what is time tracking
Guide

The Complete Guide To Time Tracking

Are you ready for some horrifying news? The average employee spends 2.6 hours every day reading and replying to emails.

To make matters worse, over 40% of employees don’t track this time at all. For businesses that use timesheets to bill clients, this untracked work time results in a loss of $52,500 per employee every year.

time tracking stats

Let’s look at another controversial time-waster: meetings. Nearly 21% of employees never track the time they spend in meetings, which costs businesses another $32,000 per year in lost revenue.

Altogether, studies estimate that U.S. companies lose $8.8 billion in revenue every day due to untracked time. That’s a lot of money.

Accurate time tracking can help businesses stop leaking money. It can also enable them to improve employee productivity by giving them more insight into how they work.

You can use time tracking to identify workflow bottlenecks and find out who your most productive team members are. This, in turn, can help you learn what works and recognize top performers.

Time tracking is especially important now as remote work is more common than ever.

Having an idea of what your in-office team is doing isn’t that hard. All you need to do is drop by someone’s desk and ask if they’re on track for that 3 PM deadline. Things are a bit more complicated when you’re operating remotely. “End of day” can mean any time of day depending on where you are.

Before we go on, let’s clear something up: time tracking is not about micromanaging. In fact, it’s about the opposite. Its purpose is to help you make data-driven decisions so that everyone can work smarter. Time tracking helps you avoid the disruptive check-ins, and it saves your team from having to stop what they’re doing just to give a progress report.

It also promotes transparency for both managers and employees. With time tracking, leadership gets insight into how remote employees spend their work hours. Employees get a way to prove that they’re actually working without constant check-ins.

But time tracking isn’t without its challenges. There’s a reason ad agencies resort to positive reinforcement like free beer or more dire consequences for not submitting timesheets.

Most offices are fine with the old way of working: filling out paper timesheets and sending vaguely threatening emails when it’s time to bill clients.

However, once you understand the direct line from timesheets to profitability, you’re going to want to assess how much you could be learning from better time tracking.

Let’s dive in.

time tracking guide
At a Glance
Table of contents
 hours worked and payroll

What is time tracking?

Time tracking is the process of tracking and recording the time that everyone within your company spends working. It helps businesses understand what employees are doing during work hours, which can be used to create client invoices and pay hourly staff or freelancers.

Many different businesses use time tracking in some way, whether they’re a landscaping company, digital agency, software developer, or a construction company.

In-office and remote teams both embrace timesheets, along with field-based businesses, because it streamlines payments and invoicing. Having a record of which clients were tended to and when is needed to bill appropriately.

Time tracking provides a number of benefits to businesses. We’ll discuss the four biggest ones next.


Four major benefits of time tracking

Do you feel like your company is losing out on revenue? Are there initiatives you want to focus on but you never seem to have enough time in the day?

Inefficient workflows and spending time on activities that don’t move the company forward might be costing you.

Do you feel like your company is losing out on revenue? Are there initiatives you want to focus on but you never seem to have enough time in the day?

Inefficient workflows and spending time on activities that don’t move the company forward might be costing you.

Time tracking can help you narrow down exactly where you’re missing out, and how to take action.

Here are the four main benefits you’ll see from accurate timekeeping.


1. Stop leaking revenue and bill clients more accurately

Time tracking helps you to assess your biggest culprits of revenue loss, such as:

  • Inefficient workflows
  • Overstaffing (your team is bigger than it needs to be)
  • Failure to quantify your marketing efforts
  • Late payments from your clients
  • Fees from services you’re not using or don’t really need
  • Rent, physical supplies, and other office-related fees

Many of these issues work in unison. For example, having inefficient workflows might make you think you need seven people to do a five-person job, leading to overstaffing.

Hiring too many people adds to your overhead, sometimes without bringing in more revenue. This, in turn, leads to higher costs for your business. The more employees you have, the more services you end up using and the more equipment you need… and the cycle continues.

Luckily, the fact that these problems stem from a common source means you can fix them with a common solution.

Here’s how time tracking can help you address these common issues:

Inefficient workflows: This one’s a big deal. Time tracking can help uncover bottlenecks in your system. Without knowing where your team’s time is going, it’s impossible to identify what’s holding things up.

Let’s look at one example. A front-end designer on your team is assigned seven tasks and working 40 hours a week while you have a part-time developer waiting on assignments.

