Fully Automated Time Trackers: Pros and Cons

7 min readJan 14, 2021
Photo by Jon Tyson

Time tracking is one of the handiest tools for productivity measurement. Besides, it serves many other useful purposes for employees and businesses alike. It helps to:

  • Control overtime
  • Keep a record of billable time
  • Analyze projects’ financial outcomes
  • Enhance resource management
  • Improve task estimation, etc.

Capturing all these benefits of time tracking is easier by using some specialized software apps, which vary greatly in their functionality, and especially in the level of automation they offer.

Some pieces of software are just manual-entry timesheets. Others include automatic timers with the start and stop buttons. Yet the smallest group of time trackers are fully automated, which means they monitor and capture user behaviors in a completely autonomous fashion — without any effort on your part whatsoever.

In this article, we’ll focus on such fully automated time tracking tools. We’ll discuss their major benefits in comparison with partly automatic and manual timesheet apps. Plus, we’ll talk about their primary disadvantages.

Hopefully, this info will help you understand if a fully automated time tracker is a worthwhile option for your business.

What Is Automated Time Tracking?

Automatic time tracking is a modern alternative to old-fashioned punch-in / punch-out systems and manual time tracking methods such as paper timesheets, Excel and Google Sheets timesheets, online trackers requiring you to register start and end times of the tasks. Automated time tracking is performed by using automated timesheets or automatic time tracking software.

Automatic trackers minimize or eliminate the need to manage timers, timesheets and input data manually. For example, some time trackers work in the background and use AI to record app activity. Other time trackers, like automated timesheet software, offer timers and app integrations that record time against tasks and sync it with weekly timesheets.

Now that we understand automatic time tracking and know its advantages over traditional time tracking, let’s see what you can do to automate your time tracking routines.

The Good Things About Automated Time Trackers

1. Exceptional accuracy

The main and most obvious advantage of automatic time tracking is high accuracy. While using a manual timesheet, you normally make a time entry for a task based on your best guess, fully automated time trackers keep a record of time spent on each and every of your computer activities with minute precision.

Online timesheet interface in actiTIME where every user can select task parameters
they want to see in their timesheets

A high level of accuracy means fewer billing and invoicing errors and more detailed data for productivity analysis. For instance, an automated time tracker can show you when and for how long you or your team members stay on social media during the day. It may register not only your productive hours and work on important tasks but also the times of inactivity. In this way, you’ll be able to identify all the time wasters with greater ease and then adjust your processes and behaviors accordingly.

2. Zero work interruptions

If you want to record hours spent on tasks as accurately as possible with manual time tracking, you have to dedicate yourself entirely to the process. First, you should take note of when you commence working on a task. Then, right after it’s done, you need to calculate how much you’ve spent on it, open your digital timesheet, locate the necessary task there, make a time entry and save it. So, with all these steps to go through, manual time tracking may eat up a significant portion of your day. Plus, if you engage in a series of smaller tasks, it may disrupt your workflow and kill your focus by constantly dragging your attention to timesheet filling.

Automated time trackers will surely rid you of this trouble. By running silently in the background as you’re doing your thing, they don’t cause any work interruptions at all. Thus, they allow users to maintain concentration and increase efficiency. Plus, a fully automatic time tracking system with AI functionality can create tasks in timesheets for you. Of course, you’ll have to log some of your activities manually at first to train your time tracker and help it understand your behaviors better. But after a short while, it will do the task logging job independently, letting you focus on important matters. The result — less wasted time and better productivity outcomes.

3. Extra accountability boost

What can better encourage an employee to avoid distractions and stay on schedule than the fact that a manager has an opportunity to easily review every single computer activity they perform and each website and app they open during the day? Of course, close monitoring is neither the only nor the best measure to motivate your team to stay productive, and it won’t work well without a positive workplace culture, fair compensation and other employee benefits. However, by recording all screen time activities in detail, automated time trackers can surely provide that extra boost of performance accountability.

Now imagine you have to manage a mobile team of construction workers, at-home nurses, business consultants, etc. How can you make sure your subordinates show up at their designated job sites on time and stay there for the right number of hours? In this case, an automated time tracker with geofencing functionality is the best guarantee your mobile team members do what they’re supposed to.

Or assume you have a team member who always struggles to complete their work by the deadline. Before jumping to conclusions and criticizing them for poor performance, you may configure an automated time tracker to take random screenshots of that employee’s workstation. Thereby, you’ll collect more data on how they spend working time and stimulate them to adopt more productive behaviors in case unmet deadlines are their fault indeed.

The Downside of Automated Time Trackers

1. Risk of micromanagement

Speaking of close monitoring over everything that employees do at their computers and mobile devices, such a management style is called micromanagement, and it produces much more negative effects than positive ones.

According to Collins and Collins, a high degree of control may be advantageous in some short-term situations, including new employee training, high-risk tasks or productivity improvement in underperforming team members. However, due to its invasive nature, micromanagement is harmful in the long term. It leads to:

  • Reduced employee morale and job satisfaction,
  • High staff turnover and absenteeism rates,
  • Low productivity,
  • And burnout.

In other words, even if it’s a good intention to increase team performance that motivates you to start collecting data on employees’ behaviors with an automatic time tracker, the results may be counterproductive. Instead of helping your colleagues to work better, you’ll deprive them of any autonomy, instill distrust and create an additional source of stress.

As reported by Collins and Collins, micromanagement is among the top three reasons why employees resign. So, are you sure that fully automatic tracking of employee time and activities is worth all the trouble?

2. Higher price

If you’re still determined to utilize automated time tracking, consider choosing an app with flexible configuration and up-to-date user privacy settings. A flexible tool with several data review regimens to choose from — starting with a full-fledged spying mode to a completely private time tracking — will let you make use of close employee surveillance merely in exceptional cases and avoid all the risks of long-term micromanagement to your workplace culture and team attitudes.

However, the adoption of an advanced automated time tracker usually comes at high costs. Compared to simpler digital time trackers, they are much more expensive. And the more functionality and user capacity they offer, the higher the price tends to get. Thus, if your team is rather on the large side, the subscription to an automated time tracker will definitely turn out to be pricey.

But of course, the choice is always yours! Feel free to commit to a product in case you are convinced that the investment is worthwhile.

How to Automate Time Tracking?

To automate your time tracking routine, follow these steps:

  1. Pick an automated time tracker that offers multiple tools for tracking time, integrations, reports and analytics tools
  2. Set up your account, create projects and tasks
  3. Invite your team
  4. Introduce the new software to your team
  5. Explain the importance of tracking time
  6. Introduce simple routines for daily time tracking
  7. Take anonymous opinion polls to research public opinion and adjust the approach
  8. Run reports to see how your employees and projects are doing

A Great Alternative to Fully Automated Time Trackers

Inclined to think that automated time tracking is not the best match for your needs and open to exploring alternative options? Consider actiTIME! The main feature of this simple-to-use piece of software is a manual-entry timesheet. Besides, it includes a partly automated timer in the form of a Chrome extension — just open it in the upper right corner of your browser, press the launch button before starting to work on a task and turn it off once done. A highly accurate time record will then be automatically transferred to your actiTIME account.

By combining the manual and partly automated time tracking features, actiTIME promotes the workplace culture of trust while maximizing accuracy in data collection for more a in-depth productivity analysis and better performance outcomes.




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