Time and Attendance: 5 Key Considerations for Data Collection (Clocking and Access Control Devices)

Choosing the right time and attendance system is often a detailed and exhaustive process for many organisations, however, often the selection of the key means of data entry (clocking and access devices) receives much less attention and often the choice offered by any one vendor is limited. However, this is a critical aspect of the overall solution; without it the system cannot provide any of the benefits and ROI that it was procured to achieve.

Indeed, the main issue we find when consulting for companies is that the data collection devices do not meet the needs of the organisation. Often the issue isn’t that the device does not work, rather it doesn’t meet the specific needs of the organisation. The needs can be divided into 5 categories:

  1. High Trust vs Low Trust

Each organisation has its own “trust-level” which whilst not formalised has developed over time and in response to any abuses (perceived or actual) that the organisation has identified. Within Time and Attendance, these tend to centre on “Buddy Punching” where a colleague clocks in/out on behalf of an absent employee and “Time Theft” where overtime hours are “inflated” and lateness is under-reported or “deflated”. The type of device selected needs to address the trust-level requirements of the organisation.

High Trust Data CollectionLow Trust Data Collection
Self Service (e.g. via web)Biometric Devices (Finger/Hand/Palm/Face/Iris)
PINMobile Applications with Geotracking
Card 
Telephony 

2. Limited vs Extensive Functionality

When investing in data collection devices for Time & Attendance, there are two errors that can be made in selection: The first is “tunnel vision”  where significant sums are invested in “single purpose” devices when they could have improved productivity and communication through “multi-functional” devices that can capture more data and provide information and self-service functionality to staff. The opposite is also true where organisations over-reach in purchasing much more expensive devices that can do everything, but in reality, the requirements are limited. Each organisation is different and should consider whether the additional functionality will be beneficial to the organisation – some of the main areas to consider are listed below:

FunctionalityBenefit
Task/Productivity RecordingProductivity Improvements
Job TrackingRecharging and/or costing improvements
Access ControlRestrict access to sensitive physical locations
Self ServiceReduction in queries to HR/Payroll
Temperature ChecksInfection control.
Communicatione.g. vacant shifts, overtime requests
  

3. Hostile vs Neutral Environments

Another aspect of device selection relates to the physical environment where the devices will be located. The device may look great but if it is a factory with high dust/oil and rough treatment by staff then it will not last or worse will not function at all. Similarly, in food manufacturing environments where washdowns are common, an IP rated device is a must. A simplified guide of the types of devices for each environment is listed below:

Hostile EnvironmentsNeutral Environments
Ruggedized casing (Robust Environment)Finger
IP Rated (Washdowns/outside building)Face
Hand Readers (Dirty, Dusty, Oil)Card
Proximity Readers (contactless)Palm

4. Low vs High Hygiene

Hygiene has always been critical for many industries (e.g. Food Manufacturing) but is now being more widely considered due to the Coronavirus outbreak. Even before this, it is best practice – and cost effective – to consider infection control within any business (Each year Flu costs UK organisations £1.35 billion due to 7.6 million). Some devices are more prone to infection spread than others.

Low HygieneHigh Hygiene
FingerIris
Hand readerFace
CardPalm
 Prox
 *Temperature validation

5.  Local vs Remote

Companies also need to consider whether their staff are working remotely as this impacts on data collection choices. By remote this maybe working from home, at a client location, in a construction site or remote office that isn’t connected to the internet. Another consideration is whether the device will be connected to local software or cloud software.

LocalRemote
Lan based unitsTelecheck
Self ServiceMobile Application
Local PCsDevice with 3G enablement
 Device with “outbound” data transfer
 Mobile-battery backed units

Summary:

The right device is often the result of combining and prioritising the choices in response to each of the 5 areas detailed above. There are always trade-offs to be made during the selection process, but the wrong choice can seriously impact both the successful adoption of the solution and the value derived. It is also not a “one size fit” all approach. Within many organisations there are different cohorts (e.g. office staff, manufacturing staff, logistics) and environments, each with specific requirements that differ from other environments and cohorts, so a “mix and match” approach may well be appropriate in these situations. Again, with each solution, it is important to consider costs, benefits, GDPR and practicality in deciding on a specific device.

