Keeping Remote Freelance Workers Accountable

We have another guest blogger with some great info for you.  Hope you enjoy it.

As attested by Pew Research self-named Generation Y (those born during the 1980s and early 90s) have eclipsed previous generations in regards to workforce involvement. In fact, according to a recent survey  a vast majority of millennials feel that “flexibility and ambition” are closely associated. With 78% of this group more likely to have a full-time spouse/partner working, there’s little surprise that workplace formulation has made a tremendous shift. The upshot is telecommuting. Actually, businesses today are no longer put-off by home based work requests and frequently include work-at-home proposals in HR recruitment plans.

The increase in millennial contemporaries has introduced massive modifications in the way companies manage their staff due to remote employment. The millennial workforce is expanding, proficient, and au fait with the demands of today’s global economies.

The concept of remote workers continues to be an anomaly of sorts, as more convenient options of generating income has yet to sink into the psyche of the masses. To many individuals, the traditional way of working is the only viable means of employment. Questions like, how people get paid, how companies account for workers, and is it serious work are common. Unfortunately, short-sighted suppositions prevent many who could benefit from remote work the opportunity to take advantage of it.

Organization Advantages and Accountability

Consequently, a long-term sophisticated system must be established to consolidate the undertaking and oddities of the digital workforce, as telecommuting is now accepted as the adopted workforce for both large and small companies. As a result, many corporations have devised means of cutting costs in the current world of financial dubiety with access to a worldwide top-notch labor force.

Outsourcing is mutually beneficial for both companies and their remote staff. For example, individuals with physical limitations are able to find work while companies increase production, downsize office space and save on office equipment.

Nevertheless, making remote workers accountable is a sticking point for many corporations. What strategies and blueprints are foolproof enough to ensure that telecommuters are actually on-the-job and not sipping tea while watching the latest reality show?

Keeping Remote Workers Accountable

HR managers, CEOs, and IT folk at both large and small businesses, are hard-pressed to discover a way of guaranteeing that their employed remote workers are actually working. It’s much like maintaining a long distance relationship without the romanticism. What it comes down to is implementing a superb software program. Here are three suggestions on how to keep remote workers accountable.

  1. Consolidate Correspondence

Dissimilar to staff working in an office, remote staff may experience delays in correspondence due to a lack of face-to-face interaction. To clarify the situation, companies should consider arranging several specific communication techniques that coordinate with a virtual program for work at home employees. For instance, some businesses use social computer networks or employee apps like Blink or VeryConnect. These types of networks allow virtual staff to stay connected to other telecommuters who may offer assistance and management throughout the working day.

Another solution for communication issues include using Skype or Google Hangout in case of inaccuracies via chat or email. Of course, the good ole’ 19th century invention called the telephone is still viable in its 21st century incarnation known as a smartphone.

  1. Highlight Clarity

Remote teams require a sophisticated level of management and transparency across every  line of work. In light of this, it is crucial to employ a system that allows access to a telecommuter’s tasks, work hours, pay arrangement (for instance by the hour or by each task), etc. Software systems like Time Doctor offers everything from time tracking and screen shots to web usage, payroll, reporting and more. This type of software tracking system helps employers keep remote workers viable and accountable.

Businesses must keep track of telecommuters working hours and additional vital information to make sure all is aboveboard; therefore, the correct software set-up is vital for companies and their teleworking staff. In addition, companies must make modifications and incorporate accountability into the workflow. Well-organized coordination between employers and remote workers substantially increases productivity according to Remote.Co.

  1. Planning Ahead

Working virtually is not exempt from stumbling blocks. In spite of that, there are a number of reliable methods to contend with the most frequent problems. For example, what if an employee has unreliable Internet? The best solution is to make certain that a potential team member has a stable connection before hiring them. In fact, a secure Internet connection should be a priority for remote workers. In case something does happen, a telecommuter should have access to a Wi-Fi hot-spot nearby. If not, stopping by the office is another option if it’s close by. Doing something is better than doing nothing and letting technical problems get in the way of a day’s work.

In essence, it’s about using common sense ways and means to anticipate difficulties that might arise from using remote workers and making provisions for them.

 Vaishali Badgujar is a digital marketer at Time Doctor, a SaaS time tracking & productivity tool for companies & freelancers. She is an inbound marketing expert & specializes in link building. 

Guest Blogger: Productivity Back on Track: 5 Time Tracking Productivity Benefits

As summer is coming to a close we have one more guest blogger for you with some great information on productivity.  I hope you enjoy this blog from Dean Mathews of OnTheClock.

