EU time tracking ruling: what it means for employees and employers

EU FlagThe Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) ruled last month that the member countries must establish detailed methods of tracking the hourly work of employees, so that they can be properly compensated for time worked.

The ruling stems from a lawsuit by the Federación de Servicios de Comisiones Obreras (CCOO), a Spanish trade union, against the Spanish subsidiary of Deutsche Bank. The main issues in question related to calculating overtime hours – 54% of which goes unrecorded in Spain – and protecting obligatory rest.  “Member States must require employers to set up an objective, reliable and accessible system enabling the duration of time worked each day by each worker to be measured,” the court said in its ruling.

The ECJ ruling is explicitly intended to protect the worker against potential workplace abuses. It is an effort to enforce the European Working Time Directive, which restricts employers from making employees work more than 48 hours a week, and grants people at least 11 consecutive hours of rest every day.

What the ECJ ruling means

The ECJ ruling extends to all companies operating in the EU. The ruling does not specify any guidelines for how employers should record work hours for their employees. In most cases, companies will need a clock-in/clock-out system that would allow them to monitor when employees start and end work, and when people have breaks. Employers will need to know employees’ exact work hours.

At first sight, this may seem cumbersome and backward. But given the technology available today, this could actually be a good idea, for both employers and employees. The “punch clock” has evolved, and businesses and employees don’t have to sacrifice contemporary technical flexibility for exact timekeeping. Modern time and attendance tracking software, often on the cloud, work on mobile phones. Clocking in and out is a matter of a tap on your smartphone screen or on a web page. So even if you are checking emails at home or taking a call from your boss, tracking that time isn’t really an inconvenience. Many of the software systems are priced such that small businesses can afford them. And most provide great analytical tools.

For employees

From an employee standpoint, there’s definitely a lot to be excited about.

Mobile and web time tracking
Mobile and web time tracking

Accurate time tracking provides irrefutable, objective proof against unlawful overtime. Time tracking thus becomes a tool towards building fairer, more accountable workplaces that help protect employee safety and health.

Moving beyond just clocking in and out, good time tracking can detail the time that employees spend on different tasks, when they take breaks and how long they last. It can help document off-site and off-hours work, as well as work-related travel, all of which are frequently overlooked. Basically, it gives employees full visibility into their work schedules – allowing them to address unhealthy workloads and the associated stress, anxiety and exhaustion that come with it.

For employers

Analyze employee time
Time Tracking reports

Companies can use time tracking to track employee working hours. It makes payroll much more accurate. Billing customers for work done is now much clearer and transparent and all hours worked can now be billed. The time tracking data collected is a great source of information on project budgets, project status, progress of works, employee productivity and many other aspects that are crucial for business success. For managers, it may make sense to combine data on the quantity and task breakdown of hours worked by employees with productivity information. It may turn out, for example, that a company would be better off with more workers keeping shorter hours than with an overworked team that’s less effective because of stress and exhaustion.

Conclusion

Time tracking doesn’t have to be tedious and cumbersome. With the right approach, you can make it an integral part of your business. Most makers of time tracking software tell customers that it’s vital to make it’s use mandatory to get people into the habit of tracking time, and that the data must be checked regularly to weed out abuses and negligence. If EU companies take the ECJ’s ruling seriously and apply it properly, it could do a world of good to their employees and their economies.

 

5 reasons to go green with mobile time tracking

Eliminating paper time sheets, physical time reports to your payroll agency / department, physical paychecks and paper pay stubs are huge steps towards a green organization. In fact, most studies reveal that employees prefer receiving their checks and payroll stubs electronically.

Done right, implementing an end-to-end green path from time tracking to payroll deposits is a win-win for everyone. Let’s start with just the time tracking side of the process.

The endless paper trail

The endless paper trail
The endless paper trail

Have you looked closely around your office lately? How much of that paper lying around is for paper time sheets and paper Paid Time Off (PTO) requests? Chances are that it’s quite a lot. And have you ever looked through some of those time cards and thought that it looked worse than your doctor’s squiggles? And have you had your payroll supervisor complain on payroll day that they don’t have all the paper time sheets back from employees? You could suggest using hours from memory, but you could end up over or under paying employees, which isn’t good for anyone. So what do you do?

Sustainable time tracking

If you are stuck in that frustrating cycle, then making the move to a mobile / web based time tracking system can eliminate many of those frustrations. Think about how much you spend on buying paper every year. And how much more on filing, finding and searching for relevant documents. This is where a huge amount of time, energy and paper (and therefore money) is wasted, while increasing the amount of garbage that your company generates.

Mobile and web time tracking
Mobile and web time tracking

A simple mobile time tracking system helps reduce the headaches and wasted effort involved with paper time sheets. Here are some terrific benefits that you get with a mobile / web time tracking system:

  • Save employees and businesses time and effort with 100% accurate online time sheets
  • Decrease payroll errors with always available timesheet data
  • Eliminate time and effort in the PTO request and approval process
  • Reduce cost of paper supplies and waste generated
  • Eliminate rounding errors, buddy punching and illegible time cards.

