The more information you know about your small business, the better. But if all you’re doing to track your employees’ time is collecting timesheets from your team members at the end of the pay period, you’re not really getting the information you need to run your business effectively.
Traditional time cards will tell you the days an employee worked, their time entries (including their clock in and clock out times), and their total billable hours for the week. But that bare-bones information can bring up so many questions for business owners.
For example, did they work at multiple job sites throughout the week? How long were they at each site—and how do you need to adjust your employee scheduling for the following week to cover labor costs for each project?
Or, if your employees spend most of their day on the computer, how were they spending their time online? Were they maximizing their employee productivity and working on projects all day—or did they spend hours scrolling through social media?
How do you, as a business owner, find the answer to those questions?
The Solution? An Employee Time Tracking App
An employee time tracking app can help you get the answers to those questions—and, in the process, get the insights you need to better manage your team and more efficiently run your business.
But not every time tracking app is created equal—and if you want your time tracking software to improve your business, you need to choose the right software.
But how, exactly, do you do that? Let’s take a look at deep dive into employee time tracking apps—what they are, how to choose one for your business, and some of the best time tracking solutions on the market in 2021:
What is a time tracking app?
First things first. Before we jump into the best employee time tracking apps for 2021 (and how to choose the right one for your business), let’s quickly cover what, exactly, a time tracking app is.
Employee time tracking software acts as a tracking system for your team; the app can track time (including total work hours, specific employee hours, and daily work time), which allows you to get a better idea of how your team is spending their time, where there are opportunities for better time management, and how to maximize the way your employees are spending their time to best support your business.
Time tracking apps can also help protect your business against inaccurate reporting. Because time tracker apps give you deeper insights into how your employees are spending their work hours (for example, in some apps, you can use GPS tracking to confirm your employee is at a job site), you can confirm that a) they are where they’re supposed to be at any given time, b) they’re working on the projects they’re supposed to be working on, and c) they’re not excluding breaks or other types of time off on their timesheet.
That’s a pretty big upgrade from your standard time clock.
What are the different types of time tracking apps?
There are a number of different apps you can use for tracking time—and each category has different uses and functionality.
Some of the different types of employee time tracking software you may want to consider include:
- Basic time tracking. If all you’re really looking for is a digital time clock, there are plenty of basic time clock apps you can use to replace the outdated employee time clock that’s gathering dust in your break room.
- Computer time tracking. If the majority of your team works behind a computer screen, a time tracking app that will monitor their computer usage (including taking screenshots of their activity and recording their web history) is a must have.
- Mobile time tracking. If you manage a remote team or you have a dispersed team constantly on the go, a mobile time tracking solution that offers real-time GPS location and allows employees to clock in and out on their mobile devices via a mobile app can be extremely useful.
- Productivity-based time tracking. Some time tracking tools have more robust reporting features than others—and if you really want to dig into the data to figure out how to maximize your employees’ time, you’ll want to use one of the tools that offers detailed productivity and time reports (and allows you to download those reports in an easy-to-consume format, whether that’s a PDF, CSV, or Excel spreadsheet).
How to choose the right time tracking app for your business
Clearly, there are a lot of options when it comes to choosing a time tracking app.
So, how do you evaluate the options and make sure you’re choosing the right time tracking solution for your business?
When you’re deciding on a time tracking app for your business, there are a few key questions you want to ask yourself, including:
- Where will my team be using this app? If your team spends most of their time at a computer, you’ll want to find a time tracking solution with a desktop app (for both Windows and Mac) or a browser extension (like a Google Chrome extension or Firefox extension). If your team is constantly on the go and working from different job sites, you’ll want to find a time tracking app that works on their mobile phones (including both an android app and an iPhone iOS app).
