15 Tools For Monitoring Employee Output to Improve Work/Life Balance

by Mike O'Neill

2020's shelter-in-place orders allowed workers in nearly every industry to work from home when they never thought it would be possible. With more staff spending their days in their pajamas, employers have difficulty figuring out how hard employees are working and are seeking tools for monitoring employee output.

“The average person works 46.7 hours per week, and yet just 14.8 hours are spent doing productive tasks.” [source] With these types of numbers, it is easy to see that employees struggle with work/life balance, and monitoring employees is necessary. 

Businesses didn't have time to prepare for this predicament, but yet, here we are. Like it or not, we now have to accept it. According to this May 2020 survey conducted by the staffing firm Robert Half:

  • 60% of office professionals who moved to a remote work environment say they feel they have a better work-life balance.
  • 74% of professionals surveyed stated they would like to work remotely more even after stay-home orders get lifted. 
  • 56% of professionals said they are worried about being in close proximity to colleagues.

With those types of percentages, it's easy to see that remote work has a high chance of becoming the norm even after the shelter-in-place restrictions have lifted. According to CNBC, many people search for "employee monitoring," as shown below by Google Trends.

Given the recent increase in remote workers, there’s a growing need for employee monitoring, as we can see from Google Trends data. With so many options available for employee monitoring, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. 

We understand that there are concerns — wasting time, lower productivity, lower engagement, fewer coaching opportunities, and fewer development opportunities. In our webinar, we discuss these issues with expert panelist Melissa Gratias, Productivity Expert.

This article will break down the top 15 tools for monitoring employee output and helpful time management, focus, and productivity-boosting apps to improve work/life balance. With this list, we hope you’ll be armed with the best choices to find one that suits all of your business needs and is the best fit for you and your employees. 

8 Time Tracking Applications

As they say in business, ‘time is money.’ In the remote world, time management is crucial to running a productive business. Proper management of time can decide the fate or the success of the company. 

The best measure for time well spent is the amount of productivity achieved in a designated period. Time tracked, managed, and organized is the framework for billable work. 

Several time-tracking software applications are available that help keep track of your employees' work and follow their projects' progress. Monitoring such as this helps you get the full picture of how much they're working vs. time wasted, and they get a better understanding of their productivity, which allows them to have a better work/life balance in the long-run.

1. Toptracker

Toptracker has a lot of useful features for any business. Toptracker provides time tracking with screenshots, all in their free web and desktop app. If you need to track time for invoicing with integrated invoice processing, they offer that as well. 

Whether you are a manager looking for ways to improve your remote employees' performance, or a freelancer looking to optimize productivity and invoice your clients for time spent, Toptracker has the tools you need across all devices. 

Features of Toptracker:

  • Invoicing
  • Payments
  • Time Tracking
  • Timed Screenshots
  • Activity Level Tracking
  • Detailed Productivity Reports
  • Freelance Platform
  • Full Privacy for Freelancers

2. Toggl Track!

Toggl Track!  Offers businesses web and desktop applications, mobile apps, and browser extensions, making it easy to track employees in multiple formats. With Toggl, you can keep track of the time employees spend on individual projects giving you a deeper understanding of how they’re managing their time. 

Toggl takes the hassle out of time tracking by using their one-click timers and tracking reminders. It's completely flexible and has built-in project management features that you can use to assign work tasks and projects to your employees. Toggl has an extensive list of app integrations so you can track time within everyone's favorite apps and spend less time navigating between pages. 

Features of Toggl Track!:

  • Web & Desktop App
  • Mobile App
  • Browser Extension
  • One-Click Timers
  • Background Tracking
  • Calendar Integration
  • Auto Tracker
  • Summary, Detailed, & Weekly Reporting
  • Project & Revenue Tracking
  • Team Scheduling & Management

3. Harvest

Harvest has been one of the more trusted applications for several years due to its reliable time tracking software. Harvest offers users a straightforward yet powerful time monitoring system that possesses all of the required features you need to track your remote team. 

Harvest has an intuitive presentation of visual reports, which allows you to monitor your employees’ activities and help them take the most viable route to productivity for profit.

