Time Management in a Global Workforce
Time management used to be a much simpler challenge for businesses. Staff were given a schedule, they appeared, put a card in a clock then did their work. Workers were all co-located, with similar schedules.
The globalized economy has made time management of the workforce a much more involved process.
Now, some staff may be in the same office, but thanks to improved connectivity that is available to virtually everyone, it is just as likely that they are distributed across many locations, time zones and countries. Connectivity makes it possible to be a mobile worker, participate in distributed work, work from home, or do work share or “Smart Work.”
Many organizations are embracing this new trend. According to globalworkplaceanalytics.com, more organizations embraced telecommuting in 2016 than they did in 2011. The advantages to having remote workers where possible are numerous, including reductions in workspace cost. The trend towards global and mobile workers who are not co-located is so strong that many larger employers find themselves unable to compete for top talent without these more flexible work options.
Time management in such a world becomes much more challenging. If your staff members work from home, how do you determine that they are actually working? Suddenly, a passive timesheet system seems not to be enough. Should you impose monitoring, or forget about time altogether and focus on getting work complete? For more and more companies that have employees in multiple time zones, how do you manage starting and stopping times in systems such as project management or timesheets, which are centrally located? If you have contractors who don’t work by the hour, should you track time the same way you do for full-time staff? If you have people in multiple countries, how do you deal with things as simple as a timesheet in the correct language, or accessing the system from their location?
All of these are common time management challenges in today’s world.
My company’s experience with deploying a commercial off-the-shelf project-based timesheet system for global organizations has been about dealing with those challenges. With some clients, having software that is available both for on-premise deployment or in the cloud deals with connectivity issues from different parts of the world. Management is able to use the data collected from timesheets to better assess and manage employees to maximize productivity. For languages, we have had to make interfaces that are adjustable by the end user into the language of their choice without affecting the data. For staff accessing the system from many countries, we made it available in both an on-premise and Software as a Service subscription model.
According to CNBC, 70 percent of workers globally work remotely at least once a week. So for those people who are on the move, having a free Mobile App for Apple and Android devices has been a critical element of success. Our decision was to make the mobile application available on both Android and Apple devices, and to make it free for anyone with a Time Control timesheet license.
With the spread of workforces across many countries, even something as simple as “when is the weekend?” is not certain. In the US, it is almost always Saturday and Sunday. In the Middle East, it might be Friday and Saturday. For some workers, the weekend is no longer relevant as they work at different times during the week. We’ve had to support multiple calendars simultaneously in the background of our system in order to support collecting timesheets for all workers with different calendars and different schedule situations.
It’s fair to say that this trend towards global resources won’t stop anytime soon. As organizations consider how to manage the scheduling of time, and tracking time spent and what it is spent on, it is important to consult with stakeholders in different situations and different locations to ensure your systems will be able to keep up.
Chris Vandersluis is a public speaker, project management industry expert, and president and founder of HMS Software, a leading provider of enterprise timesheet and project management solutions. Over the last 30 years, he has helped hundreds of organizations, both small and large, improve their business management performance.