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How to create and manage timesheets

To effectively manage mobile workers, you need the ability to keep track of their time.

Create and manage timesheets

The traditional method of doing this is with a timesheet to log the length of time that’s spent on work activities.

But how do manage and monitor timesheets when your workforce is operating remotely? 

Here’s a look at the role of timesheets in mobile worker management and some of the different approaches that are used:

 

What is a timesheet?

A timesheet is a record of how long work-related activities take. It can be used to record a workers’ daily start and finish times or to log specific tasks.

 

How are timesheets used?

There are many different ways that timesheets are used and this varies within different industries and sectors. Typical uses include:

  • Accounts
  • Performance
  • Safety

 

Accounts

Payroll and billing will use timesheets to work out costs based on how long a work activity has taken.

 

Performance

Tracking time allows the performance and cost of teams and individuals to be monitored. It provides managers with data to make informed decisions.

 

Safety

Time tracking helps to ensure that activities, such as driving or work within a hazardous environment, are within safety and compliance limits.

 

How are timesheets managed?

The use of paper-based timesheets dates back to the emergence of factories during the C19th and ‘clocking on’ devices. These days, there is a range of digital methods to help track mobile workers:

  • Paper forms
  • Spreadsheet docs
  • Web-based service
  • Phone app
  • Workforce management

 

Paper forms

The most basic form of a timesheet is a paper form that a worker completes at the end of a task/day/week. They log how long an activity has taken and documents are then sent to a central office where the results are collated.

 

Pros Cons
  • Simple and easy to set-up
  • May work fine for small teams
  • Minimal costs

 

  • Inefficiency of having to manually transfer/collate info
  • Errors caused by illegible and misread handwriting
  • Errors caused by ‘guesstimates’
  • Documents getting lost/damaged
  • Lack of scalability - admin workload
  • Requires physical storage of documents

 

 

Spreadsheet doc

An Excel spreadsheet or a Word document is often used. Typically, this will use a timesheet template with information entered into boxes and totals automatically calculated.

While this is a digital process, the lack of connectivity means that information from individual documents still has to be manually collected and collated.

 

Pros Cons
  • Eliminates the need for physical paperwork
  • Automation of calculations
  • Minimal costs
  • Difficult to use - not user-friendly
  • Manual collection and transfer of data
  • Errors/inaccuracies of ‘guesstimates’
  • Awkward to integrate with other systems

 

Web-based service

Online timesheets handle the process via a cloud-based service. Timesheets are accessed online and all of the information that’s submitted, across a workforce, is instantly accessible by administrators.

The features offered will differ between services but they typically include reporting tools to manage data. Some also provide an integrated app.


Pros Cons
  • Streamlined, automated process
  • Flexible access
  • Reporting tools
  • User-friendly
  • Often provide more features than required
  • Integration with other systems can be problematic
  • Reliance on online connection
  • Not all services are mobile compatible
  • Paid service

 

Phone app

These are often similar to a web-based service but designed to be managed via a handheld device. Workers use their device to track their activities with the information being handled in real-time.

The range of apps available includes dedicated timesheet services and more general remote management apps. Some are designed specifically to be used as apps on a device while others are associated with web-based software.

 

Pros Cons
  • Convenience for mobile work
  • User-friendly
  • Real-time data handling

 

  • Reliance on a mobile device
  • Limited functionality
  • Tricky to integrate with other systems
  • App ‘bloat’ to cover multiple tasks
  • Paid service

 

Workforce Management

A cloud-based workforce management system integrates timekeeping as part of the workflow. This is typically a cloud-based service that can be managed via the web or a phone app.

Real-time data tracking allows worker activities to be tracked with additional options to mark start and end periods - whether it’s the working day or a specific task.

As an integrated solution, the timesheet data collected can be used with the system’s other tools to handle tasks such as invoicing, payroll, compliance, performance tracking, reporting etc.

 

Pros Cons
  • Integration with other management tools
  • Flexibility - phone app and website
  • Simplicity - removes need for multiple apps
  • User-friendly
  • Integrated reporting tools
  • Less features than dedicated timesheet service
  • Best used as part of integrated package
  • Paid service

 

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