Increase payroll and invoicing efficiency

Most certainly, you have a payroll budget. So how can you reduce the errors that

Analyze employee time
Time Tracking reports

inevitably creep in? How can you make the process as smooth as possible. Accurate time and PTO tracking is a major factor in eliminating payroll errors. You want to make sure that your employees are paid accurately for the time that they’ve worked, But you also want to make sure that you are not paying for time that was not worked. A mobile time tracking system ensures that all employee time is tracked accurately at the time that it was done and that all time tracking data is automatically synchronized in the cloud. So your payroll team and managers have access to the data immediately, right within your office, regardless of where your employees may be working.

With all data in a single centralized repository, you can easily export simple time tracking reports to your payroll system, ensuring that there is no dropped data or errors in data entry. And you can make sure that every minute is accounted for and billed, because you have all the time tracking data for your employees in the same repository.

And all this with no paper anywhere. From your employees mobile phone / webpage to your central repository to your invoicing and payroll systems. All electronically! And because it’s all in the cloud, you are not increasing the carbon footprint within your premises.

Going green makes perfect sense!

Image by iblushay from Pixabay
Go green now!

Sometimes making sustainable changes in your company is difficult. But signing up for a mobile and web time tracking solution on the cloud is easy and effective. The Mobile Time tracker is designed to make life easier for small and medium businesses while accurately tracking employee hours, wherever they may be working. And helping the environment at the same time.

Save time, save money and save the earth! Now that’s an easy decision, isn’t it?

 

Did time tracking begin with Fred Flintstone?

If you are one of the millions of people across the world who need to track their time on timesheets, you know how tedious and monotonous it can be. Tracking every minute of your work day is not fun. So I’m sure this video of Fred Flintstone joyfully punching out with the red dinosaur will put a smile on your face.

Never fails to cheer me up 🙂

But timesheets are an essential part of business. Virtually every industry measures the cost of labor, in hours and minutes. And it’s timesheets that make this possible.

Code of Hammurabi
Code of Hammurabi at the Louvre

The Ancient Roots of Time Tracking

Tracing back the history of time tracking takes us to ancient Babylon and the Code of Hammurabi. Yep, him of the “eye for an eye” fame! This ancient treatise written in 1754 BC, set a typical worker’s daily wage at 6 grains of silver. Without adjusting for 3,772 years of inflation, that works out to about $ 0.25 per day.  It also mandated specific pay for specific types of work. While wages were set by the day at that time, it laid the foundation for the time-based labor practices that we follow to this day.

The Timesheet

Ben Franklin - an early time keeper
Ben Franklin – an early time keeper

So let’s fast forward to a more modern time – the 18th century. We begin to see more emphasis on effective time management as the workforce began to shift from being mostly independent work to an employer-employee business model. One of the key champions of time tracking was Benjamin Franklin. He kept the most meticulous and detailed time tracking records that could ever be. In fact, looking at what he could accomplish in one day, would make most of us feel worthless. He’s even credited with coining the term “time is money” to drive home his point.

Following Ben Franklin’s views about time and money, employers wanted to make sure that they only paid for time worked. While employees wanted to make sure that they were actually being paid for that time. Obviously there was a need for accurate and efficient time tracking methods. Pen-and-paper based time tracking records were the solution at the time. Though the system was error-prone, time consuming and relied heavily on employees maintaining truthful and accurate records, the practice continued for years and is still used in some businesses.

The Time Clock

The Bundy Clock
The Bundy Clock

Move on to the 19th century, and finally the world caught up with Fred Flintstone’s punch clock method of recording time.

As timekeeping technology developed, the daily wage was replaced by the hourly wage. In November 1888,  an Auburn, NY jeweler named Willard Bundy started producing a time tracking product by the name of The Workman’s Time Recorder. His brother Harlow started mass producing the clock and in 1890, they filed for a patent for the clock.

Several other inventors during that time period developed mechanical time recording devices to help businesses keep track of their employees’ hours. Over the next century, entire companies dedicated to time tracking solutions emerged, improving on the Bundy design. To this day, many manufacturing plants and business office employees use a time card and a black box system similar to Bundy’s Clock to record their attendance and payroll. But not all professions paid so much attention to the clock. Engineers, lawyers and architects still charged by the job and not by the hour.

The Billable Hour

A paper timesheet
A paper timesheet

During the 1950s, the efficiency experts who had squeezed extra production out of factories brought their skills to bear on the service professions. They created a new measure: the billable hour. Thus laying the foundation for your <insert profession here> charging you hundreds of dollars while you discuss last night’s game with him 🙂 Billable and non-billable hours became a significant part of project estimating and forecasts. Workers tracked their time on paper timesheets, creating a huge repository of information about how long different tasks would take.

