Clear policies central to remote workers' timekeeping compliance

12 October 2020 2 min. read

Clear policies are among the most important factors for driving timekeeping compliance in a remote work environment, according to a recent report from consulting firm Berkeley Research Group (BRG). The report surveyed nearly 800 hourly employees in the US who have worked remotely since March.

With many workplaces shifting to remote-work arrangements, the consultants at BRG set out to examine if employees are clocking in and clocking out at the right time, and recording the correct activities as compensable work hours. Report authors Elizabeth Arnold and Chester Harvey also wanted to know what factors were most responsible for driving compliance in timekeeping.

Most workers said they are aware of their company’s timekeeping policies. Approximately 70% said they have been given remote timekeeping policies in verbal and written form, while more than 75% reported that their company’s communications about timekeeping policies have been clear. Approximately 80% said they understand the policies and their timekeeping responsibilities.

Most employees (75%) said their timekeeping systems were easy to use, with the majority recording work time electronically via a timekeeping system, Excel workbook, or equivalent.

Despite high reported awareness, nearly 40% of employees have performed potentially compensable activities after hours and don’t always report this as hours worked. More than 35% said they “never” or “sometimes” record time spent on text messages with co-workers before or after workdays, while 25% said so in regard to checking and sending work emails.

“This activity may create potential legal exposure for employees,” say Arnold and Harvey.

The BRG report found that clarity of company policy had the strongest impact on timekeeping compliance. Workers at companies with clear policies were more likely to report time spent on compensable activities after hours (like checking emails) and less likely to report time spent on non-compensable activities like getting dressed or eating breakfast.

“Employers may benefit from a review of their remote timekeeping policies to ensure that the language is clear and unambiguous, given its importance in maintaining compliance and minimizing risk,” Arnold and Harvey note.

The report found that system usability did not impact compliance, nor did supervisor communication ability.

The other strong factor influencing compliance was employee self-discipline. Workers with higher levels of self-discipline were more likely to report their time worked more precisely at the beginning and end of the work day, and were less likely to report both typically compensable and non-compensable activities. As such, high-discipline workers were more likely to underreport hours worked.