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Time and attendance management: a how-to guide

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Time management and attendance are two key aspects to the success of a company. Without it, productivity and profitability can suffer. That’s why it’s important to find a method of managing the time and attendance of your employees.

What is time management?

Time management is the act of taking conscious control of the tasks that make up your day and that of your employees.

What are the potential benefits of time management?

The benefits of time management can include:

  • Better quality and timely delivery of work
  • Less procrastination and increased accountability
  • Better understanding of budgets and budget allocation
  • Improved work/life balance
  • A decrease in stress and anxiety with improved organization

What are the potential consequences of poor time management?

Poor or nonexistent time management can result in:

  • Inefficient workflow and work quality
  • Work/life imbalance
  • Missed deadlines
  • Strained workplace relationships
  • A decrease in profitability

What is attendance management?

Attendance management is the method of keeping track of employee hours, including when they start work, leave work, take breaks and request time off.

What are the potential benefits of attendance management?

The benefits of attendance management can include:

  • Improved time and attendance accuracy
  • The ability to discover attendance trends
  • Maintaining a fully staffed workforce
  • Ease of payroll processing and reduced payroll errors

What are the potential consequences of poor attendance management?

Poor attendance management can lead to:

  • Reduced employee productivity
  • Reduced company productivity and profitability
  • Missed deadlines
  • Increased frustration among employees and management

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How to Improve Time and Attendance Management

In a 2019 survey, Workfront found that employees spend, on average, 12 percent of their week on administrative tasks.

Increasing productivity among your employees is a combination of both better time management and a reduction of administrative tasks, and there are a few options: attendance tracking systems and time tracking systems.

Types of Attendance Tracking Systems

There are a number of attendance systems out there. What you choose will depend on a variety of factors, such as the number of employees you have, your budget and the areas of time and attendance management you’re trying to achieve. Here are some of the most popular ways to streamline the attendance process:

Digital Timecards

These attendance systems are the electronic versions of the old-time clock, where the employee places a timecard into the machine, which triggers the printing mechanism and prints the time and date onto the card. With a digital timecard, the employee swipes a card with a magnetic strip through the machine, which records the date and time. Another version of the digital clock is an electronic touchpad where the employee keys in a personalized code.

Badges and Key Fobs

Equipping employees with badges or key fobs means each employee has to scan a reader within a certain distance. While this means an employee must have a badge or key fob on their person at all times during the workday, it can help with not only attendance tracking but building security as well.

Biometric Systems

These tracking systems utilize facial recognition, fingerprints or eye scanning that can result in a virtually foolproof system of ensuring your employees’ identities and location during the workday. They are one of the more higher-priced system options and may not be viable for small business owners or smaller companies.

Web-based Systems (Time and Attendance Software)

While more and more companies are turning to a hybrid workforce with more remote workers, the above options may not make sense for your organization. That’s where web-based time and attendance tracking software, where employees sign in from their computers, laptops or mobile devices, can come in handy to track both employee attendance and time management.

Attendance software features to look for include:

  • Clocking in/out
  • Leave management
  • Payroll and reporting

Features that may be of interest to some companies include biometrics, calendars, mobile and cloud support and analytics.

Some examples of attendance tracking software include TimeCamp, Harvest, Timesheets and Quickbooks Time (formerly called TSheets)

Time Tracking Systems

Time tracking is a method that employees can use to log their time spent on tasks and projects. Not only can tracking time help you determine overall workforce productivity and employee efficiency, but it can assist with planning budgets, billing clients and administering payroll.

Before we discuss time tracking systems, let’s take a look at some of the most popular time management techniques.

Time Management Techniques

Time management techniques are just that; tried-and-true methods employees can implement in order to manage their time and enable a company to track employee hours.

Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique was developed in the late 1980s by then university student Francesco Cirillo. Cirillo was struggling to focus on his studies and complete assignments. Feeling overwhelmed, he asked himself to commit to just 10 minutes of focused study time. Encouraged by the challenge, he found a tomato (pomodoro in Italian) shaped kitchen timer, and the Pomodoro technique was born.

With the Pomodoro Technique, you enter into a state of focused work through short bursts of time. The idea is to time-box the execution of your tasks into 25-minute uninterrupted work intervals with five-minute breaks in between. This method enables employees to break down large tasks into 25-minute increments, combat distractions and become more aware of how they’re managing their time.

Kanban Technique

The Japanese word “Kanban,” meaning “visual board” or a “sign,” has been used in the sense of a process definition since the 1950s. It was first developed and applied by Toyota as a scheduling system for just-in-time manufacturing.

Kanban leverages the power of visualization and allows people to see the work they need to do in one view. The tool used is a Kanban board, where the tasks are laid out in columns that depict where they are in the execution process. The simplest Kanban board has the to-do, in progress and done columns. Kanban is effective because it allows you to focus on your most important task and finish it before moving on to the next.

Eat the Frog

As Mark Twain once said, “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”

In order to get an overview of your tasks and similarly to the Eisenhower Box technique, you can divide your to-do list in four categories:

  1. Things you don’t want to do, but need to do.
  2. Things you want to do, and need to do.
  3. Things you want to do, but don’t need to do.
  4. Things you don’t want to do, and don’t need to do.

