After years in the making, the ubiquitous workplace is here to stay. Businesses large and small operate not only around the world, but around the clock, relying on geographically dispersed and mobile workforces that include people working from home. Technology is so integrated into all aspects of life, the lines between professional and personal time are blurring, making it more important than ever to maintain good time management practices.
Companies that rely on enterprise timekeeping, reporting and project management strategies to keep their business on track are facing a new digital landscape and the challenges that come along with it. They need to find ways to deliver seamless, integrated software that matches the needs of their virtual workforce and keeps them engaged. Based on more than 35 years’ experience helping organizations to improve their business management performance, here are the top trends our company is seeing as corporations work to deliver effective time management.
Smart, highly integrated mobile tools. With nearly half of the total global workforce expected to be comprised of mobile employees by 2022, smartphones, tablets and laptops – even watches – are rapidly replacing the desktop. People expect to manage their time, report on it and see what’s expected of them on the fly, as they go about their day. That means time management software needs to incorporate a mobile user interface rich in functionality that enables users to work on timesheets remotely, with full connectivity to mission-critical corporate systems such as finance or project management.
Centralized, secure cloud services. Global connectivity means employees are accessing time management data from multiple locations, each with its own set of privacy and security restrictions. A growing number of businesses are moving towards subscribing to a cloud-based service, giving them the peace of mind of knowing proper encryption and security processes are in place to safeguard their information beyond physical borders. Some companies prefer to centrally manage and control their time management software on premise while others operate solely in the cloud. The best route is one that supports both environments.
Business intelligence. Time management data is a poster child for good business intelligence because it’s already highly organized and structured. Leading-edge companies are starting to apply data analytics to better understand how aggregated time is spent across their organization and identify ways to boost overall productivity. For example, they may discover that a task anticipated to take 16 hours is actually ranging from 30 minutes to two days, depending on the employee. By providing further training or reshuffling workloads, they can help employees to work more efficiently and recover some of that time.
Automation. Employers often meet resistance when it comes to getting employees to record their time accurately and efficiently. A growing trend is to boost compliance by providing personalized, dynamic timesheets that are seamlessly connected to other enterprise systems. This creates a two-way flow of information so that relevant information is automatically populated in a timesheet, such as employee-specific information from a human resource system or a schedule of tasks from a project management system. At the same time, individual information about sick time or vacation days automatically flows to payroll and task completion notifications are instantly updated in a shared project management schedule.
Transactional thinking. Standard practice is to reward employees based on effort. The modern trend is to focus more on accomplishment. Forward-thinking employers are moving towards a new, transaction-based way of thinking that focuses more on what actually occurred during the work day as opposed to how time was spent. Employers who try to introduce measures to gauge how much time home-based employees actually spend working typically fail. The market is seeing a shift away from this kind of oversight and moving towards productivity monitoring, supported by an integrated time management platform that can easily report on time, workload completion and other related productivity data.
Global perspective. With the spread of workforces across many countries, even something as simple as “when is the weekend?” is not certain. In North America, it’s almost always Saturday and Sunday whereas in the Middle East it could be Friday and Saturday. For some workers, the weekend is no longer relevant at all. Time management software now supports multiple calendars simultaneously in the background so that company policies can be properly managed using a rules-based workflow. For example, the rule may state that no sick leave is paid on weekends. The software needs to ensure that ‘weekend’ is properly applied. Multilingual support is another important feature so that employees can choose to work in their language of preference. It’s even possible to adjust the software to reflect preferred corporate translations or vocabulary – ‘activity’ versus ‘task’, for example.
Finally, a new trend impacting time management is the Internet of Things (IoT). Imagine being able to update your timesheet by speaking to your watch, smartphone or an intelligent assistant like Amazon’s Alexa. This type of ease of use is just around the corner and is expected to add a whole new dimension to timekeeping. When the time comes, will you be ready?
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