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Quick reference

18F staff should only enter time in the following categories:

  • 18F Non-Billable Work - #968: Time spent working on non-project work for 18F.
  • 18F Business Ops - #1195: Time specifically spent working on 18F business development efforts.
  • 18F Hiring / Onboarding - #1241: Time specifically spent working on 18F hiring (such as preparing interview guides, reading resumes, interviews and debriefs) or onboarding (such as new employee onboarding classes, acting as an onboarding buddy, or completing paperwork related to new hires).
  • GSA-mandated Non-Billable Work - #969: Time spent on compulsory overhead: HRLinks, mandatory OLU trainings, IDPs, midyear & annual reviews, SF-182s, OGE-450s, seeking training approvals, tech support for GSA-required software, etc.
  • Out of Office - #670: Vacation time, federal holidays, or sick time
  • 18F Project work - project ID varies: The specific projects you’re working on.
  • 18F Engagement Management - project ID varies: This code is used for non-primary project team members for any support given to the project, including staffing the project, providing feedback to their staff regarding their project, conducting post-mortems, meeting to share information and lessons learned from other projects, etc.

  • Tock your usual 40 hours to the P&L (#955) generally unless you’re doing billable work for something in 18F.  More specific Tock instructions for Cloud team members can be found here.

Centers of Excellence

  • COE /Non-Billable Hours (Line #1145): Time spent working on non-project work for COE.

What is Tock, and why do we use it?

To facilitate our fee-for-service business model, 18F developed a timekeeping application called Tock that’s now used by many of the teams across TTS. You can access Tock by visiting, and we recommend bookmarking it for easy reference.

Based on our business model, we have to account for time logged to a project. Every expense — salaries, benefits, GSA overhead, MacBooks, all-hands events, and so on — is paid for by our billing, which is recorded by each person in Tock.

We track each and every project in Tock. When you’re assigned to a project, make sure to get clear instructions from your supervisor or project lead on which category to track your time in Tock — we want to make sure we bill the correct partner!

The weekly time reporting period lasts one week, beginning on Sunday and ending on Saturday. You must review and submit your timecard each week by the end of the day (close of business) on Friday. When submitting your timecard, choose the correct week for your entries from the list on the homepage, adjust your Tock entry to reflect what you worked that week, and then submit your timesheet.

Failing to submit your timecard on time prevents operations from running financial reports and creates a lot of work for other people. Please make sure you Tock before you end your workday on Friday. If Friday is a holiday, then you’ll be expected to complete your timecard by the first workday following.

Timecards for the current week should be available no later than Monday at 9AM PST.

Tock is a different tool than HR Links and is used for a different purpose:

  • Tock is an internal TTS tool that tracks our billable hours on projects; we often use that data to bill our agency partners.
  • HR Links is a GSA-level tool that records how much and what kind of leave (sick, annual, family) an employee takes during a given two-week pay period.

It can be confusing because out of office time IS tracked in Tock. But that’s only so we can understand that you weren’t billing to a project because you were out of the office. Leave can only be officially requested via HR Links.

Supervisors approve and submit HR Links timesheets every two weeks (during the week following the end of a pay period), and while out of office time in Tock should match what’s in the official record of HR Links, any emails you receive about timesheet errors are related to HR Links, not Tock. Forward those to your supervisor for assistance.

Creating Tock projects

Billable Tock projects can only be created by TTS Operations staff and only after an agreement has been signed. TTS Operations staff will create the project using the following information provided from the account manager responsible for the project:

  • A title, with the organization and client name as the leading part of the title.
  • A 2-3 sentence description of the project.
  • The name of the lead for the project.

Account managers can request the creation of a project in #tock.

Time tracking and billing

What activities do I record billable hours for?

You must bill for the below activities because these are direct costs. This means they are directly bringing value to the partner agency you are working for. We have a legal obligation to bill for them. They include:

  • Work that enables project delivery, such as:
    • Any activity that develops skills or knowledge necessary to perform work on an assigned project
      • Examples: guild meetings, guild work, working groups and communities, project related skill development like reading, studying, online searches, or fixing an issue on your project - basically if it applies to your project’s work you should bill it
    • 1:1 with supervisor/facilitator (both individual and supervisor/facilitator should bill to the project)
    • Critique groups
    • When coordinating staffing for projects with a signed IAA, bill to the project you’re staffing
  • Project delivery work, such as:
    • Discipline-specific work for a project, i.e. Engineering, Design, Product, or Strategy work
    • Project team meetings (stand-ups, grooming, planning, retro, and anything else!)
    • 1:1s with project team members
    • Client meetings
    • Travel to client meetings, as well as time spent arranging travel and getting reimbursement
    • Time reading Slack channels about the project
    • Time reading emails about a project
    • Time thinking/brainstorming about project work, even if not in front of your computer
    • Time talking about your project at team meetings, or publicly
    • Time writing about your project on the blog
    • Time onboarding to a project, which includes reading documentation and learning about the agency
    • Time offboarding from a project. This includes post-mortems, writing documentation, and organizing your working files so that other people could pick it up later and continue your work
    • Business development and IAA work (for continuing projects only)
    • Conferences, training and meetings that are in service of project work

You must not bill for the following activities because these are indirect costs and are not inherently valuable to any one single partner. As a result, we distribute the costs for these amongst all our partners via our hourly rate. Recording these as billable would mean we’re billing for them twice.

