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Freelancers, teleworkers, remote workers, telecommuters, e-workers whatever you call us. There’s got to be some way to know we’re working right? If you are not bound to a single employer, i don’t think you’ll be interested in this post. But if you are working loyally for a single boss, then read on mate!
Before i begin, i want to emphasize that i have nothing against using software or time trackers to track time for remote workers. After years of probably using it, or being bound to a rule to use it, i find it has its pros and quirks.
I truly understand how difficult it is to track and monitor employees who are working remotely, and using a tracker is probably one of the many solutions. I’m not even criticizing the solution, because it works! But perhaps we can come up with a better solution or improve the solution we currently have.
First tho, let us try to compare and contrast different time trackers i tried in the past:
Time tracker softwares i’m familiar with:
This is the recent one i’ve used, and will probably use for the next years. It is the best one i’ve tried my entire remote working life. Why?
- Screenshots aren’t mandatory – and my current company is awesome for turning it off. I really appreciate the privacy that it gives, because my company doesn’t have to see that i have an embarrasing to-do list on my dashboard. That’s why office cubicles are designed to avoid your coworker from seeing you’re playing pinball on your free time, right?
- But, all apps, sites visited are reported – which is perfectly fine with me!
- Real-time tracking! And you can indicate whether you were away for work.
- Dozens of integrations, but in our case, we have google calendar and jira – great because when there are meetings, i can immediately set that i am on the meeting.
- Simple interface! Less clutter, and minimal. Easy to create a task, categorize it, and track your time working on it.
- $9.99/user/month (discounts when you have > 10 users) – but you get ALL of its features.
Hubstaff has a great interface, great dashboard and great tracker. It’s almost perfect, but why do i feel overwhelmed by all of its features? Timedoctor, does one thing well – tracking time. But i feel like hubstaff is a bit too much. For example, most of us are already using paypal for payments, and google drive for creating invoices.
- There are dozens of possible integrations (Like asana, trello, basecamp, etc)
- If you want to streamline all your operations and managing under one roof – then Hubstaff is great. If not, then you will be wasting all of its features.
- Tracking is not real-time. And when you do go idle, there’s no way to let it know that you were away for a client phone call.
- So to make comparison similar, for 10 users, you will pay $49 for basic, and $99 for premium. Having the basic plan is okay, yeah, but there will be less features (obviously), and i feel like it’s too restricting for the user.
- Not very easy to add tasks. If you integrated asana/trello then your existing tasks will be directly added, which is great, but the interface is not yet too easy.
Other time trackers i know of:
<to be added>
Problems clients probably find:
1. Freelancers taking on multiple work
Yes, time trackers probably hit this problem down in gutter. TTs stop the freelancers from working on other sites, or through screenshots, we know what projects the freelancers are currently working on. Perfect right? I actually don’t object when clients suggest using TTs because i really want to show them that i am very loyal to them.
Problems i find:
1. Being at home makes you really comfortable, too comfortable
Unlike being outside of home, or in an office, i find that going to rest rooms is more common, or going to the pantry and grabbing some snacks. But if your time is being tracked, a 5-10 minute break would cause your computer to be idle, and thereby stopping the software. Timedoctor allows you to indicate you are on a break, but the point is that the time you spend away from your laptop is not taken into consideration, when in fact you are at home, and you are working, you just had to poop or brew coffee.
Comparison: While if you were in the office, it’s not like the minutes you use in taking breaks or snacks is deducted from your payroll. The moment you come in for work, the timer starts, and the moment you go out and punch that card, the timer goes off.
2. Does working literally mean you are in front of the laptop?
What about individual planning sessions in white boards, or calls to clients, or calls to anyone at all? Or what if you wanted to meditate to think clearly, or go for a walk 15 minutes in the afternoon to clear your mind.
3. Does the hours logged even represent hours that are productive?
I sometimes finish my task early, and sometimes after doing so, i wanted to read and do some more research to work better. But what if the purpose of the tracker is to track time spent on a task AND at the same time used to track whether you are working 8 hours? So, if we track less time, that would mean reprimand, and probably salary deductions.
You ask how i spend the rest of my time after finishing a task, and i want to do more productive things like reading or taking a walk? – I watch my monitor mindlessly, making sure that my timer DOES NOT go idle – is it productive? No, it’s an absolute waste of time, but hey, i get to complete my 8 hours.
Having a perfect solution to working remotely or as a freelancer would really benefit both employees and businesses – think about it: you can work at home, without your boss thinking you are not productive and working! And as the boss, you get to pay that invoice with a smile knowing your employee is as loyal to you as your child – you just need to know that your freelancer doesn’t just sit all day – he also goes to coffee shops, or commute to the local coworking space or go poop. What matters is that he finishes that task right?
1. Do we even need that tracker if we already have a way to track progress for a project – or if we are already setting accurate due dates on the projects? For example, if the company is already using kanban/scrum and are already using sprints – then what’s needed is probably to track time spent on the task right? (To measure burndown rate). But what then is the use of tracking.
2. A fitbit for freelancers?
- That way, the moment you put it on, it knows you are starting work.
- It detects that you are on commute, or that you are eating, or taking a nap. Your boss doesn’t even have to know what you are doing – the system just needs to tell boss that yep, you are working hard.
- One tap tracking, no idle times.
- For clients: There’s no way the tracking would be manipulated by mouse or keyboard softwares that keep the laptop awake.
Is this even more creepy, because the boss now knows every thing you do? Or is it more convenient?
Let me know your freelancer stories in the comments…I really want to hear it!