Time tracking has always been an integral part of offices. It allows managers like you to keep a check on employee time-ins and time-outs and ensure your team is completing its work hours. However, this was disrupted ever since remote working became a norm as most of the conventional time tracking methods involved physical timekeeping devices.
But that has changed with modern time tracking methods which are centralized for better accessibility by both remote and hybrid teams. They are also equipped with features that help measure your team’s productivity instead of recording empty working hours.
In this blog, we’ll take a look at 4 popular time tracking methods, how each works, and how it contributes to your team’s productivity.
#1 Spreadsheets – manually enter work-logs
One of the most common time tracking methods is to use digital spreadsheets (Excel Online or Google Sheets) where employees go to log their daily activities. Usually, managers provide teams with pre-made templates to record tasks and time spent on each project.
Once your employees have entered the daily logs into the spreadsheet, they will automatically reflect at your end for review. Based on the hourly rate of employees, you’re then able to calculate the total billable hours of each individual and the team.
While you can simply insert formulas into the spreadsheet to automatically extract billable hours, pretty much everything else needs to be done manually. For instance:
- You need to tap into employees’ work reports to identify where their time is being wasted or determine tasks where they provide fast, quality outputs. This information can help you in planning your projects more efficiently in the future.
- You need to manually visit each timesheet to extract critical insights like productive hours, project completion rates, estimated vs. actual capacity, etc. of each employee, which can be extremely tedious and time-consuming.
- You rely on your team to submit logs, and since they have to manually fill them out, chances are they will defer it like Katy here to the latest possible time, which can cause delays in your work routine.
- Accuracy of the data in spreadsheets is often a question mark because some employees may counterfeit hours spent on tasks. Receiving inaccurate data means you’ll derive incorrect insights from the logs, which can prove costly while making critical team-management decisions.
Recommended read: Why You Should Switch From Manual Timesheets to Smart Time Tracking
#2 The Honor(able) time tracking method
This method of time tracking literally honors the word of employees. It’s simple: your employees give you an amount of time they spent on a task based on their best guess, and you pay them accordingly. There isn’t much scrutiny involved in the process to see if they actually spent that time on a task.
The honor method of time tracking is perfect for micro teams of fewer than five people since it is easier to communicate and roll out payments. It is hands down the most cost-effective way to keep tabs on employees’ time since it doesn’t require any infrastructure to execute or maintain.
On the flip side, this method can be disastrous for medium or large teams because if the accuracy of data goes off by 5% per employee, and you have a team of 20 or more people, the disparity in cost will turn into a significant number.
For example, let’s assume that your average hourly rate per employee is $30. If you have a team of 20 people, your total hourly employee cost is $600. Now, if your billable hours are inaccurate by just 5%, then your hourly costs will rise by:
$600 x 5% = $30
This is just one hour. Imagine the cost you may incur per day or per week just because your billable hours are off by a mere 5%. This is why the honor time tracking method does not work well with bigger teams.
At the same time, this cost will be significantly lesser (if it occurs in the first place) in micro teams due to fewer employees, which will also make it easier to monitor total billable hours.
#3 Paper-based time tracking – the old-school way
This category for time tracking has been part of the corporate community for decades. Here, all you need is a physical pen and paper. Employees note down the time they start working and then pen down the time they stop.
A lot of people also write down the time they spent on each task by using a timer. Once the day ends, employees submit the physical timesheets to their managers before leaving. This allows employees to identify the tasks that took most of their time during the day, so they can work on improving it (the time) while working on similar tasks in the future.
Although this has been effective for years, there are a lot of flaws in this time tracking method, which is why it is no longer an option for most teams.
For instance, since the paper-based method involves a physical timesheet, there are chances of losing the paper and all the data with it. It is also difficult to monitor or track paper-based timesheets since you, as a manager, have to go through each employee’s penned down data to see where they’ve spent their time.
Right when you’re about to finish the stack from the previous day, you get a new one on your table, and the cycle continues. Furthermore, you have to manually extract all the productivity insights from those sheets based on the information provided, which is another taxing (and frankly impractical) task.
To make matters worse, there is also a risk of employees submitting forged entries, with pretty much no way for you to catch the wrong entry. Shali here has got it right:
#4 Software-based: automate everything!
This is the most contemporary method of tracking employees’ time. These are time-tracking tools that automatically track your team’s activities without having to start and stop timers, recording everything they do during work hours. And once the day ends, employees can simply review and submit their work logs.
Modern managers are using these automated time tracking tools as they come with a bunch of conveniences like:
- Employees don’t have to resort to guesswork since the app remembers their activity for them
- Most of the time trackers only require you to start and stop the timer. They record the activities between this time, which you can review and log without hassle. Some automated time-tracking tools take a step further by automatically starting the tracker every time you become active so starting/stopping them is one less thing for you to worry about.
