How to encourage remote employees to track time

January 19, 2023


8 min

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Many organisations use project-based productivity tracking, but more businesses are turning to time tracking. Properly tracking time can lead to better time management, positively affecting productivity. Unfortunately, remote workers can be hesitant to work with time-tracking software. How do you encourage workers to keep track of their time as an employer?

Why do employees not track their time?

For remote workers who crave freedom and flexibility, tracking time can feel tiresome and demotivating. Inefficient tracking practices can sap productivity. However, an awareness of how much work can be done in a given period is essential. 

Employees may feel they’re being policed and expected to work under unrealistic expectations, and companies require more productivity from remote workers than from in-house employees. While a typical office worker can be productive for only half of the time spent in the office, some companies require remote employees to account for every minute of their work time. 

Tracking work takes time, but the value of the data it gathers is helpful for both managers and employees. Therefore, getting people to embrace time tracking is essential for the successful management of remote teams.

The impact of ineffective time tracking on your business

Poor time management causes missed deadlines, reduced productivity, and higher operating costs. Running behind schedule can stress employees and diminish employee morale and motivation. Demotivation often leads to low work quality, procrastination, and lack of focus. 

Poor time management is not only the result of procrastination but also of using ineffective techniques. In the UK, employees lose two hours each day to inefficient processes and unproductive activities. 

Other examples of the importance of time management:

The importance of time management:

  • 40.9% of the average UK remote workers say they get more work done working from home than from the office
  • 50% of the largest UK employers say they don’t plan on returning staff to the office
  • 47% of workers reported improved well-being from working from home

A pie chart showing how much respondents work from home


How to motivate remote teams to embrace time tracking

You can tell your remote team they need to track time, but getting them to do it consistently is another thing entirely. Motivating your employees to track time requires understanding their concerns, simplifying the process, and giving incentives to support them. Here are six tips to help.

1. Choose software that makes it easy

The easier it is for your employees to track time, the more likely they will do it. Choose time-tracking software that works from anywhere and from any device. The software should integrate easily into the application used for completing their tasks—like an extension or plug-in they can use from inside the task app. 

Allowing manual tracking is helpful if an employee forgets to set the timer, or you can let people self-report and decide if they want to use a timer or enter time manually. 

2. Encourage feedback and communication

When your employees track time, they must follow up on how they’re doing. Employees may have ideas for improving the process, so get feedback on making it more manageable. 

3. Help with setup

Implementing a new tool can be challenging, so the time-tracking software you choose should be easy to set up. Offer training sessions and tutorials to help employees get started. Personalise their experience as much as possible. 

4. Explain why it’s essential and be transparent about data use

Sharing time-tracking data and letting other teammates know who is working on what is a great way to build trust. Remote employees often hesitate to track time because they’re worried about how the company will use the data. 

People should understand that the organisation doesn’t want to monitor what they do personally. 

Explain to your employees why it is important to track time and how time tracking benefits productivity and performance. Be clear about how the company is going to use the data collected. 

5. Set guidelines and expectations

Be clear with your employees about what is expected when logging time. Establish guidelines on when to track time, what categories to track, and how detailed the tracking should be. 

For reports to be helpful, it’s essential to have a system that can track time in a project category. Once you have a system, document it. A list of commonly tracked categories may help employees start a timer for an activity with one click. It can be an excellent resource for new hires during onboarding. 

6. Follow up on usage

You should periodically confirm that employees are using the software correctly, but take care not to micromanage your staff. You must refrain from using the number of tracked hours to reward and punish employees. Doing this can lead your remote staff to game the system and track hours when they’re not working, in which case the data will not be accurate. 

Time spent working is a valuable metric, but it doesn’t necessarily correlate to the quality of the work done. Employees shouldn’t feel you are placing more value on the hours tracked than the work done. Don’t use the number of hours tracked as a quota to be filled but rather as an approximate benchmark for each activity. 

Time tracking can benefit employees and management

While time tracking is only for some organisations or employees, having a clear, simple, and fair process can help employees keep their autonomy while providing valuable data on performance and productivity.

Author bio:

Dean Mathews is the founder and CEO of OnTheClock, an employee time-tracking app that helps over 15,000 companies worldwide track time. 

Dean has over 20 years of experience designing and developing business apps. When he is not perfecting time tracking, Dean enjoys expanding his faith, spending time with family and friends, and finding ways to make the world just a little better.

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