ASK Musings

No matter where you go, there you are.



October 2013



My Time Counts

Written by , Posted in Random

The only time I’ve ever really raised my voice at work was back when I was in NYC. I was employed by the City, but funded by a federal grant. We had switched time-keeping systems, and were asked to sign off on our time sheets each week. Because I was exempt (didn’t earn overtime), I was supposed to just report the same number of hours a day (seven, usually – we worked a 35-hour week), every day, regardless of how much I really worked. Which meant that if I spent 12 hours at my desk, my time sheet still said seven hours. And we had to sign off saying something to the effect of “I affirm that these are my true hours.” One day I pointed out that every time I signed that when I had worked more than seven hours in a day, or 35 hours in a week, I was lying. The raised voices came when I pointed this out to the person responsible for time keeping and she yelled “What’s the problem? JUST SIGN IT!” to which I responded something along the lines of “WHY IS EVERYONE OKAY WITH LYING?”

In my current position, I face the same thing. Once again I work for local government, and once again I am federally funded. Every week I have to certify online that the hours I have worked, as entered into the system, are accurate. Even, again, if I’ve worked a Saturday, I’m not allowed to enter those hours. If I come in late because of a doctor’s appointment, I’m just supposed to say I worked the full day. And every time I hit the submit button, I have to click that I certify that these are the hours that I truly worked. And this isn’t some sort of ‘shhh’ work around of the system – this is the official county policy.

I don’t get why this is. I understand that we need to track our hours, as we are grant funded, and the funders want to make sure the money is going where we say it is going. What I don’t understand is why no one is interested in finding out exactly how much time we all *really* work. There’s this ridiculous idea that government employees don’t work hard. There are clearly some people who work for government – as in EVERY organization – who are lazy, and who do the bare minimum. But I promise you, there were just as many people doing the bare minimum when I worked in the private sector. So I already cringe at this notion. But the fact there is a way to measure at least the time we put in – why, if we’re already required to track our hours, are we not allowed to track ALL of our hours? If it’s a flaw in the software system (we use a popular one that is made by the private sector, and used in many offices), I have to say build a better system. Build a system that recognizes how many hours we are to work each two-week pay period, and allow us to actually enter it all. It shouldn’t be hard, and it would allow me to not cringe every two weeks when I hit submit on the computer screen knowing that those 80 hours? Not the time I’m putting in. And it would allow us to see that maybe there’s more work to be done than hours to do it in, so we could make arguments for more positions, or changes in work load. Those hours could be classed as ‘unfunded,’ and we could show grantors that not only are they getting their money’s worth, they’re getting a lot more than that. And we could show the public at least one (admittedly small) measure of what we do.

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