You can’t fix what you can’t measure. (You can’t bill for it very well, either.)
That’s the key principle behind employee time tracking. It helps managers and organizations understand how long it takes, on average, to complete various tasks, aiding in the baselining and project scheduling processes.
But doing this in a way that generates the data you need without feeling like micromanaging can be a challenge.
Time-tracking software is a compelling solution. The right software can deliver the data you need without becoming a burden and can even help prevent micromanaging within your business and teams.
If you need better data and metrics about task length, billable hours, or anything else related to how time gets spent, then this article is for you. We’ll show you the features that matter most in time tracking, then give you our unbiased, real-world reviews on eight of the top options.
Key features to look for in time-tracking software
While it’s possible to track time in an Excelspreadsheet (we can even show you exactly how to do it), spreadsheets are a frustratingly manual and not very scalable way to handle tracking. Time-tracking software solutions are a more elegant and powerful option.
Provides real-time data
Unlike manual time cards or employee time clocks, time-tracking software provides data in real time. Real-time data is one of the keys to unlocking the hidden benefits of tracking time and can make a major difference in project planning and decision-making.
Integrates with other project management tools
If you’re already using other project management tools or accounting software, find a time-tracking system that integrates well with your other tools. Before you decide on a tracking tool, check its integrations page. You may want to keep looking if you don't see the other tools in your tech stack — otherwise, you may be stuck transferring information between tools manually, which defeats the purpose.
Makes time tracking easy and flexible
Time clock apps are only useful when people actually use them, so look for tools that are easy to use and flexible enough to accept after-the-fact changes. People will inevitably forget to start timers, and automatic trackers will get things wrong, too.
Automates the time tracking process
You don’t want your time-tracking software to disrupt workflows or interrupt focus, so look for systems that automate the process for your employees. On the back end, the less time managers and operations personnel spend sorting the data, the better.
Notifies team members when there is a tracking error
Mistakes happen, and sometimes they’re pretty obvious, like when a team member leaves a timer running overnight or allocates an illogical amount of time to a task. The best systems can automatically notify team members about tracking errors so that the user can investigate and resolve the issue.
The best time tracking software for employees
We couldn’t kick off this list without giving ourselves a little hat tip. While Teamwork is a comprehensive project management software at its core, it has a time tracking element that lets you track, benchmark, and analyze employee productivity.
As well as seeing how much time employees are spending on their individual tasks, you can access valuable insights to understand how long it really takes to do something. That means your team will have the tools to plan projects more efficiently in the future.
The time tracker easily integrates with Teamwork’s suite of other features, including Kanban boards, templates, calendars, task lists, and reports. This makes it easy to stay in Teamwork without having to load a third-party app for time tracking.
Teamwork's project time tracking features also give more visibility into projects, which is perfect for client services companies. We make it easy to generate invoices from your project timesheet so you present clients with the most accurate invoicing for your work.
If you're looking to build stronger relationships with your clients, give them full visibility into your team's workload and hours used. With Teamwork, you can create more accountable and trusting partnerships with clients so everyone has peace of mind on the work completed.
Pravda Media Group increased their productivity levels by 40% with Teamwork by simply getting a better bird's-eye view.
I call it the heartbeat of the business because I’m actually able to see everything that is happening. My role as a manager is to empower my team members to do their best work. Now I’m able to do what I call ‘proactive mentoring’. Because I have transparency with tasks and progress, I’m able to jump in and give them guidance on everything from client interactions to troubleshooting.
Kfir Pravda, CEO of Pravda Media Group
Price: Free for individuals and small teams. Other plans start at $10 per month per user.
Gives you options to track by task, project, or simply hours worked
Perfect for anyone who bills hours
Timer is easy to use as a desktop widget or a cloud (browser) tool
Is a broader suite of project management tools, so your time tracking data can feed directly into other project tracking and project planning activities
A wide-ranging suite; might be overkill if all you need is a time tracker
Some learning curve, but most users adapt quickly to user-friendly timer UI
Clockify is a time-tracking app at its simplest. Your team simply has to write what task they’re working on and hit “start” to get the timer going.
