As business operations continue to become more digital, employees are increasingly working from home or other off-site locations. This flexibility may seem like a positive thing, but it actually presents a challenge for managers and business owners: how do you prevent employees from working off the clock?

While some organizations might turn a blind eye toward this kind of off-the-clock labor, doing so puts your business at serious risk.

Employees covered under the FLSA are entitled to compensation for any hours they “suffered or were permitted to work.” This means employers are required to pay for any time the company benefits from—and even tasks as minor as responding to an email can qualify as off-the-clock work.

At the end of the day, it’s against the law to have covered, nonexempt employees work off the clock without compensation.

How can companies stay compliant with FLSA guidelines? Here are a few strategies businesses can use to discourage employees from working off the clock.

Create (and enforce) an unauthorized overtime policy

Since it’s the company’s responsibility to keep employees from working off the clock, your management team should institute a company-wide unauthorized overtime policy with clear guidelines and requirements for getting overtime approval.

While this policy won’t indemnify you from paying for unapproved overtime, it will set clear guidelines for employees about what is and isn’t expected—as well as what the consequences will be for not following the policy.

Clearly set the tone during employee onboarding

When you take on new team members, it’s important to clearly lay out overtime rules, policies and requirements. Introducing these guidelines early on will prevent confusion in the long run and help keep employees on the same page with management. You can also organize employee training sessions that covers the material in more detail.

Some employees aren’t even aware that working off the clock can put the company at risk, so making that clear early on can avoid issues entirely.

Promote a positive work-life balance

Companies that promote positive work-life balances often benefit from improved employee productivity and on-the-clock performance. But establishing this type of culture will also help naturally discourage employees’ tendencies to work off the clock.

This starts with management setting reasonable expectations of its employees, but can extend as far as having flexible scheduling and vacation time, sponsoring out-of-the-office activities and more.

Need help staying compliant with FLSA guidelines? ExakTime’s powerful time tracking solution allows you to collect 100% accurate time and attendance data so that you can stay on top of the hours your employees work.