Features of Harvest:

  • Track Time
  • Track Expenses
  • Team Time Tracking
  • Project Tracking
  • Invoicing
  • Scheduling

4. Timenotes

Are you using Trello in your business? If not, you might want to think about it. Timenotes is the only time tracking integration for Trello. Trello allows users to create boards, lists, and cards to be shared with teams to organize and prioritize projects. Using Timenotes with Trello provides you with an effective way to monitor all of the projects and keep tabs on time spent on those tasks. 

Features of Timenotes:

  • Trello Integration
  • Time Tracking
  • Task Management
  • Transparent Time Sheets
  • Hassle-Free Reporting
  • Web & Mobile Access

5. Time Doctor

Time Doctor allows you to customize features as needed for each member of your team. They believe there is no one-size-fits-all for time tracking software and set out to make the most customizable time tracking software on the market today. 

Time Doctor is one of the most robust software available. It’s packed with features like pop-up notifications, frequent screenshots so you can see what your team is working on and when. Screenshots guarantee accountability. 

Time Doctor also has a chat monitor that can help your organization keep an eye on time spent on calls and meetings. 

Features of Time Doctor:

  • Time Tracking
  • Screenshots
  • Clients Features 
  • Powerful Reports
  • Web & App Usage
  • Payroll
  • All Devices
  • Integrations
  • Time Use Alerts
  • Off Track Reminders
  • Attendance Tracking
  • Track Breaks

6. Paymo

Paymo is a simple but feature-rich application that ensures maximum productivity and on-time delivery and completion of projects. The Paymo platform offers users the options to change billing methods, change billing material to suit clients’ needs, and has a built-in invoicing capability ensuring a seamless time management process for users. 

With Paymo, you can keep your team engaged and aligned. With this software, you can manage tasks, create team schedules, track work time, and bill your clients all within the platform. 

Features of Paymo:

  • Task Management
  • Time Tracking
  • Timesheet Reporting
  • Team Scheduling
  • Invoicing
  • Integrations 

7. Timely

Timely is an excellent resource for monitoring employee output if your team uses a calendar service to carve out chunks of time when working on dedicated projects. Timely is different from some of the other time tracking applications. While they tend only to track time while users are working, Timely allows users to schedule tasks and track time spent on projects in real-time. 

Features of Timely:

  • Project and Team Planning
  • Team Time Management
  • Automatic Time Tracking
  • Project Time Management
  • App Integrations 

8. Hubstaff

Hubstaff is a potent tracking tool that offers real-time monitoring of time usage and company employees' location. This particular feature is best suited for companies that deal with sales and delivery that require frequent travel of employees between locations. 

Hubstaff comes equipped with a GPS tracking system allowing businesses to track time and employees simultaneously — giving you detailed knowledge of how your employees spend their work time and where they happen to be while out in the field.

Features of Hubstaff:

  • Time Tracking
  • Online Timesheets
  • Productivity Monitoring
  • GPS Tracking
  • Automated Time Tracking
  • Headache-free Payroll
  • Team Scheduling
  • Reporting
  • Invoicing
  • Budget Projecting
  • Task Management
  • Offline Time Tracking
  • Web Time Tracking
  • Timesheet Approvals
  • Time Off
  • Integrations

2 Time Management Applications

If during the tracking of time you find your employees are not using their time effectively, perhaps they’ll need a time management application to help them along. You’ll get them to see where they need to improve, and they’ll see how good time management results in a better work/life balance.

1. RescueTime

RescueTime can help you track your productivity by measuring how much time you waste on digital devices, distracting apps, and websites. RescueTime offers plenty of features designed to help individuals and teams to improve their focus on work tasks and get more done in less time. 

One of the great features of RescueTime is that it can turn off distractions like social media and news sites. They'll also keep you motivated with real-time focus alerts. 

Features of RescueTime:

  • Unlimited Data
  • Advanced Reports
  • Distraction Blocking
  • Real-Time Focus Alerts
  • Offline Tracking
  • Automatic Time Tracking
  • Time Reports
  • Productivity Reports
  • Project & Document Time Tracking
  • Smart Goals
  • Slack Integration

2. Timezone.io

With remote work, there tends to be employees across various time zones. With Timezone.io, you can keep track of all of your employees’ local time zones, making it easier for you to schedule meetings, calls, and other projects without having to seek out the time in every city.