If this is the case, you either have staffing issues or a project plan to correct. It’s possible that your workflow isn’t as smooth as it could be, and projects pile up with your designer because they all reach that stage at the same time.

You can look at the steps before design and determine whether your project timelines are off, or if you need more designers for the volume of work you have.

Overstaffing: By monitoring how productive each person on your team is, you can easily determine whether the resources assigned to a project match the amount of work and project scope.

You can also see who is underutilized, and move them to different projects as needed.

Some software options provide activity rates that give more context to time tracking.

If one person who usually works at a level of 60% activity has dipped to 20%, they might not have enough to do. This can prompt a check-in so you can avoid overstaffing or bringing on new hires without having enough work for them to do.

Unquantified marketing efforts: Time tracking helps you figure out ROI.

For example, if you paid a freelancer $200 to write a blog post and your content marketer $40 to edit it, and your average client is worth roughly $480 a year, having each post bring in one customer means you’d have a 200% ROI.

Late payments from your clients: Most time tracking tools offer integrations so you can manage invoices and reminders from the same dashboard, making it much simpler to get paid on time.

Which means you don’t have to waste time digging through your emails anymore. You’ll have a record of when the invoice was sent, and if it was opened or paid. Some apps even let you auto-send reminders — which can be a pesky but necessary action to ensure money comes in as expected.

Fees from services you don’t need: Keep track of which applications your employees are using to see which programs are actually worth the subscription fee.

Some tools allow you to see the apps and URLs visited while tracking time. Your team may claim to depend on that pricey analytics and reporting dashboard, but when you check the URL reports, you see that it’s barely being used.

The reverse is also true. If one task is taking a team member hours each week, there’s likely some automation tool that can speed things up and take work off their plate.

Rent: Time tracking also gives you the confidence to hire remote employees, freelancers, and contractors, allowing you to dramatically reduce your overhead. You won’t feel tethered to an office when you have the tools to make remote work possible.

Most companies understand the benefits of remote work by now, so giving up an office space and the expenses that come with it can seem less risky than in the past.

2. Increase transparency and trust

Time tracking can help increase trust and transparency within your organization, which can go both ways.

Trust through transparency

Feeling micromanaged by a boss or like you have to micromanage (as a boss) can happen in any office and any industry.

It can happen with remote work, as well.

With time tracking, managers can stay in the loop and know that the right projects are being worked on. Employees start to feel trusted and empowered in their roles. They won’t need to report back as often because there’s built-in visibility into how projects are progressing.

Further, if both managers and their team members track time, everyone plays by the same rules. All of this combined helps create more trusting relationships.

If you’re using a time tracking tool, it’s important to tell employees what information is collected. Solutions such as Hubstaff make it easier for employees to trust their employer because they know exactly what data they’re providing when they track time through the software. The app makes it clear when time is being tracked or when a screenshot is taken (if that feature is turned on). On top of that, everyone has access to their own data.

Bottlenecks

You might be unaware of issues that cause employees to spend more time on tasks and projects. Most managers don’t spot a bottleneck until work has piled up, and project delivery dates have been missed.

Unaddressed bottlenecks can result in unhappy customers and clients, stressed out team members, wasted time, and lost revenue.

Here are a few signs you have a bottleneck in your workflow:

  • Tasks frequently get stalled in a particular department, often in quality control
  • You experience delays when you assign tasks to a specific team member
  • Some departments or team members are constantly busy while others have a lot of down time

These are all signs that your process could be running more efficiently. Time tracking helps you spot underutilized and overloaded team members.

3. Improve productivity

Have you ever heard the expression, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it”? It’s a quote by Peter Drucker, who’s widely known as the founder of modern business management.

This is one of the main ideas behind time tracking and productivity measuring. Measuring your productivity allows you to work on improving it.

The average employee is productive for only 2 hours and 23 minutes in an 8-hour workday. Time tracking is not about setting unrealistic expectations, it’s about learning from your own habits and using data to make decisions.

By tracking your team members’ time, you get an idea about how much time it takes them to complete a particular task. This allows you to plan timelines that are accurate and manageable.

4. Create better project estimates

No one likes feeling rushed. But that’s exactly what happens when you give a marketer two hours to complete a project that might take 12.

Having an accurate record of how long a past project took will give you a better baseline moving forward.

You might be tempted to ask a team member how long a task might take when preparing an estimate. It’s easy enough, they’re sitting right next to you or they’re on Slack.

