Online time tracking is becoming more important for businesses that want to work as efficiently as possible. As System ID points out, over 30 percent of the workforce works remotely at least one day a week, and time tracking is vital for those employees who don't physically punch in. Even in-person time tracking systems are flawed, with employees able to clock in for each other, or say they're working when they aren't.

So how can you track your employees' time effectively?

Why Time Tracking Is So Important

First, why is time tracking so important for productivity and profitability?

  • Knowing what to pay your employees. This is an obvious use, but tracking your employees' time accurately and efficiently means you'll pay them exactly what they've earned--nothing more and nothing less.

  • Keeping employees on task. Knowing that their time is being tracked will help keep your employees focused and on task for longer stretches, yielding higher productivity and satisfaction.

  • Maintaining a paper trail. Keeping track of your employees' working habits and tasks also gives you a reliable paper trail if you ever need to prove the hours spent on something.

  • Learning points of inefficiency. Gleaning insights from your time-tracking data, you'll be able to learn points of inefficiency within your organization and correct them, making your business more efficient.

  • Saving time. Easy time-tracking software also means your employees will spend less time messing with an inefficient system.

Time Tracking Secrets

With those advantages in mind, how can you make the most of your time tracking?

1. Keep everyone on the same platform. If you want your organization to function as a well-oiled machine, you need to get everyone using the same platform and using it consistently. If you have multiple people using multiple tracking methods, everything will get confused and chaotic. You should also have access to an administrative user level, where you can view everyone's time tracking information.

2. Choose a platform that can be used anywhere, easily. Not all time tracking platforms are equally effective for different applications, so do your research and choose wisely. You'll want to choose a platform that's easy to learn and use--nothing that requires extensive training sessions--and one that can be used on any device, including mobile devices. Preferably, employees should be able to start and stop their time tracking in a matter of seconds, no matter what they're doing before they begin. The faster and more intuitive the process, the fewer mistakes there will be.

3. Proactively outline your policies and procedures. Take the time to outline exactly how your time tracking software should be used, and what your expectations for your employees are. What types of tasks need to be tracked? Are there certain formatting requirements that need to be followed, such as ways to title or organize tasks? Think ahead and be proactive here, and the more specific you are the better.

4. Watch for outliers. It won't be long before most of your employees settle into a kind of routine. Certain tasks will take a predictable amount of time, and different employees will offer different rates of completion. Keep an eye out for strange outliers--tasks that take too long or didn't take long enough. This can help you pinpoint problems or opportunities for growth.

5. Don't micromanage. Once you implement a time tracking solution, it's easy to veer into micromanagement, questioning every minute an employee spends on any given task. Doing this may make your employees resentful, less satisfied, and therefore less productive. You need to offer some supervision, insight, and direction, but don't turn it into a minute-by-minute update.

6. Learn from points of inefficiency. Over time, you'll collect enough data on how your employees spend their time to learn from various points of inefficiency. You'll see what types of tasks are most likely to slow your team down, and the weak points of your individual employees. Use this data to improve your operations and iron out the issues preventing you from achieving maximum efficiency.

7. Change what isn't working. Insights without action are useless, so when tracking time, take note of any strategies that aren't working and make an active change to them. Think of this as an ongoing experiment; try something new, see if it works, and only keep it if the data supports it.

With these strategies in place, you'll be able to track your employees' time more accurately, more consistently, and in a smoother, more efficient way. Ultimately, it's going to keep your workers more productive, save you time and money, and give you greater insight into your company's operations. The more time you spend learning about your time tracking strategies and updating them, the better you'll become over time, so always be on the lookout for more ways to improve.