Time-tracking at work

Making the most out of company time is a core challenge for both managers and employees. What is a good way to do team time tracking? And should it be done at all?

Should we track time at work?

Not always! Time tracking is not a good metric for work performance. Out of the box, time clocks report hours spent, but not results achieved. If time tracking is enforced on a micromanagement level, it does not really reward productivity or promote employee engagement. Instead of getting things done, the team now focuses on logging their hours.

Time tracking at work

Time management overlooks customer satisfaction, solution effectiveness, and market impact. This is why many companies have opted out of tracking hours. They prefer to track work according to the stage of completion or other kind of milestone.

There are many frameworks that help companies do project management in a goal-oriented way. Here are just a few examples of alternative metrics that employees could track instead of hours:

  1. OKRs (Objectives and Key Results): This framework that helps companies define specific objectives and measurable key results to track progress. It promotes alignment and transparency throughout the organization.
  2. KPIs (Key Performance Indicators): KPIs are measurable metrics that companies use to evaluate their success in achieving strategic goals. They can be applied at individual, team, or organizational level.
  3. Agile Methodology: This system was originally developed for software development. But Agile has become popular across various industries. It involves breaking projects into smaller tasks or sprints, allowing teams to adapt and iterate quickly. For example Scrum is a specific Agile framework that organizes work into time-boxed iterations called sprints.

When does it make sense to use time-tracking?

✅ Optimising work processes. Ideally, time-tracking should provide insights to time accounting – details about how time was spent. Tracking employee hours can provide insights into how time is allocated across different tasks and projects. This data can help optimize resource allocation and identify areas where productivity improvements are needed.

Tracking hours is a good way to reveal inefficiencies in processes or areas that require additional training or support. It can also highlight workload imbalances within teams.

✅ Billing hour-based jobs. Freelancers that charge by the hour should definitely use time-tracking tools. Some projects require small amounts of work to be done over a long period of time. Without a good time tracker, it’s easy to forget adding some billable hours from the invoice.

Managing hourly employees. Some industries have specific labor regulations that require accurate tracking of employee hours for compliance purposes. Hourly contracts often have a minimum / maximum hour workload. In these cases it’s important ensure employees are working the agreed-upon hours, no more and no less.

Best practices for employee time tracking

It’s essential for companies to strike a balance between tracking employee hours for legitimate purposes and respecting employee privacy and autonomy. Employees need to understand the reasons behind the tracking. So it is crucial to implement a fair and transparent time-tracking system.

You should clearly define the objectives and goals of time tracking. Communicate the reasons behind it, such as improving productivity, project costing, or complying with labor regulations. Ensure that employees understand the benefits of how it will help them in their work.

Select user-friendly time tracking tools that align with your company’s needs and processes. The tools should be accessible and easy to use, both for in-office and remote employees.

How to choose a time tracking app

Try to find a balance between ease of use, automation and data entry.

  • A simple spreadsheet, whiteboard, or a check-in sheet is very simple to use for all employees. But it’s very easy to forget that you must manually log your hours.
  • Explore options for automated time tracking, especially for tasks that involve computer usage. Some apps can automatically track time based on active applications or websites, reducing manual effort.
  • A time tracking app that integrates with other existing tools can reduce data entry. Try to find ways to reduce duplicate data entry and streamline the workflow.
  • A timer feature can allow employees to start and stop time tracking for specific tasks easily. Timers can be more convenient and accurate than manual entries.
  • Some employee tracking apps can automatically clock in and clock out based on GPS coordinates on an employee phone. However, many employees may be against location tracking.
  • Some apps remind employees to clock in just before their shift starts. Sometimes it’s possible to still send location coordinates to make sure the employee is on premises. Manually sending coordinates is usually less frowned upon than active location tracking.

You should always be transparent about how the company uses time tracking data. Transparency builds trust and reduces concerns about employee monitoring.

How to ensure that employees actually track their hours?

Introduce time tracking during the onboarding process for new hires. This way, they become accustomed to it from the beginning and understand its importance within the company culture.

You can designate enthusiastic employees who excel in using the time tracking tool as “tool champions.” These champions can act as internal advocates, offering support to their peers and sharing best practices.

Consider providing positive incentives for employees who consistently use the time tracking tool accurately and efficiently. Recognition, bonuses, or other rewards can motivate employees to adopt the practice. Consider personalized awards as a way to appreciate them, keep them motivated, and recognize their accomplishments.

It’s also important to lead by example. Ensure that management and leadership actively use the time tracking tool. When employees see their supervisors embracing the practice, they are more likely to follow suit.

Be empathetic to any concerns or resistance employees may have about time tracking. It is up to you to create a company culture that promotes using time wisely. Reward employees for completing projects and create a management system that focuses on accomplishments.

Creating a positive and supportive environment around time tracking avoids punitive measures or strict enforcement. This can lead to negative attitudes towards the process. Instead, focus on the benefits and empower employees to take ownership of their time tracking practices.