Accurate work tracking is crucial for understanding business processes and managing work efficiently. Here’s how you can motivate your team to track their time.
We all know why tracking your work hours is crucial for successful management: the more accurate your data is, the more informed your decisions are. But what happens when that data is not as accurate as you need it to be?
Sure, just keeping track of work time in general can be a big help in analyzing productivity and planning your work ahead. But if you want it to have a significant impact on your business, you’ll need the big picture data. And that will require bringing your time tracking efforts to the next level.
Start logging your hours spent not just on your core activities, but rather all of them. That includes routine tasks like checking your email, attending meetings, doing phone calls and discussing work related issues with your colleagues.
If you don’t, not only do you get an incomplete picture, you also end up losing precious time. Quite literally – if you work in consulting, law, design, accounting, or provide other professional services, timesheets are often used to bill customers. So any untracked minutes can turn into hours, hours turn into days. It all adds up, and in the end can affect the company bottom line in a very real and major way.
And going by the results of our recent survey, the issue is even more serious than we had anticipated.
A study conducted among the users of our time-tracking software has revealed some truly surprising results.
It turns out that almost 62% of employees don’t track time spent on emails or do it rarely. They may complain to a colleague about how it took them half an hour to write a reassuring response to an unhappy customer, but there is no trace of it in their timesheet.
In a way it’s understandable – most people dislike routine and prefer to ignore it. What they don’t realize is that it could end up costing their company a lot of money. Sounds bad enough, but our figures paint an even more alarming picture.
- Over a third of employees don’t track their email time at all. That’s right, 36.4% of the people we surveyed don’t consider the time they spend on emails worth logging at all. A further 25.5% have admitted to doing it rarely. That amounts to practically 1.5 days of work time, which, if you work in professional services, could result in tremendous financial losses.
- Meetings fare a bit better. The majority of people who participated in our study, or 60% to be precise, have reported that they always track their meeting time. Out of the remaining 40% over 9% never do, and another 9.1% do it rarely. Not very encouraging, especially when you convert that time into $.
- Time spent on communication with coworkers shows greater variance. Nonetheless, the amount of employees who don’t seem to believe that the hours they spend every week discussing professional issues with their colleagues are at all important is quite concerning – 18.2% never track it, while another 23.6% admit to only doing it some of the time. And that’s especially true of managers, where simply talking to people can take up as much as 90% of their work time. And yet, 10% of those who don’t log their communication time turned out to be managers themselves!
- Half of all employees log their work time way too late. The frequency of time entry turned out to be a big problem too. It’s a common fact that the accuracy of information directly depends on the amount of time that has passed since you learned it. Well, that applies to time tracking as well. And according to our findings, around 50% of employees are in the habit of recording their work time days or even weeks after the fact. Which only serves to muddle the picture even further.
By themselves these issues might not seem that bad, but combined they contribute to a staggering 30% to 40% loss in billable time, and that’s not the kind of loss you want to ignore.
Stop Losing Time and You’ll Stop Losing Money
So the issue highlighted in our study is pretty clear. Employees are reluctant to track time spent on routine activities which leads to significant losses in revenue. An obvious and simple solution comes to mind – if you’ve spent the hours doing work, just log them.
But as any manager familiar with the issue would attest, getting employees to fill out their timesheets is hard enough on its own. Getting them to log their every activity in detail could seem near impossible. Take a look at some of our ideas on how to ease you team into it.
- Make sure that your time tracking system of choice is simple and easy to use. The less time it takes employees to submit their timesheets, the better your chances of getting accurate information out of them in a timely fashion.
- Use automated reminders. Nobody’s perfect and some of your employees are bound to forget to submit their timesheets every now and then. Using a system that automatically reminds people when their timesheets are due or alerts them about not submitted time will save you a lot of headache by reducing the number of late submissions.
- Communicate the importance of accurate timesheets clearly. Explaining the value of your team’s hours to the company (and by extension themselves) will make them understand and want to help.
- Encourage honesty, but don’t penalize it. The more detailed your team’s timesheets are, the move value they carry for your business. So when your employees report a lot of time on non-essential activities like email or meetings, don’t penalize them for it. Use that information to identify any issues they may be having and help them fix it.
- Don’t nitpick. Some projects are easy to do, while others are more difficult and require more time. So as long as your team are getting results and don’t break the budget too much, don’t nag on them for their timesheets.
The phrase “time is money” may be a beaten cliché at this point, but it feels quite appropriate given what we’ve discovered with our survey. And if you’re your suspecting that your business may already be suffering from lost time, now is your chance to take action.