But instead of pulling them out of their work to think back to a previous project and guess a number of hours, you can use time tracking data. Reference similar projects you’ve completed in the past to determine how long it will take your team to complete this new project.

This saves you and your team from a ton of unproductive back-and-forth. Not to mention the blame game later on when the estimate doesn’t end up being right.

Let’s look at another example. You might estimate that it’s going to take your team six weeks to build a new website.

However, during the course of the project, you realize that implementing all the features you want will take twice as long. One of your front-end developers gets sick during the project, which overloads your other developer and pushes out the timeline.

These things happen more often than you think. There’s actually a term for it — planning fallacy. People tend to underestimate the amount of time it’s going to take them to do something.

Time tracking helps you avoid this.

time and activities report


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Popular time tracking methods

We’ve come a long way from punching a paper time card into a central time clock. (Though some businesses still use this approach today.)

If you do track time, you likely use one of the following methods:

  • Paper timesheets or spreadsheets
  • Swipe card systems
  • Time tracking software
  • Geofencing systems

All of these methods have their pros and cons. Let’s take a closer look at each one.

Manual time tracking: Paper timesheets or spreadsheets

Businesses that track time manually use either pen and paper or spreadsheets.

This is a common approach in service-based industries where timesheets are used to both pay employees and bill clients. Timesheets might be used to record an employee’s shift or the amount of time they spent working on a project.

When using paper timesheets, teams measure time using one of the following:

  • Smartphone
  • Wristwatch
  • Clock

Employees write down the start and end times on a piece of paper.

They can do this while working on a task or once they complete it. Most industries that use this method wait until the end of the day because they’re focused on their tasks. This is true for builders and contractors, for example, who want to focus on the job instead of writing down start and end times as they go.

The benefits are easy to understand:

  • There’s no learning curve
  • You don’t need a device or any sort of technology
  • It’s a low-cost method of tracking time

While inexpensive and easy, this method is prone to errors since it relies on human memory of everything that was done that day, and for how long.

Another disadvantage of this method is that timesheets need to be distributed and collected physically. This can be difficult to do, especially if you have employees working in different locations.

Then there’s the challenge of getting team members to actually fill out timesheets.

Paper timesheets can be time-consuming when everyone on your team has to sit down at the end of the day and think back to what was accomplished. There’s also the possibility of making a mistake when entering a team member’s time into your company’s accounting system.

Further, timesheets can get lost or damaged, which can present challenges for record-keeping.

But that’s just when using paper.

Digital timesheets using spreadsheets must be better, right?

With this approach, you manually add your start and end times to a spreadsheet. There might be some functions built-in to automatically calculate daily or weekly hours, or to auto-fill client or project data.

The benefit of this approach are:

  • You can save time entries for all of your employees in a single place
  • You can build timesheets to your specifications
  • You can use cloud-based file sharing so timesheets can be accessed anywhere (and thus, harder to lose track of)

However, since employees are still adding their entries manually, there’s still a lot of room for error. And times are added after the fact, which opens you up to the possibility of forgetting hours and tasks.

In terms of costs, spreadsheets and paper timesheets are comparable since there’s very little device or software investment required.

Simple time cards are a click away br | You can use our free time card calculator to add up your hours automatically.

Simple time cards are a click away

You can use our free time card calculator to add up your hours automatically.

Free time calculator

Swipe card systems

Swipe card systems are a modernized version of the traditional punch card system. They offer a lot more features compared to using punch cards, though the concept is the same.

These types of time tracking systems can track employees’ time and regulate access to specific work areas. They can also monitor attendance, breaks, and departure times.

You can even integrate them with your payroll system to simplify the process of paying workers for their time.

With swipe card systems, employees swipe their card when entering and leaving the workplace. The system then calculates the time worked by looking at the difference between the times when an employee started and ended their shift.

Swipe card systems are frequently used in agriculture, engineering, healthcare, and even retail.

The main benefit of swipe card systems is that they’re fairly easy to use. There are no codes or passwords to remember. You won’t need to provide employees with special training to get them to use swipe cards effectively.

The whole process is in the name: swipe card.

Using a swipe card system can also reduce your administrative workload. No human on your team has to upload timesheet data to another system.

This helps managers and HR teams focus on more important tasks such as assessing employee performance or improving your onboarding process.

The downside of swipe card systems is that they’re not really suitable for tracking remote employees’ time. They also rely on being in one or a few locations, such as a corporate campus.