As a payroll manager, tracking workplace productivity is more than a default part of your job description.

As the main custodian of data regarding the number of hours employees spend working, there’s a wealth of insight you can provide to unlock potential productivity improvements in your organization.

However, this is only possible if your workplace is equipped with a good time tracking system.

You might be wondering, “Well, we do use timesheets?” While there is nothing intrinsically wrong with this time tracking method, traditional timesheets are not as fool-proof as the sophisticated time tracking software available today.

In fact, research published in Harvard Business Review revealed that the majority of employees are inaccurately filling out their timesheets. This is costing the US economy $7.4 billion in lost productivity every day in the service sector alone.

Productivity is a shared interest between the company and its employees. As part of the payroll department, the following 5 benefits can be cited to rally your organization to use automated time tracking:

  1. Minimizes Multitasking

You might be staring at your screen right now confused.

Isn’t multitasking a productivity booster? So much so that it’s a skill a lot of businesses value.

Turns out that this is a big misconception.

Scientists have found that multitasking is a huge productivity downer, and can rob an employee up to 40% of his/her productive time. According to the research: “Psychologists who study what happens to cognition (mental processes) when people try to perform more than one task at a time have found that the mind and brain were not designed for heavy-duty multitasking. Psychologists tend to liken the job to choreography or air-traffic control, noting that in these operations, as in others, mental overload can result in catastrophe.”

With time tracking, employees must focus on the one task that is currently being tracked. This reduces what is called context switching and allows employees to focus their mental energy on the task at hand, producing better quality work.

It also allows project managers to see which employees engage in multitasking so the proper guidance and coaching can be provided to help them focus on one task at a time.

  1. Reduces Time On Non-Essential Tasks

Email is an essential business communication tool, but it is also a productivity blackhole.

An average office worker receives approximately 200 emails per day and spends 2.5 hours clearing out their inbox. Out of these 200 emails, 144 are not related to them and they were just CC-ed or BCC-ed in the conversation.

Email is just one of the non-essential tasks that is taking time away from more important projects. This does not even take into account the time spent on non-work related tasks such as social media browsing. What’s worse, as a payroll manager you know money is going down the drain paying employees for time spent on tasks that cannot be billed to your clients or customers.

With a well-established time tracking software, an organization can identify these productivity leaks and implement measures to reduce or eliminate them. This improves employee morale by reducing stress. At the same time, it saves the company money.

  1. Ensures Accurate Salary Computation

An unhappy employee is an unproductive employee. One of the major things that decreases morale for employees is not being accurately compensated.

This creates a cloud of distrust in the organization. Employees feel they are being cheated on and not getting the remuneration they deserve. This may result in a backlash in the form of low-quality work derailing important projects.

Of course, there are some unscrupulous businesses who intentionally shortchange their employees, but most payroll inaccuracies are a result of inaccurate time tracking.

Having a time tracking system in place eliminates inaccuracies in payroll because hours are easily and automatically tracked. There’s also a record, employees can refer to when payroll questions arise.

  1. Identifies Overworked Employees

All work and no play makes employees unproductive.

Putting in extended, and sometimes exhaustive, hours at work for a long period of time is a proven productivity killer. It can snowball into other problems such as habitual absences or tardiness, low employee morale, high attrition rates, and client/customer dissatisfaction.

The sad news is many managers do not catch these signs early enough, primarily due to poor time tracking practices.

Employees who are paid by the hour might not mind putting in the extra hours because they are getting paid for their billable hours. However, working overtime can cause serious issues with salaried, flat-rate employees.

While employee wellness is not the main responsibility of a payroll manager, a practical time tracking system can offer useful data to identify those employees in jeopardy of burning themselves out.

  1. Improves Project Planning Practices

Time tracking reveals discrepancies in time estimates between the projections during project planning and the actual hours spent during the project execution. The benefit this has on productivity is three-pronged.

First, it allows project managers to improve their forecasting for future similar projects.

Second, it prevents employee burnout as discussed above. There’s no need to put in extended hours to meet project deadlines if it’s not really necessary.

Lastly, it allows the organization to charge more appropriately via accurate accounting for the necessary man-hours to complete a project.

It’s Time to Be More Productive

Just a quick caveat. In order for any time tracking system to improve workplace productivity, making productivity a key priority should already be in the DNA of your organization’s culture. You should already know the core principles of good time management. Otherwise, you’re just going to waste time, tracking wasted time, right?