Challenges:
There is a huge range of devices on the market, with new ones appearing each month. Biometric devices alone encompass Fingerprint, Finger Vein, Face, Hand, Iris and Palm. There also over 100 different types of card formats available and often not all are supported by a single device manufacturer.

The challenge though is a) selecting the right device and b) the lack of choice offered by many time and attendance/workforce management providers.

The Solution:
A similar challenge was solved many years ago within the IT market with regard to Printers. Organisations wanted to be able to choose their printer independently of the software (e.g. Word processor) they used. Their requirements differed between departments; for instance, marketing would need a high-quality colour laser printer, finance might want a fast monotone laser and home workers could function perfectly well with an inkjet solution. They wanted to mix and match and avoid being “locked in” by the software provider.  The solution was a “printer driver” that provided middleware between the software and the hardware.

HFX have taken a similar approach with EveryOneCloud which provides middleware between any device and any software solution. It currently integrates with hundreds of devices (increasing each month) and enables organisations to mix and match their devices across their different environments and cohorts. It also means that customers are not locked into a specific software or hardware vendor and can change either one without impacting on the other. This smart approach enables organisations to be agile and adaptive.

The EveryOneCloud solution does not simply provide integration, but manages the devices, error management, secure template propagation as well as provides asset location and tracking. The solution can also enrich or transform data on demand to provide additional information in real-time.

Customers can also take advantage of the HFX Hardware Deployment and Support Service to both install and maintain the device estate through our UK wide engineering teams.

HFX Services:
Device Consultancy
Integration Services
EveryOneCloud Middleware
Hardware Deployment
Support and Maintenance Services

 

Are your Time & Attendance clocks a hygiene risk? Top 3 TOUCH FREE HFX clocking devices

If you currently have a finger, hand or swipe card reader then changing to touch free options will be your top priority now in order to ensure maximum hygiene in your organisation.

We can get you up and running with new TOUCH FREE readers in one day.

PALM READER
IRIS READER
FACIAL RECOGNITION

HFX has developed advanced integration capability to connect instantly to any modern device. This means we can easily integrate to your existing Time & Attendance system and devices at zero or minimal cost.

HFX has been a market leader in Time & Attendance, Flexitime and Rostering systems for nearly 50 years and has over 1,500 customers of all sizes spread over all sectors.

Our solution is 100% SaaS Cloud and has been designed for quick implementation to give immediate benefits and cost savings.

We offer several options for purchase, rental and financing of the clocking devices.

Please contact us on 03333 447872 sales@hfx.co.uk  or contact us through our website http://www.hfx.co.uk if you would like to find out more and receive an instant quote.

Top 5 Customer Requests during Coronatimes

Top 5  Customer Requests during Coronatimes

Here at HFX we are proud to have a strong engagement with our 1,500 customers and we receive regular requests for additional functionality to help them leverage even more benefit from our suite of Cloud solutions.  

During “Coronatimes” these customer requests have very much focused on a) helping the  organisation manage the workforce during lockdown and b) help them prepare for the return of staff whilst keeping colleagues safe.

We’ve collated the top 5 requests which we have already delivered to customers or are in an advanced stage of production:

  1. Touch free devices
    Managing hygiene and reducing physical “touch points” is a key focus for many of our customers. This remains the number one request and we responded by delivering contacless face recognition devices as an alternative to traditional hand or finger based devices. For those customers with card-based devices we have updated our HexOne device to make it fully touch free. So, whether customers require card or biometrics, we can provide both touch-free basis.

  2. Homeworker
    Those organisations who have had to rapidly manage remote working, wanted the ability for colleagues to not only record time, but also specify a configurable set of reasons and/or locations (e.g. whether they were “home working”, “Self Isolating”, “Recovering”, “Volunteering”) to enable the organisation to better serve and manage their workforce.

