a stopwatch

The Power of Time in the Digital Workplace

March 24, 2021 Collaboration and Productivity
clare price
By Clare Price

Time is money. We’ve heard the phrase so many times, for so long that it hardly registers. And yet time management is a critical and often overlooked success factor in today’s digital workplace.

The Unexpected Benefits of Time Management

When we think of time management, we automatically think of higher productivity, getting more done and achieving goals faster. That’s all good. But that's selling time management short. Effective time management offers so many more benefits to the digital workplace. Such as:

1. Workflow management. When you track how long a project, job or assembly takes and break that down into the production elements you can immediately see where better efficiencies can be created. Manufacturers routinely do that on the floor. Many other industries and few service businesses do. Benchmark your team in action on the project and establish a baseline. By time tracking the workflow each time it is employed, you’ll know where the gaps and inefficiencies are and can tighten and smooth out your processes.

2. Talent management. Know what your team is capable of and who on your team is the most efficient at certain tasks, roles and responsibilities. Learn whether you should move someone from role to another. If someone appears to be lagging, it might be because this not the best role for them. With different tasks or responsibilities that same person will zoom through work they love to do.

3. Remote leadership. As the digital workplace continues to evolve from the fully remote workplace of last year’s lockdowns to the hybrid and flex models we are experimenting with today, time management can help managers adapt their leadership styles. Time tracking not only shows employee productivity and task capability, it can alert leaders to potential professional and even personal concerns. For example, if a formerly highly engaged employee starts increasing their web surfing during business hours, they might be experiencing burnout from isolation. You can then step in to support them.

4. Pricing, budgeting and profitability. This is especially huge in professional services businesses which charge an hourly rate and acquire new clients via proposals. It changed my consulting business. In my early years I priced by instinct or by what other service providers were charging. I really didn’t know how long each project was taking. Once I started tracking my time, I knew exactly how much each deliverable was taking. I could then present a proposal based on my hourly rate with a guaranteed margin built in. For budgeting you can predict expenses and cost of goods sold and avoid cost overruns. Sure, many professional services firms track billable hours. Consider tracking all hours. You might notice that some billable hours are missed or some clients are creating more work than they have value to the firm.

Related Article: Working From Home May Be Painful, But It's Making the Future of Work Better

Make Time Management Part of the Employee Experience

For many employees, especially creatives, the very idea of time management or time tracking might give them hives. You can make time management a positive experience for everyone with these four steps:

1. Introduction. How you introduce your new time management initiative makes all the difference. If you make it about the tracking and oversight, people will feel watched and potentially resentful. So, make it about the benefits for them and their job. Make time management about appreciation for a job well done. Show them how time management can be an asset on their moving their career forward within the company.

2. Incentives. Tie time management to bonuses, incentives or opportunities for promotion. Consider using contests. A caveat here though is balancing incentives against the possibility of cutting corners to “win.”

3. Initiative. Time management can lead to more opportunities for creativity. For example, an employee who uses time management to reduce the time spent on grunt work can free themselves up for the more fun and creative tasks and projects.

4. Collaboration and Mentorship. Some personalities — those analytical types — naturally gravitate to the structure of time tracking. They enjoy the information, reporting gives them about their work, and intuitively use the data to improve their performance. As your leadership team rolls out time management consider pairing your time management enthusiasts with time management detractors in a mentoring relationship. I’ve used this technique on my teams and found that enthusiasm can be contagious. Detractors may not fall in love with time management, but they will begin to see the benefits.

Related Article: Hidden Dangers: Productivity Killers That Sap Energy and Time

Time Management Software Options

There are dozens of time trackers available, all with their own pros and cons. Some are better at tracking, others at reporting. Some are better for solos and small teams, others are better for large cross-functional enterprise teams. Time management programs and apps are also available for specific industries and functions. I’ve found the best way to navigate the crowded field is to draw up a list of features your team needs most.

I recommend solutions like TimeCamp, with its automatic tracking, rather than those where the user must set the timer — it's just too easy to forget!

Here are a few of my favorite time tracking tools.

Product

PROS

CONS

Price

Link

DataBasics

Time and expense management for large enterprises. Designed for global, remote workforces. Good usability for end users.

Not for small business. Robust application requires business analysis, custom configuration and design.

Call for quote.

https://www.data-basics.com/

 

Harvest

Strong time management with invoicing and expensing, team management & scheduling; good integrations.

More expensive than competitors. Very limited free version (1 person/2 projects)

$12 per user/mo.

https://www.getharvest.com/

 

TimeCamp

Flexible, effective automatic time tracker runs in the background with manual option. Good integration with PM software and reporting.

Does not always assign correct task to project. Not intuitive to move uncategorized time to projects.

Free to $7.50 per user/mo.

https://www.timecamp.com/

 

T-Sheets (now owned by QuickBooks)

TSheets has applications for every business that wants to track employee hours against specific jobs.

 

The app can be a bit buggy and constant updates are annoying. No search function on desktop version.

 

$8 per user/mo.

https://www.tsheets.com/

 

Toggl

Easy to use, intuitive, feature-rich free version.

No invoicing, scheduling, or other features not related specifically to time-tracking.

 

Free to $18 per user/mo.

https://www.toggl.com/

 

More time tracking tools are out there, these are just some suggestions to get you started. Many of the popular collaboration and productivity suites such as Monday, Asana, Zoho Projects, Wrike and more also include time management capabilities. 

In today’s fast-paced, ever-evolving digital workplace, time management software and best practices is an asset no company can afford to be without.

About the Author

Clare Price is CEO of Octain, a global strategic planning consultancy that helps small and mid-market companies grow to dominate their markets by fueling the speed of business. She is the author of the eBook, Make Remote Work, a practical guide for helping companies navigate the new remote work world.

Tags

Featured Research

Related Stories

chat bubble

Collaboration & Productivity

Make 'Work in Threads, Play in Chat' Your Mantra

people working in an office with a person dialing in remotely

Collaboration & Productivity

Making Collaboration Work in the Hybrid Workplace

four bicyclists on a road in a formation

Collaboration & Productivity

4 Drivers of Effective Collaboration and Productivity in the Hybrid Workplace

Register Now: Digital Workplace Experience Summer Session

DWX21 - Q1