Time-tracking at work: Pros, Cons and How to Make It Work

Tracking time is one of the most divisive topics in workplaces. From daily clock-ins to monthly work sprints, making the most out of company time is a challenge for both managers and employees. In this article you will learn the pros and cons of time tracking, and how you can use it for your business benefit without turning it into an annoyance.

Why is time-tracking so hard for everyone?

For starters, time tracking is not the best metric for work performance. This is due to the fact that most tracking tools rely on an hour-based system, which can quickly be turned into a way of micromanagement that does not reward productivity or promotes employee engagement. Instead of thinking about getting things done, teams may focus on just logging enough time. This is one of the reasons why many companies have opted out of tracking hours and prefer to track work according to the stage of completion or other kind of milestone.

Focusing on the number of hours worked can also make management logs less reliable. Consulting firm Gartner has estimated that companies using time-tracking solutions are twice as likely to have employees that pretend to be working.

“To succeed in a hybrid future, organizations must stop duplicating office-centric practices and shift to a human-centric model.” Gartner advice.

Measuring time makes work less personal, and can be easily turned into a daily (or worse, hourly) chore that employees will hate to do. Time tracking is also not the best metric for measuring performance since it overlooks other KPIs such as customer satisfaction, solution effectiveness, and market impact. In other words, getting things done is way better than clocking-in every day of the week.

team work

Pros of time-tracking

Measuring how time was spent can benefit companies, employees, and freelancers. Organizing daily activities, aligning processes among different departments, and prioritizing urgent tasks are some of the benefits of logging work hours. By recording individual actions and group work on a timesheet, it is possible to identify personal and team time drains in order to fix them.

Freelancers can also benefit from time-tracking tools since they can use it to not go over their billed hours. And although tracking work requires dedicating a bit of time, it eventually pays off by making individual and group reports a breeze.

Staffing agencies can use time-tracking solutions to identify which temp worker did what. Beyond measuring when a certain employee checked in, agencies can find out what they achieved at work. On the other hand, on-demand employees and gig workers can use time-tracking to make sure they are paid for all the hours they worked, avoid gaps between assignments, and profit the most from their available hours.

Tracking hours can also make the switch between “on-call” and “off time” easier to understand and respect. By promoting check-ins and check-outs and having a clear overview of who is available for work, managers can avoid calling employees during their rest time and avoid team burnout.

How to motivate your team to use time-tracking

After weighing the aforementioned pros and cons, it is clear that companies can still benefit from time-tracking tools if they update how time is managed. Below you can find some actions you can start today to motivate your team to manage their hours more effectively.

Be goal-oriented

Activity logs should be built around results, not worked hours. Learn to break down large projects into smaller stages and tasks so you can see more clearly when your team gets stuck at a certain point. If you use a team management tool, you can easily identify time drains since you are able to see when a task was picked up and when it was completed.

Make sure to inform your team when a goal has been reached and what comes next. For example, if your monthly sales goal is reached by Day 20, motivate your team to continue working by setting follow-up goals or allocate the extra time for training.

employee onboarding

Build a system based on productivity

Describe how your team works from the start, and make sure to include time management as part of your onboarding process. Keep in mind that no self-tutorial is perfect, and help new hires as they familiarize themselves with your task management system. When someone gets a big project done, give a shout-out and ask them to share what they learned during the process.

If someone is becoming less productive, ask for a private meeting to review their current workload and tasks. Offer guidance with time drains and redistribute workloads if needed. There are many ways to boost productivity but the most meaningful changes really need the whole team to collaborate. You can also ask your employee for ideas on how to work with their backlog and get things running again. If there is a major delay that will affect other parts of the company, inform the department heads and adjust your timeline accordingly.

Differentiate priorities and everyday activities

Setup a task management system that allows you to identify clearly which activities need to be prioritized and which ones are part of the daily grind. Make sure that the right people are informed when something needs to be done, so the whole team is not overwhelmed by a long To-Do list. Remember: if everything seems urgent, then nothing really is.

Consider your team needs while creating repeated tasks. How many meetings does your team really need on a weekly basis? Decide with your team which tasks need to be logged, and when can people report an activity as completed.

Learn from feedback

Time tracking is a touchy subject for many people. From feeling micromanaged to pushing themselves to the verge of burnout, many employees dislike logging their hours. Survey your team every now and then and ask for ideas on how to make time management less intimidating and more useful for them.

After all is said and done, time-tracking is still a useful tool to promote productivity at an individual and group level. It is up to the managers and business owners to create a company culture that promotes using time wisely by rewarding employees for completing projects and creating a management system that focuses on accomplishing goals while also keeping tabs on how much time was spent. You can also consider giving your employees personalized awards as a way to appreciate them, keep them motivated, and recognize their accomplishments.