How to Encourage Employees to Leave On Time and Why It Matters

Believe it or not, employees stay on the job an average of 8 hours and six minutes* longer than scheduled per week. That’s basically a full day’s extra work.

But unplanned overtime can cause issues ranging from burnout and strained morale to low productivity and excessive labor costs. If the extra workload keeps going unnoticed and unaddressed, businesses may even lose disgruntled staff.

That’s why it’s crucial to encourage employees to stick to their schedules and leave work on time regularly. Our article explores the benefits of this in more depth and some tips to stop team members from lingering after their shift finishes.

Why leaving work on time benefits employees

When employees keep regular working hours, the effects are far-reaching. Not only does it have a positive impact on their personal and professional lives, but it can also indirectly affect people they know.

Here are some of the main ways that teams can benefit from sticking to their scheduled hours:

  • Work-life balance: Leaving work on time gives staff enough time to relax, pursue their hobbies, and take care of personal errands. This leaves them feeling more refreshed and energized both in and outside of work.
  • Stronger relationships: Long hours can take a toll on friendships and family bonds. But if employees can dedicate enough time to their loved ones, they’ll strengthen their relationships and build a stronger support system.
  • Lower risk of burnout: When you limit overtime, staff are more likely to get adequate breaks between shifts and get enough rest. They’re also at less risk of building up residual fatigue and becoming exhausted.
  • Better morale: Employees who stick to their schedules are happier on average. Psychological studies show people are less likely to suffer from anxiety and depression when they don’t consistently work overtime. 
  • Improved time management skills: Some team members procrastinate on shift and stay behind to finish their tasks. If you have a strict policy about finishing on time, you’ll encourage them to do their work within the allotted hours. They can also transfer this newfound skill to other jobs and activities.

Why leaving work on time benefits your business

Keeping staff on schedule not only benefits them but also sets your business up for success. Here’s what you can expect if you stop employees from regularly working unplanned overtime:

  • Lower labor costs: Getting your team to leave on time prevents them from accidentally working over 40 hours and hitting overtime rates. That means you can minimize unnecessary labor costs and invest the money you save into other areas of the business.
  • More effective management: If staff work unscheduled hours, and don’t say anything, you’ll find it harder to assess your labor demand. You won’t see the telltale signs that you were understaffed like unfinished tasks or long queues. But if employees depart on time, and don’t handle the extra work, you can spot the signs of a busy shift and assign extra staff. 
  • Better compliance: US labor laws state that you must meet minimum wage requirements and pay different rates for overtime. If staff work longer and you don’t record it properly, you might accidentally violate one of these regulations. Having teams keep to their shifts helps you avoid this issue and hefty compliance fines.
  • More productivity: Longer hours don’t equal more work. People are more likely to perform their best when they get time to refresh and recharge. In fact, a recent study showed countries with the shortest working weeks often have the highest output.
  • Fewer sick days – Long-term studies show stress suppresses people’s immune systems and causes them to get sick more often. If employees don’t strain themselves by overworking, they’ll fall ill less often and attend more of their assigned shifts.

7 things you can do to motivate employees to leave work on time

Now we’ve clarified the advantages of leaving on time, let’s explore ways to encourage this. You can use a combination of the following strategies or all of them depending on your business needs.

1. Use dedicated time tracking software like Homebase

When employees rely on standard clocks, they can easily lose track of time or get confused about their hours. They might leave ten, fifteen, or even thirty minutes later than they should. But you can’t always be on the premises to remind them and, even when you are, you might also forget.

Time clock apps like Homebase keep staff updated about their hours for you. They display the shift times on the dashboard and send notifications when they’re about to start or end. 

As they track employee hours, they also warn you when people are approaching overtime. That means who needs to go home as soon as their shift ends to avoid higher rates and who can stay longer. 

For extra peace of mind, you can also set the software to automatically clock employees out when their shift ends. That way you can be sure you’re not recording unscheduled hours. If you occasionally need staff to stay later, you can always adjust the schedule easily via the app.

You may be concerned about your team’s reaction to new software but technology increases happiness at work, especially with Gen Z.

2. Make sure you have enough people on shift

Some employees feel forced to work longer because your business is understaffed. Perhaps there aren’t enough people to complete all the tasks and they stay behind to finish them. Or maybe they don’t want to leave their colleagues alone to deal with a high volume of customers.

But deciding how many team members you’ll need can be challenging when your business experiences unpredictable slumps and rushes.  

Using Homebase’s scheduling tools can help you forecast your staffing requirements more accurately. Our software analyzes your historic labor and sales data to see how many employees you typically use on different times and dates. Then you’ll be able to see that, say, Monday nights get busier in July and assign an extra person.

3. Create a work culture that encourages people to leave work on time

Your work culture plays an important role in shaping the behavior and habits of your employees. While you might be telling them to leave on time, the way you run your business might be sending them a different message.

