Here is some advice on how to implement a timesheet system in 5 simple steps.
1. Choose the right level of detail
If you start tracking time without enough precision, you might not be able to benefit from the system. Start tracking with too much precision and then, you'll end up overwhelming your employees.
The right level of detail for time tracking must be neither too vague nor too precise. Great — so, what does that mean exactly?
It depends on the information you need.
We recommend starting your time tracking at a "project level", in order to determine the number of hours that have been spent on a project without overburdening the employee's timesheet with information about every individual task.
It's good enough to get started, even if it means you might have to split projects into deliverables to get more information down the line.
Later on, you might want to know exactly how much time you've spent on each deliverable in a given project (or maybe your clients require such a breakdown), but always keep in mind that the more you need to track, the harder it becomes for your employees. No matter how good your timesheet is, tracking 23 different activities gets tedious.
2. Select activities you're going to track
Depending on the level of detail you've chosen, you can now select the projects, activities or deliverables for which you want to track time.
Then, you can start thinking about more "operational activities" that aren't necessarily tied to a project, such as support and maintenance.
Finally, you can add administrative tasks, such as holidays, employee absences, training, and so on. Once Again, select activities based on the information you're going to need later.
If you don't need as much detail, you could simply use an activity called "other" to which you add time for several of the categories mentioned above.
3. Explain the goal of the timesheet
You must start by asking yourself why you want to set up time sheets and for which reasons. It could be to track project costs, to compare planned and actual efforts, or to gain insights on your employee's workload.
Setting up a timesheet system can be seen by employees as a way to spy on all of their comings and goings. Numerous studies prove that increased control on employees leads to lower creativity as well as lower productivity. That's why it's important to communicate clearly about the real goal of this initiative, which is not not control and micromanage employees.
Is your goal to ensure your employees have a more balanced workload? Is your goal to make more reliable estimates on their next projects? Explain it to your employees in terms of the personal benefits they will gain from it: smoother distribution of their efforts, and the end of unpleasant surprises caused by overly optimistic planning.
Is your goal to track activities that will earn you tax credits from the government? Tell your employees about the positive consequences for them and your business.⁂