Updated May 25, 2020

Time tracking apps designed for virtual teams help business owners effectively manage offsite staff. Back in January, how many of us could have predicted that 2020 would become the Year of Remote Working?

If you are an employer with a newly virtual team, you have probably discovered that it takes some planning and effort to stay productive. Here are the critical challenges that many companies face.

Virtual Staff Management Challenges

  1. Paying employees accurately
  2. Helping employees stay focused
  3. Effective collaboration
  4. Maintaining accountability
  5. Employer oversight
  6. Optimum shift coverage
  7. Efficient and affordable admin
  8. Human resources allocation

The right time tracking software can help you overcome these challenges. With an efficient system, you are better able to optimize your workforce.

 

Retool, Retrench, and Rebuild Framework

Were you forced to move employees offsite due to lockdown or shelter in place orders? Inexpensive time tracking apps can help you mitigate pandemic-induced business disruption. Whether you plan to keep staff at home or move them back to the office in phases, take advantage of apps that are designed specifically to overcome the inherent challenges of remote work policies. Plus, they also help you manage onsite employees.

The Advantages of Time Tracking Apps for Virtual Teams

1. Paying Employees Accurately

This is the bedrock of the employer-employee relationship. Knowing when each team member clocks in and clocks out is critical. Since your entire business can’t operate without paying your employees, you want to track time correctly.

This keeps you from overpaying them and going over your labor budget. It also protects you from failing to pay an employee when he/she is owed compensation.

If you have several clients and bill employee time per job, you need a system with that capability. If your contractors do the same, it makes things easy on their end as well.

Business owners have many reasons to allow all or part of their staff to work remotely. Lower overhead is one of the oft-cited advantages of employing telecommuters. But if you are paying them for time they didn’t work, you are negating the savings in overhead.

Time tracking apps make it easy to track employee time for geographically-diverse teams. These apps are cloud-based, which means employees access them with any internet-enabled device—generally Android and iPhone.

An electrician working on a job site can clock in with the tablet he is using to access the wiring diagrams.

A sales rep who makes residential sales calls can clock in at the beginning of her shift with a mobile phone. She uses the phone to make appointments, so it’s quick and convenient.

2. Helping Employees Stay Focused

One of the challenges for virtual staff members is staying focused on their work. There are plenty of distractions in a home office, coffee shop, or wherever the employee chooses to park their laptop that day.

A traditional office worker has the morning commute to transition to work mode. The physical journey helps them get down to business when they arrive at work.

A telecommuter needs to make the transition also—mentally if not physically. This is difficult when the commute only requires navigating a basket of laundry in the hall.

For the at-home worker, clocking in says “I am at work now.” The employee knows that while on the clock, they need to be performing work duties.

3. Accountability for Everyone

Using a good automated time tracking app is essential for keeping employees accountable. You don’t want a haphazard time tracking system where the employee fills out a timecard at the end of the pay period. It doesn’t keep the employee or the employer accountable. (And it fails the accuracy test from the get-go.)

You trust your remote employees or you would not have hired them. But even if you believe them to be completely trustworthy, you want to make it easy for them to track their hours.

Any cumbersome system—for time tracking or otherwise—makes life harder for everyone. It hampers employees, managers, Human Resources, and ultimately the business owner.

You want to be accountable to them, as well. An easy-to-use time tracking app assures that both you and your workers agree on the time worked each pay period.

You are also accountable to the Department of Labor for every employee and every shift. A good time tracking app that everyone uses is your number one tool for labor law compliance.

4. Uncomplicated Collaboration

When a virtual worker clocks in, it lets all team members know that he or she is available. If workers are spread around the globe, sometimes there are only a few hours of overlap. The two hours when the Filipino techs can talk to the London-based design team are critical.

Time tracking apps with centralized employee portals keep everyone on the same page. All players know who is available without sending a text or email.

And you don’t have to wonder if their Skype active status is accurate or if they just forgot to change it.

5. Managerial Oversight

Companies can’t be productive if managers don’t know what’s going on with their teams. This is especially important if there are not standard shifts.

Time tracking apps with well-designed manager portals make it easy.  Supervisors can see at a glance who is on duty and where they are located.

Businesses with mobile employees or contractors need a mobile time tracking app with built-in mobile location management.

For example, a temp agency owner who manages substitute teachers for a rural school district. When a school calls for a sub, she can immediately see who is already working and where. Often, a school requests a substitute twenty minutes before the class starts. This is where the GPS feature of her mobile time tracking app is key.