This along with time management is proving invaluable as we see work patterns vary radically especially those with children who are looking to either compress or extend their working week depending on individual circumstances.

3. Enforced Distancing Mode

With rules around social distancing being required even at work, the question posed by customers was how do we enforce this with employees queuing to clock in at the device?

The solution we came up with is an update to our HexOne device that enforces a countdown for x seconds after each employee has swiped. This removes any incentive for employees to tailgate their colleagues clocking in/out.

4. Temperature Testing

We suspect this requirement will rapidly climb to number 2 over the coming weeks. The question posed was “How can we identify any symptomatic colleagues at the earliest opportunity to mitigate risks of transmission”.

Our latest “touchless” time and attendance device incorporates temperature testing and alerting. Both the individual and manager are notified so that appropriate action can be taken (isolation, track and trace etc).

5. Track & Trace and Monitoring

At number 5 are actually two joint requests; one which enables organisations to identify any colleagues who might have come into contact with an affected colleague (e.g  at a clocking device) and secondly for those customers without our HexOne device (see number 3,) the ability to monitor that distancing is being adhered to by colleagues at non HexOne clocking devices.

What is most interesting about the list is the ingenuity and determination of our customers and business in general to overcome what might appear to be insurmountable challenges, the ability to embrace change and find innovative solutions to enable us all to get back to work.

Whilst we should not underestimate the challenges ahead, neither should we underestimate the tenacity and ingenuity of British business.  

Post Covid-19: Here’s Why Flexible Working is here to stay

Post Covid-19: Here’s Why Flexible Working is here to stay

With the UK lockdown and closure of schools, the government have in effect mandated not just working from home, but for many parents flexi-time; the ability to vary the times you perform your work. It is often said that necessity is the mother of invention, in this case it is the adoption of a system of work that has been in existence for over 4 decades but hitherto only adopted by forward looking organisations.

But with the government forcing a lockdown, organisations have been scrabbling to implement systems and processes to enable their staff to effectively work from home. Again, these enabling systems, whether video conferencing or workforce management tools, have been around for years and help manage remote and flexi-time colleagues but until now have not been top of the IT or HR agenda.

Covid-19 has done more to accelerate adoption in 3 weeks than all the HR and IT directors have achieved in the past decade. This is the force of change metered out by this now infamous viral foe.

The question of course, is when Covid-19 is finally defeated (potentially 12+ months away), whether everything will simply return to normal or even if it should. I suggest that when it comes to flexi-time and home working, it neither will nor should.

The rapid move to home-working and flexi-time due to Covid-19 has meant that most of us are now living and seeing the reality of home working.  Firstly, the IT systems required to support these workers have now – albeit through necessity – been put in place.  Secondly, the fears and myths about the effect on culture and productivity are starting to be dispelled and staff are rapidly learning their way around the “new” technology that supports working with remote teams.

The rapid investment in this new way of working, and its successes will give leaders a good reason to continue to leverage the investment they have made. Or to put it another way, why would you tear down what you have built up if it provides flexibility, business continuity, increased productivity and financial benefits?

These benefits are not just for the employer of course (cost savings on building, rent, rates) but also for the employees (train/car/travel costs) along with significant savings on time (traveling to/from the office).

There are more personal and psychological drivers too, in a world where our control over our own lives has been – albeit temporarily – suspended (holidays or even just going out), it is likely that everyone will want to be more in control of their lives once we emerge from this lockdown.

Of course, employers must set policies and deploy the workforce in order to meet their objectives and serve their customers, but within that there is scope to provide more flexibility to employees as to where and when they fulfil those objectives. The “But we’ve always done it this way” boiler plate response won’t wash when colleagues can point to what was achieved the “new way” during lockdown.

Finally, I suspect that with the positive impact home working has had on the climate and congestion, the government will also be keen to incentivise this new way of working.

