time trackingThe idea of using an online time-tracker with your remote employees might spark one of two responses within you:

  1. Is it 1984 yet?
  2. Yes! How can I get started?

Surely, there’s got to be some middle ground between these two extremes, right?

For companies like ours, as well as many of the SEO and marketing agencies we work with, time tracking software is an important option to consider. Anytime you have remote workers powering your company, you should at least consider the option.

How Time Tracking Software Is Effective

If you’re Celeste O’Keefe, CEO of DANCEL Multimedia, employing time tracking/monitoring software makes a lot of sense. O’Keefe tells how she noticed employees would hide their screens when she walked by. Big red flag, right? Though this would be a problem in any work environment, it was especially a problem for O’Keefe’s company, which charged its clients by the hour.

Many business owners like O’Keefe decided to start using time-tracking software because of these great benefits:

  • You can easily measure each employee’s output, allowing you to make better payroll decisions.
  • Employees who may be prone to distraction can get a talking to now rather than later after the problem escalates. It’s always easier and cheaper to provide training to an existing employee than to fire him and hire a replacement.
  • Time tracking software helps you stay more in touch with what’s required of your employees at all levels.

Where Time Tracking Software Gets Creepy

Alright, so there are some downsides, too. Time tracking software can get a little troublesome when it…

  • … takes screen shots of your employees’ monitors.
  • … files away personal emails.
  • … records an employee’s every key stroke.

Not only are these features creepy, but they could cause employees to post negative/resentful comments about you on websites like Glassdoor, where many workers check out potential employers.

What Time Tracking Software Says About Your Brand

Okay, so time tracking software has some cool benefits, but then it can get pretty creepy. Well, yeah, but instead of making a pros and cons list, consider what time tracking software says about how your business brands itself.

Time tracking software can throw up a wall between you and your employees. By its very nature, time tracking software says, “I don’t trust you.” Sometimes, you might have a very good reason for wanting to say that to an employee, in which case a serious phone call about that employee’s future might be better than implementing company-wide time tracking software.

Alternatives to Time Tracking Software

If you don’t have any reason not to trust an employee, why start things off on the wrong foot by implementing time tracking software? The Wall Street Journal has published a great article on how employees can measure themselves using various software programs (listed below).

Instead of filling in as Orwell’s Big Brother, why not let your employees do the job for you with a program that they control?

  • RescueTime: Allows employees to see how much time they spend on websites and applications. Also lets employees block sites that they find distracting.
  • TallyZoo: Similar to RescueTime, this program uses interactive graphs and visual data, and also extends beyond work to personal time management. Great sharing options in this program.
  • iDoneThis: This program takes the hassle and micromanagement out of time tracking. At the end of every day, employees respond to an email that goes out to their team, detailing what they accomplished on that day.

Remember: the carrot can be more effective than the whip. If you’re managing remote/virtual workers check out these 37 tips to motivate your team. As you build your company’s brand, think about how your company can inspire – not intimated – its employees.

What’s your stance on online time tracking software? Would/Do you use it with your employees? Why or why not?