Our New Way of Working
We always try to push the boundaries in terms of implementing technology in our business. We have cloud solutions for anything from file storage to proposals, accounting, project management and client communication. We have now pushed a new boundary with our team in what we’ve dubbed “The New Way of Working”.
What Young Professionals Want: Flexibility
The last thing today’s young professionals, like those in our team, want is to be stuck in a stuffy office behind a desktop all day. Yes, there’s free Wifi and coffee at the office, but there’s no substitute for working from the comfort of your home or finding a nice coffeeshop and opening your laptop to handle a few emails. Or perhaps you’re a night owl who is most productive between 1:00 and 3:00 in the morning. Or a mother who has to fetch her kids and wants to spend some time with them in the afternoon, but is happy to do a little catch-up after they go to bed. Whatever the case, having the flexibility to manage work around your life, rather than the other way around, is one of the major factors impacting a company’s ability to attract quality talent in today’s economy. It’s also been shown to improve productivity, increase employee satisfaction & retention and reduce management time.
What Managers Want: Productivity & Insight
Let’s be honest, what Managers want isn’t to look over their team’s shoulders all day to check if they’re working. They don’t want people idling, using Facebook, watching YouTube videos, looking busy and riding out the clock. When the work is done people should be able to go home to spend time with their families, and when the pressure is on you want to be sure they’re on the ball being productive. When, where and how people work isn’t really an issue in industries like ours as long as deadlines and targets are met. What is important, however, is insight into each team member’s productivity and how long certain tasks or projects took to complete. And let’s be honest, looking over somebody’s shoulder isn’t really going to give you that insight…
The Solution: Time Tracking through HubStaff
We decided to trial HubStaff at the end of 2018, allowing our entire team to track their time anywhere, anytime. A simple piece of software allows them to easily track which project or activity they’re working on. We told them to be in the office for a weekly team meeting and some teambuilding and, for the purpose of the trial, spend at least 50% of their time in the office. Then we sent them on their way with surprising results.
The introduction was, unsurprisingly, met with a lot of enthusiasm. For our team it reduced travel expenses, allowed them to find a better work-life balance and it completely got rid off annoying concepts like “being late”, “overtime”, “leaving early” and “requesting leave”. It’s fair to say that in our industry with our (fairly young and tech-savvy) team implementation was a breeze and the dramatic increase in freedom and flexibility was a huge hit. It takes a day or two to get used to tracking your time – you can always log that manually though – but after that it becomes part of your routine.
How It Affected Management
We have three Managers at NIMBLER, none of whom could be described as real ‘People Managers’. We manage primarily through our project management solution and only hire people with a very high level of independence who require minimal management. However, certain managerial duties like overtime, leave and tardiness remain and led to a lot of frustration with both staff and management. Creatives generally love what they do, so distracting them with those concepts is seen as a waste of time.
By implementing a time tracking solution like HubStaff we’ve managed to automate and improve all those processes, while gaining a huge amount of insight into time spent, productivity, activities and the like. It’s too early to say whether it increased actual profitability, but we can already see it has dramatically improved productivity and employee happiness. It’s fair to say it would already be difficult to kill the project and go back to the way we used to work.
Things You Think Are Issues That Are Not
I know what you’re thinking – this time tracking thing would work for me. Well, you’re probably wrong because there’s a lot of different time tracking solutions and a lot of features relevant for some but not others. Here’s a few common issues HubStaff managed to solve:
How do you know your team is actually working?
This is an easy one. HubStaff does two things: it takes screenshots at regular intervals, and you can see exactly which applications and websites were open while time is being tracked. We implemented a strict “while you’re working you’re working” policy, banning any applications or websites not necessary for the task at hand aside from listening to music. Each violation of that policy will result in a reprimand.
What if I need them to run shifts or come into the office?
HubStaff allows you to set up schedules, forcing people to track time during certain hours. In that way it works the same as a punch-clock, except it has a lot more features.
My people are on the road, how would they track time?
HubStaff offers a mobile app, so even people on the road can track time, and it’ll even track their location.
Doesn’t this stifle internal communication and collaboration?
If you would implement HubStaff without any project management or internal communication solution it definitely would, because if people aren’t together in the office and you have to send an email or call every time you want to ask a colleague a quick question, that would be counter-productive. However, if you’re using Slack or Podio or another collaboration solution, those questions are quickly asked there. For the more serious meetings there’s solutions like Skype.
Are people actually able to manage their own time?
It would be silly to expect somebody on a 40-hour-a-week contract to track a productive 160 hours a month. They need to go to the bathroom, answer calls, take a smoke-break, stretch legs and people aren’t able to concentrate for a solid 8 hours a day. So it requires management to be realistic about working with people rather than robots, so the time being tracked versus the time normally spent in the office (and in somebody’s contract) is going to differ. We’re currently aiming for 255-280 tracked hours for each two-month period for somebody on a 160-hours-per-month contract. That works out to about 32-35 hours per week.
What if people aren’t making their targets?
This definitely requires a professional, independent team of people to make this work. If somebody isn’t putting in the time they should, you have to put in place clear warnings and penalties. The easiest way to solve an issue is to limit somebody’s freedom and make them come into the office anyway. We set 2-monthly targets to allow for transfer of time between months in busy or quiet times.
What about things like continuous learning, meetings and calls?
We stimulate our staff to dedicate 5% of their time on honing their skills and learning new skills. We get them to also track that time under the activity ‘Continuous Learning’. We’ve made similar arrangements for meetings, administration and other activities. For calls we manually add a certain amount of time depending on the staff member’s call volume.
So what is the difference between leave and just not tracking time then?
That’s a good question, and it has a simple answer: if you’re on leave you are unavailable, so your colleagues know they cannot reach you; on the other hand, even if you’re not tracking time you should still be available on workdays (during office hours) you didn’t take leave.
How does this affect working and opening hours?
Flex time works better if you have shorter opening hours, because people have to be available from the moment you open until you close. Our opening hours are 9:00 until 16:00, which means our staff has to be available during those hours unless they’ve taken leave. That obviously doesn’t mean no work gets done outside those hours, on the contrary, we’ve found that we handle urgent matters far more quickly outside office hours because flexibility is often repaid with flexibility.
What about things like public holidays and sick leave?
You can put those in HubStaff and it automatically deducts the time from the team members’ time tracking requirements. You can also set up things like sick leave, family responsibility leave and annual leave in HubStaff with your own guidelines and procedures.
This sounds a little, how should I say, expensive?
We found the price very reasonable actually. We looked at various other solutions – and you should as well – and the subscription fee of $5 or $10 per user per month seems reasonable. If you get one hour of extra productive time out of your staff member it pays for itself.
Also Want Hubstaff?
If you’re interested in also implementing HubStaff, speak to NIMBLER Technology. They are specialised in a wide variety of cloud solutions and can help you implement HubStaff or another time-tracking solution, as well as other complimentary solutions.