Timekeeping: A Robust Tool to Improve Efficiency

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Timekeeping is an essential part of the work process for companies across many different fields these days. There’s a multitude of different ways you can adapt it to serve different purposes – depending on your professional field, company culture, and your team’s overall goals.

Here at actiTIME, for example, using a timekeeping tool has allowed us to optimize and improve our workflow in several key areas. With access to detailed time records, project planning is no longer a guessing game for our team leads – with actual data on how long it takes our people to complete specific tasks, estimating their work on future projects is significantly less challenging.

Timekeeping has been a tremendous benefit to our administrative processes as well. Our teams are on a flexible schedule, with some people working remotely on a regular basis. Under different circumstances keeping track of attendance and making sure that everyone is doing their work would have been a nightmare. Now, as long as our folks keep their timesheets in order, our management and accounting people have nothing to worry about.

In our article below, we’ll try dive a bit deeper into the subject and discuss what timekeeping is, what advantages it can have for both employers and employees, and go over different types of timekeeping so you can determine which one would work best for your business. If you’re eager to give one a try right now, our free version is a great place to start.

What is timekeeping

Keeping track of time spent on work is the easiest way to calculate work costs that is being used since ancient times. Historically, many types of timekeeping have been evolved that are now being used in different fields.

Calculating costs of work is not the only purpose of timekeeping. It is also used to analyze and improve performance, work on productivity, and obtain vital business data. Time records allow managers and business owners to figure out important trends and help regular employees see where their time goes and make their work process more efficient.

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Historically, timekeeping technologies started evolving after the Industrial Revolution, when the relationships between employees and employers were defined by the “time is money” principle. In the XIX century, the massive adoption of machines in industrial activities affected timekeeping too: the first time clock for attendance tracking and tardiness monitoring was invented in 1888.

In knowledge work, just attendance and punctuality data was not enough. Employers and customers needed to know where exactly paid time goes – and this is how timesheets were invented. First timesheets were used by lawyers and consultants. Today, they are used in many fields, including construction, manufacturing, IT, etc.

As the technology evolved and electronic devices turned into work tools in many areas, detailed activity monitoring became possible. Special software is used to record users’ activities on their computers and prepare detailed reports on where their time goes.

Today, various methods of timekeeping are used, depending on what data and level of detail are necessary. They are considered a source of vital information for businesses and individuals – let’s see how they benefit the work process for everyone involved.

Advantages of timekeeping

As the experience of many companies shows, timekeeping brings significant benefits to both companies and employees. Knowledge is power: knowing where your (or your team’s) time goes helps perform work more efficiently, organize work process and environment, and defeat such negative factors as procrastination.

Benefits for businesses

Accurate data for billing and accounting: for those companies that bill their customers by hourly rates, having exact timekeeping data is fundamental. It solves the problem of under-billing and helps maintain friendly relationships with customers.

Transparency and traceability of performed work: timekeeping data, being available in raw form and summarized in reports, helps get insights into how specific work assignments were performed and what parts of them took the most time.

Easier planning: plans for future workloads, based on previous data, turn out to be more accurate. What’s more, timekeeping data helps identify time-wasting activities and eliminate them or optimize the work process for future assignments.

Better work management: setting up work processes requires defining time estimates and deadlines. They require knowing how much time is normally required for specific tasks, so it’s easier to set them up based on the previously collected data.

Better discipline and morale: knowing that time spent on specific work assignments is traceable, employees tend to use it more mindfully.

Benefits for employees

Optimizing work process: knowing what tasks are more difficult and time-consuming, it’s easier to distribute time more wisely and get them done first.

Defeating procrastination: being aware of your time expenses motivates to spend time more mindfully, eliminate distractions, and tackle harder tasks.

Identifying overwork: a summary of time expenses helps find out what activities require more time than your workday includes and detect possible overloads.

Defining your scope of responsibilities (and defending it): seeing how much work you’re able to perform within any specific period of time allows you to limit your workload to the reasonable values and provides a valid reason to say no to excessive assignments.

As beneficial as timekeeping is for businesses and individuals, it’s often challenging. It’s not uncommon that people ignore timesheets to the last minute and complain that timekeeping is just another chore that makes their life more difficult.

That’s why building up an efficient procedure is crucial: reducing time and effort spent on timekeeping means more accurate results and more value of the collected data. This is where special tools help: they allow speed up and automate timekeeping and avoid manual work that causes delays and errors.

Timekeeping methods and tools

Special software tools for timekeeping available on the market have different functionality, depending on the data that needs to be collected and the timekeeping method used by the team. Below, we’ll describe the most common ones, and give examples of tools that can be adopted in the company for each specific method.

Punch-in and -out

Used mostly for organizing and controlling shift work, punch-in and -out timekeeping provides employers with information on employees’ attendance and tardiness. This method provides very basic information that is usually sufficient if an employee doesn’t have a wide range of responsibilities but needs to be present at the workplace within strictly defined work hours.

Such tools as CKZ Time Clock allow tracking of time expenses with start and end timestamps. The time clock doesn’t allow to log detailed data on how the time has been spent – but users can select time log types: regular work time, PTO, non-PTO, vacation, and sick time off. Later, managers can run payroll reports for individual employees and the entire team, as well as calculate payroll totals based on the collected data.

Manual tracking

Manual entry of time spent on work assignments provides the most detailed information on how work is performed. It is a source of valuable insights in knowledge-based work, where employees perform several different tasks throughout the workday. The data helps identify process flaws, weak points, and room for work optimization. Usually, manually entered data doesn’t include the data on attendance hours, so it works best for teams with flexible schedules.

To organize timekeeping with a manual entry method, use tools like actiTIME that allow employees to log their time expenses with a detailed breakdown of how their time is spent, leave comments to time-track, and review their results for any specific periods. Managers and business owners can use multiple reports to analyze the data.

Activity monitoring

This method doesn’t require any actions on the employee’s side at all. Activity tracking tools collect the information on users’ actions on their devices used for work and summarize the data to get daily, weekly, etc. reports. This data allows employers to see each individual’s time expenses and is considered an efficient measure against timesheet fraud. This method fits teams where managers struggle with low morale and poor discipline.

Such tools as ActivTrak help organize activity monitoring: it tracks activities on company’s workstations in real-time mode, captures screenshots, handles insider threats, blocks malicious websites, and allows generating user activity reports. To reduce management efforts, it also offers activity alert feature: configure actions to perform in case of a triggering event – from an email alert to remotely terminating an application.

Summary

Timekeeping, alongside with providing vital data for planning, billing, and accounting, offers various ways to increase work efficiency, improve employees’ morale, and stay organized. Depending on your team’s work specifics, management purposes, and office culture, you can use different timekeeping methods. The key point here is organizing it properly to get valuable data on time and be able to use it in future work processes.

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