Time Tracking in the Digital Age

As computers became more ubiquitous in the workplace, many companies started replacing the cumbersome paper time sheets with digital ones. Programs like Excel and eventually time tracking software revolutionized the way that businesses tracked their employees’s hours and time-off.

Rather than punching in and out, employees now swipe a card, enter an identification number or perhaps just click a button. All the data is then stored digitally for easy access at any point. Better yet, it’s now remarkably easy to discern patterns in and trends in the time sheet data through automatically generated reports and dashboards.

Mobile Time Tracking

Mobile Time Tracker Clock out
Mobile Time Tracker Clock out

Increasingly, supervisors and employees in the field are using mobile devices such as phones and tablets to capture the time spent on different projects and tasks. Automating these tasks, frees up employees to focus more on their work and less on writing down their time.  In addition to time, employees can also track notes, photos, expenses and other details all on their mobile devices. With mobile devices, employers can also choose to track GPS locations as well. And with all time now efficiently and easily tracked, businesses are pleasantly surprised by the addition to their bottom line when they move from paper time sheets to mobile time tracking.

5 reasons why being on time is important

Being on time

Do you think being on time is important? And if so, how important is it? Being a company that focuses on time tracking, our response is obviously biased 🙂 But ask just about anyone (regardless of whether s/he is on time) and chances are that the answer would be “Of course, it’s important”.

Importance of being punctual
Importance of being punctual

Being on time, matters. It communicates whether others can trust you and rely on you. It tells others how you view yourself and them and how important your relationship with them is to you. So professionally, can you afford not to be on time? Being consistently on-time or even early is a great way to make yourself stand out from the crowd and create a fantastic first impression.

Barring true emergencies, there’s really little excuse for not being on time. Being on time is completely within your control. You know most of the factors that control being on time. Taking ownership of them and making sure that you’re punctual shows that you value the other person’s time and relationship. King Louis XVIII of France said “Punctuality is the politeness of kings”. Let’s look at why being on time is important.

  1. Being late weakens your position: When you’re late, you start off on the wrong foot. You don’t want to start an important meeting with an apology. Not only will you be stressed and scattered, you may make the other person question their choice of working with you. If you can’t be trusted to be on time, what are the chances that you can be trusted with a customer’s money?
  2. When you’re not on time, you’re stealing: If time is money, then by being late, you’ve actually taken something of value from the other person. And that is definitely NOT a great way to start business negotiations or relationships. The other person feels that they’ve already given you something, so they’re not likely to make any other concessions.
  3. Being late sends a lot of bad vibes: Being late tells others a lot about you, your integrity and dependability, and your respect for others. It tells them that you value your own time more than theirs, and that you think that whatever you were doing was more important than what they could be doing with their time. It shows disrespect and disregard and tells the other person that you are disorganized. None of which are great starts to a relationship.
  4. There’s no good excuse: Other than a real emergency – and sleeping late or traffic don’t make the cut – being on time is 100% within your control. And it’s not difficult. It takes some planning and organization, but compared to most other challenges at work, being on time is simple.
  5. Being late wastes time and money: When you’re late, you’re not getting yourself a few “extra” minutes. You’re throwing away those minutes on things that could have been done correctly with just a little bit of planning. Being late means that you create a lot of extra work for yourself in rescheduling meetings, or follow-up meetings because you couldn’t complete your full agenda, Or you could slow down another project because of the time that you lost on this one. And that’s all in terms of time. Now think about the effect on money. Have you ever missed a flight because you were late? Does your kid’s daycare charge you by the minute when you pick up your kid late? Have you paid extra for parking because your meeting ran over? Being late can lead to costly mistakes.

So we encourage you to take pride in being a person who is always on time and prepared for your appointments. After all, there’s no downside in being early, but there’s a significant downside to showing up late.

So what are your tips for being on time? Do you think being on time is important? Please share your tips and thoughts with us.

 

 

 

5 workplace time wasters (and how to eliminate them)

Time wasters at workIf you think of your workplace as an obstacle course filled with distractions, you’re not alone. Between long meetings, emails, social platform notifications, alerts from your mobile phone and loud colleagues, most of us are inundated with potential time wasters. But the killer is not just the distraction, it’s how much time it takes to get your focus back on the task at hand. According to a UC Irvine study, it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to where you left off, after an interruption. Honestly, it’s a wonder work gets done at all!

But maximizing your productivity at work can mean the difference between leaving at a reasonable time or being endlessly chained to your desk. Work-life balance is important to maintain your sanity and actually have a life outside work. So let’s identify some of the biggest time wasters in the workplace and see how we can address them.