The stopwatch-style tracker keeps counting until someone presses stop. If a team member forgets to track their time on a task (a very easy mistake to make), they can add manual time later on.
Accompanying timesheets let you log your weekly activities quickly and get a complete view of how many hours have been spent on each task. Finally, the calendar view allows anyone with access to visualize and edit their tracked time.
Detailed reports show you high-level project progress in a visual snapshot, and you can go into each specific project on a granular level to learn more.
Clockify has made my life so much easier. I’m able to record my work hours for my manager without spending half the day doing it.
Capterra review from Aoife K., a campus minister, and outreach director
Price: Get started for free. Basic plans start at $3.99 per month for additional features.
Simplicity is refreshing
Ability to name your task and start tracking without keeping team members waiting on task creation from another source (project management)
Great tool for self-management and self-analysis of time use
Doesn’t offer full HR capabilities or meaningful integrations with HR software
High price for the limited capabilities
TimeCamp pitches itself as the modern alternative to spreadsheets and guesswork. Employees can use a basic timer to track how many hours they spend on a project which is then pulled into an entire team overview.
TimeCamp also automatically scans the domain names of the apps your team uses and groups them into suggested categories.
If you’re prone to micromanager behavior, the productivity tracker lets you stay on the same page as your team without standing over them and breathing down their necks.
Automatic time tracking
[TimeCamp] proved to be an essential management tool that gives us clear insight into a project’s efficiency and helps to avoid an overblown workload for our team.
Adam Wagner, co-owner and chief strategy officer of Raindrop Marketing
Price: TimeCamp offers many features for free. Basic plans start at $5.25 per user per month.
Impressive free plan with unlimited users, projects, and tasks
Paid plans add powerful features like custom reporting, management roles, and team productivity tracking
Automatic time tracking (especially attractive if your team uses well-known cloud and SaaS tools)
Can handle invoicing and billing to a degree
Expensive beyond free features
Occupies a bit of an awkward middle-ground: more capability than basic teams need, but not a full HR or project management platform like larger organizations may prefer
No time planning
4. Workpuls / Insightful
Workpuls knows it’s impossible to watch your employees every minute of every day. The employee monitoring software indulges the micromanager by providing detailed timesheets and time tracking data on each team member.
Managers can track computer activity to ensure employees are being productive and collect regular screenshots throughout the day. Time tracking and time mapping give you an overview of where employee time is spent and eliminates the human errors that can inevitably happen if you’re tracking time manually.
Manual time entries
Computer activity tracking
Joe D’Angelo, an Information Systems Specialist at The Housing Association of Bergen County, explained how Workpuls helped his team monitor remote work activity during the pandemic. It wasn’t intended to monitor every minute of an employee’s day. Instead, it became a trusted source of proof of work.
Price: Packages start at $4.80 per month per employee.
Focuses on employee monitoring as workforce analytics
Insightful reports 10% more daily active work time and 15% more accurate clock-ins
Easily transitions from the office to work-from-home and hybrid work models
Mid-tier and up adds basic project management capabilities
May face resistance as it’s more invasive than some; monitors and reports (with screenshots!) what your team members are doing
Same with Stealth Mode: very effective, but difficult to act on insights without eroding trust
Puts time tracking (a core function) in the premium tier
DeskTime is another basic time tracking tool that lets managers organize their teams and track their performance without needing to stoop to micromanaging levels.
The tool lets you plan and create shifts for staff, manage any absences, and track productivity to see who is working on what.
Reports provide a top-level view of your working week or month, giving you detailed insights into who was absent, who spent how much time doing a certain task, and which tasks are completed.
Project time tracking
Idle time tracking
Document title tracking
Cost calculation and project billing
Employee absence calendar
Third-party app integrations
I would recommend DeskTime for companies with remote employees or home-office days. Time tracking allows people who work remotely to feel certain that their work, effort, and dedication won’t stay unnoticed. Since everything happens automatically, they can feel safe that any work they do will be logged and their hours adequately compensated.