That said, time tracking has been proven time and again to increase productivity. Following the old business adage that you cannot manage and improve what you don’t track and measure, time tracking can open new heights of productivity that you never thought was possible. It also benefits your employees by minimizing multitasking and reducing time spent on non-essential tasks.

Indeed, it is time to put your workplace back on track.

Author Bio

Dean Mathews is the founder and CEO of OnTheClock, an online time clock app that helps over 8000 businesses all around the world track their employee time. Dean has over 20 years of experience designing and developing web-based business apps. He views software development as a form of art. If the artist creates a masterpiece, many peoples lives are touched and changed for the better. When he is not perfecting time tracking, Dean enjoys expanding his faith, spending time with family, friends and finding ways to make the world just a little better. You can find Dean on LinkedIn.

4 Ways Payroll Can Boost Employee Satisfaction

During the summer months I take a break from blogging but love it when I have guest bloggers who can provide my followers with interesting information. Today’s guest blogger has some great insight as to how payroll can help employee satisfaction.  Take a read from Sam at Https://indextimeclock.com

How many smiles greet you each morning when you enter the office? Can you honestly say your employees are satisfied and happy to come to work?

Of course everyone would rather be at home relaxing but good management can lead to a high level of employee satisfaction which makes for a smiling team that’s also highly productive. That’s a win for everyone.

But how do you get there?

What Determines Employee Satisfaction?

Will you be surprised to know in many studies compensation rates as the number factor in workers’ satisfaction with their jobs? So you can already see that your payroll department plays a vital role in getting this right. If no salaries are paid you definitely won’t see any smiles around you.

Of course this is a complex situation so there are many factors at play which you have to manage:

  • Being appreciated for work delivered
  • Relationships at the office
  • How the company fares financially (everyone wants to be proud of where they work)
  • Personal development
  • How interesting the work is
  • Feeling safe at work
  • Company values workers can be proud of

But why should you concern yourself with this? Because you don’t want to take the risk of having a high employee turn over rate. When you lose employees to other companies where they do find what they’re looking for you’re risking:

  • High costs to train new employees
  • Struggling to get the quality workers you need to grow your business
  • Gaining a reputation as a company no one wants to work for

But perhaps you’ve tried working on these aspects in your office but they don’t seem to stick. Are you sure you’re working with the root of the problem? Few businesses realize how much the payroll department in your business can affect your employees’ overall experience of their work days.

So let’s help you gauge whether payroll is helping or hindering your business. We’ll also tell you how to get it right from now on.

How Can Payroll Help?

Does Your System Put Them First?

What do you do when you respect someone? Usually it motivates you to put their wishes before your own. At the very least you’ll consider how your actions affect them. How often do you do this with your employees?

A late or wrong salary payment may seem trivial to you but for someone with bills to pay it can turn an ordinary day into a disaster. When you use state of the art payroll systems that rely more on AI and automated features than manual work you’ll see fewer salary glitches.

While you’re showing respect you also prevent a problem. When there are fewer disputes in the office you’ll see relationships will be healthier which will automatically make your group more excited to get to work each day.

Of course new technology requires a monetary investment from your side but this one decision will signal to employees that you have their best interests at heart. That will create loyalty from their side so this benefits you in the long run too.

Do They Feel Appreciated?

This one rates high on the list of factors you need to manage. And saying thank you at the end of each day won’t suffice.

Have you considered some of these tactics?

  • Personal discussions with employees regarding their work, performance reports and development in the company. This signals that you take notice of each individual.
  • Identifying how well someone settles in during an onboarding process. Talking about the challenges someone experiences and mentioning the value he or she already added will keep someone motivated.
  • Suggest personal development options such as training or skills courses. This could be an incentive or a reward for someone who delivers exceptional work.
  • Bonuses paid to individuals who reached certain sales goals.
  • When someone goes through a troubling time you can show compassion and provide some time off. This isn’t something people should take advantage of and your decision should be based on the value the individual provided before the problem came about.

Can you see how many of these processes involve your HR and payroll department? But the only way to keep track of all this information is with state of the art HR management and payroll programs. Digitizing employee files and creating reminders for setting up performance appraisals will ensure you don’t forget a step in the process of looking after employees..

Can You Pay Them More?

Of course all employees want to be paid more. You can’t always give them the salaries they dream of but while everyone gets busy with other tasks it’s the payroll office’s responsibility to ensure salary increases and bonus payments happen according to company policy & promises.

Don’t let this one slip. It sends a message of not caring for your employees which you should prevent at all costs.

