How Many Hours Are Your Employees Really Working?

Many employers pay their employees to work a certain amount of hours per week. But just how many of these hours are your employees really working? 

Some employees end up working much more just to appease their employer, to catch up with work or simply because they are addicted. Others end up working much less by turning up late, taking long breaks, leaving early or simply wasting time at work.

It’s important that your employees aren’t working too many or too little hours – the amount you pay them should be justified. The guide explains how to identify exactly how many hours employees are actually working.

Should you track your employee hours?

Not all companies feel the need to track employee hours. In some cases, it may not matter how many hours an employee puts in so long as they get their duties done by set deadlines. This flexible working arrangement is becoming more common in industries like accountancy, marketing, design and journalism. 

In other industries like physical retail and hospitality, set work hours may be necessary in order to serve customers at certain times. In these cases, you may want to make sure that employees are turning up for these hours and actually putting in the work. 

It’s possible that you may always be working around your employees, and therefore be able to tell when they are turning up for work and when they are leaving. However, there may be other cases where you may not always be working at the same time or in the same place as your employees. Time clocks are often necessary in buildings like hotels where employees may be turning up to work shifts while you are not at work. Time clock apps can meanwhile be used for field service management – this guide on What is Field Service Management and Why Is It Important explains more about this. It’s always best to use a digital time clock system rather than a pen and paper timesheet system as you can automatically store all information digitally to be viewed from any device rather than having to manually check timesheets. 

Signs your employees are working too many hours

You can determine whether employees are working too many hours by looking at how many hours they are contracted/scheduled to work and then comparing this to how many hours they are actually working.

If your employees are regularly working longer hours than they are contracted/scheduled to work, you may want to consider doing something about this. It is a legal requirement that employees get paid overtime of at least 50% of their hourly pay. It is possible employees may be volunteering to work these extra hours, in which case you have to evaluate whether it is healthy.

A few signs of ‘unhealthy overworking’ may include:

  • Regularly working more than 48 hours per week
  • Working more than 6 hours without taking a break
  • Regularly choosing to work through one’s lunch break
  • Getting less than 11 hours rest between shifts
  • Regularly working 6 days or more per week

It is worth talking to employees who are adopting these unhealthy overworking habits and working with them to help them reduce their work hours. Such employees are likely to be damaging their health and it is likely to be having a negative impact on their productivity. 

Signs your employees are not working enough hours

By clocking hours, you may also be able to determine when employees are regularly working less hours than scheduled/contracted. 

If employees are working less hours than scheduled/contracted, you are in your legal right to deduct pay, so long as you can provide proof. Some time clocks will automatically deduct pay depending on the hours that an employee clocks in and clocks out. 

The types of wasted time that you can deduct from employees pay include:

  • Regularly turning up half an hour or more late
  • Regularly leaving half an hour early
  • Taking longer lunch breaks that they are contracted to take

Unfortunately, the time an employee clocks in and clocks out is not always reflective of how much ‘work’ they are doing. Employees can waste time on the clock by chatting instead of working, taking lengthy cigarette breaks, taking overly lengthy toilet breaks, checking their personal social media, preparing hot drinks/eating snacks or doing various other tasks that are not part of their duties. 

Keeping tabs of this type of behaviour may be seen as a little dictatorial and excessive – if you feel that employees are not doing enough work during work hours, you’re much better off tracking their work performance. In other words, instead of tracking how much time an employee spends on the toilet or how much time they spend on their cell phone, track how many sales they may be making or how quickly they may be getting through projects. You can compare these results to your hardworking employees – if they’re performance clearly isn’t as good, you can use this as evidence that they are slacking when consulting them about it. This guide How To Document Employee Performance explains more.