However, just like with any piece of software or business tool, there are bound to be a lot of questions that you have in case you’ve never used it before. Fortunately, we’ve done some research and selected ten of them that are most frequently asked and decided to answer them and put everything together into one comprehensive guide to time tracking apps for the uninitiated.
So let’s dive straight in!
1. What is Time Tracker Software?
We’re starting off with the basics. If this is your first time ever hearing of something called employee hours tracker or time tracking software, then don’t skip this part.
In short, employee time tracking software is a computer program that helps you accurately measure your employees’ time on tasks and projects. It was first widely used in service industries, but soon gained traction in many different kinds of businesses all over the world.
There are other similar software out there such as time and attendance tracking systems and employee monitoring programs, which can be a bit confusing, but they all ultimately serve different purposes. In its purest form, employee hours tracker does just that - tracks hours, with a special focus on projects as a whole and the tasks that comprise them.
2. How Does Time Tracking Software Work?
Now, let’s get into a little more detail on the technicalities of how time management tools work.
It all starts with implementing the software. You’ll sign up for the manager account which will give you access to the dashboard. This is where all the data, analytics and reports are shown, and from where you can control the settings, customize the reports, oversee all the processes, etc.
You’ll also need to install time tracker agents. This is the software that gets implemented on every corporate computer you wish to track. You can do this manually, using an active directory or via a quick and simple email invite. And this is how you’ll be collecting the data.
Once this is all set up, there are two ways to track time. First is the manual tracking - you instruct your employees to open the employee hours tracker every time they begin working on a new task, designate the project they’ll be working on and simply click the Start button. And then when they finish with that task, they just click the Stop button to quit recording time for that project.
Another way to do the same thing is by automatic time mapping. With this feature, your employees don’t have to do anything. The system ‘reads’ the name of the file that an employee is working on and categorizes it under the right project based on this information.
This is the foundation of any employee hours tracker, but many of them have some additional features that give you even more data and flexibility. For example, some offer timesheets based on attendance records, others let you specify each worker’s hourly rate and then calculate payroll based on billable hours. Some apps even have a couple of monitoring features at your disposal, like screenshots and productivity levels.
Going through each of these functionalities is outside the scope of this article, but you’re encouraged to further research these useful features and find out how they work and what they can help you measure.
3. Is Time Tracking Software Bad?
In and of itself, it would be hard to use a typical time tracker as a spying tool. Its use is completely legal and, in fact, sometimes even necessary to comply with regulations that seek to protect employees’ rights.
The scepticism and confusion, it seems, arise from only a couple of advanced functionalities. However, it’s employee monitoring apps that have all the features that could be considered intrusive, like keystroke logger or chat monitoring, and even they aren’t intrinsically bad and are actually meant to be used for data security. By definition, hours tracker app only helps you follow the progress of your projects. On top of this, employees are the ones who control when their time is going to be tracked as work on tasks.
Of course, as we’ve mentioned earlier, some time trackers do have monitoring features that let you see more than employees’ hours and tasks. So, you as a manager need to make sure that you use these features for the right reasons and in the right way. The software itself was made for ethical uses such as business optimization, but whether it’s ‘bad’ or ‘good’ in practice will only depend on how employers decide to use it.
4. Why Use Time Tracking Software?
So, what are these ethical reasons why companies might decide to implement an employee time clock app?
Actually, there are any number of valid reasons and every tiny feature can be used to solve at least one business problem with maybe several different variations. Going through all of them would, therefore, be impossible here. So we’ll settle on a couple of typical examples in order to give you a general idea of the kind of business goals and needs that these apps can help you address.
For instance, you might simply want a clear and accurate way to oversee all your projects and teams. Of course, you can use other methods here, such as project management tools (and, in fact, they are used in combination quite often), but they don’t necessarily take into account the time spent on each task. And this time aspect can give you some great insights into how your team is working and how you can improve your efficiency.
Another example would be the need for an easy and reliable way to bill your clients for your services. Since time tracking apps can also calculate billable hours and create comprehensive reports by also including your employees’ hourly rates, this is indeed one of the best ways to accomplish that.
There are other good reasons to get a time tracker, including but not limited to: improving productivity, better task delegation, insight into when employees are available, calculating payroll, tracking attendance, and many more.
5. Does Time Tracking Software Work?
Once you’ve chosen to implement a work hours tracker and solve your business needs, it’s only natural to wonder whether it actually works and whether you’ll really accomplish all that you’ve set out to. The effectiveness of the software ultimately depends on a couple of factors.
First, have you chosen the right app? If you want task efficiency improvement and you’ve chosen a program focused around scheduling, there’s very little chance that it’ll provide what you need.
Secondly, are you using the right features? You should stay focused on your business goals in order to see any tangible results. To take the previous example, in order to solve your efficiency improvement need, you’ll find it useful to refer to data such as time on tasks, productivity timelines and even apps and websites used. But if you go “Oh, look, screenshots!” and start focusing all your attention on this just because you can, then you won’t accomplish anything.
And lastly, are you acting on the data? In a lot of cases, your improvement shouldn’t stop on getting the data from a time clock app. You also need to analyze it and act on it. Seeing that task X takes too much time isn’t going to get you far. You need to try to figure out why this is so (Inefficient tools? Lack of training? Inadequate task delegation?, etc.) and then adapt your strategy to solve it.