Ultimately, leaders need to consider the lockdown as an opportunity to embrace the new world of work and take advantage of the benefits it can bring to their organisation long after coronavirus is defeated. Many businesses will be challenged for some time to come and they need every advantage they can to thrive and prosper as the world emerges not just from a health crisis, but also an economic one.

HFX Cloud suite includes Imperago™ Time and Attendance, Rostering, Home Worker, Flexitime, Access Control, Workforce Design, Annualised Hours, Attendance Monitoring/Location Management, Visitor Registration.

About HFX

HFX Imperago solutions provide seamless integration with major HR and payroll systems. Highly customisable, HFX Imperago solutions can be configured to meet exact requirements and can support unlimited numbers of work patterns.

HFX has been the leading provider of Time & Attendance and Flexitime solutions in the UK for over 45 years and has over 1400 customers across the Commercial and Public Sector.

Business after Lockdown: Where do we go from here?

BUSINESS AFTER LOCKDOWN: Where do we go from here?

With a third of the world now in some form of government lockdown, many organisations are starting to plan for “Business after Lockdown”.

Key to business planning is understanding the timeline and triggers for an end to lock down and the recovery of both social and economic activity. Whilst clearly the government is exploring a range of options, they are less forthcoming about what they are and when they might be in place. The absence of clarity creates issues for businesses trying to navigate their way out of crisis whilst avoiding bankruptcy.

Viral Pandemic: a crisis without precedent in the modern world

The reality is that we have never had such a large-scale viral pandemic and there is no precedent on how to act. At this point, no-one can predict or guarantee how and when we in the UK will emerge from this crisis, but it is important for CEO’s and business leaders to develop multiple plans based on different scenarios that can be activated immediately as the picture becomes clearer. Planning is more important now than ever before. Many businesses have effectively been put on “life support” through the UK Governments “furloughing” scheme. Once the Government withdraws the scheme, businesses need to be ready to implement their “recovery” plans rapidly or run the risk of bankruptcy.

So far only one country has emerged from a lockdown, Wuhan in china just announced that after 11 weeks the lockdown is coming to an end. Analysts have stated that within the UK the infection rate (“R nought”) is about 2.6 pre-lockdown and will potentially go down to .62 if people comply with the rules. If R0 goes below 1 then the disease will eventually die out (assuming borders are controlled) but this would likely require the lockdown to continue for 12 weeks (in line with China).

UK Lockdown: one…two…three months

Whilst the UK government won’t speculate, the 12 weeks/3-month period seems to be a recurring theme with those who are at most risk told that they will have to remain inside for 12 weeks and the government furloughing scheme initially fixed for 3 months. Other European countries have either extended their lockdown or will be slightly relaxed the rules (though most of these countries have often had tougher restrictions than the UK).

The risk of course is that if you end the lockdown too soon, you end up where you started; exponential increases in spread, a collapsing healthcare system and a huge body count. However, this must be balanced against social unrest, non-compliance and huge economic damage. Many governments are between a rock and hard place and are placing their hope on science to find a way forward.

Whilst this weekend the UK is likely to see some positive impact from the 3 weeks spent on lockdown, it is very unlikely the government will bring the lockdown to an end and Churchill’s words Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” are perhaps as relevant today as they were in 1942;

There are possible solutions, but many aren’t ready, and all come with many unknown variables;

  1. Vaccine – This is unlikely to be ready for 12+ months

  2. Anti-virals – Leveraging existing antivirals that could significantly reduce mortality rates and turn a deadly disease into something more akin to the flu. Whilst trials are already in progress, it is likely that it will be month or more before we know if any prove to be effective.

  3. Antigen tests: Tests that confirm if you have Covid-19 would enable the government to perform community testing and to target lockdowns on specific geographical areas. However, we will not get to 100,000 tests a day until the end of April. If new tests could be available that were “instant” (it takes at least 24 hours currently) and self-administered then restaurants/airports could open to customers who test negative at point of entry, but again this technology is not available yet.