Time Waster # 1: Email

We’ve all become addicted to email. It’s a great way of asynchronous

Too much email
Too much email

communication. Chances are checking email is the first thing you do when you wake up and the last thing you do before you go to bed. But emails can also lead to lots of unnecessary back-and-forth communication that wastes time. And with trigger-happy Reply All co-workers, your Inbox is probably full all the time!

Solution:

  • If it’s something that needs to be discussed, talk face to face with the person and get the issue resolved.
  • If you can’t do face to face, then call them on the phone and get the issue sorted out.
  • Follow the call with a quick email detailing what you discussed.
  • If you are not the person to whom the email is addressed, set it aside for later.
  • Check emails at specific times during the day. Respond to urgent ones quickly. Set aside others and Reply All emails to be dealt with at a later time.

Hack: If you are not the person to whom the email is addressed (you have only been CC:d), then don’t feel obliged to respond. Use the same logic when you send out emails too.

Time Waster #2: Meetings

Meandering Meetings
Meandering Meetings

Meetings can be a huge time-sink. And if they are poorly planned and executed, then they are doubly so.  Doodle (an online scheduling service) just released results of it’s study of 19 million meetings in the US, UK and Germany. The cost of poorly organized meetings just in the US in 2019 is estimated at $ 399 billion.

Solution:

  • Make sure that every meeting host has a set agenda to be discussed and that it’s distributed to attendees before the meeting starts.
  • Talk to the meeting host and ask why you should attend. If you feel that someone else from your team would be able to contribute more to the task at hand, then get them to go and give you an update.
  • If you are hosting the meeting, make sure that everything is set up and visual aids are up and running before people walk into the meeting.

Hack: Set up all your meetings to be stand-ups. Schedule them for 20-30 minutes. Very little chance that they’ll go over. 🙂

Time Waster # 3: Smartphones and Social distractions

Smartphones enable us to be more connected and tuned in. But it also comes

Social distractions on your phone
Social distractions on your phone

with a built in productivity sink. US adults spent an average of 3 hours 35 minutes per day on mobile devices in 2018. Recent research shows that 58% of staff spend at least 4 hours per week on non-work websites. That’s a lot of your work time that’s going into unproductive stuff.

Solution: 

  • Turn off all Notifications on your phone during work hours. Believe me, you’ll get a lot more done.
  • If you can’t resist checking your social media accounts every 5 minutes, block them.
  • Give yourself a proper lunch-break. Use that time to check all your social media accounts and non-work websites, without feeling guilty about it.

Hack: Put your phone face down when you’re working. Stops all calls and notifications. Most smartphones let you set up some numbers (family) that will still ring, when your phone is face down. But all other distractions will stop.

Time Waster #4: Chatty coworkers and a noisy office

It’s hard not to talk to colleagues. After all you spend 40 hours (perhaps more)

Chatty coworkers
Chatty coworkers

with them every week. But chatting with colleagues is one of the biggest time wasters. And with open plan offices, even if you aren’t chatting, the noise of others chatting, laughter, phone ring-tones can all contribute to stop you from staying focused.

Solution:

  • See if you can move or work in an empty conference area / room when you need to do focused work.
  • Limit banter to lunch time or break time.
  • If possible, see if you can work remotely when you have important things to complete.

Hack: Wear headphones while you work. Signals to your coworkers that you are busy and they’ll only disturb you if it’s work-related and important. Also, several studies state that listening to calming sounds like flowing water or rain can help you focus.

Time Waster #5: Failed multi-tasking

You probably think that multi-tasking makes you more productive. But the reality

Failed multi-tasking
Failed multi-tasking

is very different. Studies have consistently proved that the majority of people have lower performance when trying to do multiple tasks. So if you find yourself juggling 3 or more tasks at a time, it’s time to reevaluate your work habits.

Solution:

  • Spend some time creating a daily task list that promotes single-tasking.
  • Prioritize and then break up your day accordingly.  If possible, assign a set time to do each task, based on importance.
  • Complete one task before moving on to the next.

Hack: Put specific tasks at specific times on your calendar (phone/desktop/paper). Make sure that you do the tasks at those times.

While each one of these time wasters probably doesn’t seem that serious, collectively they can be a huge drain on your productivity and work time. They can prevent you from focusing on real work, causing you to stay late or taking unfinished work home to your family. I hope this list helps you identify your personal time wasters. And gives you some pointers on how you can get more quality time with your family and on things that you really enjoy. Good luck! And do share your tricks to eliminate time wasters.

 

 

 

10 Inspirational Quotes About Time

Each of us has things that we are passionate about. For us, that “thing” is Time. That’s the reason why our software products are all about helping people track time. Whether in the for-profit or in the non-profit world, our goal has always been to help track their work and volunteer time easily and effectively.

And that’s why we decided to put together this list of the 10 most inspirational quotes about time.  Here’s our list. If you have found (or made up) interesting quotes about time, please do share them with us. We’d love to hear about them.

