The importance of time tracking in the new workplace

Software provider Paprika looks at the ways time management has changed with new work requirements.

At a point when the working world as we know it has been flipped on its head, now is the time to pay a little more attention to the simple act of clocking on and off.

Let’s be honest. Perhaps, for many, timesheets are a little mundane.

Perceived as a drain on creativity, a waste (somewhat ironically) of time, or simply a way for senior management to keep tabs on employees, agency staff seemingly wanted nothing to do with the tedious task of logging their time.

So, what’s changed? Is it about time?

Traditional nine-to-five presenteeism and the act of being physically in the workplace for the duration of the day, is set to become a little obsolete in the wake of the pandemic.

Historically, managers harboured cynicism about the efficacy of homeworking. A lack of trust, and general doubt that workers would be as productive outside of the office, meant that many resisted enabling their workforce to work remotely.

As the Covid-19 pandemic forced its hand in mandating homeworking on an almost global scale, managers and business leaders learned that teams could be just as productive, if not even more efficient, when given the flexibility to work from home.

After a year in the throes of a pandemic a survey by PwC concluded that:

“86% of CEOs foresee a long-term shift towards remote working.”

As businesses prepare to reinstate themselves in a more virtual capacity, managers have come to accept the virtues of remote working and allowing staff members more flexibility.

But as managers become accustomed to running client operations smoothly, overseeing workloads and managing project schedules within a digital workplace, timesheets have become ever more crucial in agency life.

It's about trust

With creative teams working to strict deadlines, putting processes in place and making communication simple and frictionless is crucial. Empowering your teams with the technology they need ensures that management can always have visibility over client work without needing to micro-manage from afar.

TRUST has become a key culture change in light of the circumstances of a virtual workplace, and an efficient timesheet software becomes a core part of your trust culture as a hybrid or remote agency. Homeworking has meant that employees have become accustomed to more open communications, checking in with managers and colleagues more regularly in the absence of the office water cooler. Likewise, managers have learned to trust in their creative workers as they collaborate as a disparate team.

What are the benefits of logging time?

“I remember a conversation many years ago with the COO of an award-winning product design company. He explained the importance of connecting time recording and resource planning. His view was that creative minds would seldom be interested in what they have just finished but would always be interested in what they were going to do next. His vision was that designers would only see what they were working on this week when they “unlocked” the plan by completing their timesheet for the week before. This seemed a little controversial at the time but aligning resource planning and time recording has other benefits: if the jobs or tasks that someone has been resourced for are already on their timesheet it saves time searching for the right job number and it reduces the risk of choosing the wrong one.”

Nick Tomlinson, Managing Director

Tracking time ensures that account managers can spend less time on administrative work and more time on what is important. It also makes it easier to resource new projects appropriately, so your team stays on target and meets its deadlines.

“Around 90% of agencies overservice their clients”

…but while recording the number of hours that have been worked on a job will identify where overservicing has happened, it wont stop it happening. In a world where agencies are paid for what they do, not how long it takes, by the time the hours are recorded the damage is done. The advantage from having a record of the time worked comes in the future. One of the keys to reducing overservicing is to improve the pricing of work and the accurate time recording gives us a vital feedback into the pricing and estimating process.

The benefits for a manager are clear, but what about your creative team? What are the rewards that are going to encourage them to fill in their timesheet?

The importance of time as a client investment

For the individual, timesheets can give some valuable insight into personal development goals and where you could add value for the team. Looking to the future, expect your timesheet to do more than just record hours. Paprika customer Newgate Sydney has recently incorporated a “how busy am I?” indicator. This is a simple drop down scale from “Freeish” to “Flat Out” or “On Holiday” that has enormous and very immediate benefit for managers when looking at an individual level, across a team or the agency as a whole.

At the moment Newgate are doing this on a dashboard but expect to see this embedded with Paprika timesheets, and as wellbeing and fulfilment become more important to us in an “out of office” world, imaging capturing immediate feedback on how people feel their skills match their workload or just how happy they are in their work.