It’s not ideal for a landscaping company, for example, that often has staff at different locations throughout the day.

Time tracking software

If geofencing is primarily for teams on the go, think of general time tracking software as a solution for anyone.

Mobile teams, remote companies, desk-based employees — everyone can use time tracking software because it often includes various apps for web, desktop, and mobile devices.

Time tracking software allows you to record employees’ time automatically. A time tracking app can be a standalone solution or a part of project management or accounting software.

These tools are often feature-rich, combining various financial tasks into one comprehensive workforce management platform.

Time tracking software can provide you with a detailed breakdown of how employees spend their time at work. You can use it to automate employee attendance and absence. Most solutions also offer the option of generating timesheets and invoices.

Some time tracking tools even allow you to use them to manage payroll and pay your employees for their time.

Then, some apps start to break away from the rest. The more advanced platforms offer reporting features that allow businesses to analyze their team’s performance in great detail.

Businesses in a wide variety of industries use time tracking software to improve productivity and reduce revenue leaks. Agencies, ecommerce, finance, marketing, software development, and manufacturing are just some of the industries that take advantage of time tracking software.

It can help you make more accurate project estimates and allow you to meet deadlines more consistently. You can also use it to distribute work more effectively by identifying which team members have downtime and which ones are overworked.

The cons here come with how you use it. Some tools offer more invasive features, which can harm team morale.

If you use time tracking software to micromanage or to make your team worried about their jobs, you’re probably going to see some clear downsides to this approach.

Being able to choose features on a user-basis and implementing this software properly (which we’ll cover later on) can help you avoid this.

Geofenced time tracking

geofenced time tracking

Things get more complicated when you have people out in the field or part of a mobile team. There’s more than just hours to keep track of. You also need records of work locations, routes taken, and arrivals and departures at different job sites.

In a recent survey, 56% of construction company owners said they spend an average of 11 hours each week traveling between job sites to check on their crews.

average hours spent per week report

Geofenced time tracking virtually eliminates this need. Geofencing technology uses a device’s GPS location to track time or send an alert when an employee enters and leaves a job site.

To do this, you need to set up a geofence, which is a virtual barrier around a physical location.

GPS-based systems are designed to track employee attendance for scheduled shifts. It can alert managers when employees pass the geofence and enter the work area, or when they leave for the day.

These types of systems automatically start and stop tracking time based on location.

This allows employees to clock in and out easily. It also prevents inaccurate time tracking and timesheet errors. By using a geofencing system, you can reduce or completely eliminate buddy punching and time theft.

Most GPS location-based time trackers are installed as an app on each person’s device. The app then tracks their location and the time they spend working, generating detailed timesheets you can use for invoicing and payments.

These types of systems are especially suited for companies with a mobile workforce. They’re used by delivery and moving businesses, construction companies, and landscapers, to name a few.

Geofencing is particularly useful for construction and landscaping teams, for example. It allows managers to know if workers are on-site during scheduled hours. It also saves them from having to drive from one job site to the next to check on workers.

One potential drawback might be in the form of battery drain. Though many apps disclose this and aim to run without major disruption to your employees’ days.

how to pick new software for time tracking

How to choose time tracking software

Ready to give new software a try? There are three main factors you should pay attention to when choosing a time tracking tool.

  • How easy is it to use?
  • Does it have all the features you need?
  • Does it integrate with the solutions you already use?

How easy is it to use?

Every time you introduce new software, there’s a learning curve. You might need to migrate data, set up users and accounts, add clients, and so on. That all takes time.

But after the initial set up, you want software that’s going to make your life easier.

An app with a lot of bells and whistles may be great for management, but the act of tracking time should be as intuitive and easy as possible.

In other words, the simpler it is for your team to track time, the better. There might be detailed reporting features or aspects that managers want. But when you’re assessing time tracking tools, ask yourself how easy it is for your team to start and stop the timer.

Another way to evaluate ease of use is to try out their customer support resources. Does the app offer articles and videos that you can watch or share with your team? How responsive is their support team if someone has a question or issue?

Check reviews of the software and see if other customers mentioned the quality of customer support. Some tools have live chat, which can provide estimated wait times. You can compare these to get an idea of how difficult it is to get in touch with someone.

Beyond simplicity, look for automation that fits your company's needs the best. Does the app send reminders to start tracking time or to stop tracking when someone goes idle? Can it automatically start tracking based on location? Does it include scheduling so that you can see if shifts are started late or left early?

