Time tracking – is it needed?

When it comes to time tracking, employers and employees have very different reactions, understandably so. For employers, tracking time spent on a task or project means efficiency, effectiveness and most importantly, no financial waste. Back in 2015, AffinityLive conducted a survey of business professionals, from all rungs of the ladder, to find out what they were doing with their time. The research looked to assign a monetary value to all of this time, in order to get a better view of the issue at hand:

  • $50,000 were lost each year due to emails
  • $32,000 were lost each year due to meetings and random calls
  • In the services sector, these sums amount to a whopping 50 million hours or $7.4 billion a day in lost productivity, for the U.S. economy

AffinityLive’s survey found that if timesheets were to be changed from yearly, quarterly, monthly or weekly, to daily, businesses could recover up to $52,000 per employee, per year, in billable time. A services company employing 15 individuals could recover $1.4 million for their top-line, yearly, if they were to recapture lost time.

Now, we obviously know that time is money, however let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Looking at these figures does indeed not paint the prettiest of pictures, however we have to keep a level head and try to understand what are the pros and cons of tracking time. It’s important to not jump the gun on time tracking, because employers already have an exceptionally difficult time acquiring employee buy-in for matters such as KPIs, OKRs, performance management and measurement.

Looking at the bright side

As far as most people are concerned, there are 4 major advantages to using time tracking software, tools or methods.

Greater productivity

Plain and simple, when you carefully plan your alloted time for each activity, you get a better sense of your productivity and you also become more aware of all the distractions around you, such as multitasking. Speaking of multitasking, the American Psychological Association (APA) published a piece of research that showcases how constantly shifting between tasks causes people to lose almost 40% of their productivity, focus and concentration.

Another advantage of tracking one’s time with greater depth is it allows us to spot those areas that drain precious moments which can be used to greater effect. From unnecessary emails, to redundant calls, by setting limits and tracking our schedule, we can cut back on major time wasters.

Accountability and transparency

When you dilligently track time, it is much easier to know who is working on what project, when, for how long and whether they are being slowed down by any issues. Projects nowadays are complex matters, which oftentimes require interdepartmental assistance. When everyone knows how much time they can or should allocate for a task, it becomes much more facile to track duties.

This increased level of accountability, in turn, leads to greater transparency. When everyone knows what each other is up to, you avoid uncomfortable scenarios. We’ve all been through them – as work gets done and people eschew writing down their progress, peoople lose sight of what’s what, causing arguments to stir up and tempers to rise.

Time tracking not only helps avoid such situations, it also gives better insight into how much progress has actually been achieved. If everything is written down and time-stamped, there cannot be any doubt about work loads.

Breaching the point of work loads, there is one last advantage accountability and transparency advantage worth mentioning. Remote workers get to receive full recognition for their work. Polycom, Inc. commissioned a survey on remote workers, and among its findings, one matter stood out – 62% of them are in a constant state of panic that their colleagues do not believe they work as hard as them, due to not being physically present at the office. When we track time, this fear goes away, leaving room for trust and confidence.

Saving on costs

Manual timesheets and leaked hours. On the one hand, you have labouring over timesheets, filling up each one by hand, analyzing the data and if any mistake occurs, you have to start over. Moreover, you turn into a real-life Naggy Nancy, since you’re now tasked with constantly reminding everyone to fill their sheets, which will certainly bring down the atmosphere. No one likes a Naggy Nancy.

On the other hand, leaked hours represent those lost bits of time on unimportant messages, extraneous chains of emails and meetings that carry on for too long. How many times did you forget about an email or a meeting, started working on something, only to be halted as you were getting going, because you had to immediately answer that message or attend that meeting? It feels awful and in reality, the aforementioned studies have also proven it is awful too.

By employing a time tracking system, you ensure everyone has access to an automated timesheet format, which can be easily edited. Therefore, even if errors occur, you can simply correct them without having to redo all the work. Moreover, such systems have automated notifications that can be sent to each employee, as a reminder.

Furthermore, since time tracking systems give you the opportunity of seeing who is working on what & when, managers and team leaders will be able to differentiate between paramount tasks and more lenient assignments, which can allow breaks in concentration.

Final thoughts

In this first part of our time-tracking topic, we’ve so far covered several positive aspects pertaining to tracking time conscientiously. You can increase your productivity, gain greater accountability & transparency, and plug the drain on a few costs. However, that’s not all, because just as time tracking can be a force for good, it can also be a force for evil, when misused, mismanaged or when zealotry plagues the minds of those who employ it.

Read more about some of the negative parts that may come with time tracking in our second part, and decide for yourself whether you can maintain positivity and productivity, without falling into certain traps and pitfalls.

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