Team Time Tracking or Team Not Time Tracking: The Modern Workforce Debate

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Time tracking has been a recent-esque development in the past 5 years. If you’re unfamiliar with this particular work tool, time trackers theoretically aim to support company productivity by having employees use an daily timer whilst working on various projects. Think of the old-fashioned punch cards that employees would use every morning and evening to clock in and out of work. Fast word to modern times: Whenever an employee is changing tasks throughout the day, they record their movements every. single. time.

Time tracking remains controversial in exactly how productive it actually is. The advantages are evident, at least on paper. Employers can better oversee and manage the time of their employees. Employees can do their assigned tasks and reflect on long it takes. It also could vary: time tracking could be more useful for remote workers or freelancers, but less so for in-house employees.  But beyond paper, what are the pros and cons of using time trackers? Do the tool’s benefits and frustrations extend to both employees and employers?

Employee Pros

Possess the proof that certain projects are wasting your time

Time trackers show the good and the bad. You had a hunch the proposed project would be incredibly time-consuming and hardly effective for the time and energy invested. With a time tracker, it could be easier to prove your case to your boss. A time tracker could be another member of team to corroborate your story. An employee could offer recommendations to an employer about how to optimize time towards a project.

Optimize future planning

Better planning means better execution. When you’re in a department, you own a certain group of tasks and projects. Some projects may be similar to others. If you’re able to track similar projects, you’ll be better to estimate at how long projects will take, what resources you’ll need (and how long it takes to procure those), and quantify the time it takes for other group members to get things done. This will be incredibly useful when debating about a potential project. Maybe your team will be unable to meet a similar project’s deadline given the time parameters. But because you know the parameters of other stakeholders, you can eliminate the unneeded departments or activities to meet the end point.

Employee Cons

Frustrate workers

Tech can be frustrating. Depending on the tech, it can be a gateway to frustrated employees and lowered morale. Time tracking is a tool. Like every tool, it takes a certain amount of understanding to utilize it. For employees that already are a bit tech-anxious, introducing a new tool may be a cause for concern. Our work lives can be fast paced; introducing another tool gives another mechanism to adapt to, which may lead to anxiety.

Frustration may not only stem from understanding how to execute the tool, but also the “why” behind the new tool. Why must I integrate this into my daily work? Is my work not good enough? Why does my employer need to feel they have to track my every move? An employee may feel a certain of distrust towards the tool and their boss. For employees of tech companies, this might be an added stressor to an already-angsty work situation.

Employer Pros

Gives a precise record

Time trackers show who, what, and how time is being spent. What’s valuable to employers is how time trackers show when employees leave and depart and precisely what they’re dedicating their work hours to. Because of the record, a company can see how an employee’s abilities and tasks have evolved. It could be a thoughtful jumping-off point to discuss an employee’s evolving (or devolving) position.

Motivates employees to finish on time

Companies want to deliver on time. If employers have given their workers a reasonable amount of time to complete a project (time tracking does not create time), this signals employees to remained focus and complete tasks accordingly. Time tracking software gives the ability for employees to reflect on how long a task is taking. This can be valuable feedback, as an employee can explain to an employer a task is taking longer than projected. Thereafter, the manager can quickly put out a potential fire before it starts by dedicating more staff to the task or rethinking resources.

Employer Cons

Shift company culture into burn-out

Creating a company full of burnt-out employees may be the greatest risk. Employees may be fired up and ready, integrating the tool into their daily work. Initially, they put in their hours and may come into work early to show dedication. After time has passed, employees may feel burnt out from the constant updating and checking. They may choose to do non-work activities with their time as they recover—making it difficult to meet deadlines. Simply, a time tracker could prove exhausting to a workforce. Productivity expert, Laura Stack, of The Productivity Pro, explains that “People are spending far more time creating these elaborate systems than it would have taken just to do the task. You’re constantly on your app refiguring, recalculating, recategorizing.” The amount of time dedicated to tracking time may exhaust employees to the point of reversing the tool’s productivity aspirations.

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