How to Track Time Without Being Big Brother
CEO Peter Coppinger discusses a time tracking experiment Teamwork.com is currently running—and how the company gives every team member the flexibility to manage their own hours.
Psst…looking for a way for your team members to track their time without having to breathe down their necks? Check out our brand new Clock In/Clock Out feature for hassle-free time management. Read more about it here. Dan and I love to use data to improve Teamwork on every level. We like to compare time, analyze results, spot inefficiencies and then eliminate them. We never stop improving our software (Company Value #1), and we continuously look for ways to improve our workflows. Up until the 1st of February this year, everyone in the company was logging their time on every task they worked on each day. This policy was in place to help improve productivity — and it worked well for the company for a long time. However, feedback from the team was nearly unanimous: the system of logging time on individual tasks and then ensuring it added up to 37.5 hours a week was starting to become a tedious time-sink.
Our Time Tracking Experiment
One of our company values is that we “Move Fast and Stay Highly Productive.” If the majority of our team felt that task-based time tracking was making them less productive we needed to take a look at some other options. After weighing the pros and cons, we decided to try an HR experiment and move away from time tracking — switching instead to a simple clock-in/clock-out system.
Trusting Our Team to Manage Their Own Time
You’ve probably heard a lot of business leaders tell you that their employees are their most valuable asset, and we completely agree. In order for our company to succeed, we believe that we need to give everyone on the team here at Teamwork.com trust, respect and flexibility in exchange for their continuous hard work. If someone needs to go to an appointment with their husband or wife for four hours—no problem! If they want to take a two-hour lunch? No problem. If somebody else needs to get a haircut mid-day? Again, no problem. They just clock out and make up the hours some other time. We don’t micromanage these decisions and let our team find the best way to coordinate their life and work schedules. As our company continues to grow, we want to retain flexibility without checking if everyone is putting in or making up the hours; instead we want the whole team to manage their own hours. In order to do this we put a few basic requirements in place. Here are the guidelines I gave the team when the new clock-in/clock-out system was introduced:
Give us a good 37.5 hours of work a week. That works out to 8 hours a day, Monday through Friday, with 30 minutes for lunch.
Try not to miss the daily standup meeting, and please be available as much as possible during our core hours of 11am GMT to 3pm GMT.
If you want to work late because you are in the zone, go for it, and then feel free to take off early on another day.
Once this new clock-in/clock-out system is up and running, if we see anybody constantly working more than 40 hours, we’ll talk to you to ensure you are happy and that there is no danger of burnout. Burnout is a management fail.
Logging time on tasks has been something we’ve done here at Teamwork.com since the beginning, so I expected the team to have a lot of questions when I told them about our decision to experiment with a clock-in/clock-out system. Here’s a list of the anticipated FAQs and the responses I posted on our internal blog: Q: What about Support? Do we have to log time on tasks?
A: The system you guys have going on seems to work well, so I’m not going to interfere. However, you must still clock-in/clock-out, please.
Q: What about people who work part-time?
A: If you’re logging part-time hours on a monthly basis, continue with your current process.
Q: What if we take some downtime to play Bomberman or FIFA for an hour? Do we have to clock out?
A: I would like to avoid having to create a policy about this kind of downtime activity. Let’s try this: an hour or two of games with co-workers each week is something we are happy to support as part of social time at work. However, if you are going to have 4-hour long tournaments, that’s no problem, but you should be clocked-out. Please use your common sense so we don’t have to make a policy. Think about what you need to do to hold to high-performance standards, and don’t leave your colleagues down.
Q: This feels like Big Brother…
A: I get why you might feel that way, truly. But we need to scale up and have some sort of system that works best across the entire company. Outside of this clock-in/out, you are free to work the way you want, so please try to see it as us trusting you to manage your own hours.
Q: But you should be able to see the work done by tasks completed?
A: Oh, stop the trolling. 😛 Not all work is written in discrete tasks, nor should it be.
We Still Love Time Tracking
Just because we’ve put task-based time tracking on pause to run an experiment doesn’t mean we’ve given it up forever. For us, the best use of time tracking involves comparing estimates to actual time spent, but aside from that, time tracking each minute isn’t the best use of our time. Many of our users, especially agencies, find task-based time tracking indispensable for billing clients, budgeting and time management. If you’re reading this, I’d encourage you to experiment and find the approach that works best for your company. In order to use time tracking effectively, I want to introduce a feature to Teamwork Projects that will require time to be logged on any task with an existing estimate. Creating a habit of adding estimates to tasks will give us useful data to help us understand how we’re working—and ultimately make better estimates on new features. That will come in time.
Until Next Time…
Next week, I’ll discuss how we celebrate failure as well as success here at Teamwork.com, so make sure you subscribe to have the post delivered to your inbox. Until then, if you have any questions or comments—leave them below!