These are all features that simplify time tracking. Look for these to ensure your new time tracking solution will be easy for all to use.


Does it have all the features you need?

Really think about what kind of features you want before you sign up.

Having one solution is a lot better than piecing apps together and resorting to spreadsheets to bring it all into one view.

Do you just need it to be able to track employees’ time? Or would you also like to create project budgets and manage payroll? Write down a list of all the features you want and prioritize them so it’s easier to weigh your options.

Most businesses would benefit from a time tracking solution that includes the following features:

  • Productivity – Go beyond daily and weekly totals to analyze what was done while tracking time. Productivity features such as activity levels, apps and URLs used, and optional screenshots provide more context for timesheets.
  • Invoicing – Instead of exporting timesheets and sending invoices manually, use your time tracking software to automate it. Some tools can auto-generate line items and calculate totals based on hours worked and bill rates that you set for different team members.
  • Project budgeting – This is a good feature for any business. Look for software that allows you to set a project budget, and will warn you when your team gets close to going over on hours or costs. If going over budget keeps you up at night, this is going to be a relief.
  • Payroll management – There are two things to consider here. First, can the app tell you how much you owe based on time tracked? And are you able to automate payments by adding an integration? We’ll get into this next.
  • Automated reports – Don’t waste time creating time tracking reports manually. Find a solution that can create reports for you automatically and deliver them to your inbox. More advanced apps allow you to save filters and have reports generated on a regular basis.

Does it integrate with the solutions you already use?

It’s important that the time tracking tool you decide on can integrate with the tools you already use.

For example, a software development agency would likely benefit from a tool that integrates with GitHub. A sales team, on the other hand, will need a tool that can integrate with the CRM software its sales reps use.

Similarly, if you’re looking for a time tracking solution to track your customer support team’s time, you’ll want to look for one that can integrate with your help desk software.

Checking for integrations before you sign up can save you from the hassle of moving things over later on.


How Hubstaff can help you track time

The reason we know what makes a good time tracking tool is because we built one — Hubstaff — out of personal pain.

Starting a remote business without insight into what was getting done, how teams were working, and what tasks were taking up the most time led us to develop a time tracking tool built on transparency, control, and access to your own data.

The idea behind Hubstaff is to make time tracking as easy as possible for everyone to use while providing detailed and highly useful benchmarks.

Transparency is a big part of what we do. We intentionally designed Hubstaff so that it’s clear how the app works and what is being tracked.

The software gives users control over their work time, and provides them with access to all their information. They can always delete time and the data attached to it, and they’ll get alerts that tell them when the timer is running.

Hubstaff has a number of features that can help you track time more effectively. Let’s take a look at the biggest ones.

Timesheets

Hubstaff online timesheets

This is our most-used (and loved) feature.

After tracking time, you can see daily, weekly, or monthly timesheets for each person or your whole team.

There’s also the option of adding, editing, and deleting time manually. Employees can add notes to clarify time entries. You can then approve or reject timesheets, and send payments all from the app.

Proof of work features

time tracking and productivity monitoring

These features are designed to replicate the feeling of all being in the same office — without the distractions.

Hubstaff makes it easy to provide updates and stay in the loop as a team.

The software calculates activity levels based on mouse and keyboard usage, which can help you spot dips or increases in productivity.

From the dashboard, you can see which apps your employees use, as well as which websites they visit while tracking time.

Being able to see both alerts you that it might be time to check-in on a team member. They might be overloaded or they could have the capacity to start new projects.

Finally, you can choose to capture screenshots once, twice, or three times per ten minutes, or not at all. This feature can be turned off and on for different team members. Some companies choose to use this feature during onboarding so they can identify where a new hire might need more training. You can also blur screenshots to protect private data.

Any employee can delete their time, which also means they can delete the screenshots and data that goes with it. This is another way to give them more control over their data.

Employee scheduling

scheduling and time tracking features in Hubstaff

Companies that use paper timesheets might use paper schedules, as well.

Hubstaff streamlines both of these steps by allowing you to plan and schedule one time or recurring shifts.

Once scheduled, you can track attendance and see when shifts are late, missed, or left early based on when team members clock in and out.

Detailed reporting can compile this information, which makes it easier to bring up to a team member in the case of an issue.

Most of the time, shift scheduling can help clarify when and where someone is supposed to be working.

Geofencing and GPS time tracking

gps time tracking features

As we mentioned above, geofenced time tracking automates the timesheet process by using a device’s GPS location.

