Increasingly, because of the COVID-19 crisis, businesses and professional teams are shifting to a remote work environment. By choice or by necessity, more employees than ever before are being given the liberty to work from home, sparing them the time and costs of commuting and in many cases, granting them more autonomy.
But for managers, supervisors, and team leaders, the shift is more stressful. How can you be sure your employees are working as much as they say they’re working?
How can you tell if the new working conditions are beneficial? How can you save money on labor costs in these new circumstances?
You can answer these questions and more by using the right time tracking apps.
Table of Contents
- Why Use Time Tracking Software?
- The Best Time Tracking Apps for Productivity
- How to Use Time Tracking Apps Effectively
Why Use Time Tracking Software?
While each time tracking tool is unique, with different features and integrations, most of them have a core functionality that allows employees to track the time they’re spending throughout the day.
Some are automatic, monitoring employees as they open different programs and take different actions. Others are mostly manual, allowing employees to start and stop a timer as they begin and end tasks.
Either way, the tracking software will provide a report for you to view, giving you more insight into how employees spend their time during the workday.
There are several benefits to this:
- Employee accountability. If an employee is spending too much time on non-work-related tasks, you’ll know about it. With perfect time tracking, you’ll know not just where employees are spending time, but where they’re not spending time.
- Cost-benefit analyses. With proper reporting, you can conduct thorough cost-benefit analyses. For example, which of your clients seem to be taking up the most employee time? Are those extra productivity tools really worth the money?
- Workflow and productivity improvement. Time tracking apps also help you gain insights into workflow and productivity throughout your team. For example, are your employees bogged down by a specific phase of the development process?
- Employee motivation. Finally, you have to consider employee motivation. If employees know they’re being actively monitored, they’ll be inclined to work harder or more productively due to a psychological principle called the Hawthorne effect. In other words, the time tracking software incentivizes them to stay on task.
The Best Time Tracking Apps for Productivity
Let’s look at some of the most popular time tracking tools available:
Okay, so maybe we’re a little biased, but email activity represents an enormous pool of work for many employees that can’t be analyzed by traditional time-tracking software tools. Most of the other tools on this list can tell you how much time you spent in your inbox, but none of them can tell you anything else about your email activity (or that of your team).
That’s why we created EmailAnalytics. EmailAnalytics allows you to track the number of emails sent and received by each of your employees, see their average email response time, and much more.
- Real-time analytics, with re-sync on demand
- Monitor your entire team
- Daily or weekly reports delivered to you via email
- Measure average response time within designated work hours/days
- 100% private & secure
- Google-verified app
- Limited customer support channels
$15 / mailbox per month. $5 – $12 / mailbox per month with bulk user discount!
2. Time Doctor
One of the most popular names in the field of time tracking software is Time Doctor, due to its relatively low cost and convenient integration with a host of project management and productivity apps. With it, you’ll get a breakdown of how employees spend time (including breaks), screenshots of employee monitors throughout the workday, a breakdown of web and app usage, and built-in automatic alerts to help employees stay on task. You can also track time associated with different clients, to make billing easier.
- Daily and weekly detailed reports
- Seamless integration and API
- Automated and manual time tracking
- Automated screenshot and webcam capture
- Multi-OS compatibility
- Client access to the platform at no additional charge
- Get accurate tracking reminders and time use alerts
- Screenshots and webcam snapshots for remote teams to increase productivity and decrease privacy issue
- Great customer support if needed
- Every user costs extra
- Old user interface (UI)
- Expensive for small teams
Time Doctor pricing starts at $5.00 per month, per user. Time Doctor offers a free trial and a free version, too.
Toggl is also popular because it’s simple, and because there’s a free version available. You’ll only need to pay for Toggl if you’re using it to track client time and bill them. With Toggl, your employees will get a convenient on-screen timer they can use to track their hours, and assign those hours to different projects or tasks. Employees can also retroactively adjust their hours, in case they forget to track their time.