Can you help them get it Right?

Many employees are used to being reprimanded for wrong doing. Something that’s not as common is getting help or resources to prevent the mistake in future.

Of course you don’t want to babysit your work force and they should take responsibility for their tasks. But in many situations employees do the best they can and managers should always look for ways to help them be more productive & accurate.

Filling in time sheets is time consuming and on a hectic day it’s probably the last thing your workers have time for. Hastily submitting paperwork often leads to mistakes and it’s understandable that this upsets the HR team & a worker’s manager. But why not make it easier?

Automated procedures with online clock in features such as the products you find on https://advancesystemsinc.com mean your workers don’t have to do any paperwork and all data will be accurate. With fewer misunderstandings and reprimands your workers are bound to feel more content coming to work.

At the same time you’re communicating company values such as accuracy, punctuality and excellence. Help them act according to these traits so they can be proud of what they achieve each day.

Important note: You’re not simply doing this to keep everyone happy. You’ll never again have to pay for work not done and you won’t waste time on salary disputes.

[Conclusion]

Do you see new hope for your company? A healthy—even happy—office environment can be a few adjustments away. Investing time into this outcome will have the long lasting effects you’ve only dreamed of so far. Good luck.

CA Adopts ABC Test for Independent Contractors

On Monday, April 30, the California Supreme Court issued a landmark [Dynamex Operations West v. Superior Ct., Cal. Sup. Ct., Dkt. No. S222732, 4/30/18] decision basically stating that the “ABC Test” is to be used when determining whether a worker is an employee or independent contractor for purposes of California wage orders. Previous to this latest decision the court case of S.G. Borello & Sons, Inc. v. Department of Industrial Relations, Cal. Sup. Ct., 769 P.2d 399, 3/23/89) was used to determine employee status. In that case the principal test of an employment relationship was whether the person to whom services were rendered has the right to control the manner and means of accomplishing the result desired. Under Dynamex, the Court embraced a standard that presumes all workers are employees instead of contractors and places the burden on classifying an independent contractor under the ABC test.

For a detailed analysis of this case and how you might have to adjust your hiring decisions, I will refer you to the Labor & Employment Law Blog posted by Timothy Kim for the law firm of Sheppard Mullin.

FLSA Video Training Has Arrived at DOL/WHD

The Wage and Hour Division (WHD) of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is launching a new series of brief, plain-language videos to help employers understand their legal obligations when it comes to calculating overtime etc.  According the the WHD website these videos “strip away the legalese and provide employers with basic information…”  The topics provided so far are:

  • Coverage: Does the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) apply to my business?
  • Minimum Wage: What minimum wage requirements apply to my business?
  • Deductions: Can I charge my employees for uniforms or other business expenses?
  • Hours Worked: Do I have to Pay for that time?
  • Overtime: When do I owe overtime compensation and how do I pay it correctly?

The videos are very well done and cover the rules quite nicely.  For example the overtime video does go into all the calculations needed for regular rate of pay.  They last an average of seven or eight minutes each. If you are looking for a good basic training on these topics listed check out the videos from WHD.

DOL Issues New Opinion Letters Including Lump Sums

The Federal Department of Labor (DOL) has been issuing a flurry of opinion letters recently.   But even more  amazing, is that one of the opinion letters actually deals with a subject long been a thorn in payroll’s side and one that some of us have waited years for a ruling.  The basic problem is whether or not lump sum payments such as bonuses are the same as normal wages under the law when it comes to withholding for garnishments.  You see many of the states do not think that lump sum payments fall under the Consumer Credit Protection Act or CCPA.  This is the Act, written in 1970, that sets the limits for what can be deducted from an employee’s pay for such garnishments as child support and creditor garnishments.  The DOL is actually in charge of enforcing the Act, but has always been unclear on their position on whether or not lump sum payments are covered under the Act.  This is especially true for child support, as employers may actually be required to report the pending lump sum payment and wait for instructions on withholding, usually for back child support owed to the state.  For example, according the the Office of Child Support Enforcement’s matrix on states and lump sums, Alabama requires 100% of all lump sums.  California states that it is subject to 50% unless the lump sum payment does “not involve earnings”. while Indiana follows the CCPA, So we have tried to look to the DOL to give a definition ruling on this and low and behold, they finally have.

In opinion letter CCPA2018-1NA the DOL has answered numerous questions on what constitutes earnings by discussing 18 different specific examples of common types of lump sum payments that an employer may issue to an employee.  These include commissions, discretionary and non discretionary bonuses, profit sharing, production bonuses, sign-on bonuses, relocation incentive payments and safety awards.

