Uh-oh, it’s happened again. It’s Friday after 5 p.m., and no one in the office has submitted their timesheets for the week. 😱
Getting team members to log their time is a tricky problem for managers. Not many people enjoy reviewing how they spent their time at work, especially when the weekend is on the horizon.
According to an Adobe study on time and how we work, 56% of enterprise workers and 65% of SMB leaders find filling out timesheets and other forms a leading distraction from actual work.
How can you convince your team that timesheets are worth the effort and avoid having to chase them down to log their time?
In this article, you’ll learn how to tackle the deeper reasons people don’t log their time and create timesheet reminders that work!
What is a timesheet reminder?
A timesheet reminder is a written or spoken message prompting employees to track their time and submit their timesheets for a certain period of work. Timesheet (or timecard) reminders ensure that hours are logged accurately and submitted before a deadline.
Timesheet reminders don’t have to be dull—in fact, the process can actually be a bit of fun (more on that later).
Why are timesheet reminders important?
Timesheet reminders are essential because they encourage people to log their hours on time, every time.
Memories become less reliable over time, so if your team members forget to turn in their timesheets and several days go by, they may end up submitting hastily filled timesheets that are full of errors.
Why does everyone hate to fill out timesheets?
It's easier to tackle problems and find long-term solutions when you know the issue's roots. So before we get into how to create reminders to submit timesheets, it's beneficial to understand why people avoid filling out timesheets in the first place.
- They are not sure what's in it for them
Team members often see completing timesheets as busy work that takes up valuable time. They don't understand the purpose of timesheets or how they can benefit them. "I always resented logging my time because the purpose wasn't clear," says Float's Senior Product Marketer Jess Thompson.
In cases like this, managers must be clear on the benefits of timesheets. For example, timesheets can measure productivity, spot blockers, and calculate the correct wages for individuals.
- They shouldn't be using timesheets in the first place
Not everyone's time needs to be tracked. If team members aren't paid hourly or don't hold a position with routine deadlines, tracking their time may not make sense.
As a member of the internal marketing team at her previous position, Jess wasn't involved in any direct client work. "Any insights gathered on time weren't being used to optimize how our time was spent. To me, it was just more admin," she explains.
Time tracking should always be tied to a goal. If you are tracking hours for the sake of it, convincing team members to spend time each week filling out timesheets is likely to be a non-starter.
- The process is tedious and unclear
If we're being honest, manually filling out timesheets can be an exercise in monotony. The more detailed it is, the harder it might be to fill—especially if your day is not linear. One minute you might be in a client meeting, while the next, you are finishing up a crucial project component. Setting aside time to track what you're working on and when is not very realistic.
Automating and simplifying time tracking can help teams log and track their activities much faster. Including funny timesheet reminders such as a meme or a video never hurts either.
- People are unsure what to keep track of
Does time spent in meetings and writing emails count? What about the time spent looking for information? When there are no set guidelines, employees might be confused about what to log and what not to log.
A small change like defining billable and non-billable activities (and communicating these definitions well) might make all the difference.
- They are scared of the repercussions
Someone who finishes their tasks for the day in four hours instead of eight could be a bit wary of filling out their timesheet. They might assume they will get penalized for not being occupied every minute of their day. On the flip side, someone who takes a long time to finish their tasks might not submit a timesheet to avoid looking inefficient.
How do you get employees to submit timesheets on time?
The best way to get people to fill out their timesheets is to remind them at the right moments and in the correct formats. Here are some methods to consider:
1. Automate reminders using time tracking software
The simplest way to get everyone to fill out their timesheets is to make it so easy that they don’t need reminding! Using flexible time tracking software lets team members and project managers log time as they work on tasks.
With Float, you can track time in the same place you plan to work with pre-filled timesheets that can be logged with a single click. Adjusting tasks on the timesheet can be done with a click-and-drag or by editing the number of hours spent.
And for those that need an extra nudge, you can set up automated reminders to be sent daily or weekly. Once your team members connect to Slack, they will receive a timecard reminder.
Admins can also lock logged time to ensure that all records are accurate and that no changes are made after a specific period.
2. Send an automated Slack message
Slack serves as the virtual HQ for many remote and hybrid teams. In 2019, Slack's daily active users spent up to nine hours connected to the app. Because of how much time people spend on Slack, it is an effective channel to remind your team members to log their time.
You can use Slack for timesheet reminders in the following ways:
- Use a tool like Geekbot to send a preset message to a select group of people.
