Many of you have probably felt the urge to fib a little on your timesheet to make it seem like you were more productive. I don’t blame you. Many companies use timesheets to assess how you’re performing on the job by basing work done on time spent rather than the quality of work an employee produces. The problem with this is that it creates a culture of fear and is actually counter-productive. But there ARE benefits to time tracking. If a company uses it as a tool for creating efficiency that will as a result benefit their employees, then the stigmas associated with time tracking will vanish.
The value is obvious if your company is using timesheets to bill clients. But there are many other cost benefits to time tracking. The biggest one being budgeting projects utilizing historical timesheet data. By way of illustration, your team sets a $2,000 budget for a project that would take 60 hours to complete. But after reviewing historical timesheet data you notice that projects of similar size averaged 80 hours. With this knowledge you can increase the initial budget with solid data to back it up. It not only helps teams to be more realistic when budgeting a project, but also creates the case for charging clients more. Furthermore, if budgets are reduced later on, you’ll know exactly what the consequences will be and which parts of the project will be affected.
Companies can measure the amount of time spent on tasks that are priority vs. tasks that are non-essential. This way, if too much time is spent on non-essential tasks, upper management can shift priorities and clearly communicate new expectations to employees. Also, if management determines that value is being added from meetings or other activities, management can then determine best practices and other protocols to enhance those tasks.
Employees’ personally benefit from tracking time by being more present and focused. By actively tracking time, employees can spot “time-sink” activities and cut them out. You can’t rush creativity, and shouldn’t! But by tracking your time, you’ll naturally become more conscious of how time is being spent on work vs. surfing the net. It’s also a great way to measure how long particular tasks take to avoid over committing. Teams can determine which tasks are taking longer than normal and discover why and how to fix them. I have to be clear that this is something that will happen naturally, without added pressure from upper management.
Are you tired of working long hours and wondering why projects are being over-booked? Every manager wants to make sure they are planning appropriately for the capacity of the team, as well as giving enough room to complete quality work in a timely manner. An accurate timesheet is a vital element for scheduling. Without it, the manager runs the risk of over allocating resources for a given time, creating those long work weeks you dread. Let’s say there is an upcoming project and the team already has tight deadlines. Using fact-based timesheets, a PM can forecast how that project will fit into the already busy schedule. On the other hand, if timesheets are not precise, the PM could over-allocate. Timesheets also help managers view the overall status of their project and see which percentage of work has been completed to date. This helps with conveying the health of a project to stakeholders and also assist in fixing any issues that are causing overages.
There are many other benefits to tracking time, but monitoring employees should not be one of them. If timesheets are used this way, the company risks decreasing morale. In effect, timesheets will go to waste because employees will ultimately lie due to the negative pressure. But on the other hand, if a company puts emphasis on using the timesheet to benefit its employees they will see cost savings, improved efficiency and better time management. So know that timesheets are not the enemy! If you’re at a company that tracks their employees, try raising these points and changing the paradigm for timesheet usage.