The idea of giving up physical control of your employees through remote working can be challenging for many business owners, especially if they were brought up with the 9-to-5 mentality.
You might be wondering how you could control working hours of your employees remotely but you should ask yourself more a more important question first:
Do I have to control my employees working time?
Basically there are two working models – time and task oriented. In a time oriented model you are paying your employees for their time i.e. cashier in a grocery shop. You want your cashier to work for X hours and server your customers.
On the other hand we have task system of work – when you order a painting from a painter – you don’t want to pay him an hourly rate and wait until he finally finish the art. You are paying a fixed price, regardless of amount of hours.
Unfortunately most of jobs are more like painting rather than cashing. Let’s take an example of physical workers building your house. You can pay them hourly rate (so called time and materials) but this might be tempting for some of the workers to work less efficiency – the longer they work, the more they earn. In other words, you may pay 1,5x , 2x and more than you should.
On the other hand you can decide to pay them fixed price for building your house. In this scenario you are more less sure that you won’t over pay but raising a new thread – quality. Workers working on a fixed price project are tempted to focus on delivery that much , that they might sacrifice quality. The math is simple, if they get $100 000 for a single house and they can either build 1 high quality building within 2 months or 2 lower quality houses in the sam time and get $200 000 , chances are that they will go for quantity over quality.
So this is a challenge we all have to face. Technically, this issue isn’t related or caused due to remote working model. The same applies to traditional working-at-office model, you just might didn’t think of it earlier.
So which one is better?
To be honest – I don’t know. Our experience is that it isn’t much about model itself but about people you work with. In recent years we’ve been working with many developers and we happened to have this discussion few times.
Obviously we don’t want to pay developers per hour or line of code – it doesn’t work that way. Of course we pay them for their time and effort but we also need some deliverable. So when we switched to task oriented model some developers were asking us – so if I deliver a task which was scheduled till Friday, two days before, on Wednesday, can I stop coming to the office on Thursday and Friday?
What would you answer?
Our answer was following: We can agree on fully task model but keep in mind that it works in both directions. If we agree that this task will be delivered by Friday and you will not deliver it, you will work for free for next X days until the task is delivered.
And at this point they gave up further negotiations. Why? Because IT is very unpredictable, many times developers have to deal with unexpected errors, design new algorithms and during test phase realize that they doesn’t perform so they have to start from scratch.
So how are we dealing with this?
As a result, we ended up with some hybrid model. We expect everyone to work around 8 hours a day. We want everyone to start between 6:00 – 9:00, and finish between 14:00 – 17:00). We keep this restriction to have a period during the day (between 9:00-14:00) when we know that everyone is available in case we need to discuss something. Otherwise we would might have and issue when we need 2 people on call but one isn’t available because either didn’t start work yet or already finished it.
We also agree on certain scope which has to be delivered (with common agreement from both sides, trying to estimate as accurate as possible). When things goes smoothly, there is no issue that our developers finish earlier or takes break during working hours, on the other hand when schedule get thigh, deadlines approaching everyone works harder and sometimes longer to meet commonly agreed deadline.
As I mentioned before – it’s all about people you work with. When you choose wrong people, they will try to cheat system no matter of type – time or task oriented it is.
How shall I start?
I believe that the best starting point is to mirror your current rules. Your policy should be clear if employees are expected to be available online during a certain timeframe, or if they can operate on a flexible schedule that’s built around their personal life while they put in additional hours before or after the traditional 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. workday.
So if you used to work 9-5 then start with it. In a meantime you can test different approach. I.e. if you are accountant you can more lass define more task oriented deadlines. You want to have your customers docs done by 5th of the month 20:00 pm sharp . As long as you get all documents ready by deadline you shouldn’t care much whether employee finished that by 11:00 or 19:00.
If your business was anyway spread among different timezones probably won’t be even possible to have everyone online at the same time.
If you are working from home – make your working time official
If you want to be effective and do your work as fast as possible, you also have to set limitations on how you are spending working hours, particularly if yo’re working from home where distractions like family members, pets, working out, and household chores can present easy distractions. Make your family aware that although you are staying at home, you are still at work. And the more they will distract you the later you will finish your work and become available for them again.
Co-Founder @ MDBootstrap.com / Forbes 30 under 30 / EO'er
For years I've been working as an IT Consultant in countries like Netherlands, Belgium, Poland or India developing enterprise class systems for the biggest companies within domain.
Since 2016 I'm co-founder of MDBotstrap.com - world class UI Framework used by NASA, Amazon, Nike, Airbus, Samsung, Apple and many other Fortune 500 Companies.All author posts