- Send a meme or a GIF along with a simple reminder to the #general channel (or team-specific channel).
- Set a reminder for a person or channel, e.g., /reminder @stella (or #marketing-team) to log time at 5 p.m. every Friday. Keep your messages to the proper channels—sending a message to the #general and tagging it @here might feel spammy.
The best part of using an automated Slack message is that it ensures the message will be sent at the right time based on the person's timezone. Your team in Australia will receive the message at 9 a.m. their time, and so will your team in Nigeria.
3. Send an email
Sending an email is a great way to remind people to log their time. But remember that over a billion emails are sent and received daily, so you need to send the email at the right time to get noticed.
For example, research on the best time to send emails by Litmus shows people in the U.S. read their emails in the morning from 10 a.m.-11 a.m. But people in the U.K. and Germany generally check their inboxes an hour earlier.
It's also important to switch up the email subject line now and then. Due to a phenomenon called habituation, people get used to things they see frequently (like a weekly email notification reminding them to fill out their timesheets) and stop reacting to them. You can change the subject line or add an eye-catching emoji to keep people alert to your reminder email.
Email timesheet reminder #1:
Subject line: 👀 Sent in your timesheets yet?
It's Monday! Welcome back to work. Now's a great time to fill out those timesheets before it's too late.
Email timesheet reminder #2:
Subject line: Don't forget! Fill out your timesheets
Reviewed your timesheets yet? Don't forget to log your time and submit it before leaving for the weekend.
4. Send a text message
Seventy-eight percent of respondents in a Simple Texting study identified texting, sending, and answering messages as the main activities they use their phones for. If you have your employees' consent to contact them via their phones, then text messages are a great way to keep timesheets in mind.
Your messages should be informal and short (emojis are always welcome.) Avoid sending multiple messages, though, as this can be annoying.
Weekly timesheets are due today! Make sure to log your time and submit your timesheets. 👍🏾
5. Set a companywide reminder on the calendar
Have you ever forgotten you had a meeting only to be reminded beforehand by a calendar notification? Putting reminders on your teams' calendars can also be a great way to encourage them to track their time.
You can set a recurring reminder at the best times for you. For example, if timesheets are due weekly, set a reminder for Friday or Monday. If they are due monthly, then set a reminder for the last workday of the month.
Once again, only include the reminder on relevant peoples' calendars. Taking up space on someone's calendar without a good reason is a scheduling faux pas. It might also help to add a description reminding them of the benefits of filling out their timesheet.
6. Share a funny timesheet reminder meme or video
It’s always a good idea to use humor to remind people to track their time. Using a meme or a funny video in place of text lets you convey the message in a fun way and gets people to take action. (There’s no shortage of timesheet reminder memes on the internet.)
If you want to switch things up, you can even use a video to show your team the importance of timesheets.
7. Offer an incentive
In psychology, positive reinforcement is used to introduce and strengthen behaviors. People are more likely to do things that bring them positive results. You might reward your team with public praise or even beers (or sodas) for the team if everyone submits their timesheets on time. Whatever incentive you pick, make sure it is sustainable.
8. Use a verbal reminder
If you work in a co-located team, you can speak to your team members at the beginning or close of the week. You can remind them after the daily standup meeting on Monday or before the end of the day on Friday. It could be as easy as saying something like: "Don't forget to log your time before going home today. It helps us process payroll faster!"
Log hours with a single click
Our pre-filled timesheets make it easier to remind your team what you worked on the previous week. The Float mobile app makes it easy to log time any time anywhere.Learn more
What happens if an employee forgets to submit a timesheet?
In a case when an employee forgets to log their time, what should a manager do?
Talk with them—they may have a good reason for not logging their hours. Perhaps they are struggling to remember the tasks they worked on this week. Or maybe they don't understand the benefits of submitting timesheets.
In either case, it is important to try and help. You can squeeze some time out during a 1:1 meeting to share how you account for your work. Or you can pair them with someone who does their timesheets well and on time.
The best reminder is an easy process
Before sending your next timesheet reminder email, remember that people will only fill out their timesheets regularly if the process is easy and the value is clear. Educate your team members about the importance of filling out timesheets. You can emphasize their significance in the payroll process and point out how they can be used to spot unrealistic workloads.
Automate as much as your can. Manual methods like paper or punch cards take too long in most cases (and they certainly don’t work for hybrid and remote teams).
Consider switching to an easier and faster timesheet management option like Float that lets you track time with a few clicks. Your team will certainly appreciate it!