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The advantages and disadvantages of timesheets

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Maintaining a healthy work environment can often be challenging, and office politics can be quite tricky to manage. Disputes are bound to arise in the workplace, and people will eventually disagree. The best thing you could do, though, is to ensure that no differences arise because of the business operations, including employee attendance and task assignment. Knowing how productive you and your staff are during working hours is crucial in offering the best possible service for your clients. If you know roughly how long a particular project will take based on past performance, you’ll be able to give your clients a realistic timeframe of when to expect the finished product.

This is where timesheets come in handy. Tracking how and where your teams spend time can help you to identify where processes can be streamlined, how much time and money is being spent, and ultimately how much to bill your clients. However, such measures are often maligned for their potential to evoke what’s known as timesheet anxiety, where employees feel pressured to complete tasks as quickly as possible under the constant surveillance of management. Here, we’ll go through the pros and cons of timesheets, and whether they’re absolutely necessary for your business success.

Advantages of timesheets

Timesheets boost profitability, particularly for agencies

The number one priority for any business is profitability. It’s imperative to keep on top of where money is being spent efficiently and where it is being wasted. Encouraging timesheet compliance allows for the associated costs of each project to be “tracked effectively, ensuring forecasting is consistent and accurate”, according to the team behind resource management and professional services automation tool Precursive.

This is ideal for agencies that charge clients based on how much time is spent on each project. Not only do timesheets alert management to any areas where clients are being over-or-undercharged for the work completed, they can also be shared with the client to enable greater levels of transparency. If they remain satisfied that they’re getting bang for their buck, they’re likely to prolong their stay as a retained client. What’s more, they’re more likely to recommend your agency to others, giving you more business in the long run.

Beyond current clients, keeping track of how much certain projects cost can help you refine your pricing strategy and make more informed decisions on how much to charge new clients.

Timesheets identify areas for simplification or automation

According to a recent research from ABBYY, UK employees waste over 40 working days a year each on admin tasks such as paperwork, data or document organisation, or reminding staff about tasks. The same study found that 62% of UK employees expect their employers to simplify or automate its processes, especially for manual, paper-based tasks.

However, you won’t have reliable insight into which tasks require streamlining without timesheets. By accurately inputting the time taken to complete each task, regardless of how mundane, you’ll be able to spot where staff are spending too much time and whether it can be improved.

Freeing up time in certain areas for your employees can improve their efficiency, giving them more time to focus on more complex and important projects. It could even help to reduce their stress levels, potentially making their working week shorter and improving work-life balance as a result.

Timesheets can improve productivity and accountability

According to the team behind HR software Staff Squared, almost 90% of staff waste time on the job on a daily basis, with social media distractions costing the UK economy around £25 billion a year, or an average of £824 per employee. Having employees track their time makes them more accountable for how they spend their time which, in turn, leads to improved productivity and less procrastination.

Tracking time for tasks can also show employees how their contributions are valuable to a larger project as a whole. If an employee feels responsible for a given part of a project, rather than just another cog in a machine, they’ll be encouraged to work more productively to avoid making any mistakes or errors which could affect the business.

This level of transparency between management and team members can also show how hardworking employees are, which is especially important for remote workers where management can’t physically see how they’re spending their working hours.

Disadvantages of timesheets

Despite the many business benefits of tracking time, timesheet compliance can have negative connotations for employees on a more individual basis.

Low employee morale

While many individuals thrive off being accountable for their own time management, some may feel like they’re being spied on by management. In some instances, this sense of surveillance alone can spur an employee on to perform well knowing their output is being monitored. But for others, particularly those that value trust in an employee-employer relationship, this can reduce their morale and feelings of autonomy.

Timesheet anxiety

There are many different factors that can contribute to timesheet anxiety. For instance, team members could feel guilty about reporting their ‘real’ hours if a task takes longer than what is deemed to be an acceptable amount of time. Alternatively, personal issues or health concerns may cause an employee to underperform for a small time period, causing them to panic if they’re not able to clock up what is considered a good amount of time.

Difficult to track intangible tasks

Things like meetings, catch ups, and brainstorming sessions can all be beneficial to a project, but they can also be difficult to track efficiently. For instance, if six team members join a client meeting for one hour, is that calculated as just one hour of the client’s time allowance, and if so – which of the six attendees tracks that time? Or is it classed as six hours of the client’s time allowance, because six individual members spent an hour in that meeting?

How to implement timesheets successfully

Easing any timesheet anxiety, fixing any tracking issues, and boosting morale all comes down to transparency. If employees feel confident enough that management trusts their timekeeping skills, there is no reason that morale should be affected.

Ensure you’re open about how you analyse timesheets and remember to stay honest. If you do notice any ongoing problems with an employee’s time keeping, it might be worth scheduling a catch up to ensure there are no underlying issues that are affecting them professionally.

And, finally, allow team members the chance to add notes to any lengthy tasks, outlining why it may have taken longer than expected, such as internal meetings. Allowing staff to justify their timekeeping can help build trust between you, while giving you the opportunity to spot any processes that can be simplified or streamlined.

About Business Woman Media

Our women don’t want to settle for anything but the best. They understand that success is a journey involving personal growth, savvy optimism and the tenacity to be the best. We believe in pragmatism, having fun, hard-work and sharing inspiration. LinkedIn

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