maybe consider skipping work entirely, but if that really is not an option, then you’ll need to be able to sell your excuse pretty hard at this point.

      1. You were mugged.

      Getting mugged has to be one of the worst experiences you could ever endure. Luckily for you, the mugger did not rough you up too badly and only stole your cell phone. Traumatizing no less, you decided to suck it up and make it into work like the badass you are.

      2. You witnessed a car accident and had to give a report to the police.

      You happened to witness a mild fender bender on your way to work.  Even though you did not want to get involved, you happened to be the only other person at the scene, so you felt obliged to give a detailed report to the police offer.

      3. Your car ran out of gas.

      You saw your tank was empty and thought you could make it to work.  After all, it had been on empty for a couple of days now, but that didn’t stop you from getting back and forth.  However, this morning you really pushed your luck and all the gas fumes dried up. Instead of calling a tow truck, you decided to push your car down a busy street to the closest gas station.  Unfortunately for you, that gas station was further than you anticipated.

      4. Family from out of town unexpectedly showed up.

      You were about to leave for work when all of a sudden you got a call. It’s your cousins from out of town and they’re at the airport requesting for you to come to pick them up. You haven’t seen them in years and felt compelled to drive completely out of your way to greet them. 

      5. You got locked out of your house.

      You stepped outside quickly to check the weather and the next thing you know, the door slams behind you, and you’re locked out!  This is a disaster, especially because you’re still wearing your pajamas. You had to knock on your neighbor’s door, borrow their phone, and call a locksmith to get you back inside your home.  

      Worst excuses for being late to work

      Are you constantly late for work? Have you already tried every excuse under the sun to explain your tardiness? If so, you might start scraping the bottom of the barrel for new excuses for being late to work. Be careful when doing this because you might wind up using an excuse that is not acceptable or can get you further into trouble than by simply being late. Here are some of the worst excuses for being late to work:

      1. You are hungover.

      Being hungover is not a great look. It may get some sympathy or it might be funny to your friends, but if someone has to pick up the slack while you’re struggling to make it to work because of drinking the night before, your boss and coworkers might get upset if you use this as an excuse, especially if you smell like alcohol.

      2. You overslept.

      Even though this legitimately might be the reason you’re late to work, it shows that you’re not taking things seriously, especially if oversleeping becomes a pattern.

      3. You thought it was the weekend.

      Okay, this is a bit funnier, but still not a great excuse to pull out, regardless if it’s true or not. If you lose track of time by a full day, it shows that you probably don’t have a good handle on life and cannot be relied upon.

      4. You were watching TV and lost track of time.

      Yes, TV has never been better. There are hundreds of good quality shows out there, but there is a time and place for slumping into your couch and catching up on the latest episodes. Your boss will show no sympathy with this excuse!

      5. You were arrested.

      So not only are you late to work, you are also a criminal now apparently. The only scenario where this might be acceptable would be if you’re a rapper late to the studio.

      6. You woke up outside your home.

      Have you ever gone so hard the night before that you woke up in completely unfamiliar territory? Me neither.  Try to avoid using this excuse unless you want to look like a psychopath.

      7. Your partner kicked you out of the house.

      Domestic problems are home are common, but they should stay private and not carry over to the work environment. If you and your partner got into such a heated argument that they threw you out of the house, maybe you were the jerk in this scenario.  So, now you’re a jerk at home and at work for being late!

      8. You ran out of clean clothing.

      If you use this excuse for being late to work, it will make you look lazy.  Too lazy to do your laundry at home probably means you’re also lazy on the job.

      9. You have no work to do currently.

      Maybe you thought you’d take advantage of the downtime and sleep in because there isn’t much work for you to do right now. What you have done by admitting this is to say that you are expendable. If you use this as an excuse, you better think about finding a new job because chances are you won’t have one for much longer.

      10. You aren’t feeling motivated.

      This is not what you want to hear as a boss – that your staff is not motivated to do the work and so much so that they are coming in late to work. If you aren’t feeling motivated, you should keep this to yourself and use another excuse and also start looking for a new job!

      Reasons for being late to work when you don’t want to give an excuse.

      Being late to work is obviously not an ideal solution, and sometimes you rather take the high road, explain your reason, and not make excuses. Sometimes telling the truth about your situation is the best path forward, even if it reveals a vulnerability about yourself. 
      For example, if you have a medical issue, it’s better to be upfront about it than to hide it and possibly make things worse. After all, many companies actually want to help their employees if at all possible. This not only applies to physical issues, but mental health problems you might be suffering as well.
      The mental health of employees should be taken seriously by employers. With more information and openness about the subject being brought to light in recent years, having an honest conversation with your boss about struggles you might be facing can be a good idea. 
      If you’re rarely late and are on good terms with your manager, telling the truth about sleeping in by accident or forgetting something on your way in should be forgiven.  These reasons for being late to work should be acceptable, as long as it doesn’t turn into a pattern!
      If you’re regularly late, maybe there is a solution that can be found within the company rather than continuing to show up late. It doesn’t hurt to take advantage of the available resources you have at your disposal to protect yourself and the company if you think you have a problem being late but are willing to work with the team to fix it.

      Tips to prevent being late to work

      If you find yourself constantly being late to work, then you may want to consider some tips and tricks to prevent it from happening in the future.

      1. Set your alarm appropriately.

      This might be the most important thing you can do. Make sure you check that your alarm is set before you go to bed, but also that the alarm is set to give you enough time in the morning if you were to hit snooze a few times.

      2. Set ANOTHER alarm if one alarm isn’t enough.

      Setting an additional alarm across the bedroom, out of reach is a strategy that will surely get you out of bed if your first alarm fails you. Once you’re up and out of bed to disable the second alarm, you are awake and ready to go.

      3. Get enough sleep each night.

      Getting the right amount of sleep will help you wake up refreshed and (hopefully) in a good mood to start your day.  Lots of sleep is one of the most important things you can do not only to prevent being late to work, but to improve the quality of your life!

      4. Wake up 30-60 minutes earlier so you aren’t rushing in the morning.

      If you are constantly rushing through your mornings and still find that you cannot get to work consistently on time, you need to wake up earlier. It’s that simple. Being able to take your time in the mornings can reduce stress and anxiety, and most likely fix your problem of showing up late.

      5. Have your partner or a close friend check on you.

      It doesn’t hurt to ask your partner, a friend, or a family member to give you a call in the morning to make sure you’re on schedule.  Hopefully, this won’t be a permanent solution, but it can definitely help in the short term.

      6. Use a GPS to map out traffic routes ahead of time.

      Traffic delays are one of the major reasons for being late to work. By using a GPS app on your phone, you can plot out your path and avoid major roadblocks, accidents, and traffic congestion.

      7. Prepare as much as possible the night before.

      Make your lunch the night before and plan your outfit for the next day. Put your keys, wallet, purse or bag in a spot close to the door so you aren’t searching for them. These little things can save you a lot of time. It’s always super annoying when you can find your keys or work badge when you’re trying to leave the house. 

      In conclusion

      Some excuses for being late to work are more believable than others. If you have a good reason for being late, such as a flat tire or bad traffic, your boss is likely to be understanding. However, if you show up late with no excuse, or with a flimsy one, you may find yourself in hot water. If you’re consistently late for work, it’s important to try to get to the root of the problem so that you can fix it. Otherwise, you may find yourself unemployed!

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      1 year ago

      I’m going to have to try some of these…

      Would love your thoughts, please comment.x