The owner can see where her available teachers are currently located. She can quickly choose the worker closest to the school and send a text alert right from the app. Since the district covers a large area, this helps her get her temps to the right school when they are needed. The district would never look for another agency because she never fails to timely deliver a sub.

6. Optimum Shift Coverage

This is especially important for the customer service or tech support team. When there is shift confusion there is a risk of understaffing.

Nothing hurts your business like long wait times for customer service.

Coverage gaps are also hard on the employees.

Service reps know that customer frustration intensifies with each minute they wait in the phone or live chat queue.

7. Affordable and Efficient Administration

Paying for excessive administrative time (either in-house or outsourced) is a way to lose some of the cost savings of having a virtual staff.

A good time tracking app allows your human resource manager to handle HR tasks for a large workforce.

Dumping time and attendance data directly into the payroll system is especially cost-effective. When the app does the heavy lifting, it handles the work of several employees.

8. Insightful Human Resource Allocation

Good time tracking apps capture data for your human capital optimization strategy. Don’t have a human capital optimization strategy?

Maybe that’s because your time and attendance system is sub-par. Good time tracking software helps you make strategic decisions about schedules, team assignments, and project workflow.

Great time tracking software has reports that represent workforce data graphically for easy comprehension. It also has simulation capabilities that remove the trial-and-error of workforce management.

How to Incorporate Remote Working at Your Company

Flexible schedules and work locations can improve the employee experience. This, in turn, drives productivity. Virtual positions increase the talent pool significantly. This makes it easier to find best-fit employees because you have dozens (or hundreds!) more to choose from. Many employees value flexibility as much as competitive pay and benefits. Companies that support work/life balance experience lower employee turnover.

If job tasks allow for virtual work, it makes sense for employers to try them out. At least for a trial period.

Small businesses and startups often have an informal telecommuting agreement. Formalizing a remote work policy helps companies maintain compliance with wage and hour laws.

How Do You Create A Remote Work Policy?

Remote work policies should be:

  • Formalized and well-communicated—include it in your employee handbook
  • Compliant with wage and hour laws
  • Designed to improve the employee experience
  • Applied equally to employees with the same job role

Designate someone to own telecommuting policy enforcement. Otherwise, the policy is meaningless. In small companies with a flat organizational structure, it’s often the business owner or office manager. They enforce the policy and oversee time tracking. In larger companies, each manager is usually responsible for their teams.

These are the topics to address in your policy.

Eligibility

Which employees/positions are eligible? Do employees need to formally request it?

Working Environment

Can the employee work in places other than a home office? Does a manager need to approve the employee’s work space? Specify if the employer will provide equipment such as computers or software. Outline whether the company will provide tech support for personal work equipment/software.

Data Security and Confidentiality

What protocols do telecommuters need to follow? Specify whether working on public Wi-Fi allowed. We strongly recommend prohibiting this practice.

FLSA Compliance

Regardless of where your employees are working, you are responsible for compliance with wage and hour laws. Your remote workers need to track their time whether they are paid hourly or with a salary. An inexpensive mobile time tracking app is the easiest way to track time and attendance.

Schedule and Availability

Does the employee have to follow a set schedule? What are the acceptable avenues of communication and response times? How will the employee track their time? How will the employee manage their schedule?

Manage Remote Work Policies With a Time Tracking App

Employers are adopting convenient time tracking apps for virtual workers. They simplify managing remote working.

TimeWorksExpress is the ideal employee time tracking app for remote work policies. It tracks employee time, scheduling, and even calculates PTO. Your employees and managers can learn how to use it immediately. Even if they aren’t tech-savvy.

TimeWorksExpress is a cloud-based platform. You can access it from a connected device like any other app. You don’t need to install software on your company computers. Remote workers can use a tablet, smartphone, or laptop to clock in and see their schedule. They can also request time off and check their PTO balance.

How much does TimeWorksExpress cost? There is a $20 monthly site fee plus $4 per employee per month. You don’t have to sign a contract. Cancel at any time.

TimeWorksExpress scales up as your team grows. It’s perfect for seasonal workers because you pay only for the employees on your payroll each month.

Try TimeWorksExpress employee time tracking app for free right now. You don’t even need to talk to a sales person. It’s a turnkey employee time tracking system with a self-provisioning signup process. Create an account by filling out a short form here. Discover how TimeWorksExpress can simplify remote working at your organization.

 

Content strategist and corporate blogger (2000+ posts). Her work has been featured on G2's Learning Hub, Human Resources Today, CloserIQ, Better Buys and over 500 business websites. She plays bluegrass mandolin and enjoys hiking in the red rock wilderness of southern Utah. Connect with me on LinkedIn
Liz Strikwerda