There’s a lot more to GPS time tracking, though. Here’s how it can help:

  • You can view a live map and see where your crew is at any time during the workday
  • You can click on a Job site and get key details including who was there last
  • You can view reports and see routes taken throughout the day

And of course, you can trigger time tracking to start and stop or a notification to be sent once specific employees enter or exit Job sites.

Project budgets

project budgets video

You can set project budgets based on costs or hours and get alerts as you approach them.

It’s up to you when you want to be notified. This allows you to make the necessary adjustments to avoid going over budget.

The budgets you can set are:

  • Weekly
  • Daily
  • Project budgets (Specific to that job)
  • Client budgets (For all projects)

Vacation and time off requests

PTO management

This is a feature you might not consider before researching time tracking software, but it is important.

Every team has holidays and breaks to plan for. Hubstaff helps you keep track of paid and unpaid time off and remaining balances.

Employees can send time-off requests to you for approval through the Hubstaff app. You’ll also have a history of requests for each team member.

Payroll

Payroll video

Paying your team should be fast and easy — though it rarely is.

Knowing this, we’ve tried to shorten the distance between tracking time and paying your team.

In Hubstaff, you can set an hourly rate, payment frequency, and payment method for each team member. The app supports both manual and automatic payments.

Then, use one of the most popular payment solutions such as PayPal, Payoneer, Transferwise, or Bitwage to send payments directly.

You’ll get a reminder to review timesheets, and can then send payments in a matter of clicks.

Invoicing

time tracking and invoicing features

Your invoicing process might be keeping you from getting paid faster. Let us explain.

If you’re manually creating invoices by adding up timesheet hours or doing your own calculations, you could delay how soon your client gets your invoice, and thus, how soon you get paid.

Not to mention that you might miss out on getting paid for the hours you put in due to human error. Even worse, if your invoice is too vague or unclear, you might have clients questioning what they’re paying for.

In other words, nothing good can come from manual, time-intensive invoicing.

That’s why Hubstaff makes it easy to generate professional-looking invoices quickly. You only need to set up a client once, and then you can choose them from the dropdown options when you’re creating every future invoice.

Here’s the best part: you can auto-generate line items by selecting the project, timeframe, and team members who should be included. You can include expenses and exclude non-billable time, as well.

When it’s time to send it out you can rest assured that your invoice is accurate and clear for your client.

Reports

time reporting in Hubstaff

This one is big.

Whether you love data or just want to check in on how things are going, these detailed time reports can help.

Hubstaff has over 17 different reports that are completely customizable. You can filter them by date, team member, project, and client. There’s also the option of scheduling reports to be sent to yourself, clients, or other stakeholders.

Here’s an overview of the reports you’ll have access to:

  • General
    Stay updated on:
    • Time & activity per project or task
    • Weekly time worked, activity levels, and amounts earned
    • Apps & URLs used
    • Manual time edits made
    • Timesheet approvals
    • Expenses submitted
    • Work breaks
  • Payments
    • View amounts owed and payments made on a team or individual level
  • Budgets and limits
    • See what percentage of weekly and daily limits have been reached, and how much remaining project or client budget you have
  • Time off
    • Check time off balances and transactions
  • Invoice
    • Get an update on client and team invoices, including totals, paid, outstanding and past due
  • Schedule
    • See completed, late, left early or missed shifts
  • Job sites
    • See when team members arrived at or left Job sites

How to use time tracking data to improve performance

With an understanding of how time tracking software works, let’s take a look at the specific advantages you’ll get from the data Hubstaff provides.

Better understand your team’s roles

Managers struggle with understanding what their team members are doing every day.

Why is this so hard? Because it requires you to not just understand that, say, Carol writes the code for the front-end of a product. But also that, on any given day, Carol could be:

  • Developing a new button or animation
  • Optimizing the application’s loading time
  • Making the application optimized for SEO
  • Using an interface testing tool

Imagine you had a detailed and accurate grasp of what team members were doing at all times. This would allow you, among other things, to put together realistic project estimates.

A time tracking tool like Hubstaff makes accomplishing this nearly effortless. It allows you to see which tasks team members are currently working on. It also helps you understand how long each task takes.

Back to Carol: You can look at her time and activity report and get an instant overview of everything she did. Even if you have no front-end experience or knowledge whatsoever, you’ll quickly start to understand which assignments are time-consuming, and which ones are relatively simple to complete.

