Tracking employees’ time offers many benefits. It helps in understanding employees’ work habits and how an organization performs. However, implementing time tracking can be challenging because it adds to employees’ already busy routine and employees perceive it as micro-management.
So, to successfully implement time tracking, you must follow the best practices. Time tracking best practices for teams include introducing time tracking using a pilot program, communicating why time tracking is essential, and keeping time tracking simple. The best time tracking practices for individuals include filling timesheets straightaway, using a timer, and organizing time around projects.
In this article, we’ll show you twenty-nine (29) best practices for implementing time tracking, categorizing them into time tracking best practices for teams and time tracking best practices for individuals.
Time Tracking Best Practices for Teams
The best practices for implementing time tracking with teams are:
1. When introducing time tracking, start a with a pilot program
Before rolling out time tracking at an organizational level, try it on a small scale. The small-scale, short-time tracking experiment lets you see how the whole thing will work in practice.
The smaller the users in your pilot program are, the better for the program. A small team will be more engaged and will give you more feedback.
You collect feedback from the pilot program to design an efficient time tracking system on a small scale. So, when you introduce time tracking organizationally, you only need to scale up a working system (and probably make minor tweaks).
For the pilot program, a popular approach is using one department in the organization. Another approach is selecting people for the group from different departments.
The latter approach allows you to select motivated people, which helps you get more valuable feedback. It also allows you to select influential people from various departments as early adopters of time tracking. This helps with its general adoption when you roll it out to everyone.
👉 Here are some useful tips on how to introduce time tracking to your team.
2. Communicate why you need to track time
Why do you think people leave for work every morning, even when they don’t feel like it? Because they know that the job puts money in their pocket. So, people generally are motivated to do something if they see the need for it.
To motivate people to track their time, you have to help them realize why time tracking is essential.
If a company charges clients or pays employees by the hour, employees can quickly see why time tracking is essential. But when the company neither bills nor pays by the hour, employees may have difficulty understanding why time tracking is needed. So, they may not accurately track time, leading to inaccurate time data.
So, when rolling out time tracking, it is important to help employees know why it is vital by showing them how the time data will be used and how it helps the business.
3. Keep time-tracking simple
The easier time tracking is, the more readily people will adopt it, and the more accurate the time data (timesheets) will be.
Thus, when rolling out time tracking, you should keep the data entry requirement as simple as possible.
How detailed timesheets should depend on what you’ll use the reports for. However, you should keep details to a minimum, especially when starting new.
There are two ways to keep timesheets simple:
Limit time entry. Most of the time, seek to know how long a process takes and not how long the specific tasks/ activities in the process take.
For example, if you only require knowing how long it took to fix a bug, only one entry is needed in the timesheet. However, if you require to know how long each activity in fixing a bug takes, multiple entries will be needed in the timesheet.
Limit descriptions in time entries. Notes/ descriptions are used to explain time entries in timesheets. But a description is not required for every time entry. The only exception is when you have to justify the time spent on every item for a client.
For example, in the bug-fixing example above, you should not require the employees to make notes explaining the time spent on each activity (finding the cause, coding, and testing).
Know that writing descriptions increase the time and effort required to produce the timesheets, and not many employees will like the added stress.
💡 In TimeCamp you can import your project structure from project management tool you use, so you don’t need to think too much on how to name your time entries and you can keep your reports consistent. Check our integrations.
👉 Check also our list of 14 best timesheets apps for efficient time management
4. Use time trackers that provide different insights
There are different time trackers in the market. However, they are not made equal as they offer many tracking and visualization capabilities.
However, it is best to use a time tracker that can provide different insights into the time logged by your team. The best time tracking tools should be able to produce various charts and data summaries.
💡 Interestingly, TimeCamp is one of the best time tracking apps because it can create insightful reports. TimeCamp has over ten (10) built-in report types. You’ll probably find a report that meets your needs regardless of your time tracking case. Even if you do not see a default report that matches your need, TimeCamp allows you to define and set up your custom reports.
5. Avoid over-monitoring
“Too much of everything is bad.” While time tracking is OK for improving productivity, it can dampen spirit if it is taken to the extreme. As such, it is not advisable to use invasive time tracking software like screenshot-producing software.
6. Do time audits
Do time audits periodically – once a week or once a month. The audit helps you to find and correct problems with time entry data.
