Some have a love/hate relationship with time tracking. It’s not because they think that time tracking for work is all good or all bad; there are many benefits to business owners, project managers, clients, and even employees. But if you work for a micromanager, time tracking can be a weapon against you. The reason most struggle with their feelings about time tracking is because it’s a mirror of their work style. To iterate this struggle, let’s use Jeff as an example.

Jeff writes for a living and really enjoys it. The role at his job allows him to explore all kinds of topics that illuminate how businesses think about profitability and how solutions (like Harvest) help project managers maintain their sanity while keeping clients happy and their projects on track. He loves digging into the details and finding cool new ways to talk about what his company does.

He also has the freedom to explore different story angles. He can write about customers, the philosophy behind time, and even controversial take on employee morale and micromanagement.

When Jeff looks back at his week, he sees all the ways he procrastinated, the number of snack breaks he needed to complete an article (three and counting), and all of his quirky writing habits that he's been trying to break since college. Time tracking captures that data and guides him to think about being more intentional with his time. He works with a fantastic team, and his Editor has never made an issue out of the time of day (Sunday afternoons) he works. He does his best writing when his mind has time to wander, and sometimes that means the weekend.

That begs the question: would he know these details about his work habits if it weren’t for time tracking? And if his team also knows how much time and energy it takes for him to write great articles, doesn’t that mean they understand the value of his time and contribution?

Is time tracking good?

Absolutely! Thanks to time tracking, Jeff’s team knows that good content takes time. With that knowledge, his team’s project manager understands how to schedule tasks and work back from deadlines to ensure they hit their deadlines and goals each quarter.

Is time tracking worth it for employees?

Employees at your company might agree - it's sometimes hard to see how time tracking helps them. Suppose your employees' work hours are consistent week by week. And they've worked for you for years and know how much time they need to complete tasks. In that case, time tracking might seem like an administrative task they need to do to check a box for your project manager. In that case, is time tracking worth it for the work they do? Maybe not. But from your project manager or client's point of view, they might need that weekly reporting to establish a trend or understand the value of the work they are paying your company to deliver.

Over time, the data captured by time tracking trends give employees a view of how their contribution to projects impacts the company's bottom line. It's also a snapshot of the employee's work product. It is handy if your employees write a self-appraisal for annual performance reviews and struggle to recall what they worked on six months ago.

What are the pros and cons of time trackers?

Time trackers have come a long way since the days of punch cards and extra-large clocks. These days, time trackers work in the background on desktops, laptops, and phones, allowing employees to track the time spent on multiple tasks without disrupting their workflow. Time trackers can even help employees track mileage and travel time to remote sites with GPS. That sure beats relying on memory or your calendar to recall the hours spent on client work. Time trackers also integrate with ERP, HR systems, and project management platforms so that project managers get real-time updates on their multiple clients without chasing down employees on Friday afternoons with reminders to fill in their time cards manually.

All these innovations have made it easy for companies to manage their business without adding manual work to their employees. Is time worth tracking for work? It is if your company has a great time tracking solution in place.

What are the disadvantages of time tracking?

The cons of tracking time revolve around how your company captures the data and how you use it. For example, suppose you're tracking time manually for multiple clients or projects. In that case, you're burdening your employees with data collection. Tracking time can be a drag: it's time-consuming, prone to error, and often a gripe of employees who put off administrative work until the last minute. As a result, your company data may be less reliable and inconsistent between project teams.

Another disadvantage of time tracking depends on how your company uses the data. Suppose one of your people managers is a micromanager. They may use time tracking data to control their employee's work style, priorities, and approach to the work. Micromanagers can hurt employee productivity, morale, and project efficiency.

Time trackers capture a lot of information, and using that data has infinite potential. Project managers and business owners must remain focused on the data points that are strong indicators of a project's profitability and success. If not, there's a potential for 'analysis paralysis' on time tracking data that will not move the needle for the business. KPIs and clear project goals are a great way to identify the metrics that matter and help keep your team focused.

Is time tracking good for business?

It’s easy to see why business owners love time tracking - they get so much insight into project profitability that helps them run their business more efficiently. How else can they know whether they're charging clients enough for projects and use that data to better projects in the future? And without time tracking, how can project managers pair up the right people to ensure projects are completed on time and within budget? Those data points can significantly affect how business owners approach their client proposals. Better quotes that give the business and its employees some cushion on projects? Yes, please!