Timekeeping Best Practices for Your Remote Team

Here’s how to develop strong timekeeping protocols for your remote workers and overcome challenges related to tracking and recording time.

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What to look for in a timekeeping system and how to develop a strong policy

Here's what you need to know:

  • Develop strong timekeeping protocols for your remote workers so you and your staff can better manage time
  • Why do you need a strong timekeeping system? There are certain laws that mandate time records for nonexempt employees
  • If you track salaried, exempt employees’ work time, you need a timekeeping system for those working remotely
  • You can create a policy that includes topics like correctly recording hours and consequences of working unauthorized hours
  • Give employees what they need to correctly track time. Web-based systems may be more dependable than spreadsheets or electronic timesheets

For many employees who used to work from the job site but are now working from home because of COVID-19, the shift may be permanent. Studies show that a considerable number of employees working from home during the pandemic want to continue working remotely and many employers are considering it.

If you have remote workers, whether because of COVID-19 or not, you may encounter timekeeping challenges. Your employees are physically out of sight, so how do you manage their time? The solution lies in developing strong timekeeping protocols for your remote team.

Why you need a formidable timekeeping system

  • The Fair Labor Standards Act requires that you keep certain records for each covered nonexempt employee, including total hours worked per day and per week plus wages paid.
  • The state may have recordkeeping standards. For instance, employers in California must give nonexempt employees a pay stub each time they are paid showing their total hours worked, among other things.
  • Depending on the type of work the employee does, it may be difficult to know precisely when they are working.
  • You must track not only hours worked for nonexempt employees but also their breaks and any paid or unpaid time off taken.
  • Remote nonexempt employees could end up working overtime without your consent.
  • If you track salaried, exempt employees’ work time — though not required by the FLSA — you need a timekeeping system for those working remotely.
  • Case law reveals that employers must give nonexempt employees the tools they need to track their time, such as timesheets, a web-based time clock, or an alternative method.
  • Rounding of employees’ time worked must be done consistently and accurately to avoid systematically underpaying employees.
  • Some states require “reporting time pay” for nonexempt employees who are sent home early after having showed up for work as scheduled. This may apply to remote employees, as well. For instance, per the California Department of Industrial Relations, California employees who present “themselves for work by logging on to a computer remotely,” are eligible for reporting time pay.
  • There may be special situations — such as training time, travel time, or split shifts — that need to be tracked and recorded.

Your employees are physically out of sight, so how do you manage their time? The solution lies in developing strong timekeeping protocols for your remote team.

Timekeeping best practices

Develop a written timekeeping policy for your remote team.

In the policy:

  • Make clear that all remote nonexempt employees must correctly record their hours worked using the designated timekeeping system.
  • Say that employees must not work outside of their scheduled hours without advance approval from their manager or supervisor.
  • State the consequences of working unauthorized hours or overtime, or falsifying time records.
  • Explain what employees should do if they want to work outside of their scheduled hours.
  • List any timekeeping expectations you have for salaried, exempt employees.
  • Inform employees that their timekeeping data is subject to approval by their manager or supervisor.
  • Let employees know they are responsible for recording their own work time and maintaining those records.
  • Require employees to record all time worked, including time spent checking work emails and accessing the company network.
  • Tell employees how and when to submit their timekeeping data if you’re using a system that does not automatically send the information to managers or supervisors.

Give employees what they need to track and record their time

You could utilize spreadsheets or electronic timesheets, or have employees email their hours to their manager or supervisor. However, these systems are out-of-date and error-prone.

A more dependable approach is to leverage a web-based system that lets employees clock in and out through your web browser or their mobile device. For example, the Zenefits Employee Time & Scheduling solution:

  • Eliminates the need for spreadsheets and electronic timesheets
  • Facilitates clocking in/out remotely, from any location
  • Simplifies scheduling and complex time and labor procedures
  • Enables employees to request paid time off
  • Tracks time for employees and independent contractors
  • Lets you monitor employees’ work activities in real time
  • Provides visibility into employees’ whereabouts when working
  • Strengthens fraud protection
  • Rounds employees’ time worked, in accordance with federal and state rules
  • Integrates with payroll, thereby reducing manual data entry and the risk of errors
  • Comes with an array of real-time reporting tools so you can gain deeper insight into your remote team’s work activities

These features help resolve many of the issues we mentioned in the first section.

If you still prefer to use an alternative timekeeping method, such as electronic timesheets, have your employees sign and date their submissions.

Let each member of your remote team know:

  • How many hours you expect them to work each workday and workweek
  • The amount of hours they can work consecutively, and their allotted break times
  • How to operate the timekeeping system, including instructions for sending PTO requests
  • What to do if they need to leave work early for personal reasons

Don’t withhold pay because of failure to clock in/out

Under the FLSA, you must pay employees for all hours worked, regardless of whether they recorded or submitted their time. You should be able to tell whether your employees — including those working remotely — performed the work or not. If they did the work, you must pay them for it.

Though you can discipline employees for not following your timekeeping policies, the repercussions should not involve withholding their pay.

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