why online time tracking is bad for morale

One of the biggest debates that has persisted since the rise of the laptop (and death of the desktop), was whether employees need to be physically in an office to accomplish their work. Time trackers online have become a popular method for companies to track hours. But is time tracking bad for morale?

From the employee’s perspective, it’s easy to assume that if your company wants to use an employee time tracking app it may feel as though there’s a trust issue - and those feelings can lead to bad morale and even burnout. From the employer’s perspective, using a work time tracker is an effective way to keep track of hours and pay to bill clients accurately. Time tracking is a way to ensure that the company properly manages and bills clients, and provides visibility into overall performance and profitability.

Time tracking also gives employers a secret weapon that can help spot and prevent low morale and burnout: data. For example, time tracking data can give companies the data and insight it needs to understand which clients and projects are most profitable, which teams are overloaded and on the verge of burnout, and what teams are understaffed and need more headcount. 

What is a time tracking app?

Time tracking apps are tools that help users capture the time spent on projects and tasks. They help employees accurately record time spent on billable work, such as client projects. And they help employers manage projects, budgets, and teams by providing insights that improve resource planning. With time tracking apps, companies can accurately bill clients and keep close track of project budgets and deadlines.

Time tracking apps provide companies with a treasure trove of data and insights around their employees and the work done for clients. For example, with time tracking apps, companies can get answers to questions like:

  • Are we staffed appropriately to serve our clients?
  • Are we charging enough for our projects?
  • Who on the team might be bored and in need of some variety in their work?
  • Who on the team is excelling and ready for elevated assignments and roles?
  • Who on the team might be struggling and in need of more support from management?
  • When will we need to hire more staff?
  • Where can we reassign teams so that everyone gets a wide variety of interesting assignments?
  • Do certain milestones in our projects take more time and resources than we’re currently budgeted for? If so, how do we prevent the staff from working toward unrealistic deadlines and goals?

How to track time online?

Tracking work time is nothing new for hourly employees and those employees who work in professional services or need to attribute billable hours to projects. It can be a mindset shift for employees who are not used to tracking their time spent at work.

There are multiple ways to track time, ranging from manual input methods like timers, paper, and spreadsheets, to apps and software solutions that offer a time tracker online. While larger companies, professional services and consulting companies usually opt for apps for time tracker online that integrate with billing and HR systems, there are plenty of solutions to track all types of work, no matter your company size or industry.

As more companies recognize the value of online time tracking, employees’ concerns about low morale and burnout must be addressed. The adoption of online time tracking tools can be a strategic response to the challenges posed by the modern work environment, offering a comprehensive approach to both time management and employee well-being.

What’s the simplest way to track time?

The simplest way to track time depends on your habits. The question to ask yourself is ‘what’s the most consistent approach to tracking my time?’ For some, it’s planning methods like calendar blocks that help keep them focused on a project or deadline. For others, it could be a ‘set it and forget it’ app that captures your activity in real-time behind the scenes. Some people may prefer the old-school method of using a datebook.

Employers in industries like professional services, contracting, and consulting look to time tracking software that allows their employees to attribute time to specific clients and projects. The goal is to ensure accurate billing and project management. While these methods are commonplace in a large variety of industries, some employees were introduced to online time tracking during the pandemic, which led to negative feelings about the approach.

How can you use time tracking to fend off low morale and burnout?

At the height of the pandemic, 1,500 employees were surveyed about their mental health, work habits, and burnout. 75% of respondents answered ‘yes’ to the question ‘are you feeling burned out?’. [source] The overlap between low morale and burnout is clear. The top five reasons for burnout are:

  • Unfair treatment in the workplace
  • Workloads that are unmanageable and/or unrealistic
  • Lack of clarity regarding job expectations
  • Poor communication and support from the management team
  • Unreasonable deadlines

Two of these five reasons for burnout (unmanageable workloads and unreasonable deadlines) can be addressed through better project management and the data that employers collect through online time tracking solutions.

Time Tracking = Goals

Tracking time for work and personal use gives us an important insight into our new relationship with time. Consider this - imagine your New Year’s resolution is to be more intentional with how you spend your personal time. To accomplish that goal, you spent two months planning and tracking all of the time spent on self-care and hobbies using a datebook (journaling, yoga classes, exercise, time with friends, etc.) or some personal time tracking app. Now, fast forward three months when you can look back through your data to better understand if your self-care time was consistent and sufficient. How would you feel about examining your time? Would that motivate you to make changes the following month? Or would it sap your morale? Probably the former, right?

The same should be true for your mindset when tracking how you spend your time at work. Tracking your time isn’t a punishment or a means to control you; it’s a way to reflect on your projects and work and to identify places where you can be more intentional and productive.

Data is power. And as the old saying goes ‘you cannot manage what you cannot see’. For employers, it's a way to understand what bottlenecks or company habits are best serving the mission and what activities need to be deprioritized or eliminated.

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