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Can You Monitor Your Employees’ Time Without Insulting Them?

Article Published on Huffington Post

When you’re paying someone a salary to provide work for your business, it’s only natural for you to want them to show up on time and put in eight solid hours of work. After all, when an employee has a timely arrival and is ready to get started, you can relax and focus on the work that you need to do to grow your business.

But what about those employees who can’t seem to make it by the designated start time? They always have excuses for their tardiness, whether it’s traffic or a sick child. Unfortunately, after a series of late arrivals, you will have no idea whether those excuses are actually real or made up. Even employees who are on time each day may not be productive. You can find them standing around the water cooler or taking extended lunch breaks without asking for permission.

As an employer, it is well within your rights to monitor employees to make sure they’re earning the money you’re paying them, but should you? Here are a few things you need to keep in mind before you put measures in place to track the hours your employees actually work in a given week.

Focus on Results First
If you’re losing sleep over that employee who you feel is “cheating the system” by showing up five minutes late every day, look at the big picture. Sadly, it is very possible that the employee who puts in only seven hours of work each day would far surpass an eight-hour employee in the same role.

When you refocus your attention on work output rather than the number of hours an employee occupies a desk, you may discover time isn’t as important as you think. Either way, if you choose to discipline the employee, focus on their work output before mentioning any tardiness issues. If possible, tie their attendance problem into any other work-related issues you bring up.

Do It Legally
Before you start monitoring your employees, you need to be aware of the privacy laws that may apply to your efforts. There is technology that allows you to monitor each employee’s computer usage. You can also use a  time clock to monitor their arrival and departure times each day. However, you may find yourself wondering whether or not these options are not only moral but also legal.

The truth is that when employees are using your devices and being paid to work a set schedule each day, you do have the legal and moral right to monitor their activities. However, taking it to the next level by posting surveillance cameras around your office spaces without letting anyone know could put you in legal murky water. In fact, some states have laws against this practice, and making audio recordings without a disclosure may even be a violation of federal law. Instead of taking on this legal risk, it is better to use tracking where it applies and trust employees when it doesn’t.

When Tracking Applies
For some businesses, employee monitoring is a natural part of business processes. Hourly workplaces have long had time clocks to track when employees show up and leave each day. As wall-mounted time clocks have been replaced by smartphone apps, businesses have been able to even more easily track hourly workers.

However, salaried employees tend to resent being asked to clock in and out each day. There are instances where tracking makes sense, though. If it’s sold as a way to track billing for employees such as attorneys, who log billable hours each day, a business can often justify time tracking through an app.

Promoting It the Right Way
If you do decide to bring time tracking into the workplace, it’s important to take the right approach to avoid upsetting your employees. Keep in mind that time tracking softwaremakes the entire timesheet preparation process easier, and this is something everyone needs to know.

Employees are likely to much more receptive when you let them know that the purpose of the new tracking method is to enable them to easily collect daily information about their work hours, thereby making it possible for them to avoid having to scramble to get their payroll data in on time. A business can even divide work hours by project and explain that the new software is being used to make sure the team doesn’t exceed its allotted work time on a given task.

Additionally, time-tracking software can offer several other useful tools that will appeal to employees. Many applications also provide tracking for quotes, lead management, invoices and job management. Therefore, if you select a comprehensive time-tracker, you can get your employees on-board by showcasing how much time and energy they will save by utilizing the program.

Ultimately, the best way to move forward with time-tracking software is by finding a way to turn it into a positive boost for your employees. In other words, showing people that the software will help them save time on payroll reporting and other important processes will make it possible to introduce time tracking without negatively impacting morale.

Originally Written By: Dan Steiner

Will Watching the World Cup Increase Office Productivity?
Neal Taparia

“Goaaallll!” I could clearly hear the celebration from someone’s headphones. World Cup fever has taken over workplaces around the world, and ours is no exception. The few employees who are passionate soccer fans have talked of nothing else, and even soccer newbies have begun to learn names like Messi and Neymar. This year’s global viewership is expected to dwarf previous years.