  4. Antibody tests: These test if a person has had Covid-19. The government is actively exploring this option as it would potentially mean that those who test positive could be provided with a certificate and again able to work/visit restaurants and other establishments. However, so far, these tests are too unreliable to be distributed and we don’t yet know the degree of immunity – and how long it last for – in patients who have had Coronavirus.

All the above options have merit and potential but unfortunately uncertainty and – as of now – lack availability. Until these become real the government has limited options; a) Tweaking the lockdown in combination with additional measures (face masks mandated, 2 metre distancing in the workplace, mandatory alcohol gel stations), b) Progressive Herd Immunity (relaxing and then tightening lockdown restrictions to ensure that the NHS is not overloaded) or c) maintain the lockdown until the infection rate falls to such a low level that it can revert to its “track and trace” containment strategy.  

Survival after ‘Life Support’

Whilst there is significant uncertainty on how or when we will emerge, the above demonstrates that many businesses are likely to remain on “life support” for perhaps 3 months or more. But the critical business planning is what happens after lockdown. Many businesses are only surviving due to the governments furloughing scheme, but what happens when the government withdraw the scheme?

Suddenly the cash-flow issues that were “just under control” during lockdown will re-emerge again. For those businesses without a plan, they will be firefighting and without the cash to buy time to come up with an effective plan. Hence the essential need to plan for recovery and plan NOW.

For many businesses the headache will come with remobilisation of staff and the associated costs.
Every business is different, but key considerations are;

  1. Training – if colleagues have been furloughed for 3 months, what refresher training will they require?
  2. Depending how the recovery is achieved, there are likely to be changes made to the workplace (distancing), facilities (High Hygiene), and processes such as Certification checks (If Antigen tests used) and/or onsite testing.
  3. Staffing and Scheduling. There may be a need for redundancies, part time working, phased return or annualised hours depending on the specifics of the business. This is not a simple task and requires effective planning and scheduling. Reducing the headcount or hours requires effective re-rostering to ensure the business can still serve its customers. Annualised Hours is another popular solution. It does not reduce the salary of the employee but enables the employer to vary the hours worked over the year. This enables the employer to ramp up/down the hours as the recovery takes hold.
  4. There are many tools and technologies available which could be deployed to address these issues and enable rapid mobilisation.

HFX is a market leader in Cloud workforce management solutions with a wide range of modules including:  Time & Attendance, Flexitime, Annualised Hours, Home Worker, Access Control, Visitors’ Registration, Workforce Optimisation.

Visit our website www.hfx.co.uk or call us on 0333 447872 for more information

HFX wins £500k 7 year Public Sector contract

HFX wins £500k 7 year contract with a large public sector organisation. 

The HFX solution will provide a full Cloud Flexitime system to 3,500 staff working in 13 different council buildings and includes a complete security upgrade for the Council with fully integrated HFX Cloud Access control.

Nick Whiteley HFX CEO says: ‘This is an important win for HFX especially in these complicated times. We have seen a surge of interest over the last few weeks from companies looking for solutions to help them manage a way of working more flexibly in terms of location and working hours.  

This is going to be the strongest trend going forward as we come out of the Coronavirus crisis and HFX are proud to be prepared for this demand with extensive functionality within their Flexitime and Home Working modules.’

Alex Boa Sales Director commented that ‘we have seen through the outbreak of Coronavirus that moving towards a pure Cloud solution is no longer optional but essential for organisations that want to provide resilient services to all their offices and staff including those that work remotely and from home. HFX was recognised as having the most complete cloud solution on the market, with rapid implementation and exceptional support services.’

This latest win brings the number of local authorities within the UK to 400 and defines HFX as a market leader within this sector.  Indeed, HFX were the pioneers of Flexiworking and brought the first Flexitime software to the UK in the 1970s.

Nicola Smart COO states: ‘It is this track record and innovation which will propel us forward in the New World of Work post Coronavirus and we are looking forward to helping more companies manage their flexible workforces.’

