Let’s dive a bit deep into this highly debated topic and see what comes out of it, shall we?
Attendance management: Why it all started
The need for time and attendance tracking came into existence during and after the industrial revolution. Hordes of skilled and unskilled people migrated from villages and towns to bigger cities, seeking better-paying jobs and secure employments.
Attendance management systems were required to protect the interests of the workers and employees. The number of manufacturing units increased… And later with the introduction of the assembly line system, it was easy to monitor productivity.
The present situation
The world has definitely moved ahead. Attendance is not a primitive concept anymore wherein people punch in when they arrive at work and punch out when they leave.
Employees now demand work-life balance, flexible timings, and few governments too have made regulations in favor of the employees. Few Scandinavian countries have taken the lead in setting up eight or six-hour work days as standard!
Did you know that many schools in the UK and other progressive nations have moved to a concept called flexi-schooling?
However, have we, at work, moved on with the times? The bigger question is, should we? Let’s get into our debate...
Quality vs. quantity
Oh yeah! The highly cliched metric has come to haunt us. Again.
In today’s digital era, productivity isn’t about quantity (number of hours spent at office or at work), but quality (how the time at work is spent).
It’s more about about the value that an individual employee brings to the table even if he/she hasn’t worked an eight-hour shift on few days. Isn’t this what adds to an organization’s bottom-line?
- Prashant Kumar, IT employee, Bengaluru
But does Prashant’s view hold true for all business requirements?
Yes, it’s true but only in workplaces where work is done on laptops and employees HAVE the flexibility to take work with them.
What he says surely won’t make business sense at all at an online shares and commodities trading company where employees have to start work when the market opens and consolidate their work for the day when the market closes.
In such cases, flexi-time is meaningless.
Similarly, teachers, bank tellers, hospitality staff and customer support executives across organizations have to work fixed-time shifts to ensure that their interaction with customers either directly or indirectly doesn’t suffer. These jobs are time-bound and it makes sound business sense to have fixed-time attendance systems in place at these companies.
I work at one of the ITC hotels as the Food & Beverages Manager. My team members and I work across three shifts (7am to 3pm, 3pm to 11pm, and 11pm to 7am) that rotate every fortnight so that we all share workload equally. The first shift requires more work and attention to be paid in the breakfast hall while the second shift requires more attention at the bar counters! If we work flexi-shifts or flexi-hours, our customers will surely be left high and dry (pun intended)!
- Shankar Singh, F&B manager, New Delhi
What about creative domains?
I am a copywriter at an ad agency in Pune. What if I create an advertisement in say five hours on a single day?
In the creative field, working on more than one ad per day may impact the ‘creative quality’ of my work! So the remaining three hours can be spent in researching more about our clients, interacting with them and keeping ourselves updated with latest knowledge and skills. I can do all this outside our office!
- Abhijeet Bhand, copywriter, Pune
How do you quantify his output against a 40-hour or 45-hour week schedule? Should he still spend more time at work just to fill in the required hours?
And what about the IT field?
I am a software developer and reviewer; my designation is Team Lead! I spend about 30 minutes each day on code reviews. Rest of the time, I am interacting with my team members over the phone, updating spreadsheets and responding to emails! Except for those 30 minutes, all my other tasks can be done from anywhere where I have an Internet connection.
Online collaboration tools ensure that all of us can work from home; it also reduces our commuting time, which can be better used to increase our output at the end of the day! Also, I won’t feel fatigued at the end of each day if I can avoid commuting!
- Archana Pattar, Team Lead - Software Development, Mumbai
Should such jobs’ productivity be linked with the actual time spent doing it or should it be linked with its outcome?
Few business owners and employees, who we spoke to, stated, “There is some truth to the cliche: ‘Work from home = work for home’...”
So is flexible work timings really yielding more productivity as employees may get distracted by the needs of their home environment?
Business demands vs. company culture and philosophy
Transformation inside the big blue
Do you remember the buzz that this leaked memo on work from home (WFH) policy from Yahoo! created? More recently, some IT biggies too felt that WFH was a distraction and colocation enabled better, faster and more innovative decisions. For instance, IBM removed its popular WFH policy globally as part of its on-going business transformation exercise in May 2017. The shift is particularly surprising, as IBM has been among the business world's staunchest boosters of remote work, both for itself and its customers.
Treading a fine line?
Employers tread a fine line, however, because employees rate flexible-work programs highly, and research has found telecommuters often work more effectively than their cubicle-bound counterparts. For example, in 2016, Dell introduced WFH for its employees, if they wanted it!
So whether an employer grants WFH, fixed or flexi-time attendance to their employees all boils down to balancing these basic factors:
- Dynamic business needs
- Transformation and transition requirements at the company
- Company’s work culture, employee engagement and HR philosophy
Valuing employees over profits? Did you hear that?
For instance, the Virgin Group leads the pack when it comes to valuing employees over profits. Richard Branson often states, “If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your business."
Winds of change inside Amazon
Amazon is well known for being a hard taskmaster with many workers being encouraged to work long hours. But they’re reportedly piloting a program that will allow some technical teams to clock in just 30 hours per week.
The less intensive schedules could also boost productivity. People who log fewer hours at the office are more productive and consequently, better paid, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Samsung: Reforming work culture
Samsung wants to transform its internal culture to make the 300,000-person company operate more like a startup. Changes will include holding more online internal discussions (which means more remote and flexible work options), reducing extraneous meetings, cutting down the levels of staff hierarchy, reducing overtime and encouraging employees to spend their weekends with family.
Meanwhile, what are India’s biggies upto?
Flipkart flips it up for employees
India’s very own unicorn, Flipkart, has a very generous flexi-time arrangement (including WFH policy) for employees along with generous leave and career break policies.
Reliance adopts five-day work week
Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries moved over to a five-day working week across all its companies from April 1, 2014. It shed its long culture of having a six-day week work. This shift was a part of ‘business transformation process’, according to an internal letter written to employees by chairman, Mukesh Ambani.
The dark side of remote working: burnout!
Well, there’s a dark side too to remote, flexi-time working arrangements, especially in the case of WFH! This is often an elephant in the room that nobody talks about!
Scott Hanselman, programmer, teacher and speaker, wrote about the disadvantages of being a remote worker on his blog. Hanselman believes that people who work remotely feel guilty because they assume colleagues think they waste time.
Implementation of flexi or fixed-time attendance also depends a lot on the size of the business. For instance, a small business owner with say 20 to 50 employees may find it tough to implement flexi-time attendance. It may require additional overhead costs (electricity, water, maintenance, food and housekeeping) for the business to bear. This may make the business itself unviable in the long run.
With modern cloud-based HR and payroll software with built-in attendance management module, you can implement different attendance policies, schemes and shifts based on the nature of work provided by each department/team.
For example, you can set up flexi-time attendance for your sales team as they need to visit clients frequently. On the other hand, you can set up fixed-time attendance for your inside sales and the customer support teams as they need to interact with and respond to customers within time-bound SLAs (Service Level Agreements).
In today’s dynamic era, attendance systems will capture accurate attendance data (whether flexi or fixed) in real time either via swipe/biometric devices integrated with attendance management software, such as greytHR’s smart Geo Mark feature.
For today’s digital and knowledge economy, you should get an attendance management software that seamlessly integrates with other modules, such as Leave Management, Payroll Management, Employee Self Service, Employee Information Management modules, etc. It should capture accurate attendance data that can be used as part of HR analytics to drive employee engagement.
What have you implemented at your organization? Flexi time or fixed time? Why? What are your views on this debate? We would love to hear from you.