But this fever isn’t unique to the World Cup—in the United States, March Madness and the Super Bowl each pull over 100 million viewers. It’s pretty much inevitable that your devoted employees will find a way to watch the games they care about, and the productivity lost during that time is similarly unavoidable. So what should you do about it?

Crunching the Numbers

A lot of organizations have tried to predict just how much productivity is lost during these major sporting events when employees watch the games instead of doing work. In 2014, Challenger, Gray & Christian calculated that the March Madness tournament would cost more than $1.2 billion to American businesses.

During the 2010 World Cup, InsideView found that the U.S. lost $121 million in economic output, although that pales in comparison to the UK’s $7.3 billion, and Captivate Network had predicted that the 2012 Olympics would cost U.S. companies $1.38 billion.

 For this year’s World Cup, the question wasn’t about how to minimize productivity lost, but how we could boost long term engagement by taking advantage of the tournament.

Boosting Company Morale

Everyone at Imagine Easy has been drinking the World Cup Kool-Aid, and we encourage it. We make sure to play each of the World Cup games on a big screen in one of our conference rooms.

Ross, the marketing manager for our GetCourse content marketing product, has loved having the opportunity to follow the Cup, explaining, “The energy around the office is awesome; everyone feels more connected to their co-workers and the products we work together on. It’s made a big difference.”

Other employees echoed Ross’ sentiments. They suggested that the positive energy from watching the World Cup together carried over into their work. The effect was especially strong with our impressionable new hires and interns. When I asked an intern about her first week, she explained that she “hadn’t expected to work in a place where I could watch the World Cup, and where I’d immediately feel connected to the team.”

Creating Interdepartmental Communication

We see the World Cup as an opportunity not only to connect with your immediate team, but also with the entire organization. For the first U.S. game against Ghana, we organized a company-wide social full of soccer trivia and Brazilian-themed food and drink. The half-hour break in work gave the whole company a jolt of energy and excitement. Many people from our different product groups ended up staying late to watch the dramatic ending of the game, socialize together, and finish up the day’s work.

During the Spain vs. Netherlands match, the GetCourse team was brainstorming new content marketing ideas while watching it in the conference room. John, a developer who sits on the other side of the office for our other product EasyBib, overheard the conversation. He immediately suggested that we create an online quiz like the EasyBib one that had gone viral. The GetCourse team loved the idea, and is now in the process of implementing it. That wouldn’t have happened without choosing to embrace the World Cup.

Sales and Marketing Opportunities

We’ve even seen the World Cup improve our sales efforts. Rahul, the product manager for GetCourse, was by no means a soccer fan prior to the World Cup. Now it’s safe to say he’s a convert. He’s been using the World Cup as an icebreaker and to build rapport with potential customers. Just the other day, I overheard him talking with a lead for 5 minutes about the offensive prowess of Uruguay’s Luis Suárez. A week ago Rahul couldn’t have named a single player. Luis Suárez has nothing to do with our product, but if having a lively conversation about him can help build relationships, that’s a big win!

Knowledge of the World Cup can also be channelled into innovative marketing. Our content marketing efforts are focused on generating useful and relevant content for our target audience. Recently, we were working on a fun piece about nine excuses to get out of work. We realized we could reframe it to “The 9 Best Excuses to Skip Work for the 2014 World Cup,” and sprinkled in our World Cup knowledge. It received 44% more traffic than our previous blog posts, which I attribute to its relevant and fun nature.

How Can You Increase Productivity Now with the World Cup?

As I mentioned, employees are going to watch games. There’s no way around it. So why not embrace that and try to avoid some of the real problems that could come out of it?