- Record your computer usage with Toggl Timeline
- Tracking reminders
- Saving & sharing Toggl reports
- Productivity toolset
- Super simple to use
- Available on all major platforms
- Idle detection, Pomodoro and reminders
- Beautiful UI
- Simple and Easy-to-use Time Tracking
- Limited reporting options
- Expensive paid plans especially for large team
Toggl pricing starts at $9.00 per month, per user. There is a free version that includes all the basic time tracking features, up to 5 members.
Hubstaff provides an intuitive dashboard for you or your team that shows the number of hours worked today, this week, and across any date range. You can use it to visualize your team’s workload, and use the mobile app to see, at a glance, how productive each team member is being at any given time, including the percentage of their time that’s actually being spent on productive tasks.
- Automatic Time Capture
- Timesheet Management
- Offline Time Tracking
- Employee Database
- Billing & Invoicing
- Overtime Calculation
- Fight inefficiency and work better with streamlined time tracking
- Easy integrates with over 30 apps so your business can run more efficiently
- Track time through simple desktop, web, and mobile apps
- Hubstaff is more expensive than some other competitors
- Cannot set inactivity nag/reminder for user
- Lack role based permission customization
$5.83 / user / mo for the annual plan, or $7 / user / mo for the monthly plan.
Harvest is a great time tracking tool if you’re interested in tracking both hours and expenses within your team. The app is designed to make it both intuitive and fast for employees to track time, so you don’t end up spending more time managing time tracking than necessary. It’s also broken down by day, by project, and by a number of other variables, so you can quickly zoom into the metrics that matter.
- Track time and expenses
- Track of team’s time
- Generate insightful reports
- Create invoices
- Intuitive interface that people love
- Very easy to learn and use
- Great pricing
- Easy payment for clients
- Minimal options for billing increments
- Lack of notification when the timer has been left on
- Poor phone customer support
- Lack of sales tax integration
Harvest costs $12 USD/person/month (billed monthly) or $10.80 USD/person/month (billed annually) for unlimited access to all of Harvest’s features. A free plan is also available for single users with limited needs. Discounts are available for nonprofit organizations and educational institutions.
One of the biggest issues with time tracking apps is that employees have the burden of starting and stopping their timers; RescueTime tries to simplify this by making time tracking as automated as possible. The app runs in the background, passively observing your computer usage throughout the day, flagging the apps you open, websites you visit, and programs you use.
- Recording of computer activities
- Comprehensive reports
- Log highlights
- Productivity scoring
- Progress monitoring
- Great way to mark milestones and achievements
- Prevents distractions and possibilities of becoming scattered.
- Detailed reports, trends, and insights to help build better habits
- Integrates with apps easily
- Premium version slightly pricey
- Monthly: $9 per month
- Annual: $72 per year (4 months free)
Everhour bills itself as the “all-in-one time management solution for your team,” because it allows you to manage employee time tracking, client invoicing, payroll, budgeting, and more within a single app. It also integrates with many popular project management platforms, such as Asana, Trello, and Basecamp. It has most of the features you’ve come to expect from time tracking tools, plus the ability to set upper limits for the number of hours your employees should spend on each task.
- Third Party Integration
- Real-time notifications
- Drag & drop interface
- Activity monitoring
- Ad hoc reporting
- Live dashboard
- Super simple to use
- Creates detailed reports
- Interface looks great
- Customizable experience
- The mobile app is very limited
- Limited report access
- Sometimes it can be challenging to determine the correct view
Free up to 5 users. $5/user/mo for the paid version with more features.
Unlike many of the web-based timers on this list, Timeular comes with its own physical device—a diamond-shaped device connected to your device via Bluetooth. Whenever you want to track something, you can define the task and tilt the device so the task you want to track is facing up. Periodically, you can check in with reporting and see how you’ve been spending your time throughout the day and week.
