Time is one of your business’ most valuable resources – your employees’ working time in particular. It’s also one of the trickiest things to control.
Depending on the type of business, some companies have a greater need to track employees’ time. This is especially true in the professional services: IT, law, design, land development, healthcare and non-profit work, as well as manufacturing, field work, industrial/construction contracting and other professions.
Time literally becomes money. If a couple of hours are missed here and there, the business brings in less money. They need to track their time accurately as in a lot of cases it’s billable back to a customer.
From the client’s point of view, accurate time tracking is important so they can be sure that the time they’re paying for has actually been spent on their project – not on someone else’s project or on non-relevant administrative duties.
In addition to the obvious benefits of tracking working time and creating an easy and transparent compensation process, there are some positive side effects:
real-time tracking of the project stage
easier deadline meeting
improved future project planning and estimation of a project’s timing and cost
transparent employee performance information
But… mistakes do happen: people forget to log time, timesheets are submitted late, the total time for a project doesn’t add up, or a task takes much more time than you were expecting and the client is not ready to pay extra. You end up losing your precious time and money manually checking and re-checking timesheets.
Don’t worry, others were there too and have developed these best practices to help you manage your employees’ time better:
1. Track ALL time, even if it’s not billable
Why? It keeps you more organized – you will actually see how much time you spend on each of your tasks, not only on particular projects.
2. Track time constantly in real-time
Have you ever asked yourself what you’ve done that day and been unable to answer? If you track your time as you go, you’ll never encounter this problem again. Doing this will also prevent you from forgetting a couple of billable minutes (that can add up to hours and hundreds of dollars at the end of the week). Some professions require you to be constantly relocating – to a client’s office, or different medical facilities, or a construction site, etc. It’s important that you’re able to track your time at those out-of-office locations as well. Mobile apps can help you with that.
3. Set reminders
As an employer, you want to make sure your employees’ timesheets are submitted on time and accurately. We’re all busy with dozens of everyday tasks and projects, so it’s just too easy to miss a deadline. Reminders are your solution! Create monthly reminders, reminders based on the project status, or reminders based on some other events, and no deadline will be missed again.
4. Track every six minute block
It makes sense to count time tenths of an hour; it’s easy to calculate and track. Most companies track 15 minute or even 30 minutes blocks. If you’re charging $200 per hour and track each half hour, you might round down six minutes a couple times, which means you’re $20 behind. Be nice to yourself. Track time with more granularity and get paid for what you deserve.
5. Comply with government regulations (overtime, breaks, etc.)
As an employer, you want to comply with regulations as a matter of course. Overtime costs you more, so you have to know if your employees are working overtime and compensate them accordingly. Some industries require specific breaks and rest time and it’s up to you to ensure compliance. When tracking time, you can set specific rules to notify employees about mandatory break periods, or prevent them from submitting extra hours if they’re not supposed to work overtime.
6. Use clear and informative descriptions when entering time
“Meeting with client” doesn’t sound very informative. “Met with Acme Co. to discuss tax adjustments for last quarter” – now that’s much more useful. This information is important in case your client asks you to itemize the time that you’ve billed them for. It helps you to analyze how much time you’re spending on specific projects or tasks. That information will help you optimize your workflow to save time where you can and dedicate it to the most important projects.
Plan your time allocations for projects in advance. Schedule vacations and days off so that you won’t end up with an empty office during the summer season. There are a number of employee time tracking software providers to choose from to assist you with that.
With those tips your time tracking should be easy and productive. So go ahead and enjoy what you do best and get paid what you deserve.