For instance, if you frequently work later than scheduled, staff may follow your lead. They might want to impress you or believe that’s how you truly want them to act. That’s why you and any other managers have to lead by example by leaving when your shifts finish. 

Or, to give another example, you may praise team members for staying late. Others may listen and feel that’s what they need to do to impress you. To avoid glorifying overtime, it’s best practice to acknowledge employees for the results of their actions, not how many hours they worked. 

Lastly, you might message staff after their shift to ask work-related questions or give them instructions. This can create a sense that they still have obligations to you off the clock. You can limit communication once their shift finishes to reinforce the idea you don’t expect your team to work unscheduled hours.

4. Recognize and reward punctual employees

You can take your strategy a step further than simply not acknowledging extra time worked by incentivizing employees for sticking to their schedules.

This could be as simple as thanking team members for clocking out on time when you notice. Or if you notice staff consistently end shifts promptly, you can send them a ‘thank you’ message via your team chat.

You could also offer a bonus for staff who stick the most closely to their schedules within a given time frame. That way you could show your team what kind of behavior you value and encourage them to clock out on time.

5. Set clear expectations

Depending on your industry, there might be confusion about when shifts end. For example, bar staff often stick around to have a drink and get requests from patrons. And shop assistants may find they’re still dealing with a troublesome customer when it’s time to clock out.

Creating clear, detailed policies can help you avoid ambiguity. You can write them in your handbook for reference and hold a meeting to inform your team. 

Going back to the examples above, you could tell bar staff to immediately change out of their uniform if they want to stay on the premises. That way patrons won’t mistakenly order drinks from them. 

Or you could tell shop assistants you’ll pay them for ten minutes extra if they’re in the middle of a sale. If the sale drags on longer than that, you can leave detailed instructions for how to carefully hand over the customer to a colleague.

6. Ask for feedback from staff

Sometimes, individual employees may have problems that cause them to work later. The quickest way to find out and solve the issue is just to ask.

For example, cafe staff may stay behind because they want to socialize. But once they’ve finished, they often end up doing tasks instead of relaxing with a coffee. Perhaps they feel uncomfortable standing by while their colleagues are still working.

Or maybe an employee thinks they’re underperforming and wants to compensate by working harder. If they’re worried about having their hours reduced or getting laid off, they may want to prevent this.

Once you’ve asked, you have an opportunity to clarify your rules about working unscheduled hours and try to resolve the issue. You may be able to help by reassuring them or adjusting schedules and tasks.

7. Check availability before scheduling

Staff may work later if their hours don’t mesh well with other arrangements they’ve made. For example, students may find they’ve got an hour gap between their shift end and their next lecture. Instead of heading to class early, they may prefer to hang around your business and help.

The same applies to commuters. If their shift finishes at 3 pm, and the next bus is thirty minutes later, they may just keep working.

To avoid leaving team members in limbo, you can request their availability via an app like Homebase. Our scheduling feature lets users input the hours they can’t do. Then it notifies you about any updates so you can allocate shifts accordingly.

Encourage employees to call it a day without calling them

When employees keep working later than scheduled, it impacts them and your business. You can have issues like burnout, low morale, and even high turnover.  

But keeping track of hours and reminding staff personally can be time consuming. That’s especially so when you’re not on the premises and can’t see whether team members have left or not. You may have to take more time out of your schedule to call or text and confirm.

That’s why it’s best to encourage employees to leave on time and make it easy for them to do so. 

With Homebase, you can make team members more accountable for their own schedules. Our time clock keeps them updated about their hours and displays the current shift on the dashboard. The app also notifies them when they’re due to clock out so they won’t forget. 

That means you don’t have to keep monitoring your staff but you can still stop them from overworking.

FAQs about employees leaving work on time

Why is it important for employees to leave work on time?

It’s important for employees to leave work on time so they’ll get sufficient rest. That way they’ll be more likely to arrive for their next shift feeling motivated and engaged. Additionally, having a healthy work-life balance means staff are more likely to be productive, satisfied, and loyal to your business.

How can I make employees leave work on time?

You can make employees leave work on time by using a time clock like Homebase to automatically end their shifts. Our mobile app also sends users a notification so they don’t accidentally stay at work unpaid. 

Creating a work culture that prioritizes work-life balance can also encourage employees to finish promptly. You can model the behavior you’d like to see, reward and recognize punctual staff, and limit communication to working hours.

Is it okay for employees to leave work on time?

Yes, it’s okay for employees to leave work on time, and even recommended. If team members keep working later than scheduled, they’ll be more likely to go into overtime. Regularly paying these higher rates will cause your labor costs to increase and cut into your profits.

Remember: This is not legal advice. If you have questions about your particular situation, please consult a lawyer, CPA, or other appropriate professional advisor or agency.

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