- Multi-device support
- Unlimited time tracking entries
- Real-time syncing of entry across devices
- Tracking reminders and notifications
- Categorize entries with tags
- Basic reports with charts
- Advanced reporting and trends
- Software is updated regularly
- Super handy and easy to use
- Easy to use and very intuitive
- Needs better payment integration
- Lacks accounting integration
- Could get little slow
Timeular pricing starts at $9.00 per month, per user.
Designed for teams of employees, Clockify is another free time tracking tool, though there are also paid options available with additional features. Even with the free version, Clockify supports an unlimited number of users and projects. The interface is simple and easy to learn, and has both manual and passive time tracking modes.
- Reporting & Statistics
- Task Tracking
- Project Time Tracking
- Easy to set up
- Great google extension to avoid time waste going to the website.
- Reporting feature is very insightful
- Compatibility across a number of devices
- Could be confusing at times
- Sometimes the software can lag
$ 0 forever for teams that just need a simple and easy to use time tracker and $ 9.99 /month (flat) for companies that need a bit more control over who can do what.
Timely attempts to make the time tracking process totally free of manual effort. With passive time trackers, you’ll be able to make use of a machine learning algorithm that gets to know your common projects and tasks, and categorizes them for you. There’s also an interactive, visual calendar that can be helpful for better understanding your overarching work trends.
- Reporting and analytics
- Innovative payment solutions
- Intelligent booking solution
- Powerful marketing tools that help automate client growth and retention for your business
- Sophisticated retail and professional stock management tools
- Secure business data
- Not many to talk about.
For small teams, $39 per month billed annually, and $159/mo for larger teams.
ActiTIME has a mobile app as well as a desktop app. The desktop version enables employees to manually enter their hours, along with expenses and billable hours. The mobile app has an automatic timer, enabling users to track their time on the go and review reports for any time period. It can be installed on-premises or used as a cloud service.
- API integration
- Billable hours tracking
- Custom PDF invoices
- Data visualization
- Hosted or Downloadable
- Mobile apps for iPhone and Android
- Workflow management
- Easy to Administrate
- Good Training features
- Thorough selection of report types
- Easy to use
- Not very integrated with other practice software
- Dated user-interface
Free version for 1-3 users with limited functionality. For 1-40 users it is $6 per user / mo billed yearly.
Available only for Mac users, Timing is a time tracking app with a one-time required payment, rather than a subscription fee. With it, you’ll be able to keep track of all the apps you use, websites you visit, and tasks you complete. From there, it will plot your time usage on a timeline, which you can break down and analyze for further insights. You can also add non-device based activities (like meetings) manually to better analyze your work.
- As simple as drag-and-drop
- No longer start/stop timers.
- Get a summary of your time.
- Sophisticated reporting
- Amazing comprehensive reports
- Time efficient and easy to use
- Comprehensive reporting and exporting functionality
- Could be little confusing
Timing pricing starts at $4.50 per month, per user. They do not have a free version. Timing offers a free trial.
There’s also HourStack, a collaborative time tracking tool that displays your time spent in the form of discrete blocks. If you’re a visual learner, or if your employees thrive with data visuals, it’s a good bet. Your employees can also use this app to make predictions, including estimated time that each future task will take, allowing them to work hard to stay within expectations and/or learn when tasks don’t go as intended.
- The drag-and-drop feature
- Organize and visualize schedules for all assignments and projects
- Visualize, map, and track time utilization over your team
- Helpful in organizing
- User friendly
- Pricey for several users
- The mobile app is clunky
HourStack pricing starts at $7.00 per month, per user. HourStack offers a free trial.
Timeneye is a time tracking app that’s ideal for small teams of employees. Its visual layout is based around a calendar, giving you a high-level visual assessment of your workday. It also comes with several variables and custom options you can tweak, including spaces to name clients, projects, and tasks; the more time you spend getting it to work the way you want, the easier it will be to analyze your time usage in the future.
