Posted by: Mike Turner | 12 March, 2008

Building a Flexitime Management System – Challenges Faced

When we were asked to adapt our time-recording software so it can be configured to account for flexitime, there were several questions that needed to be resolved. Here I explain the issues we considered.

A number of challenges face the designer of a configurable time recording system when flexitime needs to be included. However, a well-designed system will pay for itself very quickly once implemented, by freeing up administrators from the laborious chore that controlling this kind of system can provoke.

User Acceptance
When implementing any new system, one of the keys to user acceptance is “I must have to do less than I did before”.
In many cases, the software application will replace a paper-based or spreadsheet-based system: the user is only concerned with filling in their own timesheet, and has little concept – or indeed interest! – in how the information is processed. Frequently there is a large administrative overhead involved in analysing the data, and monitoring compliance with the flexitime rules. Indeed, this is the reason for seeking an automated solution. But when introducing new software, it has to be simpler to use, and do more than any existing systems. The need for systems integration or other technical issues have no real bearing on the average user.
So the first issue to be addressed is how to make the entry of the required data as simple and straightforward as possible.

Do we need to record start and end times? Should we calculate accountable time totals?
There may be entry control systems in place that make start and finish date and time information readily available. Alternatively, default timesheet settings can be provided. But in either case, additional data often needs to be entered onto the timesheets.
Dates and times are not very fast things to enter: they can be useful for validating the total hours booked against the individual activities involved, and for checking total hours booked against flexitime “core” hours, but the flexitime rules that apply to any particular scheme may make this undesirable.
What constitutes recordable time for flexitime purposes – is it based on attendance? In this case, not all of the hours between the start and end times (excluding breaks) needs to be accounted for, in terms of the tasks and activities performed.
However, in some organisations, not all recordable work may be done on site. In this case, default start/end times may not provide correct information. If things like travelling time count towards the flexitime total, this time may need to be accounted for on the timesheet, and/or start and finish times may need to be adjusted accordingly.

Break Times
Where start and end times are recorded, it is likely that at least one break will be required, and even if automated entry/exit systems are employed, this figure may still need to be entered manually if people do not actually leave the premises.
Working time legislation requires minimum break periods, so validation here could also be necessary, and the data collected made available to HR.

Time not included in flexitime
Another point that needs to be considered is time booked to items that do not attract flexitime. The simplest examples are annual leave and flexi leave itself, but there may be others (such as medical appointments), depending on the processes and procedures of the individual organisation.
Where advanced bookings can be made for leave and other predicable overheads, then the automated entry of start/finish times has to be dealt with.
Various rules based on core time (hours that must be worked), earliest start and latest finish may have an impact on whether time booked on a particular day can be included in the flexitime total.
On a short term basis, for example a weekly timesheet, local rules may allow for a flexible working pattern. As long as a weekly total is accomplished, then flexitime and flexi leave would balance each other out, but for future dates outside of that period, perhaps flexi leave can only be taken once the necessary time has been accrued. Or the rules may allow for flexi leave to be taken in advance of accumulated flexitime, thus putting the person’s flexi account into the red!
It is also quite likely that a maximum flexitime cap may be employed, to stop the banking up of too much flexitime. Another rule may link the flexitime to any annual leave entitlement also in place, requiring all days to be taken by a certain date.

Time Entry
A further issue that the recording of accountable time highlights is how people enter their bookings – in hours (perhaps rounded to quarter hours), or in hours and minutes.
Without using a realtime monitoring system, or using one and then having to remember to start and stop various activities, not many people will be able to enter 1 hr 17min as 1.283 hours without spending a lot of time with a calculator. So the system needs to be able to be configured to accept and display time in hours and minutes – but this can have an impact on the user interface and make data entry less simple.


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