Pick the right people for the job

In a growing business, if you can’t delegate, some projects will almost certainly fail. No one is skilled enough in all areas, nor has the time in their day to do everything. Plus, there are always tasks that take up your time that could be automated with the help of time tracking software.

Managers who struggle with delegating are not putting in the time to give the right tasks to the right team members.

It’s easy to see why. Spending the time to plan out and get the project ready to hand off can take up so much time that you might just default to doing it all yourself.

In this case, it can end up costing you more than assigning it to an expert. Time tracking allows you to see just how long and how much of your billable time was spent on a project, so it’s easier to assess if the return was worth it.


That’s the first part of better delegating: Understanding how much time and investment a project takes. Then you’ll know if you could outsource it to an expert for less time or budget. Time tracking tools help quantify this.

If you have a team, compare a similar project and its cost to see who is best suited for future initiatives. You can also audit your resources to identify which areas of expertise they’d like to improve.

Let’s look at an example. Maybe a member of your support team wants to improve their writing skills. You can assign them support articles to write, knowing that it might take more time and investment upfront.

But, once they’ve expanded their skill set, you now have a team member who can use their written communication skills with customers, and can draft articles from a customer-facing perspective.

By understanding where team members excel or want to grow, you can improve project outcomes and ensure you have the best skill-project fit.

Put together a process

Projects also fail when you don’t have the right workflows in place. Not only do you need a solid understanding of each team member’s role, but you also need a really firm grasp on how those roles fit together.

For example, which task hinges on another task? Which are independent of other tasks? Is there anything you’ve been doing at the beginning of the project that makes more sense to do at the end?

You might think these answers would be obvious. However, we tend to get caught up in a rush to get everything done and miss these areas for improvement.

To find them, you should take note of the exact times when your employees become less productive. For example, maybe you notice Jordan’s activity levels dip when you ask him to map out the user journey for a product.

When you bring this up to him, he tells you that he struggles to do this task without having clear user personas.

You decide to start working on the user personas earlier so they'll be ready by the time Jordan begins working.

Know which employees are the most efficient

Of course, not all employees perform equally. Quantifying your team members’ varying levels of efficiency is highly beneficial. You’ll be able to:

  • Reward high performers
  • Motivate average performers
  • Train or reassign under-performers

A time tracking tool will tell you how long it takes different members of the team to complete comparable assignments. Maybe Marissa spends an hour writing homepage copy, while it takes Corey three hours to write the same copy.

You might also notice that Marissa’s copy comes back 90% of the way there, where Corey’s needs more editing and feedback. You can add the hours spent editing into your calculations, and it becomes even clearer that Marissa is the right fit for writing.

You can then ask Marissa to handle 90% of copywriting assignments.

Beyond time tracking reports, there are two widely used methods of tracking employee performance:

  • Production counts (sales, keystrokes, units produced)
  • Personnel data (work attendance, hours worked, absenteeism)

Both methods, while not foolproof, require some form of time tracking. Measuring production counts is only meaningful if there is time involved.

Hubstaff measures productivity by calculating activity levels for each employee. The software labels a user as active or inactive for every second of tracked time. If the user uses their mouse or keyboard, they’re labeled as active. If they don’t, they’re marked as inactive.

These numbers are added up to calculate an activity percentage for each 10-minute segment of tracked time.

For example, if someone uses their keyboard or mouse for 5 minutes in a 10-minute period, their activity level would be 50% percent.

Note that activity rates can vary widely based on that person’s role. Team members who handle data entry will naturally have higher activity rates than those who spend a lot of time on video calls.

Setting a baseline

Baselines are fairly easy to develop when you’ve got a group of people doing the same thing.
But how can you establish a baseline when team members are doing different types of work?

First, you can compare current performance to past performance. Maybe one of your employees has historically produced two designs per day. Now, she’s averaging 2.5. Obviously, this positive increase says her productivity is improving.

The second way to establish productivity baselines.

One way to do this is with Hubstaff’s achievement badges.

Hubstaff Achievement badges

These are a great way to encourage team members to do their best work. Badges can help foster healthy competition and motivate team members to hit their assigned metrics.

Some possible achievements to strive for are:

  • Efficiency pro – Given to team members who meet their activity goals every day.
  • Productivity champ – Awarded to team members who complete their weekly to-dos goal.
  • Time hero – Given to those team members that meet the number of work hours they should aim for every week.