ALEC Wins Another State Over!

The American Legislative Exchange Council, or as it is commonly known ALEC, according to their website, is “America’s largest nonpartisan, voluntary membership organization of state legislatures dedicated to the principles of limited government”.  It’s current legislative agenda is to try to stop increases in the minimum wage and the mandatory sick leave movement as it sees it as having a negative effect on workers.  But in order to keep the minimum wage low or as ALEC describes it; “Maximizing the freedom of businesses and employees to negotiate their own wages” they not only have to convince state legislatures not to raise the minimum wage or provide mandated sick leave, but have to convince all local governments as well.  This is a tough job as there are thousands of local entities such as cities and counties that could decide to raise the minimum wage or enforce mandatory sick leave.  So ALEC takes the approach to tackle this from the head down by convincing state legislatures that they need to pass laws that prohibit any local entity from passing any type of minimum wage or benefit increase that does not equal the state level.  At this task they are making headway.  The latest state to buy into ALEC and bar local governments from passing a minimum wage or benefits ordinance is Wisconsin.

New legislation, A748,  prohibits counties, cities, and towns from enacting ordinances that: (1) establish or mandate local hour and overtime requirements, including scheduling employee work hours or shifts; and (2) require employers to provide employment benefits, including a retirement, pension, profit sharing, insurance, or leave benefit. The legislation does allow prospective employers to solicit salary information from previous employers and preempts counties, cities, and towns from prohibiting such solicitation.  The bill is effective as of March 30, 2018.

New Opinion Letter from DOL–NO Pay for FMLA Breaks

The Department of Labor is once again issuing opinion letters.  A flurry of letters were released on April 12th.  One letter addressed the issue of compensating for breaks that are covered under the Family and Medical Leave Act.  The Wage and Hour Insights blog authored by Staci Ketay Rotman and Bill Pokorny with FranczekRadelet covered this topic quite well so I decided to share it with my blog followers.  I hope you find it useful and insightful.

 

 

 

Show Down in Texas Over Sick Leave Looming

After Midnight, On February 16th, the Austin, TX city Council approved an ordinance establishing a paid sick leave requirement.  This requirement applies to all private employers located within the City of Austin.  The Mayor is expected to sign the ordinance.  This will have Austin joining the growing lists of cities and states requiring mandatory sick leave.  But before the City Clerk has even had the chance to verify the approved language and post the finalized ordinance, the state legislature began rumblings that they will take steps to curtail the Austin ordinance in its next session.

The Texas Tribune is reporting that just hours after the bill was passed state Rep. Paul Workman, R-Austin sounded off against the bill, saying the ordinance is “declaring war” on small private businesses.  According to Workman, “It’s not the role of the government to mandate for employers to do this”.   This again is going to come to a show-down between local control of the cities versus control in the state capital.  Something that organizations like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) have made good use out of to curtail the sick leave movement. We can only stay tuned to see how the show-down plays out in the state legislature.

FBI Warns of Another Phishing Scam Against Employees

The FBI is now warning employers of a possible phishing scam taking place.  This one targets the employees themselves. It focuses on companies that use self-service platforms where employees can view their pay, get duplicates of W-2s and update direct deposit information.  The fraudsters are impersonating the employer’s human resources department and asking employees to update or confirm their personal information via a fake website.  The employee receives a fake email that asks the employee to click on the link provided to log into his self-service account.  The email asks the employee to logon to view a private email from HR, to view changes that have been made to their account, or to confirm that the account is still active.

By clicking on the link and entering their self-service credentials, the employee is actually giving their logon information to the fraudster. The fraudster than can go into the self-service account himself and access all of the information including W-2 and pay stub info.  He can also change the direct deposit information. In order to prevent the victim from from knowing what is going on, the fraudster will also change the email address that the self-service platform uses to send alerts when changes are made.

Payroll and human resources professionals need to be on the lookout for this type of email.  With the new tax bill causing new tax withholding decisions, many employees are making good use of these types of self-service portals.  This will be especially true when the new Form W-4 is issued by the IRS.  Employees will want to make sure they have the proper withholding under the new tax tables.  And it would not be “unusual” for payroll or HR to send out emails during this time-frame.

It is also imperative to practice what the FBI calls “good email hygiene”.  Train your employees to watch for phishing attacks and to also check the actual email address rather than just looking at the display name.  Both these items can be crucial to seeing the attack early, before the damage is done.