Timesheets. Love them or loathe them, they’re still firmly at the forefront of business operations, particularly in PR, marketing and creative agency settings. However, timesheets bring a long-standing struggle to efficiently track employee productivity and billable hours in a way that simultaneously minimises widespread dissatisfaction from employees. At their worst, the burden of these inefficient - and ironically time-consuming - timesheets can cause some businesses significant staff retention issues.

At present, the majority of agency organisations still plan their resourcing and staff capacity via manual timesheet data, yet this is highly ineffective. With employee dissatisfaction comes a rush of staff who seek to complete their timesheets as quickly as possible, and in turn, are more likely to fiddle with their billable hours in order to present themselves favourably in relation to productivity.


As a reflection of how an employee spends their working day, timesheets are inherently associated with a fear of being seen to be working at anything under maximum capacity. As a result, many overstate where they dedicate their time throughout the working day, and this means, in turn, that some agencies may actually have significantly more resource capacity than they assume. The fact is that when relying on manual timesheets, these organisations do not have access to the real-time, robust data to see hidden pockets of capacity.

Studies reveal that the average worker needs to work a little under capacity (around 80% is ideal) in order to achieve optimum productivity and work-life balance. Balancing capacity is a juggling act, yet many organisations are still stuck in old ways of thinking about and managing staff productivity and output. As many organisations still do, tying hours to the amount of revenue generated or number of tasks completed is problematic as it risks employees being viewed as a simple metric - ready to be utilised in some way, regardless of the specialist skill sets they hold that may be of benefit to another task or area of the business.


What we’re now starting to see is a shift away from using unreliable timesheet data to real-time, data-driven insights which give an accurate calculation of employee capacity, billable hours, and - crucially - map employee skill sets and experience directly against client needs and wants. Technology - known as Operations Tech or OpsTech - brings an accurate, holistic overview of all the skills present in an organisation enables all businesses to truly see that client tasks and business requirements are being appropriately fulfilled - and in good time. Establishing such technologies means that managers can see where skills are at any given moment, and similarly, have a retrospective view that helps inform future people decisions without relying on manual, backdated timesheets.

Timesheets are stuck in the dark age of agency life - and indeed businesses of all sorts - and it’s time to update how time, capacity and skills are looked upon. With better workforce insight in place, businesses can better analyse where tasks are both under-resourced and resourced correctly.