Here are our suggestions:

1. Giving time off for more results-oriented work. If an employee is so interested in a game or team that she just has to miss work, let her! She won’t be that productive during the game, so why not let her shift her schedule so that she’s really productive and invested when she is working? More importantly, it gives you an opportunity to show that you care.

Jake, who does sales for GetCourse, is a soccer fanatic. We’ve allowed him to duck out to watch games, but in return he’s been going to after work meetups and conferences. What we’ve found is that he’s been able to generate more leads from these events than our other channels. Not only are we doubling down on in-person networking now, but Jake’s efforts have already led to a notable increase in sales.

2. Stream games in a conference room. Some of our sales webinars were interrupted because internet bandwidth was being used to stream the game on a number of computers. When we streamed the game publicly for everyone in one place, our internet speed increased dramatically. Additionally, people watching can do work on their laptops while listening to and occasionally glancing up at the game. And people in the office who don’t want to watch the game can focus on their work without being distracted by their neighbors.

3. Hold an office pool. We decided to hold a pool for the entire office during the World Cup. My money, of course, is on Argentina (¡Viva La Albiceleste!). But we have employees with Brazilian and South Korean backgrounds; people who are in love with Cristiano Ronaldo and rooting for Portugal; people who picked teams based on the prettiest flags. It doesn’t matter, as long as you can bring your organization together and foster relationships.

If you can’t beat them, join them.

I have to admit that I love the World Cup, and I like watching some games during work. But I also believe that investing in your team and taking care of their interests is an effective way to build a motivated team and engaged organization. This impacts everything, in the short term and the long term, including productivity, retention, and recruitment.

If your workplace yells, “Gooallll!” in unison, you’re doing something right!

 

 

Working toward burnout — the toll of unused vacation time
By Teresa Wilkins – Jul 7, 2017

Summer is here — and so are thoughts of an idyllic vacation. But how many American workers are actually taking a vacation this summer? According to a new study, the number of vacation days taken has ticked up slightly since 2015, from 16.2 to 16.8 days per year, but that’s still nearly a week less than Americans took annually during the period 1976-2000. In fact, employees are foregoing their earned vacation days even when the unused time won’t roll over to the following year, and those who do go on vacation report being unable to disconnect from work, thanks to advances in technology. With nearly one-third of employees reporting high levels of stress at work, failure to take vacation time could contribute to job dissatisfaction, lower productivity and even burnout.

 

The reasons most often given for not taking vacation include worries about work piling up, feeling guilty and a workplace culture that discourages time off. Those who do take vacation time find themselves checking email or answering phone calls — with some reporting expectations that they are reachable and available to work while away. However, demographic and hierarchical disparities illustrate that these experiences are not the same across the board. More men than women are taking advantage of vacation time, with Millennial women taking the least time off. And while senior managers are more likely to describe a workplace culture supportive of taking vacation time, it’s non-managers who find it easier to disengage. Ironically, for all the fear that taking a vacation will affect one’s success at work (dubbed the “workplace martyr” syndrome), the same study found that people who took no vacations were actually less likely to receive bonuses, raises or promotions than those who took all their allotted vacation days.

Suggestions for improvement start at the top, with managers modeling good vacation behavior by taking time off themselves and encouraging employees to plan and make use of their earned vacation time. Bringing in temporary workers is one way to reduce stress about workloads piling up, and some employers are turning to more creative ways to get people to take vacation time: one company holds a drawing where employees can win $1,000 and a week off on short notice. Finally, for those who remain in the office, summer perks like a more casual dress code or leaving early on Fridays are another way to boost morale. These once traditional perks have dropped off in the past five years but now seem to be making a comeback, with more than 40% of employers planning to offer “Summer Fridays” in 2017.

While the U.S. lags behind other industrialized nations in prioritizing vacation time — in some European countries it’s considered a matter of public policy — a tighter labor market has boosted employee confidence and made it more important than ever for employers to consider the benefits of taking time off. The recent progress is encouraging, and this year may prove to herald the return of the traditional American summer vacation.

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