The Quickstart Guide to Time Tracking for Remote Workers: A Guest Post

Remote teams are becoming commonplace due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a result, businesses are using time tracking tools to manage work hours for their teams. What should you know about remote time tracking and how can you start using it to its full potential?

The Growth of Remote Teams

There’s no doubt that the growth of remote teams has accelerated due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with many businesses discovering the benefits of remote work. For example, in a nationwide survey companies have reported a 47% increase in productivity with remote teams.

The growth of remote teams across the globe (Image Source)

This increased productivity, along with other benefits, is driving the adoption of remote teams around the world. An Upwork study concluded that 73% of all business departments will have remote workers by 2028. 72% of talent professionals also agree that flexi-work is crucial for the future of HR and recruiting.

These statistics prove remote work is now an essential part of tomorrow’s work landscape. However, it does come with its challenges.

The Challenges of Managing Remote Teams

1. Communication

Communication challenges remain a problem for remote employees. In the office, you can talk to team members directly, in person. It’s not so easy with remote teams. Sure, you can use Slack, Teams, or other trending productivity tools to chat with team members. However, the fact is, with online solutions it’s harder to clearly get your point across compared to face-to-face conversations.

2. Hiring

How do you manage the hiring process for remote workers? Many businesses simply repeat their current procedures for remote hiring, which simply doesn’t work. You need to consider time zones, availability, remote working fit, and other factors that don’t exist in traditional hiring. Onboarding also works differently for remote teams.

3. Tracking Team Productivity

How much work does your remote team complete? Do they meet your expectations or KPIs? Are they helping the company progress towards its goals? It’s not easy to answer these questions in remote teams. 

You can’t track productivity as you would do in the office. Tools like Jira help to address this challenge, but they don’t tell the full story of your remote team’s productivity. This is where time tracking tools come in.

How Does Time Tracking Help Businesses Manage Remote Teams?

Time tracking gives you a clear overview of how effective your team is working. You can see how many hours team members are putting in, which is useful in itself. For example, you can identify team members that perform above expectations based on their activity. Similarly, you can reduce workloads if you notice team members are overworking.

Having insights like these are important in remote teams that lack the physical supervision of office employees. Not only can you manage remote employees better, but you’ll also promote a healthy work environment where team members are happy with their work if you can prevent employees from overworking and reward hard-working employees appropriately. Happy employees are 13% more productive, which leads to improved organizational success in the long run.

The impact of happy employees on performance (Image Source).

However, many businesses avoid time tracking as they worry their team won’t appreciate it. Time tracking does feel out of place for many employees. However, you can address this by adopting a few time tracking best practices to manage concerns.

5 Tips to Make Remote Time Tracking Work for Your Business

1. Explain Why Time Tracking is Necessary

The best way to make your remote employees accept time tracking is to explain why it’s necessary. Your business may be charging clients by the hour, for example. In this case, it’s easier to draft invoices if you know the total hours spent on a project. You can also explain how time tracking helps them get paid fairly and accurately for their work.

It’s even more important to explain time tracking if you use the insights to make business decisions. For example, you may use your time tracking data to analyze employee productivity. If that’s the case, make sure your team members know exactly how their work data is being used. They will only feel paranoid if kept in the dark, which negatively impacts performance.

You do need to show your team that their work data is put to use in ways that benefit them. Some things you can do include rewarding punctual employees, offering bonuses to high-performers, and using time tracking data to manage workloads. This will help team members understand the value of time tracking for themselves, which ensures their cooperation.

2. Set Expectations Before You Start Tracking Time

Set out your expectations before you start tracking time. This eliminates the confusion and misunderstandings that can burden companies new to time tracking. If you need employees to log at least 6 hours every day, let them know on their first day to avoid headaches later.

You should also explain that time tracking is not about monitoring everything. You only need to know:

  • How long do remote employees spend time on work?
  • How is that time distributed for their assigned tasks?
  • Other important activities related to work.

You do not (and should not) need team members to track irrelevant details like going to the restroom or taking a lunch break. Your employees will appreciate that their privacy is maintained. By setting expectations early, you clear most—if not all—of the doubts employees have regarding time tracking.

3. Monitor Employee Activity With a Purpose

Don’t track employee hours just for the sake of it. Instead, use the insights gathered to improve your operations. For example, if you discover that your remote team is not performing well even though they put in the time, review the data to see if your team is overloaded or if their current tasks are too challenging.

Time tracking data can also be used outside of employee tasks. It can be used to analyze your organizational structure, for example. Some companies use employee logs to assist performance reviews. You can even use time tracking data to deal with financial audits and taxes. Regardless, make sure you put employee logs to good use instead of using it only for payroll.

4. Establish Time Tracking Policies and Processes

Document every requirement and process related to remote time tracking. Employees will forget some things from time to time. You can make this less of an issue by creating documents for team members to refer to when they need a refresher. Tools like Confluence, SharePoint, and Google Docs are great options to store your documents.

You can also include common questions and FAQs in your documentation to further ease remote time tracking. Some details you can document include:

  • Getting started with remote time tracking.
  • Basic requirements and expectations when logging work hours.
  • How to track time for different work activities.
  • How is pay calculated with time tracking?
  • Overtime and leave policies.

Make sure to update your documentation if your policies change. Outdated documents are not only useless, but you also risk upsetting employees if their time tracking experience does not go as promised.

5. Avoid Micromanaging

Micromanagement is the biggest sin of remote time tracking. Just because your team members don’t work in the office doesn’t mean you should doubt them. Micromanaging every minute of their day is only going to hinder their performance, not the other way around.

It’s important to give remote employees flexibility while working. Don’t ask them to track activities unrelated to work. Stay away from tools that capture employee activity automatically unless it’s necessary. Employees perform worse when they’re being watched. It’s also a lawsuit risk if you capture sensitive data and fail to manage it appropriately.

Time tracking, when done right, lets you manage remote teams effectively. The above tips will help you get started with remote time tracking and benefit from it right away.

Author Bio

Dean Mathews is the founder and CEO of OnTheClock, an employee time tracking app that helps over 10,000 companies all around the world track time. 

Dean has over 20 years of experience designing and developing business apps. He views software development as a form of art. If the artist creates a masterpiece, many people’s lives are touched and changed for the better. 

When he is not perfecting time tracking, Dean enjoys expanding his faith, spending time with family, friends, and finding ways to make the world just a little better.

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