A 2020 report by Market Research Future revealed that the US economy loses 50 million hours in productivity per day because of unreported work activities. This figure is astounding but not surprising since many of my clients do not track hours. As a civil engineer, I started filling out timesheets when I was 23 years old and sweated it if I started going over my allotted hours. I don’t advocate these stress tactics; however, tracking one’s hours is a good exercise for tracking budgets, estimating time and cost for future projects, and gauging productivity. So why don’t more companies require their employees to track their hours? For many, it is part of the business culture; for others, it is simply something they do not consider as having great value, which is not a fair assumption.
Government work, grant funding, and others require timesheet reporting as part of their operational guidelines and as a way to track waste and fraud, which is important, but the data acquired can also help track current and improved productivity and waste and even identify the need for training or staff acquisition. For example, if you find that two staff members are spending a disparate amount of time in achieving the same work goals, then the one staff member might require additional skills training to improve their productivity; or it might mean that they need to eliminate waste. Whatever the causes and effects of work productivity, timesheet tracking can help make a positive difference in the project budget and the organization’s bottom line.
Currently, I am running a community-based project, which requires the use of volunteers. And, since we are using government funding through grants, we are automatically required to track hours primarily to prove community involvement, which is a requirement of the grant funding. However, as a project manager, I am using this data to determine the time it takes to design the project work, raise funds and perform outreach to the various communities. And this is because I plan on executing similar projects in the future. Therefore, I will be able to determine 1) how many volunteers I need per task, 2) how many hours are required to perform the task, 3) what is the rate of “burnout” for volunteers, and 4) what the economic value (in dollars) of the work performed by volunteers compared to paying professionals and trades-people. In other words, we can determine the benefit to the budget by using volunteer assistance.
The benefits listed in the example above are the same for the private sector, but the need is perhaps more critical since all-time expansion is typically tied to the project budget. The hours staff spend on a project are translated into a currency amount by multiplying the hours by the employee’s charge-out rate, which is deducted from the budget regularly. Therefore, if too many hours are spent on a task, which the timesheets will track, the project manager can try to mitigate the outcome by increasing efficiency, eliminating waste, or changing staff, which is why timesheets are crucial to the project budget.