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4 Keys to Tracking Time for Onsite and Dispersed Workforces

BY: Ascentis Thought Leadership | 11/30/21

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Tracking time and attendance doesn't look like it did not so long ago. That's partly because the technology powering these functions keeps evolving, and partly because the American workplace does, too. In an increasingly mobile and flexible working environment, it is more common for businesses to employ workers from a variety of sources working across multiple locations. As more employers deal with both onsite and dispersed workforces—recent surveys show that 64% of employers favor a dispersed model—it becomes more important to look for time tracking solutions that go beyond the old-fashioned time clock and spreadsheet system.

What is a Dispersed Workforce?

A dispersed workforce describes any workplace with a combination of onsite and remote workers. The term has become more common recently as more employers allow portions of their workforce to work from home, but the concept goes beyond that arrangement. Dispersed workforces can be found even in labor-driven industries such as manufacturing, construction, and healthcare where most employees don't have the option of working from home.

For example, a manufacturing company might have different teams of employees assembling products at separate facilities in different cities or states, as well as offsite employees making deliveries or performing maintenance. A dispersed workforce can also refer to workplaces where teams work in split shifts or across varying schedules. The term can also apply to industries such as trucking and transport, or in-home healthcare services, where mobility is an integral part of employees' day-to-day roles.

Effectively managing time and attendance for an increasingly mobile workforce requires added attention to some specific points of focus. Here are several concepts to keep in mind while deciding on a time tracking approach for your dispersed workforce.

1. Optimize Your Staffing Levels

Keeping track of a dispersed workforce is more difficult if there are problems with the workforce itself. Maintaining ideal staffing levels is both more difficult and more essential for employers with workers spread across a variety of shifts and locations. This can be especially true in labor-driven industries where maintaining productivity often hinges on staffing employees with specific skill sets and training.

For instance, a healthcare facility might require employees to complete a certification program before they are authorized to perform certain tasks unsupervised. If your staff does not include enough workers with the proper certification, it can impact your ability to provide in-home visits and other offsite services. On the other side, a construction industry employer that overestimates the need for workers with specific training can find itself with an overstaffing problem. That can lead to low morale among workers who aren't getting enough hours or being given enough work. Investing in scheduling tools that automatically check your schedule against training requirements and labor forecasting is a strong idea for any business with complex workforce management requirements.

2. Classify and Report Workers Accurately

Labor-driven industries are increasingly likely to employ workers across a wide range of classifications. In a workplace with a mix of full-time employees, part-time and seasonal workers, contract and contingent employees, and even freelance hires, keeping everyone properly categorized can be a real challenge. It's important for employers to step up to that challenge, as misclassifying employees—even unintentionally—can create serious financial and legal consequences.

Classifying an employee as an independent contractor in particular, can subject an employer to fines and sanctions on a federal, state, and local level. The Department of Labor spells out a number of specifics about how workers of each classification can be paid, the benefits they must receive, how they can be scheduled, and more. Failure to abide by those guidelines can result in financial and legal penalties. This makes it all the more necessary for employers to establish a consistent and efficient system for classifying workers.

3. Prioritize Leave Management

The more dispersed your workforce, the more difficult it can be to keep track of who should be where at what time. That should make efficient leave management a high priority for any employer with complex workforce needs. Keeping a close eye on requests for vacation days, sick leave, and other forms of paid time off can help organizations avoid scheduling surprises that lead to overstaffing and understaffing, both of which can hurt a business's bottom line.

For an employer managing multiple teams in different locations, processing and managing leave simply becomes too big a job to be handled manually. The risk of noncompliance with the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and similar state and local regulations raises the stakes even higher. An automated leave management system that checks schedules against your company’s forecasted labor needs and skills requirements goes a long way toward avoiding those potential pitfalls.

4. Invest in Mobile Attendance Apps

Part of the reason that dispersed workforces are becoming more prevalent is the rise of technology that makes this kind of work palatable for a wider range of employers. The modern workforce management landscape includes many more options for efficiently tracking employee time and attendance across multiple locations. Mobile apps compatible with Android or iOS tablets and smartphones are currently revolutionizing the way businesses track and report employee time, with more than 80% of CEOs reporting that they want to put a stronger emphasis on mobile tech in the near future.

For a construction company managing crews at multiple sites, for example, a GPS-enabled app that allows each worker to clock in from that day's work site can both save employees the hassle of punching in at a centralized location, and also make processing those hours much easier for payroll and scheduling administrators. By investing in tools that can go anywhere work is actually being performed, an organization can significantly reduce the risk of human error, make employees feel more empowered over their own work days, and reduce the workload for administrative staff.

As the modern workforce continues to disperse across a variety of shifts, schedules, and locations, the responsibility of accommodating the changing time and attendance landscape falls to their employers. Investing in technology that reflects all the ways your employees are really working is the surest path to boosting productivity, staying compliant with regulations, reducing frustrations for workers and administrators, and future-proofing your time tracking functions.

Find out more about the many ways Ascentis workforce management solutions can get your attendance tracking system up to speed.


Ascentis offers a full suite of workforce management, time and attendance, payroll, talent, recruiting, and HR benefit solutions.