  • Out of office (Award leave, sick leave, PTO)
  • Conferences, trainings and meetings that are not in service of project work
  • OLU trainings that are not in service of project work
  • Internal organization meetings (Team Coffees, TTS Town Hall)
  • Business development for new projects (on non-live projects). Developing continuation work plan is okay to bill)
  • Hiring activities, including interviews, resume reviews, stand-ups
  • Performance reviews
  • New hire onboarding

Weekly Billable Hour Expectations

For 18F, if you’re an individual contributor or a lead, you’re expected to spend at least 90% of your time on billable project work. That leaves up to 10% of your time to be spent on non-billable work.

  • Directors and supervisors have different billability expectations.
  • Guilds are given 4 hours of non-billable time weekly to support its leaders. If your guild is lead by co-leads, it is up to you to decide how you’d like to split that time between yourselves. If you anticipate any change to your billing levels for a project, please discuss with your project’s account manager.

There are a few types of non-billable work, used to manage the running of the organization: GSA-mandated non-billable work, 18F business development, hiring and non-billable work.

GSA-mandated non-billable work includes time spent in HR Links, mandatory OLU trainings, IDPs, SF-182s, annual reviews, troubleshooting GSA-issued hardware (like PIV readers), and so forth. These are the things we don’t have a choice but to spend time on.

18F non-billable work includes time spent on hiring, in guilds and working groups (that are not in service of project work), team coffees, chapter meetings, approved internal projects, conference attendance, training events, and anything else that contributes to the running of TTS as an organization.

However, time within those activities spent discussing a billable project may also be billable. For example, if you’re in a 1:1 or guild meeting working through a difficult project issue, that’s billable.

Not sure whether work you’re doing is billable? If it’s not explicitly an indirect cost, it’s project work.

Effective July 6, 2020 for 18F:

So for most people in a given 40-hour week, the expectation is to bill at least 36 hours to project work. But what about holidays or leave time? Then you’ll need to spend 90% of the time you’re working that week on billable work. Here’s what that looks like if you’re out of the office for a few days:

Work week Billable time (minimum hours expected) Non-billable time (not to exceed)
5 days 36 hours (90% of 40 hours) 4 hours
4 days 29 hours (90% of 32 hours) 3 hours
3 days 21.5 hours (90% of 24 hours) 2.5 hours
2 days 14.5 hours (90% of 16 hours) 1.5 hours
1 days 7 hours (90% of 8 hours) 1 hours

Issues hitting your billable hour target

If you find you don’t have enough work to hit the minimum billable hour target expected of you, first double-check that you’re billing for all the activities listed above. Make sure to also check with your project lead that there aren’t other tasks you can take on.

If you still find that you don’t have enough work to bill to the hour expectation laid out above, we want to know about it! Help us get to the bottom of this with you (and prevent this from happening in the future) by reaching out. For 18F, please reach out to both your supervisor and the Account Manager on your project, and also copying the 18F Director of Projects outlining where things are at.

Working more than the minimum hours

Working more than 36 billable hours is just fine! 36 is the minimum. However, we can’t work more than 40 total hours without being compensated for that time. If you find yourself needing to work more than 40 hours, here are the steps to take:

  • Before you work those extra hours, talk to your Account Manager and supervisor to figure out if and how much over 40 you can work. The Account Manager will need to check and then adjust the project’s financial accounting.
  • Get your supervisor’s approval in writing
  • Request overtime in #tock. The Tock admin will adjust the Tock setting to allow for 40+ hours to be recorded
  • Work your week!
  • Log total hours in Tock
  • Log total hours in HR Links. This is where your comp time will be recorded and from where you’ll use it for future leave. In HR Links, you’ll also need to navigate to Request Absence/OT and make a Comp time earned request for the extra hours you worked.

No matter how many hours you work, it is crucial that you accurately report those hours in Tock and receive compensation for that time. Knowing the actual amount of time you work helps us better scope and estimate costs and rates.

Also, please don’t “save” hours or avoid billing for time you’ve actually worked. In addition to hurting our capacity to improve our project scoping assumptions, it is illegal not to bill for time actually spent working for partners. There are several mechanisms and processes in place to make sure projects don’t go over budget:

  • When creating new project budgets, we include enough funds to allow for full capacity for each person for the duration of the project.
  • We build in a risk reserve to each project to ensure we have extra hours for needs that arise during the project.
  • Account Managers closely monitor project burns on a weekly basis and communicate that to Project Leads and Product Managers.

In short, we need to know if our scoping is accurate. We’d rather be over budget and have our teams delivering value than be under budget and hiding how many hours it truly takes to deliver on our engagements.

Tocking for Out of Office Time

You cannot request paid time off in Tock (see the Leave page for guidance on requesting paid time off using HR Links). But you do need to record out of office time as part of your weekly Tock. Staff should Tock any out of office time (federal holidays, sick leave, annual leave, family leave, etc) to Tock line #670, Out of Office. This is so we can understand that you weren’t billing to a project for those hours because you were out of the office.

If you are going to be out of the office for an extended period of time, head to the #tock channel in slack before you leave and ask that the team submit your Tock hours for you during your out of office period. Example:

“I will be out of the office from Monday September 16th through Monday September 23rd: could you enter 40 hours for me to #670 for the 16th-20th time period?”


Why is my list of “Reporting Periods You Need to Fill Out” really long?

Tock likely doesn’t have your start date listed correctly. To fix this:

  1. Click on the Users link.
  2. Find and click on your name in the list of Tock users. (Your email address should be a clickable link.)
  3. Enter your Employment Start Date as the day you started at TTS.
  4. Click Update.
  5. Now that long list of reports to fill out should be gone.

How do I change a reporting period I already filled out?

Submit a Tock change request using this form. You can also ping us in #tock and we’ll help you out.