Some of these problems include:
Time entries that are not correctly categorized. It is possible to add an entry to a wrong project or a wrong sub-level within the right project. In either case, reports will be inaccurate because the incorrectly categorized entry will raise the figure of time where it is entered.
Incomplete entries. Sometimes, people mistakenly start and stop timers, creating entries that are too short. Other times, people forget to stop timers, creating entries that are too long. Such entries will make reports inaccurate as they do not represent work done for the project.
So, the time audit helps clean up your entries by fixing all faulty time entry problems.
💡 TimeCamp can help you keep your time tracking actual thanks to reminders for not starting the timer and timer running too long. You can also turn on the setting to automatically stop tracking time after the browser has been closed for chosen time.
7. Take advantage of extra features like reminders and automatic clock-in/out
Time tracking applications come with various features, including reminders and alerts. These can help you track time accurately.
For example, forgetting to start the timer is very common. In that case, you can set a time tracking software to send you an alert if it notices that you are working and the timer is not on.
Also, you can set the software to remind you to log time each day or week.
💡 Another feature of top time tracking applications like TimeCamp is the automatic clock-in and clock-out. It allows your team to report their attendance simply by turning on and off their computer.
8. Integrate time tracking with employee leave schedule
Integrating time tracking with your employee leave schedule prevents the system from raising false alerts.
The law demands that employees be given some time off, and employees that are off are not expected to log in time. You should consider this when tracking your team’s time.
💡 Your time tracking app should recognize when employees are on leave so that it will not raise alerts reminding them to log in time. TimeCamp has a leave reporting feature that makes integrating time tracking with employee leave schedules very easy.
9. Use apps that accommodate different time types
Working environments have different types of working time. These include regular work, overtime work, working on weekends, etc.
These different time types often come at different rates. That is, the hourly rate for working on a public holiday may be higher than the standard hourly rate.
💡 That said, your time tracking tool should accommodate your organization’s different time types and rates. It should seamlessly follow an employee from standard work time through overtime, automatically making necessary adjustments to reflect applicable rates. TimeCamp does this with its overtime tracking.
10. Make time tracking transparent
Time trackers come with allow you to set timesheets as private or public. The nature of some projects may demand that you set the timesheets as private, limiting access to only admins.
However, where projects can be made public, try to make them so as this makes for transparency. Making time tracking transparent allows your team members to see what everyone is working on and how they are doing.
Seeing others logging in time can be motivational. It can make someone more readily fill in timesheets or give the project more time.
11. Manage access in large projects
Limit people’s access to only time data they might need for their work.
Transparency does not mean allowing access to every timesheet data. Instead, it means letting someone access data related to their work. For example, someone in one department may not need time data in another department.
Especially when you have many projects, access to every time data can clutter reports, making it more difficult to find particular items.
Thus, a time tracking best practice is to limit your teams’ access to what they may need. The best way to do this is to assign people to groups, then assign the groups to projects.
💡 TimeCamp allows you to create different user roles and manage access for those groups.
12. Archive the timesheets of previous periods
It is essential to archive completed projects, locking them away so that people can no longer access or revise the data.
There are many reasons why you should archive reports:
To unclutter reports. Projects that you do not archive will appear in the project picker. You’ll then have to shift through a lot more when looking for a particular project or task, wasting your time. Thus, archiving reports unclutter your reports allowing you to find the correct data faster.
To reduce discrepancies. People can make changes to their timesheets until you archive the projects. Thus, if you do not archive projects, situations can occur where there is a change to time data after the accounting department has used that data to prepare invoices.
13. Have standard names for projects
So that people will know where to add their time entries, ensure that you name projects consistently by using standard names for them.
Only admins should be able to create projects so that naming is consistent. However, in large or agile organizations, you should allow some team members to create projects, but only if a naming convention is in place.
For example, you may decide to start every internal project with “IN.” That way, a team member can easily call up projects to log in time.
14. Standardize and document the time tracking process
You need to standardize the time tracking process by creating a time tracking guide for your organization. The document would outline employee time tracking policies and expectations and address the most common questions.
This helps keep everyone on the same page and tells new employees what is expected of them regarding tracking time.
Some of the things that the time tracking guide should describe/ explain are:
What time to track
Why time tracking is important
When to track time
The minimum requirements for time entries
How projects are created
How to track research and other non-billable time
15. Have flexible minimum time logged requirement
Employees are generally required to fulfill eight (8) hours a day. However, you should allow employees to log less than 8 hours.
