The time clock is coming.  First it was the annual time motion study, asking us to account for the hours we work in 15 minute increments for a week.  Now the payroll time clock is here.  Don’t get me wrong, time clocks work, when they’re used for their intended purposes at appropriate workplaces.  As I understand it, a time clock is a mechanical or electronic or computerized way of clocking a person in and out of work, for payroll purposes.  If you’re at work when you’re supposed to be, the clock can verify this, and you’ll get paid for the time you work.  If you slack off, or sleep in, or skip out, the time clock should also verify this, and pay you accordingly.  I get that it’s very useful when people have changing shifts, or variable hours worked each week, or overtime to be calculated.  You know, for people who work at an hourly rate.
 
It, however, is gratuitous and ridiculous at a job where the vast majority of us work 8:30am-4pm M-F.  That’s it.  We’re all here, we’re all on the clock at the same time.  None of us would need to clock out for lunch since we pretty much work while eating.  None of us works overtime or overnight.  And here’s the kicker — the vast majority of us are salaried. That’s right — our hourly rate is extrapolated from a yearly salary, and we bring home the exact same paycheck each two weeks, regardless of how late we stayed in a meeting, or how early we arrived to finish up some paperwork, or even if we got to leave a half hour early by the grace of bad weather. 
 
Maybe this is some attempt by our higher-ups to enforce a unified start time, to encourage us all to be here on-time, preferably before the kids arrive.  Some staff do show up a bit late.  And some do try to leave early on a regular basis.  Are we moving to time clocks because we have to stoop to the lowest denominator?  Will those who come late be docked pay according to what the time clock says? 
 
The official word is that the time clock, being modern and synched up with the money people, will help make payroll easier for the folks off-site who process our checks.  Until this impending change, we will still be filling out paper timecards.  The secretary at one of my sites said that when she came to work here 12 years ago, they were promising a move to electronic time cards, so as to make her job easier.  She’s still waiting.  It’s very silly to have an allegedly modern organization with computers and internet and fax machines and scanning copiers still using paper time cards.  Yet here we are, letting the interoffice mail pick up timecards from 8 different sites and schlepp them to the corporate office across town each 2 weeks. 
 
But is a timeclock really the answer?  Is this leap backward to the 1950s really the way to go?  I can’t even begin to get into all the ways this is not going to work, all my questions and concerns.  Least of all, we’re supposed to start this coming Monday, yet we’ve had no training on how to use the fool thing.  Just a crude clock sketch on the whiteboard by the office, and the note that we’re starting Monday. The word on the street (underground employee information network, from others at other sites who are a week ahead of us) is that the clocks will only allow us to clock in from 7 minutes before the scheduled start time (e.g., 8:30am) to 7 minutes after.  This has already led people to have to excuse themselves from meetings running overtime to go clock out in their 14 minute window of opportunity.  The major issue, beyond the nit-picky annoyance of having the machine own our paychecks, is the loss of the human factor.  Not just the trust (outlined in the employee manual) that we will be here as long as it takes to do our jobs (ah, overtime without pay, I know it well), but the wiggle room allowed by other humans because we are all human.  One day you stay 30 minutes late for a meeting, the next day you can “comp” 30 minutes and scoot out a little early.  One week you have a doctor’s appointment in the afternoon, so you make sure to get in a little early on that day.  I don’t think the timeclock knows how to do that. 
 
More than that, it doesn’t know how to clock in people who are itinerant.  Two and a half days out of every week, I’m in the “field”.  I start my day at Sally’s Childcare or Big Bertha’s Head Start.  I start my day at homes, churches, daycare, and pre-k classrooms in Our Fair City.  The vast majority of us who are itinerant do so.  We only come into the office at the end of the day, and even then, some of us see a child as the last thing we do.  On a given Friday, I might not be in the office at 8:30am or 4:00pm.  Okay, so maybe they give the itinerant folks a bye on using the time clocks, but what about people like me, who divide their time between places?  I may start at Daycare X, only to finish my day at a site with a time clock.  I may have 3 days in a week officially clocked in and out, but 2 more days lost to a system that doesn’t understand or reflect the way the workers, um, work. 
 
Nevermind the fact that we haven’t been trained how to use the machine; nevermind the fact that I’m one of those annoying goody-goodies who’s always here on time.  It still irks me on a fundamental level.  I know the kinks are going to take a long time to work out.  Meanwhile, we all get to feel like the work we do on the job is secondary to how we cross the threshhold to the workplace. 
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