What Is a Timesheet and How Can You Do It In Outlook
What is a Timesheet?
If you’re a successful organization you most likely already know the answer to the question, “What is a timesheet?” If you want your organization or company to be more successful, you need to know what a timesheet is.
At the most basic level a timesheet is used for registering the hours worked in your company. That’s it. However, as you’ve probably already guessed, there’s much more to it than this. Tracking your time, or your employees’ time, mean that you can see how you spent your time, on which projects, activities, etc.
In some organizations you track time by using a paper card of some sort, which you punch in and out with, when you arrive at and leave work. In some office settings you would also use a more traditional approach, using paper and pen, or a spreadsheet. Then again, in more sophisticated settings, you would use a better software-based approach for tracking time to make it easier and more accurate. We’ll explore this more later in the article.
Your timesheets very often is also used for calculating payroll. Even if you don’t pay employees by the hour, it’s usually good for both management and staff to know how many hours are put into work and also how they are spent.
If your company is billing clients by the hour, or even if it does fixed-fee projects, you need to know how time was spent on your individual clients and their projects.
If you do not sell hours, or do client work as such, it’s still necessary to know how you spent your time, so that you can see if you spend it in the best possible way.
In this article we’ll cover what a timesheet is, the benefits, challenges and how to make it easy for everybody. Read on…
Benefits of a Timesheet
So what is a timesheet’s benefits to your organization? As mentioned above, it will show you how you spend your time. This makes it possible to optimize accordingly.
So if you can see that you spend more time on a specific project than you probably should, you can act accordingly. This may mean that you need to recalculate the resources required, but it can also mean that some of the work is not done in the most optimal way, and you need to address that.
If you’re doing fixed-fee projects for clients, it also means that you can see if a client is profitable or not. Do you spend more time than you are getting paid for, or a some clients very profitable, so that you should probably focus more here.
If you have some sort of flextime deal in your organization, a proper time tracking solution will also quickly give you an overview of how many hours each employee has worked compared to what they should. If you want to, you can also give your employees access to this data.
All in all, having a proper time tracking solution in place will help your organization be much better at optimizing, since you will get an insight into how time is actually being spent compared to what you thought (and this can sometimes reveal quite some surprises).
Challenges With a Traditional Timesheet
If you’ve ever worked in an organization where a more ‘traditional’ approach to time tracking was used, for example having a paper-based approach, using spreadsheets, or just having to enter a separate software form, you know how cumbersome this can be.
It usually ends up taking a disproportional amount of time just reporting time, which is kind of ironic. Furthermore, it very often ends up with not actually reporting what you did, but more about reaching a certain number of hours, for example 40.
With these more manual and labor-intensive approaches to timesheets, it also very often ends up with the time reporting not getting done at all, or at least not until a manager has had to remind employees multiple time. This is annoying for both employees and managers.
This means that time tracking becomes inaccurate and more guesswork than actual facts. This is not ideal if you want to bill your clients accurately, pay your employees correctly or optimize your organization.
If on top of this, you cannot easily see how time has been spent via user-friendly reports on demand, it also means that everybody has a hard time seeing the benefits. And these are huge benefits if you do it correctly.
So what is a timesheet approach that works?
How to Make Time Tracking Easy
So how do you make time tracking easy? As we have already covered, having to enter a different software program, spreadsheet or even paper, is not the most ideal way to approach this.
To make it work, you need to use a tool that your employees are already familiar with. So if you’re using Microsoft Outlook, like most professional organizations, you should look that way. Your employees are most likely already using the calendar for managing their time, so you should find a solution that builds on this.
This means that there will be almost no learning curve, since they already know how to use Outlook. They already have their appointments there and are familiar with it, so build on that.
What is a Timesheet in Outlook?
As mentioned, if you are already using the Microsoft Outlook calendar for managing appointments and time, you should find a solution like TimeSheet Reporter that builds on this.
When creating a new appointment, you can easily select the appropriate organization, project and activity that this entry is related to, and your time tracking is more or less done. That’s it.
When you are then done with the appointment you can optionally submit it for approval and this is all your employees will need to think about on a daily basis.
This makes it incredibly easy for everybody, since your timesheet reporting will actually get done and on time. It also makes it a lot more accurate since the guesswork has been taken out of the equation, as most employees a very good at maintaining their calendars.
Other Features Your Timesheet Solution Should Have
Besides tracking your time via Outlook, your solution should also provide you with the option of having supervisor approval of submitted time entries. This is especially important if you’re using this as the basis for invoicing or payroll, but may still be very relevant for regular project management as well.
Furthermore, your timesheet solution should also provide strong reporting capabilities, so that you can easily get an overview of how time has been spent and also go deeper into this if you wish. A nice option here, is also to give your regular users access to these reports, optionally only for their own time.
Another nice option to have is the ability to track expenses and hourly rates, if you have the need for this.
So now you know the answer to the question, “What is a timesheet?”, and you also know what to look for in a solution as well as the benefits it can provide.
As you can see time tracking is not used to spy on your employees, but to give everybody access to know how you actually spend your time instead of just guessing.
What you now need to do is to implement the best possible solution for your organization. Get started now. The sooner you begin the sooner you will get the rewards.
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