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Timesheets revisited: perfect for hybrid work, four-day workweeks, and AI implementation.

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Time spent on tasks is one of the most important indicators for HR analyses, such as for an efficiency analysis of a hybrid work mode or a four-day workweek. Time tracking is also essential to evaluating a company’s AI readiness status; in spite of this, in contemporary management, timesheets are found obsolete. Why is that?

To report time spent on various tasks via timesheets is becoming more and more complicated because new work modes are emerging, such as remote or hybrid. Still, timesheets remain essential for your company if you want to keep track of your process efficiency. Aren’t there any better ways to track time than those awful Excel sheets? Good news: there are.

Let’s start with some statistics. According to a Harvard Business Review report, dutifully reporting every minute spent at work is a complicated task in itself. Many employees struggle with it, regardless of whether their timesheets are super smart (a dedicated app) or “dumb” (Hello again, Excel!).

Their input always needs to be double-checked by a manager, generating even more dull work. Even the most advanced software is unable to track the “gray zone”: time spent on multiple micro-tasks that are hard to measure and report, yet still should be counted and invoiced to the client.

On top of that, timesheets that aren’t regularly filled out with data become less relevant over time. A postponed task becomes a backlog that is hard to catch up with and to report properly. Such incomplete or delayed timesheets don’t reflect reality: they incur lower income on the employee’s side (less invoiced time) and poor managerial decisions (employees are burdened with more tasks than they’re able to get done).

In the hybrid mode, conventional time tracking simply doesn’t cut it.

Conventional time tracking doesn’t keep pace with evolving business communication styles. Nowadays, interaction with clients is rarely limited to business hours. It happens 24/7 and spills over different communication channels like messaging apps. Private and business lives mix together. If your workday is divided into several online meetings with no breaks between them, it’s hard to imagine that you would dutifully track all time spent in meetings and describe each one’s content after hours. Are the meetings even tasks?

E-mail is another good example of a fragmented communication channel. It often takes an hour to write a one-sentence e-mail: you need to check up with other people first, look up some resources, reread your previous communication… Does it make sense to open a timesheet just to report one short e-mail? Should you record every phone call you make or every voice message you need to open repeatedly to grasp its meaning?

Add a hybrid work mode to this picture and things get even more complicated, especially when getting things done is simply more important for your company culture than only being available during work hours.

To add insult to injury, it’s a widely known fact that reporting tasks in timesheets is one of the most hated corporate processes among employees. Yet, if your people know that the sheets they’re poring over are actually processed in the company and their input is useful, they will be more eager to provide it. It’s an internal communication issue, for sure, but your employees need to see tangible results of their effort in the first place, as soon as possible. Employee GPS Tracking Apps can streamline the process by automating time tracking and reporting, making it less burdensome for employees and ensuring that their time and effort contribute to productive outcomes.

Timesheets are hard evidence.

So why bother with tracking every single minute? Our processes work smoothly, the client is happy… Well, this doesn’t always last. What if the customer starts questioning the invoiced hours? What if your profit margin drops down? And finally, what if your freelance contractor raises their rates by 15%? This is when time records can save your business. You should have a clear understanding of what is going on with profitability versus time spent on various tasks.

Timesheets are also a great tool for monitoring your employees’ time management skills.

Even senior workers with years of expertise struggle with this issue. Poor time management hinders their efficiency. When they lose their motivation, you lose a valuable resource. With timesheets, you see a red flag every time an employee can’t prioritize tasks or efficiently use their work time.

Moreover, timesheets provide a valid argument in generational discussions. While most of us are on the same page when it comes to money vs. time spent on earning it, those who just started their career path often have various misconceptions about their salary-workload balance, especially when hybrid mode comes into play.

Try to imagine this situation: your employees keep insisting on introducing a hybrid model combined with a four-day workweek. You essentially agree, but you need approval from the CEO first. If you aren’t to base your discussion purely on your feelings and impressions, you need hard evidence. Introducing new work modes requires a thorough analysis and should be driven by data.

Finally, timesheets prove useful when assessing your company’s AI readiness. For many CEOs, AI implementation could seem like a merely technical question. As such, they’d assign the readiness assessment and the following implementation strategy to their CTO and technological team. If an HR department is not involved from the get-go or doesn’t step up, its role may be overlooked.

AI either supplements or replaces the human workforce. This involves building teams out of the right people to provide the best efficiency possible.

If HR specialists fail to come forward with their input – such as team capacities, efficiency, and work scope – in the early phase, they will face many problems in the future.

How are they supposed to calculate the work hours replaced by AI without timesheet data?

Time to rethink timesheets.

How can we solve this conundrum? What you need is a timesheet system that only tracks the important work and provides an in-depth analysis of your team’s effectiveness. If you want to achieve more with your timesheets than invoicing, you need to change your methods. There are two possible ways:

A) The Eight-hour Method

The Eight-Hour Method assumes that a worker should have enough work to fill 8 hours a day (on average). The worker does not report time in 15-minute blocks but rather in percents. This method brings three benefits.

First, it’s hybrid friendly. It works well for people whose net worktime sums up to eight hours a day, but rarely happens in eight-hour blocks with no breaks. Reporting based on percentage is more fun and intuitive than writing every single task down.

Second, this method proves more successful in effectiveness assessment: the management can easily compare percentage timesheets with the worker’s activities tracked on their computer. It also makes it easier to confront the employee about their (in)efficiency: if they have reported spending eight hours five times a week on a few mundane micro-tasks, how is it possible that a complex project has taken them the same amount of time?

Third, trackable metrics can be adjusted to be more relevant for the company. The employee scores and reports their happiness with what they did on that given day. Example: 50% was fun, 25% not bad, and 25% below their level of expertise.

B) Qualitative Timesheets

This timesheet system is based on conventional time slot tracking, yet with a few restrictions. First, it tracks time in larger blocks (i.e. instead of reporting 5 x 15 minutes on Slack, the employee records a total amount of time spent on a given task to the best of their knowledge).

Then comes the rating. Each activity has its score, set by the HR department and based on its company’s priorities. The spectrum is wide: from expertise and qualifications needed to get the task done (unqualified/qualified/highly qualified) to creativity (repetitive/creative) to employee satisfaction (fun/dull).

Both methods are perfect for transitional periods, such as testing a new work mode. Ideally, an HR manager compares timesheets one month before any planned implementation and one month after.

Timesheets can go well with hybrid work…

… and the HR department should get full access to them. Without them, an in-depth HR analysis is impossible.  And how does time tracking in Sloneek work? You can track the time in the app or import tracking data from other apps.

Don’t give up on timesheets. Reevaluate and reinvent them instead. The data they can provide will support any of your positions when discussing work mode evolution at your company. And believe us, these discussions will keep coming back in the future.