UK Question about monitored timesheets system at work
May 18, 2017 7:24 AM   Subscribe

We swipe in and out of the office every day. The "first" and "last" swipe in/out are what shows up in our timesheets as how long we have been in the office for that day. It doesn't show the actual times, just the length of time between the two. We then have to fill in an online system with what projects we worked on in that time. So far, so good. We're told it's to keep track of how long it takes to get certain projects done for future planning, and not used for tracking our attendance/hours. Except... it's borked. And the latter part of that is a lie.

This system doesn't really work very well, hours get "lost" - e.g. I was apparently only in for 2h46m one day last week, when I was actually in for closer to 9.5 hours. But then, we're still being asked to be accountable for it! So we get queried about whether our hours are up to scratch! Of course, it's always phrased in a "Just in case somebody further up in management takes an issue with it" when it's queried with us. And at other times, it appears to automatically take off some time - half an hour, or an hour, or whatever, with no visibility of what or why that happens.

We are salaried employees, nobody here is on an hourly rate. We are expected to fulfill 37.5 hours per week. In addition, there are "friday beers" which people often hang around in the office, meaning they would never get shown up on the system as being "under" their hours, because of leaving so late after that. I don't do this unfortunately, for childcare reasons. Which does leave me (sometimes) as being "Under" on my hours for the week.

It never used to be an issue, and we never had such a system when I last signed a contract, but we were bought out by a global company around 4 years or so ago, and it's now "company policy" to do all of this.

It makes me feel resentful, and like I'm being treated like a child. I've been here for 10 years and have never had any issues about whether I'm doing my work, or to a high enough standard or not in that time. So it's particularly grating to get some kind of "are you sure you actually worked?" e-mail from somebody else.

I heard whispers somewhere that due to some EU legislation or other, it's not technically legal, or enforceable, but I've been unable to see how or where that might be covered.

Can anybody suggest what I should be doing about this? Can I refuse to do it? Or should I just report it to HR that it doesn't work (they know) and deal with what happens that way?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
For all timesheet entries two words: Stochastic Estimation.

(don't be too regular/precise or too random, and it all flows through the system)
posted by sammyo at 7:40 AM on May 18 [2 favorites]

Can anybody suggest what I should be doing about this?

Get another job. Wrangling with HR over this issue, trying to enforce EU directives, fighting against the current of what is happening since the takeover of your company..none of these things are a path to workplace happiness. You may end up doing yourself more harm than good.
posted by mani at 7:55 AM on May 18 [1 favorite]

I would ask to see the logs, or at least the logs for you. If you can go through the logs and demonstrate such a glaring error then the entire system is useless and shouldn't be used.
posted by koolkat at 7:55 AM on May 18 [1 favorite]

I take it your workplace does not have a flexible working policy? You have a right to ask for flexible working. E.g work from home. You could get it documented you start at x and leave at x every day maybe?

As a manager I'd only resort to these logs if I thought staff were skiving off. It seems a little extreme. Can you find others who also think this is bonkers?

Oh yeah and you can ask to see the log of your data via subject access request under the Data Protection Act if they don't share this data with you when you ask nicely first. And you have the right to ask them to correct the data they hold about you.

If talking to them reasonably does not work and you want to be an officious pain I'd start evidencing your own hours and correct each mistake. Although I'd consider leaving first. You don't need or deserve this shit.
posted by BAKERSFIELD! at 9:58 AM on May 18 [1 favorite]

I had this one place I worked and it was literally half of the HR department's job to put through timesheet amendments. But senior management were completely sold on it, thought it was brilliant and that they were going to catch out skivers. Until there was a new broom in charge, who made up a simple excel timesheet and saved a ton of time and money.

Which is a reasonably long way of saying, theres not a whole bunch you can do. If there is a particular person asking you to account for your hours, I'd be emailing that person on entry and exit. "Hi Dick, I arrived at 8.55 this morning. Best regards, Anon."

But ultimately I'd be looking to move, honestly. A company like this has little respect for their staff, usually. The "friday beers" thing makes me wonder if they consider you a good fit (through my partner I have known way too many IT companies like this!)
posted by threetwentytwo at 10:17 AM on May 18 [1 favorite]

My company started doing this in January, with billable/utilized hours. I'm a high performer. I took this new policy to my boss and said plainly:

"I see this policy. I am not planning on dedicating my already-stretched-thin time to the non-billable work of calculating my billable work. My output has never been a problem before and I don't see a reason I should be treated as if it were. I want you to know that I plan to keep working as hard as I can, that is my commitment to you. And if there is a problem with my work output, I trust that as my manager you will come talk to me about it."

She took this news with some surprise - everyone else on the team was obsessed with tracking their time to hit specific arbitrary goals set by leadership - but indicated that she had heard me and we moved forward.

A couple of weeks ago I was out sick for three days. Three days! That's 24 un-utilized hours. She helpfully sent me a very complex Excel spreadsheet showing me how I could make up those utilization hours and still meet my numbers for the month. I reminded her in my reply that I would not be performing those calculations, I instead was focused on working as hard as I could, and if there was a problem at the corporate level with me having and recovering from bronchitis and taking my earned sick days to recover, we could have that conversation at a later date. I also reminded her that corporate policies that micromanage my time have a negative impact on my ongoing job satisfaction. She apologized for sending the spreadsheet, thanked me for my hard work, and said she wouldn't do that again.

This kind of tactic may not work if you are not already a high performer, or if you do not have other options and your boss knows it. But so far, I have received no blow-back from corporate though I still bristle when I see those all-staff messages going out about our numbers. I ignore them, and forward requests from outsiders to my boss. Her job is to remove the obstacles to my success, and this is one.
posted by juniperesque at 10:59 AM on May 18 [11 favorites]

Imagine you got a new job, showed up to work, and on the first day you had the same new time system explained to you. "This is just how we do things here." "Welcome to the next 3-5 years!"

You'd get used to it pretty quick.

There's nothing peons like us can do about HR decisions (said by a person who works in HR). You CAN live with this new system.

As for the inaccuracy, I suggest downloading an app that lets you "badge in" on your cell phone. I got a job at a shady company that made me punch in on a time clock, and I logged my hours every week on my cell phone, then compared it against the clock. Because that's what you do when you get a new job: you assess, and adapt.
posted by rebent at 7:00 PM on May 18 [1 favorite]

seconding rebent's suggestion for keeping your own records for a couple of weeks. I suspect some smart middle-manager in your company has found a way to fiddle the timeclock data so their department looks good. Either that, or the system has some inane granularity that records any clock-out before 5 pm as "did not work all of this afternoon".
posted by scruss at 5:05 AM on May 19

As rebent and scruss mention, this is increasingly going to be the norm as large corporations move towards time-tracking as a way to ensure "productivity". If you choose to move, this may be even more ridiculous in the next job, so it is better to accept this and adapt.

Many times, the software implemented is cheap and not very high quality, since time-tracking is seen as an internal IT purchase. This may be a bug or a "feature" (multiple logins and logouts in a day may not be captured and calculated correctly).

I would recommend talking to your manager and agreeing that both of you would meet each other when you walk-in in the morning and then again when you are leaving, while noting the times. Do this for a week and compare against the timesheet.

Any discrepancies can then be highlighted to HR and management and most importantly, you will have your manager in your corner. Rinse and repeat this with successively higher levels of management - I can almost guarantee that this will be fixed at some level.

Don't take the passive-aggressive or "high-performer" routes - these are quick routes to being let go during crunch times. Be firm and say no when needed, but don't be the employee with an attitude.
posted by theobserver at 7:59 PM on May 20

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