Effective Time Tracking and Time Management for Remote Teams

Effective Time Tracking and Time Management for Remote Teams
Ivan Pavlov
May 15, 2020
Last updated: May 15, 2020

We’re living in truly exciting times where every new day redefines our previous experience and challenges our standards. Take this data for example - according to a recent survey by States of Play (via CNBC), more than 42% of the American workforce is currently working from home (WFM) on an either full-time or part-time basis, as of late April 2020. This is a huge jump from just 9% - a number of remote workers before the pandemic (see the full breakdown below).

time management

One particularly interesting fact here is that 19% of all the survey respondents admitted they were working from home for the first time, without any previous telecommuting experience. This puts additional pressure on the management since these people may not have the discipline or skills required for productive remote work.

This is particularly evident from the pie chart below, which shows that as much as 40% of those who are currently working from home have become less productive than they were in the office.

tima mnagement

It’s up to the managers to teach their remote employees the basics of project time tracking and efficient work from home, which is impossible without the right employee tracking system.

In fact, we all may need these skills in the future since the share of remote workers will not go back to where it was before the lockdown and will probably stay at around 25-30% of the total US workforce after it, according to Global Workplace Analytics.

One of the major factors contributing to productivity is proper workday time tracking. It helps your team members to remain focused on their tasks and avoid possible distractions.

For the management, team time tracking means tighter control and increased productivity, not to mention the fulfilling of formal requirements to billable time tracking that usually come from the accounting department.

As you can see, there’s a lot to talk about here - let’s start with the main challenges brought by remote employee time tracking.

The Сhallenges of Remote Time Management

One global challenge even the experienced managers have to face in a situation like this is trying to keep running time tracking for employees the way it was in the office and maintain “business as usual” practice.

Quite often, that simply does not work, and here are the possible reasons:

1. The Office Discipline Is Gone

Typically, office workers start and end their working day at around the same time, which makes work tracking rather easy. Now that everybody’s at home, the temptation to start later is ever-present unless you have an app for tracking time.

2. A Lot of Time Gets Wasted Due to Distractions

Not that we didn’t have any distractions in the office but when it comes to working from home, very few people can quickly re-organize themselves and stay focused once they are in the comfort of their home surrounded by their families. Everybody else needs some kind of time tracking tool to keep track of their work and leisure.

3. Scheduling Conflicts

This is especially true for companies that have employees working in different time zones. Trying to set up a meeting or run effective project management is rather difficult when you don’t have any employee time tracking software.

4. Large Teams Become Increasingly Harder to Manage

If you have to manage such teams, we don’t envy you because it is hard even in the office. Managing a few dozen people working from home is something else though - it’s one of those situations when you simply can’t go without some sort of automation or employee time tracking system.

5. Keeping Track of Hours Worked and Hours Paid Is a Nightmare

A really important point often overlooked by project managers. Since working from home effectively disrupts the previously established office processes and routines, finding an online employee time clock should be among your top priorities when switching to WFH.

Now that we are aware of the main time-tracking challenges posed by remote work, let’s see how we can face those challenges and whether time tracking for projects can be done efficiently on a remote basis.

How to Track Remote Workers’ Time and Attendance

In addition to some sort of online time tracker that you will most likely need, there are more things to consider when trying to time manage your remote team. Let’s go over them all starting with time tracking for projects.

Start Using a Time and Expense Tracking App

Working remotely means you can’t physically control the time and attendance of everyone on your team. The fact that these people are online does not necessarily mean that they are ready to work. The easiest solution for this problem would be utilizing a mobile time-tracking system.

This will help you to:

  • track the time of start and finish of the working day;

  • manage possible overtime hours;

  • control lunch breaks and periods of absence;

  • track hours worked and hours paid.

The last one is arguably the most important point, especially for business owners since it involves the company’s money directly. As a business owner, you want every dollar you spend to be accounted for, and that’s what an hours tracker can give you.

Using a personal time tracking app is a must when you have freelancers on your team. Freelancers are known for their sometimes poor discipline so that’s why making them use your mobile employee time clock will help you to track their hours worked and hours paid more efficiently.

Introduce Stronger Discipline

Even though some of your team members may have had a flexible schedule before the lockdown, now, perhaps, is the time to temporarily remove such privileges. Try using a time tracking app to make your team start their working day at around the same time.

Despite sounding a bit authoritarian, this will, in fact, give everyone a chance to synchronize their efforts and work more productively participating in online meetings and videoconferences.

Bonus effect - from now on, people will be late less since they know you’re monitoring their working hours on a time tracking sheet.

