Camping in the Woods and the Value of Mobile Time Tracking

Camping in the Woods and the Value of Mobile Time Tracking Software

This is a short blog series that explains why we built some of the things in Hubstaff the way we did. We decided that we would use Joseph﹘resident growth marketer, freshman Hubstaffer (ie knows the least about the product) and an agency owner﹘or, the perfect guinea pig, to write about his experience with some of the features we’re super proud about.

I’m lucky enough to say that I live in one of the most beautiful places on earth. There’s a reason why British Columbia license plates read just that. If you’ve ever been to British Columbia, Canada you probably already know that we have some of the best backcountry camping in the world.

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A few weeks ago, my family and I packed our car and headed out to Porpoise Bay for two nights of cooked sausages, s’mores and sitting back with a beer in the woods.

Porpoise Bay, British Columbia. That view though...

Porpoise Bay, British Columbia. That view, though…

We all know that camping is about getting back to nature and leaving the phone and laptop at home. I’m ashamed to admit that I planned on actually converting some of that sitting back with a beer time to get some work done hoping that the fresh air and pines would spurn some creative inspiration.

It did. You’re seeing some of the fruits of my arboreal-influenced labor here.

From a work perspective, and as a growth marketer I like putting apps and solutions through use cases. Context is the best way to learn how to use any application or solution and niche features which are abundant in any application (think Salesforce), help you understand the added value of what you’re using and why they induce retentive use.

Ultimately, my use case was to ensure that my time was tracked and that all the other good work data metrics in Hubstaff (ie. activity and project tracking) would be logged as well. This would be one of my first forays into time tracking on a mobile device, albeit I have to admit, that I’ve had Toggl on my iPhone 6s but never once used it for tracking work outside of the desktop version.

Parallel to my own personal motivations to track time, my partners would be on “work-cations,” (or how we refer to our vacations since as a growing startup we’re always working in some form or another) as well. We wanted to see how the iOS and Android versions of Hubstaff helped up whilst we were dispersed across the world.

To give some context, one of my partners would be visiting Lebanon’s majestic countryside, where wifi is spotty at best, while the other in nearby Turkey.

So without further ado, I’d like to share the benefits I gleaned from mobile time tracking:

Mobile apps. The movie sequels of the application world no longer

Everyone knows that sequels, and more annoyingly prequels, are never as good as the original.

Go ahead. Think about it…

Starwars image

Enough said.

Mobile apps fall into a similar vein. You know even before downloading the mobile version of an app it won’t have all the features and functionality of its desktop or browser counterpart. Also, the UI just throws you off and things you used to be able to do easily in the original application requires a support call to the vendor. Either way, just not as good as the original experience.

With Hubstaff, my partners and I noticed that basically everything we would see in the desktop version was available in the iOS app. It ran seamlessly in the background while allowing us to work on and track time for whatever we were doing in the foreground (ie. using Google docs to write this blog, a lot of Slack, and trying to send files from Adobe CC and dealing with 13 hour upload times).

Hubstaff_iOS_Time_Tracking

Boom. Choose project. Press start. Done.

Like the desktop and online apps, it allowed us to track time against our projects, which synched in real-time if we were on wifi or online or when we eventually did connect (ie. particularly welcoming feature for my partner with spotty wifi). All our time spent was accurately reflected and after a few days, we weren’t missing the desktop version at all.

Starwars images

Star Wars prequel basher? This Reddit thread will show you otherwise

Task tracking on the iOS app and why 100% work on a smartphone is not too far off

When I look at the app market it makes sense that integrations and building web services between solutions is the new black. There’s a lot of credence to focusing on doing one thing well and a lot of apps over the past couple of years have focused just on that. But when you look at how people operate today, I’d guess most people use at least 3-5 applications on a daily basis﹘if not more. Hence, the need for integrations and the ability to pass data and information between solutions for the sake of better workflow (or maintaining sanity).

Our agency uses Asana to manage projects. My partners and I wanted to see how well Hubstaff held up on a mobile platform with tracking tasks in Asana.

Hubstaff_iOS_UI

With the Asana integration, all our projects were automatically integrated into the mobile app and tracking time to a specific task was pretty seamless. Closing off and completing tasks from the Hubstaff app was added convenience so there was no need to log into Asana.

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I have the mobile app versions of the desktop applications I use on my laptop. And to be frank, I’m getting increasingly acclimatized to working on apps such as Google Docs, which I think is an awesome example of a highly functional mobile app﹘dumbed down enough that it’s usable, but no so much that it’s #smh.

Therefore, a few hours of editing, revision and just typing away in the great outdoors was all very naturally captured on Hubstaff.

Other cool features that we found

There were also a lot of other features that I found in the Hubstaff mobile experience that I discovered during my trip.

GPS and Location

I thought the GPS and location feature was a cool way to keep track of “places I’ve worked.” As a recently committed remote worker, I’ve made it a personal goal to work from at least five different locations by the end of the year (three more to go btw).

Here’s a snapshot of our locations from Hubstaff during our workcations.

Porpoise bay map

Beautiful Porpoise Bay. The inspiration for this blog post.

Beqaa map

My partner in Beqaa, Lebanon. Amazing views and historical ruins; wifi no such much.

Turkey map

Meanwhile somewhere in Turkey…Our developer logs his first minutes in Hubstaff.

GPS location tracking has germinated some conversations internally around location tracking in general. We’ve been ramping up contractors for development and UI projects and international talent has always intrigued us.

During my stint as a SaaS exec, 35% of my team was from another country and the cultural idiosyncrasies were a boon to both the team and the organization as a whole. We felt a lot more confident in investing in overseas talent via our network and remote contractor sites like Hubstaff’s talent directory amongst others.

Activity tracking

Activity tracking was another feature we were immensely curious about. While activity tracking isn’t currently as robust as the desktop version it does allow you to differentiate between desktop and mobile app-based work.

Mobile time tracking

Good news is Activity tracking from the mobile app is in the dev pipe and will be making a debut in the Hubstaff app early next year. Creating an algorithm to measure productivity via taps and swipes, a whole other game.

Working on the go isn’t just a fad for workaholics anymore

It’s a necessity.

When you look at the numbers the constraints of the traditional office no longer apply. One can easily envisage that today more than ever, work is happening not just at a desk but during a commute, at a coffee shop, or maybe in Beqaa, Lebanon where wifi is 54kbps and you still want to keep track of your hours.

It’s undeniable that remote and non-traditional work environments are on the rise and that working from a cafe, taking calls during a subway ride, or even getting in a few hours of while in the woods, is the new norm.

What’s your experience with working on the go? Let us know in the comments.

time-tracking
  • Wow Joseph, I’ve really enjoyed you post. Hope you had a great time during your “workcations”. I am sure that working in a different place from your usual one, can bring inspiration. It is really awesome, when you have opportunity to work from any place of your country or even the Earth.