8 Rules (DOs and DON’Ts) of Employee Time Tracking

Mark Kessler |  August 31, 2016 |  Last updated: December 2, 2016

employee time tracking
 
IT’S UNCOMMON to move the Bonus part to the beginning of a guide. But here it is, Rule #9: If you don’t track your team’s time, the first rule is that you should.
 
Tracking the time worked is popular among businesses that bill their clients on an hourly basis. But employee time tracking can also provide valuable insight for companies with a different business model.
 
If you’ve ever worked in a company or a project where time tracking was a necessity, you know that certain problems arise. Even more so with remote team management. People forget to track their time, timesheets get lost, and monitoring time takes extra hours out of the managers’ days.
 
So how can you ensure that your employee time tracking runs smoothly and becomes an errorless process? We’ve been tracking our working time for many years, having our ups and downs. In the process, we’ve learned our fair share of tips and tricks, the DOs and DON’Ts that you too can apply to your team’s time management.
 
Ready to find out? Let’s go!

 

PART ONE: DO – the small things that improve your employee time tracking

 
In the first part of this guide, we’ll walk through the best practices of time management. You can apply these rules to track the time worked on projects, or simply to keep track of everyone’s work achievements.
 

Rule #1. Make it super easy

 
If you compare the way that different teams track their time, you’ll see that some are more successful than others. Their secret? – super simple time tracking formula.
 
No matter whether you use time tracking tools or spreadsheets to keep track of everyone’s work, it has to be easy-to-understand. Find a simple online tool or create spreadsheet formulas that can be easily understood. Avoid complex equations and project schemes.

 

Rule #2. Make it quick

 
You don’t want to be in the situation where time tracking is taking more time than it helps to save. Ensure that filling in the timesheets or entering data won’t take more than 10 minutes of employee’s time each day. To speed up the process, create pre-designed timesheets. If you’re using work management software, set up project categories and task types that help to automatically fill in entry fields.
 
Read more: 100+ Productivity Tips Used by High-Achievers

 

Rule #3. Align everyone’s time tracking

 
When every employee sends unorganized time tracking notes to the manager, it might take more than a day to make sense of the data. Projects managers spend hours to review and document everyone’s work time just because it’s unorganized and scattered between emails and spreadsheets.
 
The easiest way to organize employee time is to use a time-tracking tool as it automates the documentation process. You’ll never lose important data and even better – it can be found with a quick Control + F formula.

 

Rule #4. Organize your time management

 
As you get started with time tracking, you need to establish some clear rules to avoid confusion in the future. There are simple actions that you can take towards improving the insights you get from work reports and timesheets.
 
Add project labels and use the same task categories across ALL the projects. Agree on the minimal time unit that’s used when logging time – 5, 10 or 15 minutes. Agree also to log sick days, overtime, etc. so that everyone’s on the same page, resulting in accurate results and actionable insights.
 
Read more: This 1-hour Weekly Work Audit Will Skyrocket Your Productivity

 

PART TWO: DON’T – foolish mistakes that you need to avoid like fire

 
While time tracking isn’t exactly rocket science, there’s a good chance that you’re making tiny mistakes that lead to errors and frustration. By avoiding the common blunders, you can significantly improve your
team’s time management.

 

Rule #1. Don’t spend too much time on time tracking

 
Logging daily work shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes. And it definitely shouldn’t take hours of the managers’ time to analyze the results. You don’t want the time-saving work management process to end up costing you even more time.
 
Avoid double data entry by ensuring that your employees submit error-free and organized timesheets. Set up a monthly review process where you collect everyone’s time tracking data in one batch, instead of scrolling through old emails, looking for answers. Even better if you’re able to move your employee time tracking online and automate parts of your work.
 
Read more: 4 Ultimate Hacks to Get into the Flow (And Enjoy You Work)

 

Rule #2. Don’t lose the trust factor

 
It is easy for people to feel monitored when submitting their timesheets and work reports. Questions like “Did I work enough this week?” or “Is my manager happy with my work?” are quick to cross anyone’s mind. Having less than 8 hours of logged time each day might seem like a threat to a person’s job.
 
So how can you get accurate work reports without compromising your employees’ feeling of safety? The best way is to be honest. Explain to your team that it’s normal to log anything between 6 to 8 hours each day. This way, they won’t feel pressured to log more time than it actually took them to complete a task, and you’ll get accurate work reports.

 

Rule #3. Don’t lose your data

 
What if you accidentally deleted an email with your team’s timesheets? Or what if someone clicked on a wrong button and deleted a year’s worth of data in your time tracking tool? There are some simple steps that you can take to avoid these threatening perspectives.
 
Backup. That’s a work that you should think about every once in a while, regarding all your important business data. Add duplicates of your employee timesheets and work reports to Dropbox.
 
When using an online tool for time management, do quarterly exports on important data and save it somewhere outside the software tool. Another great tip is to lock your documents or make them editable/deletable for people with specific user rights.

 

Rule #4. Don’t forget to USE your time reports

 
There’s no use of tracking your team’s time if you don’t use this data to analyze and optimize your work. You might be able to discover new insights that you hadn’t even considered before. For example, a team in what we’ll call Company X discovered that they spent over 25% of their time at client meetings. They hadn’t considered billing clients for the meetings but after this huge revelation, they set up a new pricing list, resulting in 20% higher monthly income.
 
Analyzing time sheet data can become a process so fascinating that project managers enjoy it instead of looking it as another boring duty. Look for cues to improve your team’s productivity by taking up more profitable projects and avoiding the time-consuming tasks with an insignificant outcome.
 
After you’ve set up clear time tracking rules and get a complete overview of your team’s work, things can only move upward.
 
Want to get more out of you time? View these 16 time tracking best practices.

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