'Where companies and HR departments get into trouble is when there's exceptions'
With the massive move to a hybrid workforce by many employers, there are several considerations for HR when it comes to scheduling, staffing and safety. Also important? Payroll in this disrupted environment.
It's going to get more and more complex, says Afifa Siddiqui, CEO of Canadian Payroll Services ̶─ but it doesn't have to be, as long as processes are fine-tuned.
“It's literally [about] just keeping it simple, but defining what it is that you're going to pay your people for what schedule and then sticking to it. Because I think where companies and HR departments get into trouble is when there's exceptions because, as humans, we believe in fairness and we like structure,” she says.
“Even the small companies, if they get on ‘Here's our payroll cycle, here's when we're going to expect your timesheets and your expenses’ and [they] stick to it, they have a better chance of getting through and then adopting with the hybrid approach.”
Process is key
With the hybrid and remote work, tracking is key, along with having a good system.
“Even if it's spreadsheet based… everybody should be using better tracking methods because it's actually a better way to work,” says Siddiqui.
“Every company that puts in place good processes for ‘Here's what the rules are; here's what you can expense, what you can’t expense; here's what's taxable, what’s not taxable.’ Once people are very clear, it actually is much more manageable than the way we used to do it.”
Virtual and work-from-home type operations are really going to define the new processes, says Vidur Krishan, regional vice president and solutions consultant at Ceridian.
“[It’s about] new processes of not just overtime but also around the general time collection; think of attendances, think of tardies ̶─ these things will define basically how the new world will look like when we think of someone working at home versus someone working in the office or someone working at a client site.”
Organizations are still adjusting to the changing world of hybrid workforce and right now the trend is more trust-based, where organizations are depending on employees to provide accurate data around overtime, for example. But this may change as organizations try to implement stringent processes to not just control their operational costs, but to have greater control over issues such as overtime, he says.
“As an example, we know that ability to record time off or when you actually really stayed away from your laptop, or when you really close your day, that is something which can be done by looking at your sign-off time from the laptop or from the desktop, and you can validate the working hours.”
Or with call center agents who work from home, employers can record their last answered call time and use that timestamp for the time calculation purposes.
But the bigger question really is how prepared your time collection system is to handle and automate this collection.
“That's where the world of payroll professionals and the time collection will change, where they will look at tools that can offer extensibility capabilities,” says Krishan, such as technology that can look at these timestamps and auto calculate the regular time, the overtime, the holiday pay, or the differentials for any premiums that need to be paid.
“And not just that, but also ensure that rules around attendance and tardies are being respected, because now we have an automated way of doing that. So that's how I really think all the things will evolve and things will change, as we move into the hybrid world more.”
It’s about intelligent systems that can present information that is not just data but insightful data that can drive action, he says.
“That's what the payroll professionals have to now look into when it comes to the changing world.”
Remote work considerations
Of course with the rise of working from home or remote work, staff may be working in another city, province or country ̶─ and that could mean different statutory holidays, for example, says Siddiqui.
“We have to prethink how we're going to [handle that, such as] allow people to take the holidays of their country… you have to adapt to where your workers live because those are the laws you have to comply with. So companies have to get educated… to actually understand… the requirements of their province.”
Certain payroll systems have multijurisdiction taxation capabilities based on different addresses, even if it’s for projects or travelling, says Krishan.
“It could happen that you have to go to Alberta to do a project for six months ̶─ it can even look at those addresses of clients, your work addresses, your home addresses, or… remote addresses where you were out of country, out of province, and bring in all that data for a tax calculation purpose.”
With the rise of remote options, many workers decided to move to cheaper locales to lower their expenses. But what does that mean for compensation levels? Many employers are basing it on the cost of living of where their workers are living, says Siddiqui.
“So that worker who, say, was working in Seattle now moves back to India, yes, they can expect to see a salary reduction ̶─ not necessarily because it's remote, but because it's the cost of living of where they are.”
It’s the right solution, she says.
“It's great to allow people to work [further afield] because you also then can get away from centralized urban populations, you can spread out a little bit more, and have people bring their jobs back to more rural communities.”
With employees more spread out in the hybrid model, the importance of having a backup is that much more important.
“Maybe the payroll professional is not in the office and something urgent popped up, or this payroll professional… because of some sickness or something, has to be away ̶─ someone else will have to step in. And that's where these big challenges come in ̶─ should there be an actual dedicated payroll professional? Or should we have a team of payroll professionals versus someone who's your backup,” says Krishan.
“When we look at the payroll professional, whether that backup needs to be a full team or a person is really subject to the tools and processes in place.”