Boosting employee productivity is a priority for businesses of all sizes. After all, if employees work more efficiently and get more done, then the cost of their salary has more value. Almost 40% of the workday is lost to interruptions, meetings, and administrative tasks—none of which have anything to do with an employee’s primary responsibility. Of course, it’s naturally for businesses to wonder if there are ways to reduce this percentage and get employees to work more productively in the process.
One of the most popular ways to understand and then improve productivity in the office is to first gain an understanding of what hours employees are most productive. This can be done by journaling or the use of spreadsheets, but these methods are often faulty and are reliant on a type of self-reporting that can lead to self-deception (people generally believe they work longer hours than they actually do). Instead, a better option is to use time tracking software that can automatically log hours as well as what an employee is doing.
But do time trackers actually boost employee productivity and happiness? The answer to both is that time tracking can, but there are no guarantees. The primary benefit of using time trackers is that it gives clarity to employee’s schedule. As a Slate journalist discovered for herself, merely understanding where your time goes gives you more control of your day. For example, once it becomes clear that you spend 30 minutes every day on Facebook, you may decide that’s too much for you and consciously reduce the amount of time you spend on social media.
This benefit could apply to everyone within a company and give clarity on what everyone within a team is working on, where the bottlenecks within the workflow are, as well as what kinds of tasks individuals are most efficient completing. Once this knowledge of the work system is established, CEOs and managers can augment job roles and the way teams work in order to minimize inefficiencies within a team and maximize the effectiveness of the individual team members. This in turn can help minimize frustrating and time-consuming tasks for employees and increase their happiness.
However, speaking of employee happiness, there is an immediately apparent issue here: if managers track how their employees spend their time to boost efficiency, isn’t this just a way to ring more work out of them? Maybe an employee isn’t being “productive” when they take a break to read the latest news online, but surely those breaks are integral to their happiness?
Indeed, this is one of the negatives consequences of using time trackers: many employees will feel like their managers are similar to Big Brother from 1984, and it’s possible that they will actually be less productive with just the thought that their manager is watching their every move. However, there are solutions to get around this issue in the form of employee wellness programs (matcha tea, anyone?) as well as providing them with accountability that will enable them to ‘own’ up to their campaigns.
The first is relatively straightforward: make the managers use a time tracking tool as well. This evens the playing field and makes it seem less invasive. The next step is consider a time tracking tool that is customizable. For example, Toptracker is a time tracking application that is fully customizable in what it tracks: it can just record time, it can measure keyboard and mouse activity, take screenshots, or even webcam shots if you feel so inclined, and with the latter features it is possible to blur parts of the image in order to retain greater privacy. While time tracking will always be somewhat invasive, it is possible to limit that invasion to solely your company’s needs.
However, that doesn’t alleviate employee’s fears of time trackers leading to a fuller workday with less reward. The key here is to provide incentives back to the employee. A time tracking model that aims to cut all breaks and maximize employee productivity does not boost employee happiness.
Instead, time tracking should be used to maximize productivity in all things, even taking breaks. There are studies that suggest taking breaks actually increases your overall efficiency because it gives your brain time to recharge, so don’t strip that away from your employees as it will drain morale in the long run. Instead, implement a system, whether it’s something like the Pomodoro Technique or the Rule of 52 and 17 doesn’t matter. What matters is that you allow employees to take breaks even when tracking their time.
Finally, another way to further increase employee happiness is to offer perks that counter the slightly oppressive nature of time tracking. Perhaps you could let your employees work from home one day a week (you are tracking their hours after all), or employees could accrue more vacation time with their newfound productivity. Regardless of which tactic you pick, it’s important to remember that not all employees will be enthused about using a time tracker, so you have to provide a balance and make that loss of privacy worth their while. Happy employees are 12% more productive, so don’t lose sight of your employees in your quest for higher profit margins.
With these factors in mind, use time tracking to your advantage to better understand your business and how your employees spend their time. That knowledge in turn can lead you to a more efficient business with happier employees as you find ways to focus their work on what they are good at while offering breaks at timed intervals for them to relax.