Why time tracking is not a sign of mistrust

General Reading Time: 3 minutes

As Project Manager at Damteq, I’ve had the opportunity to shake up, destroy, and create processes. It’s a fun position to be in, and hugely rewarding when a new/alternative process makes everyone’s job a bit easier, and the outcomes better – especially since we’re a big believer of working smarter, not just harder. But as most can relate to from one side or the other, changing the way things are done, and have been done for a while, doesn’t always go down well initially.

Time tracking can be a bit of a dirty word. When I first discussed rolling it out with the team, there was understandable concern. The first impression is usually one of mistrust – that we’re enforcing a big brother to monitor them, and we’ll be reviewing their productivity based on the time tracking results (something that puts most creatives in a small state of anxiety – great design is rarely forced or helped through metrics). Because of this, it can create tension and division. However time tracking, if used properly, is a huge binding factor and primarily assists the users it tracks.

6 months on from introducing it and educating on proper use, we’re able to provide more precise quotes for clients with less unknown variables. We can pull data from ‘similar’ projects of the past. We can give more insight into where time is being spent for clients, and managers understand what the day to day looks like. But more importantly, our team members are less stretched in their day to day. Data gathered from projects allows us to accurately allocate resources for new projects, meaning that our team don’t have to juggle to produce amazing result.

Whilst time tracking can be misused by management to ‘score’ people on what they can achieve in a certain time (which can be beneficial when used properly, but can be fear inducing when micro-managed), this is not its main benefit. Time tracking is most productive when used to help management understand what a task accurately looks like, and where time is being spent and what cannot be reduced.

So if you’re looking to, or have recently had time tracking introduced, whether you’re in management or you’re being time tracked, here’s my advice to you:

Managers: Be careful not to micro-manage the time here where possible! You need to assess averages before you ask someone how they can cut down time working on certain aspects. Don’t ask people to record every minute task, ask them to record the ones that take 10 minutes plus. Don’t expect total time reached throughout the day to be their full working hours. There will be gaps, learn what they are and why. Use the data gathered to guide you – don’t guide the data! Otherwise you run the risk of people skewing data and incorrectly tracking to make you happy, which defeats the point.

Users: Be honest with your tracking. Just because you’ve managed to track more time in a day, doesn’t mean you’ve actually done more with your time. If you’re not honest with you’re tracking, you run the risk of setting unrealistic expectations. If you forget to track a task, ask your line manager to retro-actively set it. If you think that time tracking isn’t being used right, say something! This tool needs to work for your manager to make your working day less stressful to produce better results, not to stretch out and fill every minute of your day. And most importantly, remember to turn the bloody thing off at the end of the day….

If you’re thinking about introducing time tracking or switching up your process management – get in touch and let us know! We’ll happily share what has worked for us, and what hasn’t.

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