Why is Time Tracking Controversial?

Author: Eugenija Steponkute
Published: 05/03/2024

In this article, we will be discussing why many people oppose time tracking in the workplace. From taking into consideration both employee and employer perspectives, we will explore what makes time tracking controversial. 

In some workplaces, especially where the workers are paid by hour, tracking work time is natural. These figures are important to both the employer and the workers to calculate the wage earned. It’s also a common practice for agencies that charge their clients for specific tasks and the time spent executing them. However, when companies operating on a different model implement time tracking, it can become the point of discontent among employees. 

It often arises from the staff not understanding why would you suddenly want to know what they spend their work hours on. Without an explanation, this can raise all kinds of concerns. Do you not trust them? Are you looking for an excuse to fire them? Are you unsatisfied with their overall performance? Naturally, these are not nice thoughts to have. And, if left unaddressed, they will breed resentment. 

The thing making time tracking controversial is, indeed, misunderstanding its purposes. It is barely ever aimed against individuals and is not a malicious attempt to micromanage. On the other hand, unless it’s explained what logging time brings to a business that’s not based on a pay-per-hour model, it can certainly appear as that. But how do you communicate to your teams this is not the case? And what are the actual benefits time tracking brings to the table that could persuade them? 

Is Time Tracking Good for Employees?

Short answer - yes. Time tracking helps employees better plan and prioritise their day based on how many hours they have versus the tasks they have to complete. In the long run, it allows them to come up with better estimates of how long certain activities normally take. These are the key benefits, but there are others too.

Although it’s often thought that time tracking is a tool that’s only beneficial for employers to gauge the efficiency of either the whole team or specific workers, the employees gain just as much. In fact, they can use logged time as an argument when asking for a pay rise or requesting assistance on certain projects. 

When utilising time tracking software, other perks come into play too. For example, it becomes easier to swap shifts when it comes with the feature of shift scheduling included. Or it can save time going back on forth via emails when booking time off when there’s a designated module for that. Different solutions come with a variety of different features, and most of them can make the day-to-day lives of your workers much easier. 

What we are trying to say here is that time tracking isn’t just about logging time. It’s actively repurposing it, managing it in various areas and making it work for you. What makes time tracking controversial is the lack of understanding of what it truly entails. So to change your team’s mind, you will need to educate them on the very concept first. And then you can start addressing their worries one by one. 

Concerns About Time Tracking

Now while there are plenty of misconceptions that worry people when the idea of time tracking is brought up, some are more common than others. In this section, we will focus on the three most common concerns the workers have. We will also offer a course of action to take to prove to them there is nothing to worry about. 

It Is Useless

The biggest argument against time tracking in the workplace is that it’s not useful to anyone. Curiously, it can be heard from both the managing individuals and the workers. The employees, especially ones with more experience, would often claim they know exactly where and how their time is used. Additionally, they might get offended when time tracking is introduced, claiming this is a form of micromanagement or an attempt to catch doing something wrong. We will expand more on this in the next section. 

The managing body, on the other hand, may perceive time tracking as yet another task on their plate. One that’s not offering enough benefit to be given time of the day. However, neither of the parties is right. Time tracking is irreplaceable when it comes to improving the team’s efficiency. It highlights the areas in which you excel as well as the ones you lack through showcasing patterns. Not to mention, with many time tracking solutions on the market, it’s not time-consuming at all. The only thing that needs to be done is the action of logging the time itself. Analysis, reporting and many more will be carried out automatically by the tool.

It Is Micromanagement

To many employees, time tracking is synonymous with micromanagement. It is perceived as a way for the management to keep a close eye on what each staff member does on a day-to-day basis, measuring their contribution and potentially using this against them in the future. Naturally, this is a very negative way to perceive it, and in the long run, it turns into resentment and potentially malicious underperformance. However, time tracking is not a form of micromanagement. And the challenge here is to prove that to your workers. 

First of all, you yourself must treat it strictly as a tool to enhance your company’s overall performance and not as a means to focus on the performance of individual workers. Secondly, you need to clearly communicate that to your team. The best way to alleviate any negative feelings regarding the topic is to ask them to share why exactly is it making them uncomfortable. The next step would be explaining the benefits of time-tracking to the employees themselves rather than the business. Understanding where you are coming from and seeing this is an approach that is meant to assist them too will make them more receptive to the change. 

It Is Restricting

Another common problem people have with time tracking is feeling as if it is cutting into their freedom. Namely in how much time they should be dedicating to certain tasks, what they should prioritise and so on. Depending on the company’s structure and approach, sometimes there is indeed a specific time retainer for certain tasks. Other times, the can be pre-determined time rules in place that won’t allow workers to log time past a certain cap for legal reasons. So while there are, indeed, occasional restrictions, they are meant to adhere to general compliance and not to limit the workers. Once again, this is something you will need to communicate to them.

The truth is, time tracking offers more flexibility. By having a clear understanding of how much time should be allocated to each task, or how much time one has in general, your workers can design their own day in a way they please, as long as those requirements are met. It may take some time to adjust and find what works best as each person is different, but in the end time tracking is the opposite of restricting. It gives workers control over their day structure, all they need to do is find the balance that works for them personally. 