3 Goal & Focus Applications

Once you have some time tracking in place and creating better time management skills, you’ll want to shift your focus to some goals to keep everyone on track. A good time tracking app can take the place of a calendar, as many of these apps will allow you to block out specific hours for tasks and events. 

Once you have decided how long an assignment should take, employees can schedule a block of time for the task and then check their progress to see if it took more or less time than they thought. 

They may find that they often set aside 2-3 hours for tasks that only take an hour. On the other hand, they could see they are wasting 2-3 hours on things that should only take 30 minutes. Once you can see the patterns on how the days get spent, realign goals to shift to areas in which improvement and productivity need improvement. 

These apps can help with that and keep the team focused.

1. Way of Life

Way of Life allows users to set reminders to keep them on track and break down bad habits. When bad habits get broken, users get closer to achieving their goals. Way of Life lets users plot goals for the day, the week, or the month, and then it provides a scoreboard-style display to let users know if they’re meeting their goals or not.

Features of Way of Life:

  • Color-Coded System
  • Track Routine
  • Reminders
  • Diary Function
  • Charts

2. Noisli

Noisli is a simple site doing nothing more than providing background sounds to help mask those annoying noises which distract workers and their productivity. Noisil will help your team stay sane while working remotely, improve their focus, and boost their productivity. 

Features of Noisli:

  • Sounds
  • Playlists
  • Favorites
  • Oscillation
  • Shuffle
  • Timer
  • Text Editor

3. Focus Booster

Focus Booster is one of the most popular applications following the Pomodoro Technique. By using Focus Booster, you can better understand your team, how they use their time, and help them maximize their productivity as a result.  The theory is if you stay focused for 25 minutes, you’ll work more effectively, knowing you get a break after those 25 minutes. 

Features of Focus Booster:

  • Dark Mode
  • Pomodoro Timer
  • Customization
  • Time Tracking
  • Save Incomplete Sessions
  • Mini Timer
  • Instant Timesheets
  • Manual Time Entry
  • Stats, Charts, & Graphs
  • Reporting
  • Multi-Platform

2. Organization & Productivity Focused Applications

1. Todoist

Todoist is one of the most widely known to-do apps for organizing work and personal life. The developers designed it to have an intuitive interface with plenty of powerful features. 

“Free up your mental space. Regain clarity and calmness by getting all those tasks out of your head and onto your to-do list (no matter where you are or what divide you use.)” [source]

Todoist allows users to use natural language to add items quickly, so if users type, “complete marketing plan tomorrow,” Todoist will automatically set a reminder for the next day. 

Todoist has the ability for users to prioritize tasks using filters and batch-specific tasks together with labels, which is perfect for those with more extensive projects containing multiple items. The more organized employees are, the easier it will be for them to tackle the tasks at hand. With better productivity, they'll find they have more time to enjoy things outside of work, making for a better work/life balance. 

Features of Todoist:

  • Quick Add
  • Recurring Due Dates
  • Task View
  • Favorites
  • Sections & Subtasks
  • Priorities
  • Delegate Tasks
  • Notifications
  • Task & Project Comments
  • Todoist Karma
  • Productivity Visualization
  • Completed Tasks
  • Todoist Boards
  • 10+ app plugins
  • Templates

2. Zapier

Zapier is an easy to use, simple automation tool that will save you and your team endless amounts of time on repetitive tasks. With Zapier, there is no need to switch back and forth between different apps to complete basic functions. For example, manually uploading to Google Drive. With Zapier, you can create Zaps to automate these tasks for you. 

Zapier sends data between apps like Gmail and Google Drive, so email attachments get automatically uploaded for remote access. You can also set up Zaps to automatically add a new Toggl Track! time entries to a Google Sheets spreadsheet to have accurate timesheets without the hassle of creating them yourself. 

Features of Zapier:

  • Integrated Apps
  • Automate Tasks
  • Zaps
  • Custom Automations

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