8

I work in a complicated situation where I'm a sub-contractor to a contract for a customer with customers. This leads me to "TPS report" type situation where I am expected to log four unique timesheets with a handful of "activity reports" on top of that.

Whereas logging a simple timesheet is often so negligable of an activity that the conversation is not worth having, logging multiple timesheets like this actually ends up taking a significant amount of time. While I've looked around online for general expectations of how to log time, the meta aspect to the question has obscured my results.

My question is this: are there any generally accepted guidelines for whether logging time should be done on your own time or on the clock (whether legal or cultural)? Does the answer change when it comes to things like expense reports and reimbursement forms?

  • 1
    You should really take this up with your employer. I doubt the amount of time we are talking about will have a material effect on any of your clients, but inaccurate time charging can be a serious issue in areas like US federal (sub)contracting. You want to be completely in the clear following your company's guidance. – Pedro Feb 22 '17 at 2:14
  • I once worked at a company where "Timesheet" was an actual timesheet code. I rarely put more than 15 minutes into that code a week, but the fact that they had it.... – Robert Columbia Sep 16 '17 at 13:12
16

Are there any generally accepted guidelines for whether logging time should be done on your own time or on the clock (whether legal or cultural)?

Of course, details will depend on your jurisdiction, your work or employment contract and company rules - however, the general rule is:

  • Logging time, writing report etc. are a required part of your job, so are done on the clock.
  • However, if you mainly work for clients (as a freelancer or employed contractor), it is usually not billable time, because you are not doing useful work for the client.

In other words, these activities are part of the work overhead - activities that do not produce a useful final result by themselves, but are necessary to support the work.

If you are an employee, your employer bears that cost as part of the cost of doing business, hence it is done on the clock. If you are a contractor, your client typically does not pay it, then the overhead is borne by the contractor (or their employer) - this is one (of many) reasons why contractor rates are higher than the pay of an equivalent employee.


To address your specific situation: As a contractor, you usually cannot bill work overhead, as explained above. However, if a certain job has an unusually large work overhead, for example because of special reporting rules, you should try to negotiate payment (or some other accommodation) for that.

Ideally, do that as soon as the client asks for extra logging, reporting or similar. Something like:

Yes, I'll gladly log my time to four different projects based on the long list you gave me. I'll bill about 20 minutes per day for the overhead.

  • 4
    If you're logging based on the constrains of the client, then IMO it becomes billable because you are now doing work your client requested. If he gave you a basic request to log time and you just do whatever that meets the basic requirement then it becomes overhead. – Nelson Feb 22 '17 at 0:28
  • Good answer, if it's a substantial extra amount of time and you want the money, log it as administration time and itemise. But make sure the client is OK with that and aware that it will be charged. This really should be done the first time the situation comes up. – Kilisi Feb 22 '17 at 6:43
  • @Nelson: Yes, that's what I meant by "unusually large work overhead". It's ok to want to bill that, but you should negotiate that first - ideally immediately when the client asks for the extra logging/reporting. "Yes, I'll gladly log my time to four different projects based on the long list you gave me. However, I'll need to bill about 20 minutes per day for the overhead." – sleske Feb 22 '17 at 7:56
  • 1
    @Kilisi: Yes, you need to make it clear to the client you see their request as substantial and billable. I edited my answer. – sleske Feb 22 '17 at 7:58

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.