Kaspars Milbergs, chief technology officer at On The Map Marketing
Price: Limited features can be accessed for free. Pro plans start at $7 per month per user.
Strikes a reasonable balance between detailed activity tracking and user privacy
Numerous third-party integrations
No manual timers means no forgetting to start and stop and log time
Includes a shared workspaces calendar resource
Can't track anything other than computer time (no research, work away from the desk, or mobile time)
Must be configured very carefully to work properly; numerous user complaints about inflexible or unworkable settings
Automatic screenshots can be disruptive and could reveal confidential or sensitive company or personal information
HubStaff positions itself as the “all-in-one work time tracker for managing field or remote teams." The tool lets employees select their chosen task and track their time spent on it.
Once completed, the time is submitted to the dashboard so you can get an overview of who’s been working on what and how long they’ve spent on it.
One key feature is the ability to suss out struggling team members through the activity reports. You can access screenshots to identify friction points so you can swoop in and help them out as needed.
The biggest challenge we face from an HR perspective is getting everyone on the same page and establishing a uniform system of tracking hours and paying team members. We knew we needed something more scalable than just spreadsheets.
Christian Mairoll, founder and CEO of Emsisoft
Price: Free for one user. Basic plans start at $7 per month per user.
Geofencing and GPS capabilities in Field plan
Ability to issue work orders and manage jobs, and tie time tracking to them
Contains agile project management capabilities
Nine separate pricing plans/feature sets (each with pricing minimums) can be overwhelming
Ease of user: Breadth of capabilities makes finding and using certain core features more complicated
Harvest makes it easy to track employee time, identify billable hours, and generate reports on the progress and time spent on each project. Team members can simply select the project they’re working on and start tracking their time right away.
From the project manager’s perspective, you can see what projects an employee has been working on during any given day and the amount of time spent on that project.
For creative agency The Charles, using Harvest eliminated squabbles over the time spent on microtasks.
We’ve had some clients that have been like, ‘Oh, you spent 10 minutes on this, and I remember that task and it wasn’t 10 minutes. It was five.' The value of tracking time so precisely is not having to explain it to the client when they ask.
Aaron Edwards, co-founder, and CEO of The Charles
Price: Free for one user. Pro plans start at $12 per month per user.
An impressive all-in-one tool, especially for solo or small businesses
Allows you to accept online payments (via client credit card) and handle invoicing based on tracked time
A broader feature set than basic time trackers
Feature set may not justify the much higher price
Numerous integrations, but multiple reports of those integrations working inconsistently
Apploye is a simple time tracker and remote employee monitoring tool. It offers advanced tracking with intuitive desktop and mobile apps. You can track your remote workers, in-office employees, or even outdoor employees too.
The customizable timesheet gives you a detailed overview of your employees' daily, weekly, and monthly activities. You can get a bunch of more advanced features to simplify your business.
Automatic time tracking,
Apps and website tracking,
‘Straightforward, Easy to use. If you want to manage your staff onsite or remotely and get productivity reports - then Apploye should be one of those apps that you need to try!’
Kernan Motoomull, Founder & CEO, TechSupport.Ph
Price: Apploye has four pricing plans. The basic plan starts from $4 per user per month.
Extremely affordable, even at highest price tier
Tracks time equally well across in-house, mobile, remote, and hybrid environments
Desktop app and mobile app offer automatic time tracking
Screenshot tool visible to users; can create frustration
Could use more thorough explainers or onboarding
Limited feature set (though appropriate to the price)
Stop micromanaging to increase team productivity
Tracking time is essential for teams and leaders who want to understand project timelines and grow more accurate in planning and accounting. The process can be tricky to navigate, with some solutions leaning toward surveillance and others generating too much manual work.
Teamwork is an ideal middle ground, giving users robust time tracking capabilities without creating a sense that they’re constantly being watched or even screenshotted. Best of all, Teamwork is also a full-featured project management platform, yet plans are comparable in price to other much more limited apps on this list.
Ready to see Teamwork in action for yourself? Sign up today!