Employees resist tracking their time. What can be helpful in managing this is to understand your requirements for time tracking. Do you really need to know what each person was doing each hour of the day? In creative work like software development, product development, engineering, marketing, and other disciplines, the answer is probably ‘No’. When managing these disciplines the requirements usually amount to:
- Ability to understand the distribution of time spent in aggregate (monthly or quarterly)
- Ability to see time usage for individuals and/or teams
- Ability to detect trends over time
Therefore, any given day need not be perfectly recorded. What’s important is the allocations are generally and proportionally accurate. Recording every minute is not necessary, and recording whether someone worked 8 hrs, 9 hrs or 7 hrs is not important (at least not to meet these requirements). What’s important is to see who on your team is getting bogged down with customer support issues, or if everyone is doing development and no one is doing research. Identify a handful of key buckets (for example: research, development, project meetings, customer support, planning time, etc) that capture the areas you actually want to understand. It’s fine to use an ‘Other’ bucket as a catchall for remaining areas you don’t care as much about (e.g. company events, professional development, bathroom breaks). Just set a clear expectation that on average employees should be logging XX% of their time to Other, and if someone finds themselves legitimately putting too much time into Other, they can come talk about it.
Be clear about when people should log their time. I never looked at time log reports more frequently than weekly, so I required time to be recorded by 10am Monday for the previous week. My personal recommendation (and practice) was to record time daily, usually as the final task before checking out for the day, because then the day was still fresh. But some people recorded time in their notebooks and preferred to capture a week at a time. No problem. Logging hours should require no more than 1 minute per day, or 5 minutes per week.
Be clear about how you plan to use the time log information. If it’s really intended to find bottlenecks, to help with resource balancing, and to stimulate conversation about ways we can improve, say so. Then follow through.