- Almost all time trackers come with a dedicated project management feature where you can assign different tasks and projects to employees within the tool. You can also track individual and team progress to see how everyone’s performing, and task progress to monitor how far you’ve reached into the project.
- Management becomes less time-consuming because all the necessary information about your team, open projects, and working capacities is available in a single window on the main dashboard.
- Automated time trackers also act as your daily productivity tracker by allowing you to tap into expected vs. actual capacities of employees
- The data you receive is extremely accurate as there are no manual entries involved, which means employees cannot forge the time they spent on tasks. The time tracker remembers all the activities and lists them down for the employees to submit.
- The chances of losing data become practically zero since these tools are cloud-based.
- Since everything is available on your desktop at your fingertips, you get to save a lot of time you would otherwise spend in acquiring and sorting employee data.
To put it in a nutshell, the software-based time tracking method is fast since logging time through it takes a mere few minutes at most, convenient for you and your team both, reliable due to data accuracy, and frees a lot of time your team can spend on primary job-tasks.
Why is timekeeping important anyway?
Timekeeping was initially a way to make sure that employees complete their 8-hour shifts every day. That’s no longer the case today. Modern managers don’t fret about the number of hours an employee spends working, as long as the tasks are completed in time without compromising the quality.
In addition, managers and team leads want insights into employee performance to identify weak areas and strong points. This helps allocate projects accordingly and take measures to improve productivity.
None of this is possible without tracking employees’ time, which is why timekeeping becomes essential for businesses like yours to survive in competitive marketplaces. It goes without saying that the more contemporary methods you use, like an automated tool for timekeeping, the better it will be for your team’s overall performance due to the additional productivity features that come along.
Recommended read: Why Modern Organizations Need Time Tracking Software
How do I explain time tracking to my employees?
Employees who are new to time tracking through software are under the impression that it’s a way for managers to spy on them. It’s not.
Make sure you talk to your team and share the real purpose behind time tracking, which is to acquire insights to improve overall productivity.
Here is a list of what you should and should not do.
Should: A good way to start is by taking their feedback, listening to how they feel about it, and resolving their concerns. This will ease the process of implementing a time tracking solution in your team since employees will already know its actual purpose.
Should not: Implement a new method without consulting your employees, which may create friction between you and your team and eventually decrease productivity.
Should: Make the entire process simple for them by taking them through each and every step on how to log hours against each task. The focus here should be on how simple, effective, and time-saving it is for them as well.
Should not: Don’t make things harder for your team by keeping them in the dark about how the software works. This will only raise more concerns in their minds, occupying their time and energy which can be put to more productive tasks.
Should: Tell them specifically how they can use the time tracking tool to improve their productivity and performance. You can tell them that the tool will throw subjective performance analysis out the window and replace it with data-driven reviews. Or that they can use it to identify areas where they end up wasting significant time, so they can take measures at their end to fix productivity levels.
Should not: You shouldn’t portray your time tracker as a tool that only benefits the management and the company. This will reduce their interest and confidence in the tool, and may even trigger thoughts of cheating the system, which eventually leads to steep declines in productivity.
What is the best way to track time?
timegram is a zero-surveillance productivity management tool that features all the essential features to help increase team productivity. It comes with dedicated project management and insights and reporting features that enables managers like you to:
- Track progress on task and project level to meet deadlines
- Create and assign sub-tasks to different employees to manage workload
- Set, manage, and track estimated vs. actual capacities of each individual to monitor performances
- Track billable hours of each employee to create invoices for clients
- Acquire insights into employee performances to help them improve their productivity
You can visit our full list of features and see how each one contributes to your team’s productivity.
Make your team more productive by signing up for timegram today.
What is time tracking used for?
Time tracking is used to track the time your employees spend on each task. This allows you to identify areas where your employees might be struggling, and work on those areas to improve their individual and team productivity altogether.
How do I track my daily time?
There are several time tracking methods that allow you to track your daily time. You can use the most effective ones like digital spreadsheets to enter logs on a shared file, or SaaS tools to automate the daily time-tracking process.
What are the qualities of a tracker?
A few core qualities of good time trackers are:
- Simple UI and UX
- Zero-surveillance policy
Here’s a detailed list of essential qualities of a time-tracker.
Does time tracking increase productivity?
Time tracking increases productivity in a number of ways:
- You get to see where activities where you lose significant bits of your time, allowing you to avoid them in the future
- You get to extract your project completion rates and improve them over time
- You get to streamline all your work when you have the time, instead of rushing projects at the eleventh hour
- You can measure your delivered capacity against the expected working hours to get a peek into your performance level
In short, yes, time tracking does increase individual and team productivity by a significant margin.