Over a third of workers believe they waste 1-2 hours a day on their workplace, as shown in a Gallup poll taken in 2007. That makes up to 10 hours per week on average. These figures could make any business owner think about a career change. Luckily, there is a way out of this pain. The use of time-tracking software can help you realize where all the time goes.
Who would be interested in time-tracking? Just a few examples show that in fact anyone can be:
- Companies with hourly-paid and part-time workers.
- Companies that bill customers for work performed.
- Freelancers and remote workers.
- Managers looking to improve performance.
- Non-profit organizations for better accountability to funders.
Raising Business Efficiency with Time-Tracking Applications
Did you know that worked hours are listed among the 10 key business metrics? This indicator can also tell you something about staff productivity, which is another important marker. Collecting and analyzing this data can take business to a whole new level. The following story offers a compelling example.
An Irish IT company decided to use personal time tracking software¹ Looking at the Broad Picture: Smarter Software Development for Irish Companies. By Martha H. Sanders. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2010.. Quite unexpectedly, time records showed that technical support was eating up too much time. This resulted in reviewing the support procedures, which in turn helped to reduce costs and improve customer experience. What matters here is that time-tracking required very little investment — but resulted in measurable increase of revenue. Another important finding is that it is essential to choose a tool that will align best with your business practices.
Types of Time-Tracking Software
We won't discuss Excel here, because it lacks a lot of special features offered by time-tracking tools. Looking for software to track time, be prepared to choose from a wide variety of types. The major defining feature is the way you can enter time.
- Systems with swipe cards. At the beginning of each working day employees record their arrival by swiping a badge card against the reader. The same is done when they leave the office. Such systems are perfect for registering absence or late attendance, but don't cover the needs of remote workers. Besides, they don't allow you to record time by tasks. An example of such system is EasyTime.
- Clock in/clock out systems. These solutions can be rather sophisticated, offering different possibilities of clocking in: on production site, in the office, by dialing a toll-free phone number, via PC or mobile apps. Here we can refer to TimePilot solution, which even offers special timeclock devices for extreme outdoor conditions.
- Timer systems. The simplest timesheets with timers allow recording total hours worked. To start tracking, an employee simply has to press a button. More complex tools such as uAttend let you allocate time to different job assignments (e.g, projects or tasks). The problem with this type of timesheets is that users often forget to switch between tasks, so time is recorded incorrectly.
- Geolocation/geofencing systems. Solutions such as myGeoTracking are installed on the employee's mobile phone. They make use of GPS monitoring, so that when a worker arrives at a jobsite, the system performs a punch-in. Some timesheets let you track mileage as well. Needless to say, this type of time-tracker is perfect for companies with field workforce.
- Background tracking systems. They are based on desktop monitoring which limits the target audience to office workers. Running in the background, the solution automatically captures time spent on particular tasks. Additional features include taking screenshots and registering keyboard activity. An example of such application can be Screenshot Monitor. Most workers won't be comfortable with this type of tracking, because the Big Brother effect is here at its worst.
- Systems with manual recording. A user logs time against a task manually, either as an interval or amount of time. Built-in notifications will remind employees when it's time to fill in the timesheet. Tools like actiTIME take things a step further with advanced options — such as leave time tracking, overtime and PTO calculation.
What to Look At When Choosing Software for Time-Tracking
Predictably, there is no 'one-size-fits-all' solution. Defining your requirements will help to narrow down the choices. Here is a list of things to be considered:
- Flexibility. See if it is possible to configure the tool the way you need. You may want to have additional features for company managers, or a possibility to add users quickly if you own a rapidly growing start-up business (hey there, Facebook successors).
- Tracking options. Apart from time, some solutions allow tracking location, mileage and money expenses. Check this out if this is important for you.
- Integration possibilities. Whether you look for integration with accounting, project management or ERP system, keep in mind that most time-tracking tools can integrate only with leading software products. You may also look for compatibility with various equipment — from mobile phones to badge terminals.
- Cloud vs. on-premise. When choosing deployment model, it is essential to consider such factors as company structure (local/distributed), preferable budgeting and possibility of internal IT support. Cloud service will be right for those who would like to have a ready solution. For example, if you don't have an in-house IT professional, you may opt for actiTIME Online, because in this case your license will cover maintenance and update services.
- Pricing. Price plans depend on the functionality, number of created users or projects. If you choose a cloud-based solution, it will require ongoing costs. With on-premise software, you would normally need to pay a one-time license fee. Additional upfront fees can be charged for training or primary setup. It is also worth knowing that many providers offer free time-tracking software for small teams or non-profits.
...And Just One More Thing
If you want to get a feel of the product, be sure to test it before purchasing. Going through a free trial will help you realize whether a time-tracker can change the game for you.