Do not be too strict regarding minimum time logged requirements. Having strict minimum requirements may make employees try to outsmart the time tracking system and log more time than they really worked.
16. Fill timesheets yourself
One way to increase your team’s acceptance of time tracking is to track your own time. This is a classic example of “leading by example.”
True, as a team lead or manager, most of the time you’ll spend on projects is non-billable. But track the time anyways. It shows your team members that you are willing to do what you expect of them. When team members see that you are filling your timesheets, they’ll more readily fill theirs.
17. Use time tracking to improve performance
You should use time tracking data to learn more about work habits, how long projects are taking, and how much you should charge clients.
The data should not be used for performance reviews as that can bring morale down.
First, time data may not reflect the quality of work. For example, if an employee posts more time than is usual for a particular task, the employee is not automatically inefficient. Instead, they just could be more thorough, which will be more beneficial down the road in preventing errors.
Also, if employees know that timesheet data is used to rate them, they’ll be more inclined to cheat on timesheets, posting more time than they worked. It is simply human nature to want to seek to preserve their position.
👉 Check also our article about clever ways to improve employee performance
Time Tracking Best Practices for Individuals
The best practices for implementing time tracking amongst individual employees are:
1. Fill timesheets straight away
Rather than waiting for later to fill in timesheets, try to do it straight away. Filling timesheets immediately helps you to maintain an accurate record of time.
However, if you wait until later, you may have trouble remembering exactly how much time you spent on particular activities. You may then have to estimate, leading to inaccurate time data.
💡 You don’t have to fill timesheets at the end of the day or week, you can do it real-time with TimeCamp. Our handy desktop app allows you to change tasks in seconds or it will even change tasks for your automatically based on documents and apps title keywords.
2. Use a timer
There are two ways to track time. The first is to use a timer to record the precise time spent doing a job. The second way is to complete a job and approximate the time spent doing it. However, using a timer is the best practice.
You can start the timer when you start working on the job and stop the timer when you stop working on the job, allowing you to get the precise amount of time spent on the job.
If you need an estimate of time spent for compliance or payroll purposes, you may manually estimate after the work is done. However, if you need precise time data to measure productivity, you’ll need accurate time data from timers.
💡TimeCamp offers useful timer web app and desktop app to switch tasks on the go.
👉 Read also: What is productivity and how to measure it with time tracking?
3. Use automatic timers
There are manual and automatic time trackers.
Manual time trackers. These timers require you to start/ stop the timer manually. You have to hit the start button for the timer to kick on, and you need to hit the stop button when you have finished the job or need to switch to another job.
Automatic time trackers. These timers do not require any manual control. After installing the time tracking software, it runs in the background. It’ll automatically detect what sites you visits and how much time you spend in each.
The automatic timers have the edge because they are better for productivity analysis. Since they show how you spent your whole day, they’ll help you see what distracted you from work (non-productive sites you visited and how much time you spent in each). This can help you become more productive.
Automatic timers also reduce what people need to do when tracking time. While manually starting/ stopping a timer is not hard work, it can quickly become an unwelcomed extra work. Also, people may sometimes forget to start the timer when starting a task or forget to stop it after completing a task.
💡In TimeCamp you can track time automatically. Our desktop app will assign time to tasks based on keyword from windows titles. Read more about our automatic time tracking.
4. Organize time around projects
Organizing time around projects helps you to make sense of reports. It’ll help you trace a time entry to a particular project easily.
So, create a project for every enterprise needed to achieve a particular purpose. You can further break projects into categories like processes, departments, etc. Time entries should come in these sub-levels, allowing you to combine related entries. This way, you can see where time spent goes and how they relate.
Projects do not have to be the highest data level. You can group projects around clients. However, clients need not be real persons but simply anything by which you can divide projects.
5. Add brief descriptions to time entries
Reports are rarely for your consumption alone, and you may not be there when someone is examining the reports. Thus, you need something to explain your entries to anyone viewing the report. Notes or descriptions do this for you.
When adding notes/ descriptions, make sure they are brief, logical, and accurate.
Even if another person will not go through your report, it is still a great idea to use notes/ descriptions. It makes it easier to make sense of your old reports when you review timesheets.
