Measuring Productivity

Time-Tracking: A Thin Line between Measuring Productivity and Breaching Privacy

If you’ve watched Lord of The Rings (and I’m guessing you have), you’ll instantly remember the Eye of Sauron atop a tower: monitoring its army, and keeping a lookout for the ring. The watchful eye in the movie strategizes skirmishes, supervises progress and developments in its army and is always watching its enemy’s advances. From an employee perspective, I’d hate to think that this Eye exists in every workplace. I’m talking about employee time-tracking, and how it can probe too far into the lives of your staff.

Employee Time-Tracking Explained

Time tracking software


So, what is employee time-tracking? When you’re assigned a task or a project to complete within a stipulated time-frame by your project managers or bosses, they need to monitor your progress and time investment. This is essential because employers need to measure your work efficiency, and you, as the employee, need to learn the art of time-management.

Allow me to elaborate. Say you’re an expert programmer at a major software firm. You’ve been given a project—Project X—to complete in two weeks’ time. A breakdown of the project into individual tasks and the time needed to implement them is tabulated before the job gets underway. Project X’s progress is constantly monitored by you and your employer. As you move forward, every milestone, and the time taken to cover it is recorded. Since you’re the expert coder, you can devise an algorithm and code it in a week. However, the code needs a minimum of 8 days of testing, so you go back to the drawing board and come up with a simpler code, programmable in 5 days’ time to compensate for the test phase. Time-tracking is important in such scenarios, especially when you need to make adjustments and manage task-splits. The data from the milestone tracking for Project X will test your efficiency. Employers monitor this data and decide if you’re ready for another, perhaps more demanding, project.

Not just programming, but every job requires time-tracking to estimate time of completion and to measure throughput.

Time-Tracking or Snooping?

Time tracking

Time-tracking is the same as eating sweets. It’s great when you eat moderately, but if you overindulge, the same sweet becomes repulsive! We already know how time-tracking can be a boon to a business and to its employees. However, take it too far and a sense of uneasiness creeps in.

Some employers use GPS devices to track the location and status of their employees. Taxi agencies and hospitals make use of such devices. This can boost coordination and communication. However, tracking the movement of an employee when they take a bathroom break sounds ominously nosy. There have been instances when taxi drivers have been disciplined with pay-cuts or made to work overtime, for driving slowly or taking the extra 10-minute break on a tough day. Such misfortunes make time-tracking an intrusive micromanagement tool. Employees sense a feeling of distrust from their employers when they’re tracked, inviting stress and a constant pressure to rush work. Such circumstances can hamper productivity, and have been known to cause serious attrition rates.

A report on news blog BGR illustrates an agonizing lawsuit filed by a Californian woman who was fired from her job for uninstalling an app that her employer requested all employees to install. The app in question, recorded employee location data even after shifts. Information such as addresses, routes taken, current location, duration of halts, and actions taken. The lawsuit is still awaiting judgment, with the plaintiff demanding over $500,000 as reparations. I don’t know if she’s going to be $500,000 richer, but I definitely feel for her when she compares the app to ‘a prisoner’s ankle bracelet.’ Now that is seriously messed-up.

Time-Tracking Done Right

Like I said, the data and the statistics on a given project are beneficial to establishing better processes for the employer, and to develop professional growth for the employee. Macro time-tracking, as professionals call it, gets the same work done even if there’s an employee crunch.

How?

The managers are always at hand, scrutinizing the work done. They convey how the work needs to be executed, and if you already know how, they provide suggestions to do it better and in less time. If a team of five professionals are assigned a project for ten, there’s sure to be disharmony in the workload. In such a scenario, an employer can take the time-tracking data and stats of all the five from previous projects, compare individual efficiencies and then allocate timed-tasks. This way, distributing selective tasks based on proven results doesn’t delay the completion time. Basically, time-tracking increases productivity by assigning tasks based on skill rather than load stamina.

What’s in it for the employer and employee?

Well, the employer can get more work done with fewer employees. This means reduced hiring requirements and eventually translates into a more cost-efficient organization. And for employees, a small workforce increases the likelihood of bonuses and pay hikes; not to forget the employees’ happiness quotient at work place!

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