Let’s start with this classic one about “Today”.

Quote from Bill Keane

How appropriate is this quote from Steve Jobs about the limited amount of time we have.

Steve Jobs quote

For someone who spent so much time imprisoned for his political activities, Nelson Mandela’s capacity for doing good is unmatched.

Nelson Mandela quote

The great writer – Leo Tolstoy – evokes a powerful image.

Leo Tolstoy quote

And how could Sigmund Freud have predicted the Internet’s obsessive hangup with cat videos?

Sigmund Freud quote

Only a poet could have painted such an evocative picture of the value of time.

Rabindranath Tagore quote

The Philosophy of Andy Warhol has some profound quotes including this one about time.

Andy Warhol quote

Here’s a humorous one. This one’s often mis-attributed to Groucho Marx.

Andrew Oettinger quote

And from William Penn, this one about what most of us do with time.

William Penn quote

And we wind-up with this succinct and completely relatable quote from Ben Franklin.

Ben Franklin quote

Here’s a bonus one. I couldn’t let you go without one from my hero – Albert Einstein.

Albert Einstein quote

I hope these quotes will inspire you to spend your time wisely and perhaps have more fun, too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is time really moving faster? The story of time measurement

Talk to almost anybody and you’ll hear about how rushed their lives are and how they never seem to have time for anything. Talk to older people and they’ll tell you about how their growing up years were slower and gentler. So has time measurement changed? Are we measuring it differently now?

Think about life in an agricultural society. Nature set the pace there. Farmers woke up when the rooster crowed, ate their mid-day meal when the sun was right overhead, brought their animals home to the barn at dusk and went to bed, when night fell. A simpler time? Perhaps.

That worked when people lived and worked individually. Even when craftsmen and handloom workers worked individually or with a few apprentices, they had the luxury of doing things at their own pace, perhaps even taking a day off because they felt like it. But as work became more inter-connected and inter-dependent, that lifestyle began to change. And pretty dramatically at that.

The Industrial Revolution
Our modern value of time stems from the Industrial Revolution. It brought about a huge change in the perception of time. Time became more defined and standardized.

Factory Time

With the Industrial Revolution came factories. With factories came

The 8 hour work day
The 8 hour work day

machines. Machines were expensive to start and run. So the factory owners needed people to start and end work at specific times to maximize the use of their machines. And with that came the concept of factory clocks and loud sirens that aurally signaled to workers when they had to come in to work. Sirens or whistles would signal lunch times and break times. These break times were the only times that the machines would stop and fall silent. And gradually, all factory workers times and schedules got inextricably linked to the machine on-off times. Factory workers became slaves to time as demands for efficiency became greater.

As the Industrial Revolution progressed, banks and other commercial activities began to grow to provide services for the fast growing and expanding factories. While workers at these commercial activities were not ruled by whistles or sirens, they too had specific, defined work hours. Easier perhaps than those of the factory worker, leading up to the term “banker’s hours”.

Transportation time.

With roads and turnpikes and tracks for steam engines criss-crossing the country, the Industrial Revolution completely upended travel in England. And from a time perspective brought about big changes. Towns generally went by solar times and kept it’s own local time. Even in a country as small as England, these times could

Owen Blacker
1913 time zone map of the US

vary by over 30 minutes if the town were on opposite ends of England. Now transplant that same system to the United States and see how much more complicated things become in this vast country. The greater speed of locomotives made inconsistent times even more difficult to control. Scheduling trains and stage coaches was a nightmare. So uniform time became a big issue. As a result in England, a uniform railway time was adopted, based on the Greenwich Mean Time, leading to the division of the world into time zones.

Military time

The mania for timekeeping and efficiency spurred by the Industrial Revolution made pocket and wrist watches very popular. And with the growth of wrist watches, life became simpler for the military. It was easier to coordinate attacks across larger geographical stretches with officers having synchronized wrist watches. For the most part, officers were expected to purchase their own wrist watches, preferably with a luminous (radium coated) dial and an unbreakable crystal. By the end of the First World War, all officers and soldiers in the British Army had been issued wrist watches. The wrist watch made it simpler for soldiers to check the time, without having to take their hands off the gun to take out a pocket watch. After the war, men continued to wear their wrist watches, propelling them into the mainstream.

The number of minutes in an hour or the number of seconds in a minute has not changed over time. But the ruthless efficiency demanded by the Industrial Revolution, has regulated our lives and made more synchronized withe clock, rather than with the natural rhythms of nature.

 

For whom the clock chimes… with apologies to Hemingway

Every Sunday evening, I wind up an antique wall clock at home. Last evening, I

Pendulum wall clock
Pendulum wall clock

inserted the clock key into two winding points to wind the clock for the week, and painstakingly moved the minute hand around to set the correct time.  Then I made sure that the clock was correctly positioned. If not, the clock either runs too fast or too slow. As I did all these mundane tasks, I began to think of how quaint the whole process seemed in today’s fast-moving world, where things seem to change in a fraction of a second. And I began to think of how the process of time tracking began and changed over time.

