Tracking work hours: practices for hybrid team managers

Numerous studies by Gallup, McKinsey, PwC, and other consulting leaders have explored the topic of employee trust. Most arrived at the same conclusion – an environment where teammates trust each other is bound to thrive, whereas losing that connection is an existential threat to organizations. 

The pandemic gave many organization leaders an opportunity to put their trust levels to test. As 59% of the American workforce were doing their jobs remotely, team leaders were no longer sure people were actually working when they were supposed to. 

Now that the world is transitioning into the post-pandemic phase, more employers get a chance to re-open offices and get people back. The trust issue resurfaces when organization leaders have a choice between a full office return or a hybrid arrangement. 

Since most employees enjoyed working remotely, they are vocal about not wanting to go to offices five days a week. That’s why, in 2022, offering hybrid work opportunities is important for thriving in the job market and retaining talent. 

However, in a hybrid arrangement, managers are challenged having to set up a schedule that levels the playing field for in-office and remote employees without putting both groups at a disadvantage. Leaders approach this challenge in different ways. 

Key approaches to tracking work hours in hybrid teams

As hybrid work widens its reach and increases adoption, there are differences in how large-scale teams and smaller organizations deal with monitoring in-office and remote attendance. Let’s examine and review their strategies. 

In-office work tracking

Monitoring office attendance is relatively straightforward since teams share a physical space and use corporate hardware. The most common strategies for tracking work attendance are: 

  • Using internal systems to know when employees enter and leave. Recording office card swipes is standard practice at Goldman & Sachs or Bloomberg. 
  • Installing time and attendance software that collects timesheets, helps managers quickly see everyone’s schedules, and sends an alert when employees are taking unauthorized breaks. 
  • Biometric monitoring uses identity verification methods like a fingerprint scanner to track when employees enter and leave the office. On the one hand, it’s a more efficient system compared to keycards, as it mitigates the risk of buddy punching. On the other hand, employees aren’t happy about biometric work time tracking and believe it verges on privacy invasion. 

SMB leaders are less methodical about monitoring their teams – mostly due to the following key reasons: 

  • Costs – setting up an organization-wide employee attendance monitoring system is a considerable investment. Business owners, who had to deal with the uncertainty of the pandemic and the post-pandemic economic cooldown aren’t eager to cash out on tracking systems (for some, it’s outright impossible). 
  • Time – keeping track of the team’s whereabouts adds to the stress managers deal with every day. Sara-Baer-Sinnot, the founder of a 10-member organization, put it this way for a New York Times article

“I’m also busy and just thinking about being a vigilante like we’re in high school again is terrible”

  • Employee pushback – SMBs don’t have the salaries, benefits, and reputation gains of big companies to keep employees from quitting when they feel suffocated by incessant monitoring. On the contrary, flexibility and autonomy are  their selling point. 

Remote work tracking

Reliably tracking office attendance is complex but the challenge becomes even more intricate as managers look for ways to oversee their remote employees. 

Several challenges are keeping them from effective monitoring: physical distance, the lack of in-person contact that serves as proof for presence, or WFH teams using their personal hardware for work, making installing monitoring tools effectively impossible. 

The most popular strategies managers use to track remote employees are: 

  • 8-hour-long video calls that make it clear whether or not employees are spending their workdays in front of the screen. 
  • Time trackers and timesheets that employees fill out by the end of each workday. 
  • Employee monitoring tools teammates are asked to install on their devices. 

Some leaders don’t have a clear-cut approach to attendance monitoring. Instead, they lean heavily on micromanagement, regularly checking up on team members on Slack and other tools. 

Statistics show that’s not an optimal approach – 71% of employees believe it interfered with their performance. 

Best practices for attendance monitoring in hybrid teams

In a hybrid context, managers need to find a way to not only manage both on-site and remote attendance effectively, but to even them and make sure both are equally transparent. 

Part of our mission at oVice is interacting with hybrid teams and helping them optimize both on-site and remote communication. 

After observing the strategies thousands of teams use to track working hours, we developed a list of best practices for handling attendance in hybrid workplaces. 

Shift the focus from attendance to performance tracking

The need for attendance monitoring often stems from the lack of KPIs and organizational goal-setting. When team leaders don’t know how to measure the contributions of their team, they focus on monitoring office presence. 

According to McKinsey, high-performance teams are heavily focused on setting benchmarks and assessing performance based on reaching these milestones. 

From the operational standpoint, building a KPI-based employee performance tracking that levels the playing field for in-office and remote teammates is more feasible than monitoring attendance. 

Use non-invasive monitoring tools

Doubling down on employee surveillance led many teams to burnout during the pandemic. When managers felt out of control, they imposed draconian rules on remote employees – which lead to heightened anxiety and workplace stress. 

Rather than using intrusive practices like 8-hour-long daily Zoom calls, leaders should be betting on tools that respect the privacy of remote employees. For a lot of our clients, oVice is the best app for tracking work hours. 

They establish the practice of logging into the virtual office during the workday – if people’s avatars are not seen in the space, a manager assumes they are unavailable. This gives team leaders a way to track attendance without making the team uncomfortable. 

Set clear expectations 

Aligning remote and on-site teams in a hybrid work environment is confusing – that’s why team leaders need ground rules for both employee categories. When creating an attendance monitoring system, make sure you are clear on: 

  • Working hours: whether your team has a fixed or flexible schedule. For hybrid teams, a fixed schedule is a better way to make sure everyone is available at the same time. 
  • Ways to report breaks and weekends: Slack channels, timesheet software, etc. In oVice, teammates can change statuses to “Away” when they are away from the keyboard. 
  • Paid and unpaid vacations – make sure teammates don’t have to jump through hoops to take a leave. 

Don’t set strict attendance rules unless needed and justified 

The Great Resignation trend shows employees don’t think much before leaving their workplace – even minor dissatisfaction can lead to a massive exodus. 

Strict attendance regulations might put employee retention at risk – that’s why team leaders should have a clear rationale before asking the team to comply. 

Make sure you put the team at the center of your decision-making. If there’s no reason for employees to follow strict attendance rules or ask remote employees to come to the office five days a week, imposing them will cause more pushback. 

Attendance doesn’t have to be the bane of your employees’ existence. Using non-invasive tools and creating an easy-to-understand reporting system will help streamline and control operations without inconveniencing the team. 

To find out how managers SMEs use oVice – a leading corporate virtual office platform – to keep tabs on hybrid teams, check out our use cases. To explore the attendance monitoring features we offer, visit our tour space

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