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6 Ways to Manage Employee Time and Attendance in a Remote Environment

CAVU HCM. Woman working remotely.

While COVID-19 lockdowns are significantly behind us, remote work has shown no signs of stopping. In fact, the digital workplace is now a mainstay in the American business world.

A blessing to many, remote work has provided employees across the world with unprecedented flexibility and work-life balance. While an overall positive, the transition to the digital workplace is not without its issues. 

For managers specifically, remote and hybrid work has challenged long standing methods for overseeing the time and attendance of employees. 

In this article we will examine six ways employers can better manage their employees’ time and attendance in a remote environment.

Managing Time and Attendance for Remote Employees

In the physical workplace, managing time and attendance can be as simple as checking to see if an employee is in the office and actively working. Traditional time cards often make the process even easier.

By removing the office, however, remote work effectively forces managers to find new ways to monitor time and attendance. Thankfully, now two years removed from the start of the pandemic, we are able to identify effective methods and strategies for businesses of all sizes.

Below are six ways to manage the time and attendance of employees in a remote environment.

1. Establish Remote Work Policies

Like most things in the business world, successful management of time and attendance starts with establishing clear expectations for employees. 

Like typical workplace guidelines, remote work policies should outline specific expectations on when employees should work, how much they should work, how they should record their productivity, and more. In particular, these policies should outline expectations for attendance to meetings, clocking in and out, and the appropriate uses of time off.

CAVU HCM. Empty desk with loose papers.

Well-detailed guidelines are especially pertinent for managing non-exempt and hourly remote employees, as they are entitled to overtime pay for any work beyond 40 hours in a work week or over 8 hours in a work day depending on the state.

Along with setting expectations, employers should also give an overview of the consequences for breaking the remote employee attendance policy. These consequences should be consistent for all employees to avoid unequal treatment, including for management.

To ensure that everyone in your organization is familiar with the policies, all remote work guidelines should be easily available. Typically, remote employers add their attendance policies to their employee portals so they can access them at any time. Hybrid environments can also have physical postings as well in the office.

2. Use a Time and Attendance Software

Already a fixture in most workplaces, time and attendance solutions are every manager's best friend – especially for remote environments.

Unlike the physical workplace, remote environments cannot rely on in-person presence to prove attendance. Although a perk for employees, the natural distance remote work provides can be a headache for managers that oversee time and attendance; especially flexible workplaces can even turn those headaches into migraines. 

While many businesses leaned towards instituting more meetings and micromanaging employees’ “online status” in the early days of the pandemic, these methods have proven to be unpopular among employees – in particular because they directly inhibit the freedoms that remote work enables. 

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Serving as a sort of middle ground, time and attendance solutions can provide managers with the oversight they need without restricting the flexibility of their remote employees.

Solutions like CAVU HCM’s time tracking software enable employers to monitor employee attendance through using electronic timesheets. Just like punching-in at physical workplaces, digital time clocks allow employees to record when they start and end work. As long as employees are diligent, a timekeeping system should sufficiently reflect their attendance. 

Along with recording work, time and attendance solutions also expedite the payroll process by importing timecards directly into the platform – putting an end to manual data entry.

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3. Adopt a Cloud-Based Calendar

While policies and attendance are important, they are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to managing remote employees. 

Because remote work offers inherent flexibility, scheduling meetings can be significantly more difficult for digital workplaces. Without being in-person, it can even be impossible to know when employees are working and available.

Cloud-based calendars are the answer to this problem.

CAVU HCM. Digital and paper calendar on table.

Making schedules easily shareable and completely transparent, cloud-based calendars allow workplaces to easily manage their flexible work environment. With a shared calendar, teams can see when each employee is working, when they are available, and when meetings are scheduled. 

While there are plenty of options, Google Calendar is a common scheduling tool among remote environments. Free and accessible from nearly any computer and mobile device, employees can easily edit and manage their individual calendars to reflect their day-to-day schedules. If needed, users can even note what projects they are working on.

Most importantly, calendars can be integrated into a company profile, allowing for users to view each other's schedules with ease. With a slick interface and color-coded profiles, Google Calendar users can easily compare their calendars with others – making meetings easier than ever to schedule.

Regardless of which platform is used, cloud-based calendars enable companies to easily communicate meetings, working hours, availability, and more.

4. Schedule Regular Meetings

Untethered from a physical workplace, many home-based employees adapt to a more flexible schedule. As a result, communication and accountability can be difficult to manage; different availability can especially impact collaborative and time sensitive work.