So how did human beings first start tracking or measuring time? Ever since humans noticed the regular movement of the Sun, the moon and the stars, they observed the passage of time. Pre-historic people first recorded the phases of the moon 30,000 years ago, but the first minutes were accurately recorded a mere 400 years ago. Atomic clocks that allowed humankind to track the approach of the third millennium (the year 2001) by a billionth of a second are less than 50 years old.

Measuring time in ancient times

The earliest time measuring devices were made to divide the day or the night into different periods in order to regulate work or ritual, so the lengths of time periods varied greatly from place to place and from culture to culture.

An Egyptian obelisk
An Egyptian obelisk

Our sexagesimal  timekeeping was first started in ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt nearly 4,000 years ago, Around 3500 BC, the Egyptians used tall obelisks to track the shadows cast by the sun, which helped them separate their days into two halves. They kept improving their time keeping with the development of the sundials around 1500 BC. The ancient Greek, Roman and Chinese civilizations all used sundials extensively.

Oil lamps and candle clocks were used for telling time in China. They were used to mark the passage of time from one event to another, rather than to tell the exact time of day.

And then we have the very interesting Water clock. The Water clock or Clepsydra was

Water Clock or Clepsydra
Water Clock or Clepsydra

invented around 1600 BC. It relied on the flow of water from or into a container. A simple water clock measures time by measuring the regulated flow of water into or out of a vessel of some sort.  Water clocks existed in Egypt and Babylonia as early as 1600 BC and possibly significantly earlier in India and China. While the clepsydra was more reliable than oil lamps and candle clocks, the water flow still depended on the variation of pressure from the head of water in the container. The ancient Greeks and Romans used complex gears and escapement mechanisms to increase the accuracy of these water clocks.

Samrat Yantra, Jaipur India
The world’s largest sundial in Jaipur, India

Sundials or shadow clocks which measure the time of day by means of the shadow cast by the Sun onto a cylindrical stone, was widely used in ancient times. In a typical sundial, the Sun casts the shadow of a gnomon (a thin vertical rod or shaft) onto a horizontal surface marked with lines indicating the hours of the day. It can give a reasonably accurate reading of the local solar time. As the Sun moves across the sky, the edge of the shadow aligns with different hour markings. Sundials can therefore only be used during the daylight hours.

Mechanical clocks

Mechanical clock in Prague
Mechanical clock in Prague

And as we moved to the middle ages, mechanical clocks started being used. Mechanical clocks with continually repeated mechanical (“clockwork”) motion, began to be developed independently in China, the Middle East and Europe in the early Middle Ages.  They used a method of gradually and smoothly translating rotational energy into an oscillating motion that can be used to count time. They used a variety of toothed wheels, ratchets, gears and levers. Early mechanical clocks were housed in church towers or important government buildings. Early clocks did not have faces and just struck the hour for religious or administrative purposes. By the late 14th century, the convention of a rotating hour hand on a fixed dial became common. These clocks were still not very accurate and errors of 15 minutes to an hour per day were common.

Spring Clock
Spring Clock

Spring driven clocks began to appear in Europe in the 15th century and new innovations were developed in order to keep the clock movement running at a constant rate as the spring ran down. As accuracy increased (correct to within a minute a day), clocks began to appear with minute hands, mainly in Germany and France in the 16th century. By the time of the scientific revolution, clocks had become miniaturized enough for wealthy families in Europe to have a personal clock, or perhaps even a pocket watch.

In 1656, the Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens developed the pendulum clock, based on the earlier ideas of Galileo, who had discovered the isochronism, or constant period, of a pendulum’s motion in 1583. The pendulum clock used a swinging bob to regulate the clock motion and achieved an accuracy of within 10 seconds per day. with this level of accuracy, the seconds hand now became possible on clocks.

Mass production of clocks began in the United States in the late 18th century. In 1836, the Pitkin Brothers produced the first American-designed watch, and the first containing machine-made parts. New innovations and economies of scale with mass production, made the United States the leading clock-making country in the world. Competition reduced the price of a clock to $ 1 or less, making clocks affordable to a large number of families.

Modern clocks

An Electric clock, which winds the mainspring using an electric motor, was patented by Scottish clockmaker Alexander Bain in 1840. By the end of the 19th century, the invention of the dry cell battery made electric clocks a popular and mechanical clocks were now largely powered by batteries, removing the need for daily winding.

