Timesheets: A Necessary Evil

A word that brings a grimace, or at least a look of annoyance, in the face of any employee, is “timesheets”. From time immemorial, a negative culture has grown around timesheets. People hate it, people try to beat it, people simply ignore its entire presence. They view timesheets as evil entities that do nothing but injustice in every way possible. 

Yet, they have sustained through the years, first as sheets of paper, then as spreadsheets, and finally, in this age of SaaS, as MIS software applications. So they must have some usefulness, right? You will get different answers from different people working at different strata in the company. So what exactly is the consensus? Let’s break it down in this post.

Are Timesheets Evil?

Timesheets are, in the most unbiased judgment, a flawed concept. It is a one-dimensional measurement of work done by employees and fails to capture all the productive aspects of working. Here are some ways that they just don’t tick with the current work culture.

Time-driven vs Results-driven

If your employees see that their work is calibrated using the period they for instead of the results they delivered, what do you think would be the consequence? It would simply make people demotivated about delivering better results. They would focus more on putting in more hours by stretching the work over long hours. It is the same problem we see when we hire construction workers on a daily wage basis instead of by contract. Timesheets can effectively slow down the progress of the company due to this harmful time-driven approach to work.

Not Right for Project-based Jobs

Many companies or even sectors do not follow long-term workflows. Partnerships with clients are strictly contract-based or project-based. In those sectors, the field is highly competitive and a company that can deliver superior results in a short time will be more in demand than one that takes too long to complete the job. Timing the hours put in by employees, in that case, will be counter-productive to the work that the company has taken on. Timesheets just do not fit in these fields and workplaces.

Hampers Efficiency

A huge driving force for innovation is all about doing things in less time and with less effort. Besides accuracy and reliability, the main aim of automation is to save time on repetitive tasks so that human workers can concentrate on more specialized tasks. But, if you are clocking work hours to measure results, it discourages people from trying to find easier, faster, and more efficient ways to complete tasks. They would simply try to do everything themselves and using long-drawn methods to clock in more hours.

Needs Full Transparency

Perhaps the biggest flaw of the timesheet system is that it assumes every employee would be 100% honest when filling in the sheets. Unfortunately, this is hard to guarantee. Whenever an employee sees that he will be rewarded based on how long he works instead of how much or how well, he might be tempted to mention a few extra hours here and there. Or he may intentionally take longer to complete a task when it could have been completed in less. 

Non-agile and Non-flexible

Timesheets will not account for the work that an employee takes home or does during vacation. In fact, timesheets are a hindrance to an agile and flexible workplace. There is no proper system in place to exactly measure how much work a person might be getting done outside the office. It will overcount if you try to include homework hours or undercount if you decide to not consider them at all.

Are Timesheets Necessary?

But even with all of these issues, you cannot deny that if timesheets have sustained through the decades, they must have some usefulness. In fact, they do make it easier to measure employee efforts when effectively combined with other tools.

Effective Time Management

One of the most important uses of timesheets is time management. If your work is project-based, then you will probably have created a team member delegation chart, with suitable work distribution and schedules. By using a timesheet for all members of the team, you can tally with your task chart and schedule to ensure everyone is doing their work and sticking to the schedule. It helps you manage deadlines and not rush towards the end.

Skill Management

Any good team leader or manager knows that specific skills are needed at specific stages of a project or time of the year. It is important to have the employees with those skills in the office when they are most needed. By analyzing the timesheets of your employees, you can ensure that the right person is being present in the right place at the right time. If not, you can delegate them accordingly to ensure optimum quality of work.

Financial Efficiency

This draws from the skill management point only. You can analyze timesheets to detect trends in demand for a specific kind of work by seeing what kind of worker was most needed in the office at a particular time. That way, you will not have to employ people with those skills and pay them all year round. You can make that post contract-based and hire on-demand workers around that time. This saves a lot of money for the company.

Detecting Management Flaws

There will always be an employee who will want to show they work more when they don’t. Or they may try to take advantage of loopholes to earn an extra paycheck. Using timesheets, you can look for anomalous readings, like an employee showing more hours than can possibly be needed from them. Or you may find that there is no way to account for the work an employee did even on leave. These are glaring bugs in the timesheet management system that you can find by analyzing timesheets and try to correct them.

How Can You Improve Timesheets

Banes and boons go hand-in-hand when it comes to timesheets. The only way to find the optimal middle path is to make improvements in the present methods used in timesheet management. Here are some useful pointers you can apply.

Use a Comprehensive SaaS Model

Scores of timesheet management software applications are available nowadays to make the process intelligent and automated. They will communicate with your attendance management system, ERP systems, office management systems, etc to effectively and accurately count the hours each person puts in. Having a SaaS model also allows the correct counting of hours put in outside the office.

Make it a Background Process

Instead of requiring employees to manually do an operation to clock in hours, make the process truly automated. Integrate with an RFID-based or WiFi-based attendance system so that there is no way for dishonest employees to get around it.

Use Data Analytics

Combining data analytics with timesheet management has many uses. Besides allowing better management of time and skills, you can also pinpoint people who are trying to fool the system. You can even use trends and data from here for better inventory and resource management.

Concluding Note

It cannot be denied that timesheets will never be the be-all-and-end-all of employee and payroll management. The principle of timesheet management itself is too deficient in its understanding of work and effort to work standalone. But, combined with other MISs, they can provide important data and cues that you can use for better management of the workplace.