The recent pandemic has significantly shifted the federal government’s long-standing position that employees and contractors work best when they work from their on-site offices, cubicles and conference rooms. The current administration’s post-pandemic workplace policy calls for “maximum telework flexibilities,” guidance that is even more urgent as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt operations and demand more workplace malleability.
At the same time, flexible work arrangements are proving to be a differentiator for federal contractors, which are competing for top talent from an increasingly constrained talent pool. As Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-Va.) told The Washington Post, “The cultural barriers to telework have essentially collapsed … the younger generation demands it.” Indeed, hybrid work arrangements are the preferred workplace arrangement for most Americans, reflecting a significant shift in office norms.
Often, this is great news for government agencies and federal contractors. According to one study, 94% of 800 surveyed employers reported, “productivity was the same as or higher than it was before the pandemic.”
Of course, optimizing hybrid teams isn’t without its challenges. Notably, federal contractors will need to update their time tracking and expense reporting to ensure holistic operational continuity in a hybrid environment. For government agencies and federal contractors managing hybrid teams in 2021 and beyond, here are three time tracking and expense management best practices to make the transition a success:
Digital adoption has soared since the pandemic’s onset as government agencies and federal contractors embrace a digital-first operational environment. According to an analysis of governmental digital adoption, nearly three-quarters indicated that the pandemic has “accelerated digital transformation.”
Already prominent before the pandemic, digital adoption is increasing the number of apps that government agencies and federal contractors must manage. For example, in 2019, The Wall Street Journal reported that nearly 10% of companies manage a digital ecosystem that exceeds 200 apps, a number that has almost certainly increased since then.
This can lead to app fatigue and burnout, ultimately eroding the productivity metrics that they were meant to enhance. When it comes to time tracking and expense management, government agencies and contractors should combine services into a single platform that reduces workflow management and enables new workplace efficiencies. In addition, when time tracking, time reporting and expense reporting are integrated into a single, cohesive data set, accounting, HR, IT and other departments can easily review and approve information, reducing strain on employees and managers alike.
Accommodate new employee expense categories
Federal contractors are unlikely to travel at the same rate they did before the pandemic, but business travel will not evaporate entirely. In fact, contractors will need to allocate funds for intermittent team gatherings and all-staff meetings, two employee expense categories that emerged alongside the shift to hybrid teams.
When managing employee travel expense reporting, federal contractors must follow per diem standards provided by the General Services Administration to ensure compliance and adequate compensation.
Meanwhile, government agencies and federal contractors will need to update their expense reporting standards to reflect hybrid work realities. For instance, many workers will require a stipend to establish their home offices and to procure requisite technologies that were once available on-site.
Therefore, now is the right time for agencies and contractors to develop policies and procedures for employee expense reporting. Collaborate with accountants and appropriate stakeholders to determine best practices for reimbursements, supplemental compensation and other applicable expense designations. Adopting hybrid work expense reporting tools and enacting situational policies will alleviate managers from making one-off spending decisions or approvals that undermine data collection, accountability and expense reporting workflows.
Don’t leave out leave management
After a pandemic year, employee burnout is ubiquitous, impacting workers at every level in every sector. While hybrid work can alleviate stress by introducing more employee flexibility and eliminating fruitless professional responsibilities, like long commutes or distracting office environments, it can also erode the distinction between personal and professional lives. With over one-third of employees neglecting to take a vacation in more than two years, integrating intuitive leave management into a time tracking and expense reporting solution is critical.
Federal contractors can prioritize leave management by crafting intentionally malleable vacation policies that meet the moment. Specifically, consider reinstating lapsed personal days, allowing employees to capitalize on this earned time. This can help restore employees and improve overall organizational effectiveness.
Of course, federal contractors need to continue to provide excellent products and services, so combining updating leave management policies with an automated leave management process can ensure optimal staffing at all times.
The present and future for government agencies and federal contractors involve managing hybrid teams, a complicated, multifaceted process that will require continuous innovation and improvement. This includes enhancing employee time tracking and expense reporting to accommodate these shifting priorities. As government agencies and federal contractors assess their year-end priorities, updating time tracking and expense reporting practices and applications can help make this transition more efficient and effective for everyone.
Chris Harley is vice president of sales for DATABASICS, an enterprise-grade time and expense management solutions provider for federal contractors.
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