The frog is the things you don’t want to do, but need to do. Eating the frog means to just do it; otherwise the frog will eat you, meaning that you’ll end up procrastinating the whole day.

Once that one task is done, the rest of the day will be an easier ride, and you will get both momentum and a sense of accomplishment at the beginning of your day.

Getting Things Done (GTD)

The GTD method’s main idea is to empty your brain’s clutter into a system and then spend time organizing the information to keep from becoming overwhelmed. If you properly organize your GTD system, you should know precisely what you should be working on at any given time.

Steps include:

  • Capturing any new ideas or plans for the day and putting them on your to-do list
  • Processing what you’ve captured, and break down tasks into actionable steps
  • Organizing everything by adding dates to your calendar and sorting priorities
  • Reviewing and updating tasks daily and bigger projects weekly
  • Focusing on top priorities and referring back to your lists to stay on track

Time Blocking

Time blocking encourages you to divide up your day into blocks of time to dedicate yourself to periods of deep work. Integrate a daily review into your schedule to organize your tasks and plan for the week ahead of you. Types of time blocking include:

  • Task batching: combining similar tasks and attaching them to specific time blocks to complete all at once
  • Day theming: devoting your whole day to a particular task or project
  • Time boxing: putting a limit on how much time you’ll dedicate to a task

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Types of Time Tracking Solutions

There are a variety of time management solutions, the most popular being time tracking software. If you are using a robust payroll system, it’s recommend to use the integrated time clock unless you have a greater need than what is offered by the payroll system. These systems usually have various time clocks to pick from – including physical time clocks on the wall, to biometric time clocks, to web-based time clocks you enter time on a computer, to mobile enabled electronic time clocks. Using a mobile device is the easiest for the employees, especially if they work remotely or off-site. But before you go from zero to time tracking, give employees the opportunity to get on board.

Consider a Survey

Most employees appreciate being asked their opinions, especially when it comes to improving their workplace. Employee feedback can be invaluable when making enhancements to your time management processes or implementing time tracking procedures.

Ask them questions such as:

  • Do you find it easy to know what work to prioritize?
  • Do you have trouble saying no even when your workload is full?
  • Are you overwhelmed with tasks?
  • Do you feel you are able to manage your time efficiently to meet deadlines and produce good work?
  • Do you feel as if you have clear expectations of what a project or task entails?
  • What are your greatest barriers to managing your workload?

Perform a Time Audit

Ask your employees to keep a log of how they spend their time, answering the following questions:

  • How do you plan on spending your time? (i.e. What is your list of tasks for the day?)
  • How did you actually spend your time?

To answer these questions, employees can keep track either manually or by using a to-do list app like Todoist. Or they can use a free time tracking app like RescueTime that keeps detailed track of how you spend your time on apps, websites and projects. It also works in the background, meaning you don’t have to rely on manually entering tasks or time.

Find the Best Time Tracking Tool for Your Organization

Time tracking software makes it easier for employees to report and keep track of their time and can reduce the oversight management from managers and human resources departments. These systems enable employees to report their time electronically, via their computer or mobile device, through software programs that can include text, social media or other communication platform applications like Microsoft Teams or Slack.

Many of these systems offer both cloud-based and on-premises solutions. The on-premises systems are stored on servers within your business, while the cloud-based systems are housed by your time and attendance system provider and accessed online.

Most time tracking solutions are based on one or more of the time tracking techniques mentioned above.

Time Tracking Using Pomodoro

Some advantages of using a time tracking system based on the Pomodoro technique include:

  • Manage distractions and control your time
  • Increase accountability
  • Improve weekly and quarterly planning
  • Decrease back pain and mental fatigue
  • Maintain motivation

Pomodoro-inspired software solutions include Forest, Marinara Timer and Pomofocus.

Time Tracking Using Kanban

Some advantages a workflow management tool based on the Kanban method include:

  • Accessible from everywhere
  • Best for remote teams
  • Immediate updates
  • Share attachments

Kanban-inspired time tracking solutions include Trello, Asana and Monday.

Time Tracking Using Getting Things Done (GTD)

Some advantages a workforce management tool based on the GTD method include:

  • Saving time and helping to create a better work/life balance
  • Increase efficiencies and productivity through better task management
  • Prioritizing the most significant tasks

GTD-inspired time tracking solutions include nTask, HubSpotCRM and Evernote.

Time Tracking Using Time Blocking

Some advantages of using a time tracking system based on the time blocking technique include:

  • Ability to reflect on priorities
  • Promotes focused deep work
  • Discourages multi-tasking
  • Helps with follow through

Time blocking-inspired time tracking solutions include Plan, Sunsama and HourStack.

Software Solutions That Do Both

Some companies only need attendance tracking; some only need time tracking, and some need both. Here are a few time and attendance solutions that track both.

Ultimately, finding a time and attendance solution will depend on your company’s needs, budget and goals. Taking time to evaluate your options while taking into consideration employee feedback will help determine the best platform for your organization. If you need help with your HR services, we’re here to help.

Not sure where to start? Talk to someone who wants to listen.

A great plan starts with a conversation. Let’s talk about what you need.

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