Jim Pirraglia
Jim Pirraglia

Despite an ongoing evolution of employee time-tracking solutions, many long-term care organizations still rely on antiquated time clocks that do little more than record a worker’s comings and goings.

Consider what you’d miss out on if you only used your mobile phone to make and take calls. Like smartphones, new time clocks far exceed their original function.

Next-generation time clocks can transform an organization’s employee management practices and advance key goals in several ways:

1. Safeguarding residents and employees from viruses

Every day, skilled nursing and assisted living employees care for society’s most vulnerable citizens. Unfortunately, history demonstrates how susceptible staff and residents are to healthcare crises. Most recently, the highly contagious 2019 coronavirus wreaked havoc in thousands of senior care facilities, compromising staff and resident well-being despite operators’ best efforts. The pandemic demonstrated just how rapidly germs can spread, sending facilities into lockdown and institutionalizing rigorous infection-control procedures and employee health checks.

With the right technology, facilities can limit the spread of contagious disease without deploying costly manual efforts, like scrubbing high-touch time clocks every time someone punches in or out or hiring additional staff to take temperatures of incoming employees.

Contactless time clocks and technologies enable workers to punch in or out of work using a QR code, limiting the risk of disease transmission through contaminated surfaces. This method can be six times faster than traditional time clocks, reducing long employee lines when shifts change and making it easier to social distance.

Additionally, thermal-sensing time-tracking features automatically take employees’ temperatures while they stand in front of the time clock, even if they’re wearing a face mask. Seamlessly integrated with a workforce management software system, automatic temperature screening enables operators to quickly identify and flag at-risk employees before they interact with other employees or residents.

2. Automatically enforcing attendance policies  

Minor attendance violations can add up to major expenses over time. 

When part of a fully-integrated workforce management system, time clocks can automatically compare a new punch against the employee’s schedule and restrict early, late and unscheduled punches. Employees who arrive early must wait to punch in, while those who are not scheduled to work must obtain approval before they can punch in. Additionally, workers can no longer cover for tardy or absent co-workers by entering their colleague’s badge ID and access code. Advanced time-tracking systems can automatically confirm a worker’s identity during the punch process though biometric recognition capabilities. Paired with an integrated QR code, a time-sensitive window prohibits employees from entering their information early or for a colleague. 

3. Boosting employee engagement

Interactive, intelligent time clocks show employees their needs matter before they enter the workplace, by providing the flexibility they need to get their workday off to the best start. Of course, touchless access helps ward off germs and demonstrate facilities’ commitment to their health. Meanwhile, mobile apps grant anytime-anywhere access to scheduling and other key data. 

Balancing work and life responsibilities represents one of the biggest challenges all workers face, especially healthcare staff. They routinely work rotating, double and split shifts, with many long-term care employees also juggling shifts at different facilities.

Integrated mobile workforce management systems and time clocks give employees access to schedules as soon as they are created. Employees can view up-to-date schedules, swap shifts with co-workers and submit or view requests wherever they are. 

Consolidating workforce tools on one platform helps employees focus on the important work ahead of them, rather than jumping through hoops just to get started.

4. Promoting full staffing

Creating schedules that support PPD census values is critical to ensure proper staffing. But when resident populations and needs change, you must adapt quickly. Software that’s purpose-built for post-acute and long-term care facilities can automatically populate schedules that support Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services policies and notify administrators of potential violations.

When it integrates scheduling and time tracking on one platform, the system can match live attendance data with worker schedules to expose gaps in real time. Administrators can use at-a-glance views of staffing for multiple facilities to identify gaps. The workforce management system then can display who is qualified and available to take the open shifts, as well as who can work without incurring overtime.

The right workforce management system and time-tracking capabilities can benefit your entire organization. Be mindful when surveying your options and make sure to pick a solution that helps you to protect your employees and residents, meet compliance requirements and encourage employee engagement, all while reducing costs.

Jim Pirraglia is vice president of product and strategy for SmartLinx.