Optimize Your Timesheet Process- A Manual Timesheet vs an Outlook Timesheet

Optimize Your Timesheet Process - A Manual Timesheet vs an Outlook Timesheet
Optimize Your Timesheet Process – A Manual Timesheet vs an Outlook Timesheet

If your organization wants to be successful, you need to optimize all processes in your organization. This is the case no matter if you’re a small company, a non-profit or a large government organization. You need things to run in the best possible way.

An essential element here is also knowing how time is spent. So you need to make sure that your timesheet process is also optimized, since this can have a huge impact on the running of your organization or business.

That being said, there are different ways of tracking your time. Some organizations use a more traditional approach where it’s a manual process, where employees need to enter their time manually in for example a web form, Excel spreadsheet or even paper.

On the other hand there are solutions now, where the process is much more automated and easy on the employees, leveraging tools that they already know, and information that is already there.

So which to choose? In this article we’ll go into the differences between a manual timesheet versus doing it in for example Outlook, and how each of these approaches effect your timesheet process.

Read on…

The purpose of a timesheet process

Your time tracking is usually the backbone of a lot of other processes in your organization, for example payroll, since you need to know how many hours your staff has put in. This is also the case even if your employees are not paid by the hour – you and they still need to know how they spend their time.

If you’re invoicing clients it’s also paramount that the timesheet process is accurate, since you want to bill your clients accurately. Doing otherwise could hurt your business.

Also, just for managing your business and projects, including internal projects, knowing how time is spent is crucial.

So what does a timesheet process typically look like?

The first part of the process usually is that an employee registers their time in some form of system, and when they are done the entries might be submitted for approval. As mentioned, this could be a manual timesheet or it could be done via a more automated solution.

After having been submitted for approval a supervisor would be approving the timesheets. The whole approval workflow should be an option, so that you could skip this step if you don’t really need it. However, in a lot of organizations it makes very good sense to have approval of time entries, before using these as the basis for other processes.

When your time entries are in the system, they can then be used as the basis for your payroll calculations, invoicing, project management, or just getting an overview of how time is spent. 

Even if you’re not doing client project work as such, you always have internal projects and you need to know how you spend time on different activities.

It’s the only way for your organization to get better.

A Manual Timesheet

A manual timesheet; you may have experienced this yourself. In this case you typically enter your time manually, typically in a web form, a separate software application, an Excel spreadsheet or the like. This can be quite cumbersome, and also very often inaccurate. The reason is that your employees will need to remember when they did what, and that often ends up not being totally accurate.

You will often see that the goal of this exercise ends up not being so much about tracking what you did, but more about hitting a certain number of hours, for example 40 hours for the week. Hitting a certain number of hours can be absolutely fine, but it needs to reflect reality.

It also very often takes a lot of time, since you need to go over the clues you might have on what you’ve done over the past days. In some cases this means going over your calendar and copy-pasting info from here to another system.

Spending a lot of time actually reporting time is quite ironic.

Finally, when your employees have entered their time manually it then needs to be collected and in a lot of cases copy-pasted to yet another system by a supervisor.

This is not ideal, and risks creating errors, which can result in wrong payroll calculations, invoicing of clients, project management and just knowing how the organization is doing.

So, as you can see, having a manual timesheet, though it might work in some rare cases, is usually not ideal, especially in an office environment.

An Outlook Timesheet

Leveraging current strengths and knowledge is usually a good strategy. The same goes when it comes to your business processes, including time tracking.

You need to build this on something that your employees are already familiar with and know.

Most professional organizations and companies use Microsoft Outlook, including the Outlook calendar. Your time tracking process should build on this and leverage this, and make it possible to do Outlook timesheet reporting. This will make it easy and quick to learn the solution, make your timesheet process a lot more accurate, and a lot easier on your staff.

So how does it work?

With a time reporting solution, for example like TimeSheet Reporter, which uses the Outlook calendar, you simply use your Outlook calendar appointments as the basis for your time tracking.

When creating a new calendar appointment, you simply add relevant info, such as Organization, Project and Activity, and then submit this info when you’re done. That’s it! This is more or less all that employees need to think about on a daily basis.

After the time entries have been submitted a supervisor can then optionally approve these.

It doesn’t get any easier than this.

This makes collecting info on how time has been spent really, really easy for everybody, and on top of that it is usually also a lot more accurate.

You can then easily create reports to get an overview of how time has been spent, share this data with other systems or stakeholders, and optimize and act accordingly.

So, which is better?

As mentioned above there might be rare cases where having a manual timesheet is the best approach. However, in most office settings this ends up being more of a hurdle than of help. If you’re working in an office environment and use Outlook, having an Outlook timesheet solution is probably the best way to go.

This makes it easier for everybody and also a lot more accurate, also because time tracking actually gets done.

So get started now, optimizing your timesheet process. Most of the better solutions lets you sign up at no cost, so that you can get an impression of the system and can see how it could work in your organization.

So get started now.

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