Multiple timesheets on employee productivity. The purpose of

Multiple
researchers have discussed reasons why people may not use their time at work
efficiently. C. Northcote Parkinson
demonstrated that the more time an individual has to complete some work, the
more time it takes them (Parkinson, 1957). Furthermore, Agency suggests
that when receiving a fixed amount of money, an employee will work as much so
they do not face any consequences but not more than that. More recent studies show
that even in a setting with fixed payment where participants will not face any
negative consequences for their leisure, participants still choose to work (Charness et al, 2014). This
shows that people are motivated by rewards that are not necessarily monetary.

 

Monitoring has proven to be a useful method to
motivate employees’ to behave in a way that is beneficial for the company. Companies
have implemented various monitoring mechanisms in attempt to guide their
employees to spend their time productively. One of those tools – the timesheet
– has been used for decades by professionals but has not received much
attention from the scholars. Some academics have researched the impact of
time-billing targets on employees’ job satisfaction, stress and depression (Bergin & Jimmieson,
2013). To the best of my knowledge, no research has been
conducted to determine the effects of timesheets on employee productivity.

 

The purpose of the timesheet is to present information
on how each employee has spent their work time. This tool can be especially
useful for service organizations which can also use it for time billing
purposes as well as performance measurement. It should be stressed that I will
consider the effects on productivity only of self-written time sheets. In
certain cases it is possible that a timesheet is prepared by a peer, a superior
or a device but those timesheets are outside the scope of this research.

 

The aim of this research is to investigate the effect
of timesheets on productivity depending on whether they are used for
performance measurement and/or time-billing. One of the main criticisms is that
timesheets do not provide accurate information (Haylock, 2004). While interviewing employees from one
British oil company which was using timesheets both for time-billing Brown
discovered that employees indeed do not strive to make their timesheets as
accurate as possible. Employees reported fewer hours than the actual hours they
worked because they had no interest in showing they had worked overtime and
because they believed this made the accounts look more fair (Brown, 2001).
Most individuals experience disutility from lying (Gneezy, 2005) but many people are willing to
distort information in order to avoid disapproval (Leventhal, 1976) or
if they believe their lie increases the benefits for somebody else (Erat & Gneezy, 2012). Hence, the
increase in productivity may be due to more time spent working rather than
working more efficiently.

 

In case the timesheets are used for performance
measurement, employees are likely to alter their behavior so as to please or
even impress their superiors. Previous researches have proved that people
experience disutility when they do not live up to others’ expectations (Charness & Dufwenberg, 2006) and they
behave competitively even in a setting in which they have no monetary incentive
to perform well (Charness et al,
2014). Furthermore,
we may expect employees will distort the
information presented in the timesheet in order to avoid disapproval from
superiors (Leventhal, 1976). All in all, I
hypothesize that individuals experience shame when they think they fail to meet
their superiors’ expectations or they feel they are not performing the best
they can. The reason for this may be either because the person is highly
ambitious or because they are aware of their incompetence. It is worth
noting that people often mistakenly asses their abilities greater than they are
and there is no perfect correlation between a person’s perceived ability and
their actual one (Kruger & Dunning, 1999). Hence, in
order to predict whether a person will manipulate their timesheet, we should
consider their perceived ability, rather than their actual ability. Moreover,
an employee may mistakenly believe that their poor performance is due to
external factors rather than due to lack of experience or effort (Harris & Schaubroeck, 1988). Even in
cases where very inexperienced and incompetent employees will not deflate their
reported hours and will report their real hours worked mistakenly believing
that their performance is adequate, timesheets can be a useful tool for
identifying deficiencies and providing training to the respective employees.

 

Companies may also charge their clients according to
the time dedicated to providing services to the respective client. In this
situation spending too much time dealing with a task will not only lead to
potential disapproval from the superiors but also have financial consequences
for the client. Most people care about the well-being of others and make their
decisions with considerations of increasing social well-fair (Charness & Rabin, 2002) often times motivated by “internalized personal norms rather than
the fear of reprisal” from superiors (Weber et al,
2004). Previous researchers have proven that people are willing to incur
cost in order to prevent potential unfairness (Maas
et al, 2012) because people feel guilty when they are the reason for the
injustice and most people are guilt averse (Charness
& Dufwenberg, 2006). The feeling of guilt can be mitigated by the
belief that charging the client for more time than necessary is profitable for
the company.

 

Timesheets may be perceived by employees as a form of
unnecessarily tight control which might entice a feeling of distrust (Litzky et al, 2006). Monitoring
has positive and negative effects on productivity which exist simultaneously. (Frey, 1993).
Which effect will prevail depends on how well employees understand and accept
the rules and policies of the organization (Merchant & van der Stede, 2017).
It can be expected that if timesheets are used solely for the purpose of
performance measurement, employees may feel distrusted and crowding out effect
will prevail – employees will work less efficiently. However, if the timesheets
are also used for time-billing, this may mitigate the distrust experienced by
employees and the disciplining effect is anticipated to prevail.