1915 wristwatch. Electa 250
1915 wristwatch. Electa 250

Meanwhile, the military hastened the development of the wristwatch. Most forms of communication were vulnerable to enemy interception. So the British military issued wristwatches to it’s officers in the late 19th century, so that they could coordinate activities and movements without having to communicate directly during battle. By the end of World War I, all British troops had been issued wristwatches specially designed to withstand the rigors of trench warfare. These troops returned to civilian life still wearing them, and they quickly became an indispensable time management tool for managers and workers. Wristwatches remained an indispensable part of daily life until the early part of the 20th century.

Apple Smartwatch
Apple Smartwatch

With the advent of cell phones in the late 20th century, many people replaced the wrist watch with their phones to tell time, as an alarm and as a timer. But in a remarkable switch around (and a validation of how quickly technology changes) wearable smartwatches are developing so quickly that they could replace smartphones. Smartwatches today, offer cellular connectivity and can function on their own. With a separate data plan, smartwatches can handle basic tasks – texting, emailing, workout tracking – without a phone in Bluetooth range. You can even make phone calls.

But with all the advances in technology, for me, the reassuring tick of my clock and the chimes as it strikes the hour and the half-hour signify a kinder, gentler time, when things moved an unhurried pace than ours. And I think of that immortal quote from the classic Christmas movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” – “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings”….

 

How the Gods and the Romans made your New Year

Our lives are run by Time, and time begins with the New Year, in our minds. For most us in the Northern Hemisphere (where roughly 88 percent of the world’s population lives), though, starting the new year on January 1st feels strange and counter-intuitive. It’s the dead of winter and most of nature is quite literally sleeping. The way that we humans devised systems to track time has been a complex affair, influenced by religious traditions, politics, astronomical events and seasonal changes. So with all of those and more at our disposal, why does our new year start on January 1st, which is no time for renewal and rejuvenation.

So why Jan 1?

Simply put, it’s all about politics. When the Romans used a lunar calendar, the year began in March, on the day that the new consuls took office for the year. But the lunar calendar frequently fell out of step with the seasons and had to be corrected. To make matters worse, the Roman pontifices (who were charged with overseeing the calendar), often added days to extend political terms or interfere with elections. And here you were thinking that only the Russians did that….

So in steps my favorite Roman dictator – Julius Caesar – who decided that the

Janus, the two-headed Roman god
Janus, the two-headed Roman god

Roman calendar desperately needed to be fixed. With the aid of Sosigenes, an Alexandrian astronomer, Julius decided to do away with the lunar calendar completely and follow the solar year, as did the Egyptians. The year was calculated to be 365 and ¼ days. Caesar added 67 days to 45 B.C., making 46 B.C. begin on January 1st, rather than in March.

Julius also decreed that every four years an additional day would be added to February, thus keeping his calendar from falling out of step. This started our current practice of the Leap year.

The Roman God of beginnings and endings

January had a festival for Janus, the Roman god of time, duality, gates or beginnings. Janus’ has a most interesting association with time. His two heads were said to allow him to see both the past and the future. He was said to have witnessed the beginning of time, and could see ahead to the end.The association between Janus and the calendar was cemented by the construction of 12 altars, one for each month of the year, in Janus’s temple in the Forum Holitorium.

From 153 B.C. onwards, the Roman consuls took office on the first day of January, offering prayers to Janus. The Romans distributed dates, figs and honey to their friends, hoping that the new year would turn out to be as sweet, as well as coins hoping that the year would be prosperous.

The Middle Ages.

By the middle ages, the celebration of January 1st as the beginning of the new year fell out of practice, even with die-hard followers of the Julian calendar. This was because Caesar and Sosigenes were a bit off in their calculation of the length of the solar year. The correct value of the year was 365.242199 days and not 365.25 days. That 11-minute a year error added 10 days by the mid-15th century. So in 1570, Pope Gregory XIII commissioned Jesuit astronomer Christopher Clavius to come up with a new calendar. In 1582, the new Gregorian calendar was implemented, omitting 10 days for that year. And establishing a new rule that only one of four centennial years should be a leap year, thus correcting for the additional days in the Julian calendar. Since then, the Gregorian calendar has become the most widely used calendar across the world and people celebrate January 1st as the precise arrival of the New Year.

Are there other New Year dates?

Yes, there are. Even though most cultures follow the Gregorian calendar for day-to-day functions, plenty of cultures have their own calendars. Religious calendars from the Muslim, Hindu and Jewish traditions specify the beginning of their new year at different times in the Gregorian calendar. For example:

  • Sep/Oct in the Judaic tradition. The Jewish new year festival of Rosh Hashanah comes between September and October.
  • Changes every year, in the Islamic tradition. The Islamic new year fluctuates, thanks to it’s lunar calendar.
  • Persians and many others mark the new year on the first day of spring, in a festival called Nowruz. Nowruz coincides with the vernal equinox, which falls between March 19 to 21st and comes when day and night are exactly equal in length.
  • March / April, for Hindus. There are two schools of thought in the Hindu Calendar. One is lunar and the other is solar. So for some Hindus, the month of
    Balance of sweetness and bitterness
    Balance of sweetness and bitterness

    Chaitra is the first month and for others the month of Vaishaka is the first month. The first day of the month of Chaitra or Vaishaka (spring) is known as Yugadi (yuga – year and adi – beginning). Both dates fall in March / April according to the Gregorian calendar. Growing up in India, I remember that unlike the Roman tradition of just sweets, the Hindu new year tradition of bevu-bella (neem and jaggery) signified the symbolic balance of bitter and sweet in the new year.

