Everyone wants to work from home. Everyone wants flexible schedules.

This seems to be the zeitgeist, but that doesn't mean punctuality isn't a necessary characteristic. Or perhaps a skill. It is certainly something that you can learn and change about yourself.

When everyone who possibly could work at home went home, businesses felt pressured to allow remote work for just about everyone. And with that remote work comes flexibility that people can't find in the office. But being able to literally work while sitting in bed doesn't mean you can ignore the clock. Here's why.

Lots of professional jobs require punctuality.

We accept that a physician needs to be at the office at a specific time every day, as patients are waiting. A lawyer needs to show up in court prepared and on time, regardless of traffic. A schoolteacher can be the best teacher in the entire world, but if she isn't there when the first bell rings, no school wants to hire her.

But what about a marketing professional who works from home? Does she need to be on time?

Yes. Absolutely. Being on time doesn't mean clocking in at a specific time, it means showing up (physically or virtually) when people expect you. Behaving otherwise is not only rude, it may also lose you business.

The Curious George syndrome is fiction.

Remember Curious George? An adorable little monkey who always did bad things, but then got away with them because he would make someone smile or do something nice at the very end. This is a common theme in fiction--the rogue cop who breaks all the rules but still captures the criminal, the rude but brilliant doctor who solves the case at the end of the day--it's everywhere. 

But it's not reality. Sure, star players get more latitude, but it doesn't matter if you're the best lawyer in the entire world, if you show up late for court--even virtual court--your client and your firm will drop you. These things matter.

Sure, there are some people who manage to make it through life on charm alone, but you're not one of them. Show up on time.

You live and work in a certain culture.

Different cultures value punctuality in different ways. That's absolutely true. If you live in Switzerland and invite your Swiss neighbors to dinner at 7 p.m., they'll show up at 6:45. If you live in Utah and invite your Utah neighbors to dinner at 7 p.m., they'll show up at 7:15. But swap that and you're rude--either way. 

You need to be sensitive to the culture in which you live. It would be ridiculous for me to announce to my Swiss colleagues that I will be late because I'm from Utah. Instead, I need to adjust my habits to the local culture.

The culture may vary from city to city and even business to business, but go against the cultural norms at your own peril.

Your best bet is to be punctual until you confirm the local culture. Unless you come to Switzerland, where you should be early. (Trust me on this one.)

Virtual meetings should increase your punctuality.

You didn't get caught in traffic unless your cats were winding around your legs on your trip to the kitchen. If your last meeting went over, you're already at your computer, so it's easy to send a quick message to your next meeting that you'll be five minutes late. The other participants probably won't even notice. And if they do, just explain. You're being polite.

Being late puts your own ego ahead of everyone else. This is true regardless of whether you're the boss or the new hire. Be punctual.