- What functionality do I need from my time tracking software? Different apps have different time tracking features—so it’s important to define what you need your time tracking app to do from the get-go. For example, do you need to ensure your team is arriving to job sites on time? Then look for a time tracking app with GPS tracking. Are you concerned that your employees are spending work hours answering personal emails (which they should be doing during their free time)? Look for an app that will take random screenshots throughout the day so you can monitor their screen time. Do you need to leverage your time tracking data to process payroll? Look for a time tracking solution that offers both.
- What are the fees associated with this app? Many time tracking apps offer a free plan or a low base fee—but those fees can increase based on the number of users or how often you use certain features. Before you commit to a time tracking app, make sure you fully understand the fee structure, what’s included in the app’s free version and paid plans, and how that will translate to your business.
- Who will be using this app? The best time tracking app for freelancers (who may need client management features built into the app, like invoicing) is probably not going to be the best time tracking app for business owners managing a large team of full-time employees (who may need features like payroll and workers' comp management). Before you choose the best time tracking app, think about your business structure and what types of employees or contractors are going to be using the app—and choose accordingly.
The best employee time tracking apps for 2021
If you’re desperate to know the answer to the question “what is the best employee time tracking app in 2021?” let’s take a look at some of the best time tracking software you’ll definitely want to check out:
If you want an all-in-one time tracking, payroll, productivity, and workers' comp solution, try…
If you’re looking for an all-in-one solution that not only tracks your employees’ time, but also allows you to process payroll, manage workers' comp, and delivers the insights you need to for more effective budgeting and team management, you’re definitely going to want to try Hourly.
Hourly is more than a time tracking app; it’s a people management platform that offers a host of time tracking, productivity, and team management features, including mobile time tracking, payroll processing, workers' comp management, team management, and robust labor reporting—all easily accessible with a few swipes on your smartphone.
If you want to track your employees’ computer time, check out…
If you’re looking for a simple, straightforward time tracking system, you may want to give Toggl a try. Toggl is one of the most user-friendly tools on the market (making it an accessible option for less tech savvy team members). All users have to do is create a task, start the timer, and start working. When they’re done, they just hit “stop,” then create a new task and start the whole process over.
Toggl also offers other features that adds value for business owners (like assigning tasks and creating project timelines)—without making things too complicated.
If you want concrete proof that your employees are spending their time appropriately, you may want to try TimeDoctor. Not only does TimeDoctor track your employees’ time, but it also takes random screenshots throughout the day—so you can see exactly what they were doing on their computer (and make sure they were working on their assigned projects and not catching up on their Instagram feed).
If you want a time tracking app that doubles as a productivity app try…
In addition to more basic time tracking functionality, DeskTime allows you to categorize certain programs, apps, and websites as “productive” or “unproductive.” It then monitors your employees’ time and automatically calculates their daily productivity based on your predetermined parameters. DeskTime is also fully customizable, which allows you to define productivity differently for individual teams, roles, or employees—so you can rest easy knowing you’re maximizing productivity across the board.
Similar to DeskTime, RescueTime tracks employee time and creates daily productivity reports based on a set of productivity parameters. RescueTime also allows users to set daily goals and track their progress, which can help keep your employees on track.
If you want a hybrid project management/time tracking app, try...
Harvest is a time tracking tool that allows users to easily assign their work time to different projects. Harvest then compiles that time data into detailed project reports—which allows you, as a business owner, to get a bird’s-eye view of which projects are taking up your employee’s time, and which can give you key insights into how to better schedule your team and maximize project budgets.
If you’re looking for a time tracking tool that integrates with your current project management system, you may want to check out Timecamp. Timecamp offers a variety of features to help you better manage your team’s time (including automatic time tracking and productivity monitoring)—plus, it integrates with a number of popular project management tools (including Asana, Basecamp, and Trello), so if you already have a project management software you’ve implemented with your team, you can use Timecamp to add time tracking capabilities into the mix.
(Time) track your way to a more efficient team
You can’t get a better handle on your employees’ time if you don’t know where it’s going. But now that you know the best employee time tracking apps of 2021 (and how to choose the right app for your business), you have everything you need to start time tracking your way to a more efficient team.