  • January or February, for the Chinese. The Chinese New Year is also a spring festival which is a lunar festival and generally falls in end January or early February.

While a lot of cultures have their New Year’s day on different dates, celebrating the Julian/Gregorian New Year’s Day on January 1st is now universal. And the Times Square ball drop on a chilly New York night is a much watched tradition world-wide.

As we help our customers track time. we’ll bring you more interesting tidbits about work, time, life, phone and the balance between them. Wish you a very joyous, peaceful and healthy 2019.

Until next time!

Moving to mobile time tracking: Are you prepared?

So you are transitioning from paper time sheets to a slick new mobile time tracking system with all the bells and whistles. You’re excited about the new technology and you know the ROI of automated time tracking. But after years of using a manual time tracking system, you’re definitely apprehensive about the move to a mobile time tracking system. And if you are anxious, then consider what your employees would be feeling.

The transition from paper to mobile, can often seem confusing and overwhelming at first. But regardless of your company size or goals, automating your time and attendance process, will simplify procedures, eliminate errors and provide savings, overall.

But like with anything new, the transition to an automated time and attendance system needs planning and preparation. So here are some tips to help you implement the new technology and get it running smoothly.

  • Get your team on board
Select project
Select project

First things first: it’s critical to make sure that you have the right people on board to support a big change like this. New processes only work, when there is buy-in at all levels. Make sure that you sit down with team leads and influencers and explain why mobile time tracking will benefit them and the business as a whole. Get a couple of the enthusiasts to be the champions for the software. That way, the rest of your team will have someone to turn to if they need help. You might even want to offer some short-term incentives to get people to adopt the new technology quickly.

  • Explain the goal of the time tracking

First, start by asking yourself why you want to set up the time sheets. Perhaps, you spend too much time on payroll and there are too many errors in the process. Maybe your clients need more accurate time records with your billing. Perhaps you need to balance your employee workloads better.

Whatever your reasons, communicate it to your employees. Do you want to make sure that everyone is carrying their own weight? Do you want to estimate project times better for their next projects? Explain it to your employees in terms of the personal benefits that they will gain from it. Smoother distribution of efforts, better time frames on projects, faster payroll with fewer errors.

  • Choose the right level of detail

If you start tracking time without the right level of precision, you may not benefit from the new system. But start tracking too many details, and you’ll end up overwhelming your employees. So the right level of detail for time tracking must be neither too vague nor too precise. So what does that mean, exactly? We recommend that you go in stages. Start your time tracking process at a “project” level, so that you can figure out the hours spent on a project, without over-burdening your employees.

Get your team used to the  software before heading into more detailed tracking. Later on, you may want to include what tasks/deliverables people worked on, so you can get a more detailed breakdown of your projects. But remember that the more you need to track, the harder it is for your employees. So maintain a trade-off between the detail that you want and the tedium for your employees.

  • Select the activities you’re going to track
Time worked by Employee
Time worked by Employee

Once you’ve selected the level of detail, decide on the projects and activities for which you want to track time. Then start adding in more operational activities like maintenance and support that may not necessarily be tied in to specific projects. Then think of adding in administrative tasks such as holidays, time-off and training.  If you don’t need that level of detail, simply create an activity or project called “Other” to which people can add time.

  • Set up a test run / pilot

Now, you need to make sure that you and your team get a better understanding of how to incorporate mobile time tracking into their day-to-day routine.

  • Make sure that your reference data such as Projects, Users, Tasks are all set up correctly.
  • Deploy the software in manageable chunks.If you have a very large number of employees, you may want to start with one team and then deploy it to others
  • Schedule a training session for your employees. Make sure that someone is available to answer any questions that they may have.

Depending on your employee mix (age, tech familiarity), the time to get comfortable with the new technology will vary. Give them time to ease into the new technology.

  • Run in parallel

After you and your team have tried out the new software and worked out the kinks, formalize the new time tracking process. Put in place whatever rules you want for the process.

Based on how the initial roll-out goes, you may want to run the new mobile time tracking in parallel with the old paper-based time sheets for a few weeks. That way you’ll have a backup as you and the team get up to speed with the new system.

But make sure that you give everyone a firm end date for the old system and ensure that you stick with the date.

The first step, of course, is to find a mobile time tracking system that works for you!