If You Thought Time Sheets Were Fun….

I used to work for a company obsessed with time sheet metrics. It went through three or four iterations of time sheet solutions while I was there, from Excel spreadsheets to a roll-your-own solution built from the ground-up to an off-the-shelf solution that required a bunch of customization before launch. Maybe that didn’t even actually launch when I was there. Maybe, instead, it launched after I was gone and then was replaced shortly thereafter with something else.

Yes, I understand the impulse to track as much as possible down to the minute, but when you’re in a multiple-customer, multiple-project environment where you’re switching between the clients and projects many, many times in a single day, you get a lot of signal loss in spending a couple minutes a day entering information into a time sheet for a couple minutes’ worth of actual work. Suddenly, you’re billing as long for time sheet entry as actual work. Or you’re filling up some non=billable catch-all bucket called “Administration” or “Non-Project” with minutes. Worse yet, if you’re switching tasks from crisis to crisis (sorry, I meant opportunity to opportunity) and you get to the end of the week with a time sheet that says you were only on the job twelve hours that week, you have to go all TSI on it, and forensically guess whether you spent six minutes or twelve minutes on that project on Tuesday.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, technology is bringing new solutions to bear:

Imagine how much better workers could do their jobs if they knew exactly how they spend their day.

Suppose they could get a breakdown of how much time they spend actually working on their computer, as opposed to surfing the Web. Suppose they could tell how much an afternoon workout boosts their productivity, or how much a stressful meeting raises their heart rate.

Thanks to a new wave of technologies called auto-analytics, they can do just that. These devices—from computer software and smartphone apps to gadgets that you wear—let users gather data about what they do at work, analyze that information and use it to do their job better. They give workers a fascinating window into the unseen, unconscious little things that can make such a big difference in their daily work lives. And by encouraging workers to start tracking their own activities—something many already are doing on their own—companies can end up with big improvements in job performance, satisfaction and possibly even well-being.

Frankly, that could be helpful, I suppose. Or it could be maddening from the point of view of the actual worker.

The key word here is encouragement. It is not the same as insistence. Bosses should be careful to stay out of workers’ way, letting employees experiment at their own pace and find their own solutions. They should offer them plenty of privacy safeguards along the way. Too much managerial interference could make the programs seem like Big Brother and dissuade workers from signing on. There’s a big difference between employees wanting to measure themselves, and bosses demanding it.

So which do you think it might fall out in most places?

Yeah, me, too.

2 Responses to “If You Thought Time Sheets Were Fun….”

  1. Tom Kyle Says:

    Or, you could have managers that, you know, manage…

  2. The Director Says:


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