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Should You Use Time Tracking for Project Management?

Worried about your team’s productivity? Using time tracking for project management may help — or not. Learn more about its pros and cons in this post.
To use time tracking software or not to use time tracking software?

That is the question that boggles the minds of many business owners.

To settle this debate once and for all, let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of time tracking for project management.

What is a time tracker?

A time tracker is a tool that gives you insight into what a workday is like for your employees. It shows you what time they clocked in, how much time they spent on a certain task, and how active they were throughout the day.

Popular project hours tracking software include Hubstaff, Clockify, and Time Doctor. They share features like:

  • Time tracking (of course)
  • Screenshots
  • Apps and URL monitoring
  • Productivity levels
  • Time off requests

What are the benefits of time-tracking software?

Have a team working in the opposite time zone?

If you’re like the 82% of managers worried that remote work has a negative impact on productivity and focus, time tracking for project management could help.

Here are the benefits of time tracking in relation to your business:

It can boost productivity

Combining project management with time tracking can help you find out how productive your team is. You can use the software to check if they’re on track with their tasks or see what’s keeping them too busy for another project.

What’s keeping teams busy— but not productive?

It could be idle time, but meetings may also be the culprit.

A report by Fellow revealed that employees attend an average of 11 to 15 meetings a week. Considering 46% of those don’t have an explicit goal, that means productivity suffers.

With time-tracking software, you and your team can visualize this information and create effective ways to be more productive. For example, if you see that your team spends 8 hours a week on meetings, you might need to weigh their importance and determine if they can be conveyed through email instead.

Related: How to track employee productivity

It makes your team feel more accountable

You and your managers aren’t the only ones who can view what your team does via the time-tracking software. Every member can see their individual activity and, depending on your settings, others’ activity as well.

Because every hour is recorded, your team may take more ownership of their role. They’ll be motivated to set priorities, minimize multitasking, and complete assignments faster.

No more manual timesheets

An old-school time tracking sheet is the bane of every employee’s life, but it’s especially taxing on your HR team. They need to go over the entries several times to avoid mistakes, which takes hours to finish.  

With a time-tracking system, this will no longer be a problem. Your HR assistant will have a much easier time keeping tabs on leaves, overtime, undertime — and by extension, calculating payroll.

It streamlines the overall workflow

What projects take up the most time? Which time of the day are your team members most active? Are they less productive on certain tasks?

A time tracking system can help you understand your team and their work style more. This allows you to make smarter choices when you’re delegating tasks and strategizing new goals.

What are the cons of time tracking software?

While there’s no denying the benefits of using a time tracker for small business enterprises, you also have to factor in the downsides before making your decision.

Here are some issues with tracking hours for employees:

It may discourage employees

Time tracking software can take screenshots of your employees’ computers, so it’s understandable if they aren’t gung ho about it. They didn’t sign up to have Big Brother hovering over them, watching their every move.

Sharing the purpose behind monitoring their work hours is the key. According to a study by Dtex Systems, 77% of employees don’t mind their activity being tracked as long as their company is upfront about it.

Important: Give your team the opportunity to share their thoughts and concerns about the time tracker. This will show them you value their voice.

Takes time to master

When you delegate a new task to your virtual assistant, doesn’t it take them a while to become an expert at it?

Time tracking for project management is the same thing.

During the first few weeks, your team might forget to switch to a different task, clock in late, or not log time completely. They may also find it difficult to remember which tasks fall under a specific project.  

Now you can’t avoid these human errors (more on them later), but you can lower their chances of happening with an SOP in place.

Your time tracking for project management SOP can include:

  • How to log in to the time tracking app and choose a strong password
  • How to pick the right to-do (ex. graphics, copy, and scheduling FB posts should fall under social media)
  • The ideal time for each task
  • What to do for discrepancies (ex. forgetting to start the timer or using the wrong project)

Related: How to Make Delegation Easier with SOPs

Possibility of micromanagement

In the wrong hands, access to time reports can increase the likelihood of micromanagement. You might even feel tempted to check the system several times a day yourself.

This isn’t a habit you want to develop, so always keep in mind the answer to the question “What is time tracking for?”

Not 100% accurate

Time trackers provide you with detailed reports of your team’s activity — but they don’t tell you the whole story.

Let’s say Hubstaff reports that your assistant spent most of their shift checking emails. Yet when you look at the screenshots, they were actually working on several projects. They were just too in the zone to switch tasks.

Or, for example, it shows that one team member’s activity was below 50% last week. Does it mean they were slacking off? Not necessarily. They may have had more meetings than usual.

time-trackingSince time-tracking software measures productivity via keyboard and mouse activity, it’s not the best at calculating how effective a meeting is. Nor can you rely on it alone for gauging your team’s performance.

You’ll need to combine the time tracker with the quality of their work and your observations during 1:1s.

When to use project hours tracking software

Time trackers can come in handy for freelancers, businesses with remote or hybrid teams, and other industries that want to be smarter with their hours.

You can use time tracking software for:

  • Project management: Time tracking for project management is a must if you want to ensure your team is hitting milestones or to see whether you have to make adjustments.
  • Project planning: Want to plan for the future better? Then use data from previous projects to plot timelines and set realistic deadlines. For example, if you had delays with a product launch before, maybe you’ll need to divide it into two phases moving forward — the pre-production stage and then the actual launch.  
  • Billing and invoicing: A time tracker can document the work done and automatically generate an invoice. So whether you’re billing clients by the hour or want to expedite your company’s payroll process, it saves you the hassle of using a manual time tracking sheet. It’s faster and more accurate.
  • Reviewing employee performance: If productivity is part of your criteria for evaluating each team member’s performance, time-tracking software can help big time. Just don’t make it the only basis. If you notice any red flags with a member’s productivity, ask them about it.


Other tips for managing team productivity

Besides using time tracking for project management, you can also promote your remote staff’s productivity by:

  • Setting SMART goals: SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. They help your team gain time management benefits like less stress, improved concentration, and the motivation to perform their best.
  • Maintaining open communication: Regular communication can nip problems in the bud. Encourage your team to share their feedback either during your 1:1s, or if they’re shy, by private message.  
  • Offering continuous improvement: Giving your team the opportunity to upskill empowers them to own their role and take on higher-level tasks.
  • Promoting work-life balance: Nothing kills productivity like burnout, so make it a priority to give your team a healthy work environment. A flexible work schedule and time off can do wonders for their well-being.

So, are you team time tracker or firmly against it?

The benefits of time tracking are plenty. But if you trust your employees to get their work done even without screenshots and URL tracking, then stick to your output-based approach by all means.

Regardless of your choice, what’s most important is that you pick your team carefully, make the effort to train them, and set realistic goals you can achieve together.

If you want to start hiring top talent but don’t know where to find them, let Somewhere handle it. We’re right here when you need help.

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