Time Tracking is Actually Great

Once the worries have been addressed and your teams aren’t on the defensive anymore, it’s time to take the next step. Namely, highlighting to them what are the benefits of time tracking. But before you can communicate it to them thoroughly, you must yourself understand the extent of options to improve it brings to the table. 

Key to Efficiency

Understanding where your time goes is the first step towards making it work for you. Time tracking offers a centralised view of your team’s time expenditure over a selected period. This way you get the chance to identify what takes your workers more time than intended, offering an opportunity to review the process. Seeing the ratio of time spent vs goals achieved, with other denominators such as resources, different rates, etc included allows you to understand your current level of efficiency. Which is a metric you need to set the goal moving forward. Additionally, it’s a great contribution towards making future estimates if a similar task falls in your lap.

When using a designated time tracking solution, you are bound to find additional features within it. The simplest is reporting. It is also an efficiency-driving measure to entrust time-consuming manual tasks to automation. What’s more, once you introduce automation, you may expand its reach moving forward or optimise it for even better results. Other examples of possible features would be shift scheduling, rate change calculations and many more. Time tracking tools can often be integrated with other platforms you use too, such as accounting tools. Linking these solutions will often unlock new options for automation, allowing you to further streamline processes across your organisation. 

Better Resource Management

With better visibility of your time expenditure, you will naturally gain a better ability to shift your workers around. For example, based on their timesheets, you may notice a specific worker is very good with a particular task. Or, you may spot peaks of efficiency at certain times another employee shows repeatedly, suggesting they work best around then. In other words, while you shouldn’t use time tracking as a means to scrutinise your team, it can give you a lot of information about your workers and their work style. Being smart about using the said knowledge is yet another driver for efficiency. Not to mention, accommodating to their personal needs and preferences, is bound to strengthen your relationship.

This can also be your aid when managing external resources such as temporary workers or freelancers. Since you are paying for their time, and most likely a different rate depending on the task, you want to get the most out of it. From the get-go, introduce the workers to your time-tracking system or, if they have their own system in place, try finding the middle ground. It provides transparency of how the process is moving along. Additionally, it makes it easier to integrate temporary help into your permanent team, allowing them to build processes inclusive of each other. Time tracking will help the external helpers understand your company’s workflows and will help your team adjust them following the assistance they’re receiving.

A Solution to Attendance Problems

Time theft is a big problem for many companies. Even if they don’t realise they have one. When it becomes apparent, it’s already festered enough. Attendance issues such as absenteeism, false sick leave and others cost businesses billions every year. But how can you begin addressing the issue if you don’t know whether you have one? Time tracking allows you to identify potential problems from the get-go, so you can start solving them before they cause damage. To be more specific, the centralised view of attendance allows you to spot patterns the moment they start emerging. Without it, the times your workers are absent may look random, therefore raising no suspicions. 

But remember not to rush into reprimanding workers you catch misbehaving. In doing so you will not only damage the relationship but also reaffirm time tracking is a way to micromanage them. Remember, attendance-related issues barely ever originate from tardiness. They are usually the consequence of something deeper, and you must find these roots as an employer. It’s important to be empathetic and work together with the worker to try and find a solution. Sometimes it can be as simple as offering flexible working hours. As long as you communicate to the employee that you are on their side, they will most likely cooperate. Not only will the attendance problem be solved, but you will also deepen your bond with the worker. 

Get Everyone on the Same Page

As you might have gathered, the best way to address the controversy of time tracking is communication and education. The very concept of time tracking is often misunderstood, breeding all kinds of anxieties that, with time, can turn into resentment. That said before you consider implementing it, make sure your team understands it’s not a measure against them. But rather a tool aimed to help them manage their day-to-day lives better and even take over some repetitive tasks.

First of all, learn what are the concerns your team has in the first place. Secondly, address each of them in a patient and empathetic manner, proving there are no grounds for them to fester. When your workers acknowledge there will be no harm brought by the new measures, start highlighting the benefits for them. It’s more effective to communicate the difference it will make to the workers personally, but feel free to talk about the company-wide benefits too. Finally, keep your employees included every step of the way. If you’re getting software - have them undergo the training. If they have better suggestions, hear them out and take them into consideration. Your willingness to work with them will be their reassurance.

Key Takeaway 

The answer to why is time tracking controversial is surprisingly simple. The purpose of the practice is misunderstood by many. Not to mention, the range of benefits it offers is seldom ever fully explained too. Humans are tuned to make things up when they lack information based on their prior knowledge. And so when it comes to time tracking, we often fill these gaps in with pre-existing stereotypes, leading to a negative outlook.

Most often time tracking is perceived as either useless, a form of micromanaging or something that restricts one’s freedom. The truth is that it’s neither. However, it can be difficult to change one’s mind on their convictions with words only. Instead, you will need to show your teams through your actions and insider look at the designated software that they have nothing to worry about. In fact, there are many benefits for them in it. 

Time tracking is great for improving your team’s overall efficiency. It can help you designate the right people for the right tasks quicker, help employees build smoother workflows, move the most important tasks to their peak productivity hours and many more. Not to mention, time tracking software often comes with a variety of additional modules that can help save time and even completely take over manual, repetitive tasks. 

What are your views on time tracking? Do you find it controversial? Or do you need help proving to your team it’s the best course? Let’s chat.

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