💡In TimeCamp you can easily add notes to time entries.
6. Add references to related documents
Sometimes, a task you are working on may relate to a certain customer inquiry or some other document. Referencing such things is very important.
It is an added layer of information that makes timesheets better for reporting. Should you need to share the report, anyone viewing can easily see how data elements relate.
7. Use tracking software with strong invoicing capability
Time tracking best practices include smart invoicing, which means generating invoices from time reports.
Nobody likes spending countless hours preparing invoices, especially after investing in tracking time. You should create invoices from timesheet data. With this feature, you’ll get paid on time.
💡TimeCamp leads the pack with its invoicing capability. With TimCamp, invoicing from timesheet data is easy, requiring only a few clicks. Some features of the tracking software that facilitate invoicing are:
Timesheet based invoices
Adjustable tax rates
Fast exporting and sharing
Automatic approvals and reminders
8. Make use of tags
Using tags makes it easy to structure projects and manage your data.
Tags are labels. But in time tracking software, tags are powerful tools that allow you to search through reports to track specific categories of projects quickly.
Tags can work across projects, so you can use them for different activities. This allows you to track the time spent on that activity easily.
Tags add another layer of information, so they improve reporting. For example, you can tag time entries that require a special billing rate for the accounting department to take note of this when preparing invoices.
💡Tag your time entries in TimeCamp to create tag-based report.
👉 Read also our article: New in TimeCamp: Track Your Time With Tags!
9. Track non-billable time
It is also best practice to track non-billable time, which is the time spent on activities that are not directly charged to the client (like answering calls, having meetings, researching, etc.).
Tracking your non-billable time helps you to fix your hourly rate better. For example, if you are working on a project that takes 100 hours to complete and expect a $12,000 revenue, your hourly rate will be $120 per hour.
However, suppose you calculate your non-billable hours as 60 hours. The total time you’ll spend on the project is 160 hours, and your hourly rate is only $75 per hour.
Thus, tracking your non-billable hours helps determine how much time you’ll spend on a project. Knowing this will help you know whether your hourly rate is fine or whether you should raise it.
👉 Read also our article about great software that deals with billable and non-billable hours
💡Labeling time entries as billable or unbillable is easy with TimeCamp – you just need to click one button.
10. Do not track everything
When tracking time, taking note of every single activity is not good practice. The more precision you want, the more stressful time tracking will be.
Thus, it is advisable to only crate time entries for activities that take more than 15 minutes.
For example, if you have to take a 2 – 5 minutes bathroom break when on a task, you don’t need to track it and subtract it from the project time. However, if the bathroom break is more than 15 minutes, you need to write it off the project time as a break.
11. Round-up time in reports
One of the selling points of using timers to track time is that they give precise time. However, timers can be too precise, making reports untidy. For example, having time spent as 1:14:32 or 0:17:09 can be tiresome for the eye.
Thus, it is a good practice to round up the time to the nearest 15 minutes. Rounding up time to the nearest 15 minutes makes your entries neater to the eyes.
It also helps you to earn more than you worked, legally. For example, 1:14:32 becomes 1:15, 0:17:09 becomes 0:30, and adding both times gives 1:45 (Note that adding 1:14:32 and 0:17:09 gives 1:31:41).
This is the same principle used by lawyers who bill by one-tenth of an hour.
💡 You can set up specific time-rounding rule in TimeCamp settings.
12. Approximate time when needed
Using a timer gives you the precise time you spend on tasks and prevents you from needing to approximate time. However, if you forget to start the timer when you start work, just approximate the time spent.
Approximating the time spent in such cases is easier if you have a timer running for another activity. You can stop the timer and use the time it records to guide your approximation of the missing time.
Implementing time tracking is typically challenging. However, using the above-mentioned best practices will lead to a smoother implementation of time tracking with teams and individual employees.
The best practices include using an automatic timer, tracking non-billable time, using tags, integrating time tracking with employee leave schedule, accommodating different time types, using smart invoicing, etc.
Interestingly, the time tracking software TimeCamp ticks all the right boxes. It is one app with many benefits as it has many top features geared towards helping you implement time tracking successfully. For example, TimeCamp gives you:
Automatic time tracking
Easy tracking of billables and non-billables
Start tracking your team’s performance and your projects’ profitability. Sign up with TimeCamp today.