The most popular free time tracking software is not necessarily mutually exclusive from the best productivity tracker.
In an era where digital almost always beats manual, you can easily blur the lines between the two.
However, you must first ask yourself:
Is time tracking good or bad?
Is it something worth investing in?
What exactly does it do?
You should not use time tracking in your organization because others are doing it. Like every other valuable management tool, monitoring employee activity is only effective when it is suitable. So, a good manager must recognize and weigh the pros and cons of time tracking before using it.
Pros of Time Tracking
Higher Productivity Ratings
Time tracking is popular because it increases employee productivity. Since the typical workplace is a clutter of tasks and deadlines, marking down specific periods for specific assignments helps clear things up. That is what time tracking does. It helps you manage everything by managing time.
So, do you have an employee that is unproductive even though they spend the whole day bent over their work desk? Track their activity. Time tracking will help you identify where the lapses are when exertion does not equal productivity.
Increased Employee Focus
Time tracking is primarily used to encourage employees to do better and not necessarily more. This is why books like Timothy Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Workweek are so popular. You want to use time appropriately—not waste hours doing pointless stuff. This is where time tracking helps you meet targets efficiently.
The best time trackers can help you amplify employee focus by redirecting it where it matters. Effective time monitoring means no more redundant work, and meaningful employee engagement.
Ease of Monitoring Employee/Unit/Company Progress
In reality, outside time tracking, there is no practical method for monitoring the progress of your organization. Time marches on, and so does every opportunity to keep pace with your company’s goals and expectations.
Thus, time tracking makes it very easy for you to know where you are in relation to where you want/ought to be. Formulating and framing daily, weekly, or monthly targets is easy. Meeting them is the hard part. Time tracking helps you ride the train from the goal-formulation phase to the goal-completion phase. It also enables you to pinpoint hitches along the way.
Increased Transparency and Accountability
Time tracking is one of the most reliable ways to ensure that there is transparency and accountability in the workplace. While this takes getting used to, most of the time, it is a method that is considerably more trustworthy, cost-effective, time-saving, and ‘natural’.
Employees that know that you are monitoring their activities are naturally circumspect while they work. Tracking, in this context, is essentially placing an impartial supervisor over their shoulders. So, employees are generally on their best behavior when they know that you are observing everything.
Cons of Time Tracking
Needless to say, time tracking is not all pluses and positives. There are also clear-cut negatives.
Increased Risk of Redundant Work
Time tracking can lead to a lot of extraneous work. Once your employees have completed a given task at record time, what else is there for them to do? The best-case scenario is they relax a bit and review their work. On the other hand, employees can take up other tasks without assessing them as similarly important. The result is a lot of redundant work.
This is one of the more common disadvantages of time tracking, especially when used excessively. You end up turning the system on its head, inducing counterproductive results.
Reduced ‘Natural’ Workplace Engagement
Less common than the risk of redundant work is the seriousness that time tracking can usher into the workplace. With employees at their best behavior, sincerely or otherwise, you risk emptying the workplace of warmth and natural peer-to-peer interactions.
This means that it will be harder to have your employees naturally form teams to work or play. Moreover, interactions between employees might never go beyond the demands of the workplace. The absence of free banter and the occasional exchange of heartfelt opinions can stifle your employees, nullify their resourcefulness, and lower their productivity significantly.
Artificial Employee Commitment
Much like the last point, you run the risk of enabling artificial employee commitment when you track your workers. If your employees are real people, rather than emotionless robots, you can be sure that they care about what you think. So, they will resort to pretending to care about what they do, particularly when they know that you’re monitoring them.
There is no way this artificial commitment is good for you or them. As corporately rigid as the workplace can be, flexibility allows for authenticity among employees. Authenticity is more likely to catalyze productivity compared to pretense. One way or another, tracking your employees can ‘encourage’ them to express enthusiasm when they don’t care about their assigned tasks.
Risk of Misinterpretations
The most common disadvantage of time tracking in the workplace is that it sends the wrong message sometimes. Your employees might start thinking that you don’t trust them at all. In other words, they might assume that you think that they are incompetent and inconsistent. They’re likely to disregard workplace ethics without supervision.
This could damage the bond of trust between you and your workers. Moreover, employees that think like this are not likely to be excited about challenges in the workplace, peer engagement, or collaboration. They won’t be interested in shared team leadership or any other element that could help your organization.
Overall, time tracking can be the best or worst thing that can happen to your organization. It all depends on how suitable it is for your company’s goals and employees. Use time tracking well and your organization will enjoy waves of productivity. Use it wrongly and it could very well damage workplace culture.