Blue collar or white collar.

Time management solutions may not be one-size-fits-all

Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote: “Remember that time is money” appeared in Advice to a Young Tradesman, Written by an Old One,1 but it’s you, the employers, who’ve constantly been looking for ways to improve time management.

The concept of clocking in and out didn’t really take off until the age of industrialisation. Agricultural workers’ productivity depended on the seasons, the weather and the amount of daylight hours. Industrial manufacturing changed all that and brought in its wake inventions such as the Bundy clock, patented by a New York jeweller, for measuring employees’ hours.

Clocking in and out, which worked well as a measurement for 20th-century manufacturing, with so-called blue-collar workers on production lines, may still work for jobs where employees are paid solely for hours worked. Obviously, today we have all kinds of sophisticated time and attendance solutions. ‘Punching the clock’ has been replaced by biometrics and electro-magnetic cards. But measuring how long workers are physically at work can still be a valid metric for accurately working out pay and other benefits.

The biggest change brought about by our information age has probably been in what used to be called white-collar jobs. In many roles it can be difficult to measure productivity by how many hours workers spend at their desks. Time and labour management has become a sophisticated part of an organisation’s strategy.

The wrong time and attendance solutions could dent productivity

Apart from the ability to control costs and make important decisions on resourcing, organisations today need to keep employees engaged. Workers now expect changes in their workplace (which may not even be a fixed site any more), and this has affected white-collar workers particularly.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) reports that “Policy makers, employers and workers need to work together to:

  • Create clearer paths to career progression.
  • Give access to flexible working.
  • Improve line management and HR capability.
  • Review job design and organisational culture to reduce excessive workload and stress.
  • Champion mental health and overall wellbeing.” 2

Inadequate time and attendance services will do none of these things. A time management solution as part of your integrated HR suite of solutions could help you achieve all of them.

Using the wrong time management solution can leave employees overworked and feeling disengaged. It can adversely affect clients, too. Today’s clients expect an accurate report of time spent on their account. They know that it’s possible to break down the time spent, and they want to know what was done, when it was done, and how much time it took to do it.

Of course, what clients really want to know is whether they are getting value for money. And examining the way we work can actually help this. Mobile devices and the cloud mean that we no longer need a fixed workplace, which has led many companies to consider modern working practices such as working from home, flexitime, flexible hours, self-rostering, and teleworking. These practices can increase an organisation’s efficiency by allowing employees to work when they’re at their most productive and making them feel more engaged. They can also be a step towards championing mental health and overall wellbeing by reducing pressures on employees and improving their work-life balance. The CIPD also reports that “only 45% of staff now work from their company’s core office most of the time.”3 The Work Foundation at Lancaster University in the UK anticipate that 70% of us will have embraced mobile working as early as 2020.4

The BBC recently reported on PwC’s efforts to attract more skilled and diverse talent by telling recruits that they can work when they want, whether that’s fewer hours each week or just a few months a year.5

If your organisation has one of the many integrated HR suites available today, you could use your time and management data to inform the rest of the HR function. Access to up-to-date and accurate data can help you analyse, report on and make decisions that affect career development and employee workload.

‘White collar’ is no longer an adequate definition

When workers wore either overalls (often blue) or suits with white shirts, this was a meaningful definition. Today, however, white-collar jobs are still very often in service-based sectors, but there are a number of different billing methods. An architect with a bow-tie around his collar may be charged out very differently to a designer with a silk scarf around hers. Some may be charged by the hour. Others by the project. Or charges may depend on results.

We also need time-management solutions for a new workforce. A 2017 McKinsey report suggested that: “… major transitions lie ahead that could match or even exceed the scale of historical shifts out of agriculture and manufacturing. Our scenarios suggest that by 2030, 75 million to 375 million workers (3 to 14 percent of the global workforce) will need to switch occupational categories.” 6

Even today, white-collar workers aren’t just lawyers and accountants - they’re data analysts, digital transformation leaders, UX designers and a hundred and one other occupations, many of which will have different ways of working and billing.

There are time and attendance solutions suitable for organisations who embrace flexible working practices and there are options for all industries and all sectors. Finding a cloud-based solution will give you scalability and the flexibility to change to meet future needs. The right solution will help you ensure accurate client billing, keep a close eye on costs and minimise compliance risks.  

Even if you just want a relatively simple ‘blue-collar’ time-recording system, it’s important to find one that employees find easy to use. Don’t just look at the features the solution offers - think about what your company needs. Spend a little time researching the various time and attendance services available and you’ll be rewarded with a system that fits your organisation and your budget.