To provide a more cohesive work environment, as well as better manage each employee’s time and attendance, managers can institute regular meetings. These sessions can be team wide or individual, depending on their purpose.

CAVU HCM. Employee speaking during virtual meeting.

To create consistency, managers should schedule recurring meetings using their cloud-based calendar. By remaining consistent, employees can continue to manage their flexibility with ease,  as they know when they are expected to be present. Too many hastily scheduled and unpredictable meetings could cause tension among employees that value their flexibility.

In order to keep employees engaged and productive, meetings should be outlined beforehand, including time for discussion. Depending on its purpose, these meetings can be used for collaboration, progress reports, goal discussions, and more.

Similarly, managers can schedule time where employees are required to be online. Instead of meetings, this time can be effectively used as “office hours” – windows of time where team members can easily reach one another.  Just like meetings, these blocks can be scheduled on shared calendars.

5. Prioritize Video Calls 

In physical environments, employers are able to use in-office interactions to manage their employees’ attendance. Even with digital time cards, remote environments can be more tricky to legitimately manage. Just as some employees will look for workarounds in the office, some remote workers will take advantage of the distance provided by remote work.

CAVU HCM. Man speaking to coworker on video call.

To help drive attendance, employers can institute virtual meetings that require employees to have their cameras on. More subtle than other measures, video calls can be used to prove that employees are available, working, and in a productive environment for the day.

Typically, organizations will schedule routine video conferences in order to provide accountability for their employees. While no two companies are the same, short daily meetings are fairly common in remote workplaces. In these calls, teams will typically discuss the day’s agenda, the progress of projects, and more.

Along with adding accountability for remote employees, prioritizing video calls enables workplaces to social interactions in the digital space. Even though team members are not in a physical office, they can still speak to each other, read body language, and maintain eye contact – something impossible over email or chat.

6. Develop a virtual "water cooler"

While remote work offers unmatched flexibility for millions of employees, workers still crave some sort of social interaction. In July of 2021, a study by Generation Lab found that 74% of respondents missed the community aspect of in-person workplace environments.

Often overlooked by remote employers, this lack of social interaction can create excess absenteeism in the digital workplace. Less engaged employees are more likely to have poorer attendance, after all. 

Instead of creating more meetings or micromanaging employees, businesses can develop virtual spaces for employees to interact outside of a typical work environment. Like the water cooler in the office, these digital spaces allow employees to discuss non-work topics and grow their relationships.

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Within the remote workplace, employers can create these “virtual water coolers” within their communication platforms. Zoom and Slack, for example, allow users to create channels for various purposes. Just like a company may make a channel for specific workflows, teams can create channels for non-work discussions, digital break areas, and more.

While some managers may see “virtual water coolers” as inherently unproductive, the effect is quite the opposite. By providing a social environment, employers can improve the cohesiveness of their teams, grow the engagement of their employees, and lower absenteeism across the company.

Just as in the office, interactions among coworkers can greatly improve their overall experience and productivity. 

How CAVU Can Help Manage Remote Employees' Time and Attendance

An all-in-one payroll and HR solution, CAVU HCM offers businesses a streamlined approach to managing their operations.

Of its many features, CAVU’s workforce management solution enables employers to efficiently manage their teams, regardless of size. With the software, businesses can schedule work, track employee hours, integrate time cards to their payroll process, and more.

Meeting every time-and-attendance requirement businesses may have, CAVU even provides flexible punch options, data flows between HR and payroll, real time access to employee data, and compliance information. Providing accountability, users can even institute biometric time clocks, geofences, and facial recognition features to ensure employees are working when they say they are.

Attendance and time tracking has never been easier than with CAVU HCM.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the meaning of time and attendance?

Time and attendance is a payroll term referring to the tracking of employees' work. 

In the past, employee time tracking was typically manual, requiring punches on paper timesheets or at a time clock. Now, employee timekeeping can be done digitally through payroll and HR systems.

Managing time and attendance helps businesses maintain compliance with state and federal regulations, as well as control labor costs. Additionally, time and attendance can allow managers to review employee productivity.

What is a payroll system?

A payroll system allows employers to manage the payment process of their employees, including calculating wages, withholding taxes, and delivering checks.

Coupled with attendance tracking, businesses can ensure their labor costs reflect the output of their employees.

Learn about CAVU HCM’s one-of-a-kind payroll service here.