How to accurately track your work time
In many smaller companies, there are constantly disputes about the amount of hours worked and naturally also about the salaries being paid for them. Overtime, weekends, holidays, sick leave, business trips, etc., all this requires exact tracking of your working time. If the company then suddenly agrees to track time on clients and projects, the administrative work can become almost unbearable and without a special time tracking and attendance software, almost impossible.
However, merely recording the time is not enough. Inaccurate number of working hours is a typical problem encountered by all companies (which often leads to problems with employees and customers), poor planning, failure to comply with the terms and consequently the loss of profit. To prevent these problems from happening, you should track the time in real time and regularly analyze the data. But how should you do this?
Problems originated from inaccurate time records
Some people say that everyone knows what time tracking is and what it is for. Nevertheless, lots of people do not and record their time wrongly, which usually leads to:
- Less profit
- Inaccurate profitability of projects due to inaccurate time spent
- Problems with planning and approval of projects at various stages because of inaccurate or absent statistics relating to the time limitations
- Lack of objective information about the workload of employees (who is overworked and who is able to deal with additional tasks)
- It is not clear how efficiently tasks are completed and what the ratio between productive and nonproductive time is
Why can time records end up being inaccurate?
There are fundamental reasons that can prevent a company from accurately tracking their working time. Employees must work on several projects simultaneously and deal with several tasks at once. Not rarely, at least 10 tasks per day. It can be a 5 minute phone call, a reply to an email or a quick meeting with the boss. In addition, unexpected tasks can appear for the employee to deal with. With all this going on, it can be very difficult to track time accurately.
Time tracking is also a challenge in itself, as it requires one extra step and demands additional attention. Not many companies have a smooth, easy to use system that will do it automatically. Usually employees use timesheets and just (roughly) write down the hours they worked. This helps neither to manage time nor to know how much time has been spent on tasks, though. It is very easy to either omit or add some hours since timesheets are often filled only once a week. People estimate the time, make sure it all adds up to at least 40 hours in a week and that’s it.
Productivity and efficiency are not even considered. It may happen that you go for a coffee but at the same time are thinking about the project and all of a sudden you have an epiphany. There you have a long sought solution. Same thing is having a lunch meeting. In both cases, that period of time is considered a break. Nevertheless, you are actually being efficient and productive and that time should be accounted as such. At the other hand, sitting in front of the computer pretending to work is, more often than not, seen as productive. Something does not add up, right?
In the end, people must track their time themselves and try to improve their productivity the best way they know how, not just for the manager but for themselves. This is of course difficult for the management, which has always seen breaks as non-working time and office time as working time no matter what. It is a new way of thinking. Time Tracking is not supposed to be about surveillance, it is about promoting efficiency.If it is used as this, then it can be beneficial but you just need to convince the employees to also see time tracking in this light (click here to see how). If they do not believe it will help them change their relationship to their work, then that person will always find hundreds of excuses why not to do it honestly.
How to get accurate data?
Let us look at ways how to improve the accuracy of tracking the working time, starting by determining the degree of accuracy that you actually need.
- Required accuracy
If you do not have to disclose the amount of time to your clients, answer yourself the question of how accurate the data must be so it can be used for future planning. Also, check whether the company culture even allows you to achieve the required accuracy of measurement.
It is necessary to know what the expected level of accuracy is, what is realistic and then find a way to provide this to your team. You will need this information in order to be able to make key decisions about the company’s future.
- Use the calendar
This is the most important, yet basic, tool. You need it to plan your tasks, track the time it takes for the tasks and have it visually laid out. You can use the Google Calendar or, for example, with primaERP Time Tracking, you can use this calendar to plan and primaERP to track your time.
- Integrate a time tracker with project management tools
The best thing to do is to track your time according to projects. It is ideal if you can combine two tools for this. For example, you can connect primaERP Time Tracking with BaseCamp so you can manage your projects plus track your time, all in one. It requires no additional cost from either application, yet you will achieve a fast and efficient solution. You will also see how much time you spend on projects, check how much you set for the budget and adjust it according to your data before any problem arise.
- Analyze reports
The detailed timesheets of your employees should be regularly checked and analyzed. This way you can find out who you can assign which tasks to and who already has too big of a workload to deal with. Keep in mind that before you can analyze timesheets, it will take time to gather the data and make the appropriate changes. Once you have them convinced to want to track their time, it is a beginning but then you have to motivate them to use the information they gather.
Only after you do the analysis and begin to get results you should give your team some feedback. Talk to them about how they are spending their time, whether it is too much or little and take a look at their individual task list. Checkt their timesheets and see if they correspond to the reports that you can get from a time tracking app like primaERP. If there is a distortion, talk to them, because they might not know they are doing something wrong. Take your time, as time wrongly tracked can have consequences, as much of planning and future changes are based on that data. Do not be afraid, it is not as difficult as it may sound. At the end of the day, timesheets will help you plan in order to improve and give your employees the feeling that they are spending their valuable time well.