If you want a birds-eye view of these metrics, activity levels are color-coded: all you have to do is glance at your dashboard.

You can also see:

  • Who’s online
  • When each person last logged in
  • Average activity level per session
  • Total time logged per week

all reports in hubstaff

Absenteeism and attendance will tell you how dependable team members are.

This feature is especially important if you’re managing a remote team. It’s easy to lose track of each employee’s work day when everyone is going by different time zones and schedules.

Incentivizing your team members

After you’ve established baselines, separate your team members into three categories:

  • High performers
  • Average performers
  • Under-performers

This will help you better motivate and support each person individually.

High performers

92% of employees say they feel more engaged when recognition is part of a company’s culture.

Try to recognize the contributions your high achievers are making with positive feedback.

Delivering praise is even more important when you’re working with freelancers. Freelancers score as high or higher than traditional employees on engagement and satisfaction. The only exception is when it comes to commitment.

"Independent workers are more likely to think about finding another client, even when the arrangement with their current primary client is expected to be long-term," Rohman writes.

To boost their commitment, make sure you recognize your freelance hires as well as full-time staff.

Average performers

You need to work with your average performers to help them improve their performance.

Try scheduling individual meetings with these professionals to discuss their work and goals.

You might say, “(Name), I wanted to talk to you today because your activity levels are 10-20% lower than others on the team. How can I help you boost that percentage?” Offer examples of time management techniques they can try, and aim to understand their working process.

In addition, use clear metrics to motivate your team members.

For example, you could say, “Right now, most of the blog posts you’re submitting have around seven errors. It takes our copywriter some time to find these errors and correct them, so I’d like to see tighter drafts. Let’s get that average number of errors down to two or less per post.”

Some employees might need more direct, quantitative feedback like this. Others will need ongoing positive reinforcement. Your approach will depend on the team member and what motivates them.

Low performers

Decide whether to let go of your worst performers or invest resources in bringing them up to speed.

Paul Laherty, the vice president of Diio, poses two questions to help you make this choice:

  • Have you given this person clear expectations of their responsibilities and expected output?
  • Have you provided feedback about their performance?

If you don’t respond yes to both questions, then it’s probably not entirely this employee’s fault their work hasn’t been up to your standards, because you haven’t defined those standards.

But if you do answer yes, Laherty says to ask yourself a final question: Would you keep this person if they turned around their performance?

Decide whether or not to work with them based on your reply.


How to get employee buy-in for implementing time tracking

Now that you know the benefits, how to choose the right tool, and how to make the most of your time tracking software, it’s time to bring it to your team.

In many cases, you’re already using a time tracker and just need to get your team acquainted with a new software and process.

Other times, it’s all new, and you need to onboard your team appropriately to ensure engagement.

Here are four steps to get buy-in when implementing a new time tracking tool no matter what you’re currently doing.

1. Explain the importance of tracking time

Let employees know all about the benefits of time tracking. Explain how it can help show off their progress, prevent them from burning out, and improve their productivity.

Time tracking provides a record of everything employees do so there’s no question about their contribution.

In many cases, you can schedule a demo or share a walkthrough video that helps explain the purpose of the software.

2. Address common concerns

Assure employees that you’ll protect their privacy and give them access to all their time tracking data. Let them know that you’re not implementing time tracking because you don’t trust them. Instead, you’re looking to uncover bottlenecks and give everyone more dedicated focus time.

To help with this, contact your software’s customer support or sales teams for materials you can provide to employees.

3. Train employees on how to use time tracking software

It’s crucial that you provide employees with training on how to use the software. This will ensure they’ll know how to track their time accurately.

This goes beyond an initial setup. Plan to check-in around five and fourteen days after you start, as questions may come up once your team gets more familiar.

Don’t forget to reach out to customer support with any questions. You might even want to schedule a walkthrough for your team during this phase.

Creating an FAQ and drafting a specific time tracking policy are also good steps to take. You can distribute this to your team and ask for their feedback to make the process more collaborative.

4. Lead by example

Start by tracking your own time and sharing your findings with employees. This will help encourage them to start tracking their own time.

With daily recaps and reports available, it should be easy to screenshot or forward your own time tracking to reinforce what you can learn about your own habits.


Get started with better time tracking today

By putting the steps outlined here into practice and finding the right time tracker for you, you can:

  • Avoid unnecessary revenue leaks
  • Increase transparency
  • Improve productivity
  • Create more accurate estimates and increase profitability

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