So, the point is that time management software can’t directly solve all your problems on its own, but it does work by providing you with data and reports that’ll make solving these problems much easier and more informed.
6. Is Time Tracking Software Safe?
In a word, yes. All reputable time tracking companies, such as Insightful, store your data on their secure cloud, where it’s absolutely safe from the eyes of any third party or malware attacks. Data protection is taken very seriously in this industry - a company that fails in this respect can’t retain their clients, it’s that simple.
Even if, for some reason, you don’t trust their servers, some time clock app companies give you the possibility to store the data on your own servers so that all the control is in your hands.
These apps are perfectly safe in the more general sense of the word as well. For example, they don’t change your documents and files or system settings. They don’t even slow down your employees’ computers, for that matter. You can rest assured that this lightweight program will do exactly what you want it to do and keep your data protected in the process.
7. What Kind of Time Tracking Software is Available Out There?
We’ve explained what time tracking apps are in general and what features they may have. Naturally, not all systems are the same and, although officially there aren’t any strict classifications of software types, we can roughly group them by what their main focus is.
Task and project tracking software focuses on project workflow and task time analysis. Even though all time trackers have some form of this functionality, there are those that go one step further and offer automatic time tracking, project management, manual time entries, etc.
Next, we have billing and invoicing apps, which boast an especially large number of client-related features, like billable hours reports, creating invoices, payroll, client access, customizable rates, and so on.
Another type is employee timesheet app which is heavily focused on attendance tracking to the extent that it borders on time and attendance tracking software.
Timesheet tracker solutions provide you with attendance reports, working hours based on activity levels, overtime tracking, clock-ins and clock-outs, and their overall point is to replace the often inefficient practice of using timesheet template in Excel to track your employees’ working hours.
Lastly, we have those time trackers with employee monitoring features that we’ve mentioned on several occasions. They’re characterized by features like activity levels, app and website usage, screenshots, productivity tracking, etc.
Needless to say, apps can have any combination of these characteristics and in fact most of them do. But the main purpose of an app should be easy enough to discover.
8. How Much Does Time Tracking Software Cost?
The price of time trackers varies between different software, sometimes quite a bit. But there are some general practices across this industry that you’re very likely to come across.
What we mean is primarily the fact that the vast majority of tracking apps are paid for on a monthly basis per employee, which basically means that the size of your team will determine the total price of the software in most cases. This monthly fee per employee can be anywhere between $5 and $20. It usually depends not just on the brand and company but also on the range of features you get, as many apps have a couple of price tiers that determine which functionalities you get.
It’s important to note that there are also freemium versions of many time tracking apps, but although it might seem like a great way to keep your budget intact, these versions come with many serious limitations that end up being a deal-breaker for many companies.
So, what you should do is think carefully about which features you need and get a program that fits your plans. Overpaying for a solution just because it has a lot of features, which are often not even useful to you, is just as bad as underpaying for one to save money only to realize that it can’t give you all the necessary data.
9. What Is the Best Time Tracking Software?
This, just like a lot of other things, depends on what you intend to use it for. The best employee time tracking software for someone whose main objective is to track attendance isn’t the best one for someone who wants to manage clients’ expectations on projects. The point is - there’s no such thing as the best task management app for everyone, otherwise its competition would go out of business very quickly.
There are, however, certain solutions that are universally considered more functional, reliable and sophisticated than others. Since the market is pretty competitive, this list is quite long and can never be entirely exhaustive, so we’ll only mention a few here.
For instance, Insightful is one of the most affordable, yet still highly functional time tracking solution. It has project and task tracking, monitoring features, automatic time mapping, client access, and much more. It’s especially good for large teams and enterprises since it’s very scalable and offers on-premise deployment option.
Another one of the best time management apps is Hubstaff. Similarly to Insightful, it has some employee monitoring functionalities apart from the basic time tracking, but it’s more popular among small teams or companies whose employees work in the field because of its geolocation tracking capabilities.
Other popular systems include Toggl, Harvest, Time Doctor, TimeCamp, etc. If you’re looking for the right solution for your company, the best course of action is to research all of them thoroughly and use their free trial to get a better feel of what it’s like to actually use them.
10. How to Cheat Time Tracking Software?
Even though time trackers are becoming increasingly more sophisticated and less prone to manipulation, there are still some underhanded methods that employees can use to trick the system.
Manual time tracking, which requires employees to click the start/stop button and tracks time based on that, is especially prone to user manipulation for obvious reasons. Employees may start the timer before they actually start the task, or they might stroll into the world of social media in the middle of the task and not indicate that to the time clock app. Of course, this pattern of behavior is easily detected just by looking at the employees’ track record of completed tasks - if they don’t finish as many as they should, something is clearly not right. However, the best way to avoid this problem altogether is to look for the automatic time mapping solution.
Even if time tracking is done based on activity levels, there are other tricks that employees could try to pull in order to clock in more hours than they actually spent working. The examples include randomly moving your mouse while playing a mobile game with the other hand, or typing gibberish in a productive app like Word while actually chatting with colleagues. None of these tactics work in the long run, though. Sooner or later, the culprits will be discovered either through screenshots, or by not finishing their tasks on time.
Our long FAQ session on employee hours tracker solutions has drawn to a close, but that doesn’t mean that your research should too. Now that you’re familiar with some basic facts about this increasingly relevant business management software, it might be more obvious why this system is more in demand than ever and why it’s well worth considering for your company too.