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We’re living in a time of endless distractions. Our attention is constantly divided amongst many different things. Even if we fight it, the majority of us still compulsively checks our phone messages and notifications, no matter if we’re hanging out with friends or at work.

We’re especially prone, understandably, to distractions at work. Discussing work with teammates, checking emails, or reading customer comments and reviews are of significance.

However, these tasks are the number one priority, yet we tend to spend a lot of time on them. Even though they’re all work-related, we can consider them to be significant disturbances since they take your mind away from much more critical tasks and lead you to procrastination.

Not only do we achieve less due to problems with focusing, but we also get more and more overworked and burned out. Why is this the case? Well, expectations towards employees aren’t getting any lower. If you spend time procrastinating, you’ll have to work extra hours to meet deadlines.

What can you do as a team leads to maintain the balance between productivity and the well-being of your teammates? One of the most popular methods that are generally recommended to managers is to implement time tracking.

Time Tracking – What Impact Might it Have on a Company?

One way of combating employee procrastination is to keep track of the team’s progress by recording the time they devote to completing their project tasks. The most common method of time tracking is to use time tracking software – the most popular tools being Toggl, Clockify, and Timely.

Read more about different tools and their features in our article “12 Time Tracking Software To Improve Team Productivity to find out more.

Let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of scrupulous time and progress tracking.

Advantages of Time Tracking

1. Time on the Mind

Having thoughts on how one spends their time at work has an impact on overall progress and productivity. It can cut time spent on chatting with colleagues, having coffee and snacks, and checking social media.

It will result in less time spent procrastinating and more work to achieve goals faster.

Time Tracking-Talent Acquisition-Neuroscience for Career Success

2. Having a Source of Knowledge for Team Leads

Data gathered through time tracking is an excellent source of information for the team leads on how to manage their team better.

It can be the case that a seemingly fast and easy task may take several hours to complete for inexperienced employees – so it is better to delegate it to another. It’s good to analyze this data and draw conclusions while distributing the tasks.

3. Increasing Transparency

Sharing a workspace with your employees where everyone can see what everyone is working on, and for how long is a great way to increase transparency. In your company – if your aim is for ensuring transparency across team members, the use of project management tools is essential.

There are many project management tools out there, which also include time tracking, like, e.g., Asana or Monday. You can choose whatever suits your needs best.

It ensures that everyone is on the same page, and it also helps with a fair distribution of tasks.

4. Increase in Business Profitability

By monitoring the time spent vs revenue gained, you’ll easily be able to compare your KPIs and see whether the amount of time and money invested in a project offers a return.

This data can be precious, especially for scale-ups, which cannot afford to incur any additional costs or losses.

Disadvantages of Time Tracking

1. Requires Discipline and Consistency

The biggest con is the need for time tracking itself. It’s a real bother for employees to remember to enter the amount of time spent working on a task. Speaking from my own experience – it’s not as obvious to do so as it may seem. As a result, some people may ignore it and not enter any of their hours.

Some will think “ah, screw it, let’s just say I worked on this 3 hours” even though it was 5 in total – our perception of time can very much differ depending on many variables. One is the perception of a task’s complexity or whether it’s exciting for the employee or not. In such a case, the data that you receive may not be reliable.

2. Low Morale Among Employees

The thought of being controlled for many employees results in a negative ripple effect. As much as it may have a positive impact on efficiency, it may also cause general dissatisfaction among teammates. The key to success is to listen to your employees’ opinions because any savings that you make through an increase in productivity most likely will be incomparable with the losses you’ll incur if your employees decide to quit.

Cutting out on small pleasures like chatting with work colleagues or grabbing a cup of coffee together, and rushing/cutting down lunch breaks can impose unnecessary stress on the employees. If you want to take care of your teams’ wellbeing – think twice about how you approach the time tracking introduction.

Is It Really About Time?

Adam Grant, a professor of management and psychology at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and a book author, wrote an article for the New York Times entitled Productivity Isn’t About Time Management. It’s About Attention Management. The title sums up the author’s reluctance towards the idea of time management and measuring one’s progress through time spent on working towards something. 

We’re living in a period where everyone and everything that surrounds us is fighting for our attention span.

Research on the topic of human focus shows that an average person is productive only for 2 hours and 53 minutes per 8 hours spent at work. The majority of us feel a constant urge to check email inbox, social media, news sites, have a snack or coffee break, while working.

You know those sayings,

  • “Procrastination is the thief of time”.
  • “Procrastination is the enemy of success”.

Today, procrastination has become the number one enemy in today’s world. We’re trying to fight it off, but sometimes it’s not only a waste of time. Taking a breather is essential to avoid getting burnt out. These small things help us to unwind and also strengthen the bonds between teammates – which results in better teamwork.