- Roles and authorizations
- Non-Billable & Billable Hours
- Automated Time Capture
- Multiple Billing Valuations
- Weekly calendar view
- User friendly
- Effortless setup
- Simple and well integrated
- Straightforward, reliable and portable
- Lacking necessary job reports without the considerable time investment.
- Lack of overall reporting and cost per job metrics.
Timeneye pricing starts at $7.00 per month, per user. There is a free version, and they offer a free trial.
If you’re looking for a time tracking tool that gives you some invoicing support without a comprehensive separate function, consider TMetric. With it, you’ll be able to account for every minute you spend throughout the day, including your focused work, breaks, and downtime. TMetric also produces a visual, color-coordinated timeline, so you can see at a glance how well you’ve performed.
- Survey reports: projects, task, team
- Endless storage for the user activity
- Billable time and payment amounts
- Detailed and Daily reports Exporting (PDF, CSV)
- Custom time entry description
- Easy to use
- The free plan has robust features
- Get detailed time and money reports
- Easy integration
- The user interface (UI) needs improvement
- Service interruptions like crashes
- The desktop application is a little complicated
The free plan is now limited to 5 users per account. It has kept most of the features, gaining new ones as well. The professional program adds billable rates and task management, unlimited users, tasks, and to-do lists. The service fee is $4 per user/ month if billed annually, $5 if billed monthly.
Forest is a unique kind of employee time tracking tool, but it’s worth a mention on this list because of its unconventional approach. Available as an app or as a Chrome extension, Forest is a timer that encourages employees to stay on task. When you open the Forest app, a single tree begins to grow. If you switch tasks or close the app, the tree dies. If you leave the app open and focus, the forest begins to thrive. You can think of it as a gamified version of a Pomodoro timer.
- Stay away from distractions in a fun way
- A self-motivated and interesting method to help you beat Internet addiction
- Can share your trees with friends
- Simple to use
- None, really. It’s just a simple, fun app!
The app is free on Android or £1.99 (Dh9) on iOS.
How to Use Time Tracking Apps Effectively
Time tracking software is often a good addition to your productivity strategy, but there are a few important principles to follow if you want to see positive results:
- Consistency. Time tracking works best if you apply it consistently. If your employees are only tracking some of the things they do, or if you don’t have confidence that your full team is using time tracking consistently, you won’t be able to rely on the data you gather. This is also vital if you intend to experiment with new productivity strategies; you’ll need a “control” set of data with which you can compare your experimental data.
- Transparency. While you’re typically not required to disclose the use of employee monitoring software if you’re using it on company devices, in most cases, it’s best to remain fully transparent with your employees. Explain which types of tracking and monitoring software you’re using and why you’re using it. When your employees understand the goals and needs of the business, they’ll be much more likely to comply with your requests—and in most cases, work more productively.
- Action. Many of your insights will be fascinating, or fun to think about, but if you want to get the most value from your time tracking software, you need to convert those insights into some kind of meaningful action. For example, it’s interesting to learn that one of your clients takes twice as much time as a client that pays you the same rate—but what are you going to do about it? As with all forms of data analysis, insights need to be actionable.
Start by signing up for a free trial of EmailAnalytics, and then add other time tracking apps to your repertoire and see what works best for you and your team!
Jayson is a long-time columnist for Forbes, Entrepreneur, BusinessInsider, Inc.com, and various other major media publications, where he has authored over 1,000 articles since 2012, covering technology, marketing, and entrepreneurship. He keynoted the 2013 MarketingProfs University, and won the “Entrepreneur Blogger of the Year” award in 2015 from the Oxford Center for Entrepreneurs. In 2010, he founded a marketing agency that appeared on the Inc. 5000 before exiting it in January of 2019, and he is now the CEO of EmailAnalytics, and co-host of the podcast The Entrepreneur Cast.