Why Coronatimes are accelerating Cloud Adoption

Why “Coronatimes” are accelerating Cloud Adoption

We have already seen a steady adoption and migration to Cloud Solutions for the last 5 years as organisations seek to become more agile and less reliant on their own IT infrastructure. However, the radical change in working brought on by the COVID-19 outbreak has accelerated the adoption of Cloud solutions as organisations rush to adapt to a New World of Work.

Even before the outbreak, there were many benefits of Cloud based solutions which are worth exploring in detail;

WHY CLOUD?

Cloud based solutions are typically quicker to implement as they require no software to be installed, reliance upon internal IT or procurement of additional servers. Typically, this means that an organisation will achieve a faster ROI (Return On Investment) whilst reducing the cost of ownership. Further still SaaS Cloud solutions are an operating cost (rather than CAPEX which is the case with on-premise solutions), enabling organisations to conserve their cash and align the costs to the benefits obtained. SaaS Cloud solutions often ‘payback as they go’ out of the benefits they derive meaning the monthly cost is actually zero as a net effect to the company.

Cloud solutions are easier to support as suppliers can resolve queries quicker without the need to attend site. With automatic updates, the organisation also benefits from the latest security and feature updates ensuring the solution is always secure and feature full.

Most suppliers offer “Up-time” levels (the time that solution is available for users) that far surpasses that which could be provided by internal support. This is because they leverage £100m hosting facilities with highly redundant systems and failover which ensures the solution is running 247. This reduces – and almost eliminates – downtime that hitherto could impact on staff productivity.

However, perhaps one of the biggest benefits of Cloud solutions is the agility that they provide their host organisations and staff. Because the solution is provided via the cloud and not on installed at your office, it provides flexibility for organisations to move or bring online additional offices without the additional headache of IT. It also enables staff who are working from home/remotely with the ability to access the solution anywhere levelling-up the access to essential tools wherever staff are based.

SUPPORTING THE TRANSITION TO HOME WORKING

All these are compelling arguments in the best of times, but during “Coronatimes” moving to the cloud is not simply beneficial but now essential. Those organisations that invested in Cloud solutions have found the imposed “home working” to be relatively seamless with staff able to access the same applications from home as they would at work. Contrast this with organisations who retain legacy systems and are frantically trying to find “work-arounds” or simply making do without the key systems that hitherto were fundamental to employee productivity in the workplace.

However, this approach is short-sighted. It assumes that within a few weeks, maybe a few months things will return to normal. This is flawed on two counts, firstly some form of lock-down and home-working is likely to be mandated for perhaps up to 6 months according to the Deputy Chief Medical Officer. But more importantly it assumes that everything will eventually return to normal.

PREPARING FOR LIFE AFTER CORONAVIRUS

The onset of Coronavirus is not just an “unprecedented” event but one that will define society and the world of work long after its health and economic impacts have receded. Whilst BC (Before Coronavirus) and AC (After Coronavirus) have just started to enter our lexicon, we can expect these terms will be used to describe the many changes that are being made due to Coronavirus and will continue to persist particularly in how we conduct business and work together.

Before Coronavirus I was not a fan of home-working, but our cloud-based solutions have made the transition seamless and the fears that this would impact communications, culture and management have so far proved groundless. In fact, communication and productivity has actually improved and our cloud solutions have brought people closer together. We use our own cloud-based Time and Attendance tools so that colleagues can log their time and share their availability, and this has not just resulted in home working but also flexible working.

As the many of us move to Home and Flexible working and discover that with the right cloud-based tools this not only brings benefits to colleagues but also to the organisation we can expect that for many it will continue long after Coronavirus.

So, organisations, should not be looking for short-term fixes or work-a-rounds but actively preparing for the New World of Work, by investing solutions that are cloud based and accessible and, enhancing their support for remote/home working by implementing Scheduling and Time & Attendance to ensure that management, communication is not only maintained but enhanced and improved.

To find out more about HFX and our solutions please call 03333 44 7872, email sales@hfx.co.uk or visit http://www.hfx.co.uk