Try to Focus More on the Reasons Than the Time

People right now are so caught up in the idea of increasing one’s productivity that they lose focus on the reason why they are doing something.

How will completing this task help me or others? Does complete this task brings me closer to my goal? Should I be doing this or should I focus on something which will help me achieve my goals faster?

When you shift your mind from focusing on time efficiency to concentrating more on reasons and prioritizing your tasks, you’ll soon notice that you’re moving towards your goals competently.

Check out this article Why Time Management Does Not Work? to understand the most common myths surrounding time management and productivity effectiveness.

Switching to attention management is challenging, but it’s harder to instruct your teammates on how to adapt to this mindset. It’s not easy to change, mainly if teams are used to time tracking from previous structures and companies. Tracking progress won’t be as simple as it is in the case of time tracking as the data won’t be as quickly gatherable and accessible.

Time Management-Time Tracking

What Can Companies Offer to Boost Employee Productivity?

As mentioned above, there are at least a few ways of boosting your employees’ productivity. You can keep a finger on the pulse and monitor the progress in the project management tool but, at the same time, give your employees a bit of freedom to reset their minds. Encourage people to unwind and chat at the “water cooler” (focused on non-work related topics).

The key to success is to be a talented and observant team lead. Many managers do not understand that their responsibilities involve reaching KPI or sales goals and also to take care of their teams’ wellbeing. It’s the manager’s role to encourage someone to give more if they notice a lack of attention or energy or to tell when a team member is reaching breaking point. It’s a very accountable role.  

As a manager or team leader, look for the signs that you may be missing, to prevent employee burnout. No matter how exciting a project is or how engaged and willing team members are, there can always be a breaking point if the workload isn’t managed appropriately.

Cases of obvious signs of exhaustion or fatigue as well as mood swings need to be nipped in the bud. Communicate with your team and ensure that you understand there can be issues outside of work that affect one’s mood. Giving employees a few days off or a much-needed vacation can recharge their batteries and safeguard productivity in the long term.

What can such a team lead do to make sure their team does not lose the will to work? One of the things is to introduce benefits like the opportunity to take a power nap at work or having a shorter workweek. They become more and more widespread. As an example, one of the top remote companies, Basecamp, allows its employees to work for 4 days per week during the summer months.

According to Basecamp’s Head of People Operations, Andrea LaRowe, it’s not humanly possible to give 100% all the time. They decided it’s better to shorten their working time and complete less. The only condition is delivering and maintaining tasks at the same high level as the work done during any other time of the year. Basecamp has done this for more than 10 years, and it has proven to be an excellent benefit for both employees and executive-tier.

What about remote work? We’re living in a time where companies, especially startups and scale-ups, compete with each other in creating and implementing new work trends and benefits. We’re quite accustomed to remote work, which has already proven to be quite handy, especially recently, during the recent coronavirus outbreak.

The research on telecommuting has shown that the employees who work from other places than the office tend to achieve better results compared to those who work onsite. As much as 77% of respondents stated they are more productive while working remotely, while 30% say they accomplish more in less time.

Remote work can also help to deal with career burnout. How? By giving employees more flexibility to decide how they work. Letting employees work from home and structuring the workloads that suit them will provide satisfied remote team members who are more willing to bring efforts to their projects.

However, with new benefits comes new challenges. Not all companies are ready to face them right away. Some business executives believe that incorporating such benefits will have a positive impact on their employees, and instead of a negative impact on their business development and revenue. If you want to learn more about how to incorporate remote work into your company and maintain its culture, check out the article Remote Work vs Company’s Culture  How Can We Make It Work?

Conclusion

As an employer or team leader, you need to think about what will be the best solution for your team to increase productivity – this refers to time tracking. Before deciding whether to incorporate time tracking in your company, it’s essential to carefully consider and examine the cons, since they can make the whole undertaking not worth the hustle.

If your team is not disciplined enough or if you as a team lead won’t be able to communicate appropriately, why and what you require from them – then all the data and the whole point of time tracking will be just useless. If you decide that time tracking is not for your company, there are other methods of encouraging your employees to complete more.

It’s worth thinking about incorporating certain benefits to take care of your employees’ wellbeing. A happy employee achieves more than an employee who feels controlled all the time. Don’t be afraid to leap of faith and use an example of remote-first companies or companies that implement a 4-day workweek. Experiment and always remember to listen to your employees’ opinions!

Written By
Karolina Beta is a marketing specialist and content writer at ITCraftship, a 100% remote tech recruitment agency and software house. She's also a member of the team behind the IT Crafts HR podcast. Besides marketing, she's active in the software developers community, as one of the organizers of the Remote Ionic Talks, an online event for ionic developers.

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