Intensify Online Communication to Save Time Offline

This one has nothing to do with modern digital tools - it’s all analog and old-school. Before switching your team to remote work, you have to change the way you go about planning.

Since physical meetings are out, the lack of face-to-face communication will soon start to show, and, for many employees, this can be discouraging and demotivating. Therefore, what you should do is increase the number of video calls and conferences.

If you think about it, any kind of meeting you used to have in the office before can be easily done via Zoom, Skype, or Bitrix24 video calls, including:

  • planning meetings

  • discussions

  • reports

  • brainstorming sessions

  • job interviews

  • presentations

Arguably, the most important of them all is the daily planning meeting - make sure you and your team members have those on a regular basis. The rationale behind this is really simple: when you’re out of your customary office environment, it messes with your focus and motivation. Not having an urgent task with an impending deadline may lead to decreased productivity.

During that daily planning meeting, you need to make sure each one of your team members knows their nearest objectives and deliverables within the project they’re working on.

However, what you certainly don’t need to do is interrupting your teammates’ workflow with pointless calls at random times. Make them brief, down to the point, and preferably early in the morning or later in the evening so you don’t break your colleagues’ concentration and focus.

Track Productivity Metrics to Reduce Unnecessary Waste of Time

Whenever possible, use the OKR (objectives and key results) methodology. Although you may have already been doing it before the lockdown, keeping track of such metrics can really make your job as a project manager easier now.

Having a clear objective that leads to achieving measurable results is a great thing for both employee and the manager. Even if you may have to go a little bit too bureaucratic here with all these metrics, the final result will be worth it:

  • your team will become more disciplined;

  • no unnecessary time will be wasted;

  • productivity will increase.

Speaking of metrics, don’t forget about time tracking for the teams you’re managing - you will, obviously, require an employee time-tracking app or some sort of web-based time-tracking tool.

Time Tracking and Time Planning for Workers

We all have 24 hours in a day. However, some people seem to be more productive than others - is there a secret of some sort? Well, we think there might be one, and it’s not a secret, really - more like careful time tracking and meticulous approach to planning.

Here are some basic time planning tips that most of us can benefit from:

  • Set your work schedule and stick to it

Working in the office usually means that someone else has already created a schedule for you and probably makes you follow it. When you work from home, you don’t have that - therefore, you need to set that schedule from scratch and, what’s more important, follow it religiously.

One thing that can help you is a daily time planner app that you can use for starting/finishing your working day, taking breaks, and planning your tasks throughout the day to distribute the workload more evenly. Do the difficult stuff in the first half of the day while leaving smaller tasks for the late afternoon.

  • Plan, plan, plan

Planning is so basic and common that it’s really easy to overlook its importance. What we mean by planning here is that you have to create a list of tasks for the day (every day!) prioritizing the most important ones (“blockers”) - if you don’t complete them, consider it a failure.

This will help you to stay focused and minimize the time that otherwise might have been wasted on various distractions, which we are going to talk about in detail in the next paragraph.

Oh, and one more thing - don’t schedule your breaks so rigidly. If you’ve worked for 4 hours straight on some really important project, then you deserve a break that’s longer than 10 minutes or whatever is scheduled in your daily planner. Working hard also means working smart.

  • Learn your time wasters and eliminate them

Whether it’s your family members constantly asking you for a minute of your time or YouTube videos or anything else worthy of several minutes of your life pointlessly wasted on it, you need to:

A) admit these distractions exist and recognize them as such;

B) identify the ones that take up too much of your time thus bringing your productivity down;

C) fight those distractions by simply not allowing them to get inside your head and ideally keeping them out of sight (which is not always possible with noisy kids).

Use the Right Time Management Software

In case you haven’t noticed yet, we kept mentioning time tracking quite a lot in this article, which makes perfect sense since that’s what it’s about. However, it’s more than just words and recommendations as there are certain practical tools out there that can assist you in small business time tracking.

Most of them come in the form of a time tracking app for iPhone or Android with an optional web version. The functionality they offer is rather basic:

  • start/stop/pause working day;

  • track the time spent on tasks;

  • calculate attendance;

  • calculate billable hours.

Certain apps may also go into spyware territory monitoring your activity on the computer (taking screenshots at random times, reporting the websites you visit, and so on) but that’s too much for some project managers who generally trust their teammates.

If you’re looking for the best personal time tracking app that’s rich in functionality, easy to use, and free to download, you should try Bitrix24. We are one of the free time tracking apps that allows you to clock in/clock out directly from your mobile phone, which makes it really convenient for remote teams or teams who often have to work on the go.

Try Bitrix24 mobile time tracking app and see what other great features it has in store for you. Thanks for reading this article and remember to stay safe and productive.

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