For senior leaders, time transparency is an integral cog in the workings of your agency, allowing you to analyse, review and plan your resources more effectively to get the best value for your clients on every project.

Stop entering time for hours

Even the most organised creatives are not fond of filling their timesheets. Actually, doing so is often perceived as a tiresome chore that, ironically (or not), takes a lot of time and most of us loathe doing it. But maybe now, as the world of work is being turned upside down, it is a good time to embrace some positives changes?

The objectives of tracking time are pretty clear for a manager: analysing productivity, billing clients accurately, tracking projects’ progress, and much more. But what’s yours?

Gaining insights into understanding your work pattern and behaviour can not only be beneficial for your efficiency and productivity but also enhance your working life balance, so you actually spend more time on doing what you like.

Practice better self-awareness

It’s important to know your limits. Likewise, as a creative, it’s helpful to have an understanding of your strengths and weaknesses. Knowing the time required for each task empowers you with a little more awareness and can also give you an insight into the tasks you enjoy and those you, perhaps, find a little more challenging.

It’s important to ask yourself which tasks you find most fulfilling, and perhaps take the time to acknowledge the type of projects you struggle with, as being aware of this might help in outlining future goals or development needs with your manager.

In essence, logging your time helps you to be more mindful of your daily hours and productivity, which can help you plan your time more effectively for both the long and short term.

Your time is valuable for the business

Better accountability

Keeping a record of your time on each work task or project forces you to become more accountable for your workload. It’s crucial, particularly in a remote working landscape, to provide that visible record of your work efforts, not necessarily because management want to review your efficiency, more because your hard work equates to value for the client.

More accurate time forecasting

Having a record of everyone’s time allows managers (and clients where necessary) to understand the effort that has been invested. As managers become more aware of how long a particular task takes, that often means less pressure on you as they can allocate time with a more realistic level of expectation for future projects.

Bring everyone onto the same page

It’s about trust and flexibility. Honesty and reliability when it comes to filling out your timesheets will elicit a sense of trust between you, your colleagues and your management. Religiously logging and filling your time means your manager can easily access a record of your hard work. Building this data allows managers to let go a little and trust in the integrity of your work. Building that bond of trust over time means that senior members of the team will be more inclined to continue allowing more flexible, amenable work schedules that allow you to work around your routine and your personal commitments.

Switch off

Having such accessible visibility of your weekly completed work means you might feel better about switching off. Likewise, with time tracking, you might think twice about clocking on of a Thursday evening to ‘just quickly respond to that email’. As we inhabit this ‘always on’ world, where homeworking blurs the lines between work and leisure time, time logging software helps to set more boundaries. Being more conscious of the hours we put in can evoke a real sense of achievement and allows us to give ourselves permission to switch off at the end of the working day.

An easier way to enter & track time with Paprika

Paprika is designed for the creative and marcomms sector and offers a fully integrated solution which helps drive efficiencies, streamline processes, increase profitability and enable agency growth. Our system seamlessly knits together every agency function to ensure that the flow of data, intelligence and insight in your business is frictionless.

Make time management easier and empower your team to log their time quickly with minimum of effort:

  • Time can be entered through a Daily or Weekly Timesheet at home, in the office, and even on the go with our mobile App.
  • Flexible scheduling tools give each user a clear picture of what’s in their calendar with the possibility to log time directly from their schedule, preload favourite jobs and tasks, and use start and stop timers for their piece of mind.
  • Automatically upload projects and tasks into their timesheet, send email alerts to prompt staff for missing time, use real-time dashboards to see how much time has been entered against projects and tasks, identify overservicing and more.
  • Use Task Planner to swiftly schedule your meetings.
  • Streamline the way you work, so you can focus on doing what you do best.
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The opinions expressed here are those of the author and were submitted in accordance with the IPA's terms and conditions regarding the uploading and contribution of content to the IPA's newsletters, IPA website, or other IPA media, and should not be interpreted as representing the opinion of the IPA.

Last updated 21 January 2022