Poor productivity is an expensive problem. According to the State of the American Workplace report, businesses lose as much as $605 billion per year due to low employee output.
Thankfully, there is one thing you can do: use work timers.
Online work timers help you combat inefficiency and are easy to set up. They help you:
- Understand how you and your team use time
- Monitor productivity so you can identify opportunities for improvement
- Process timesheets accurately
- Create reports based on accurate data
The simplest way to use a timer for work is to start it at the beginning of a task and let it run while work gets done. You can use that time tracking data to analyze how your team works and find areas that might need improvement.
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How did we choose these time apps?
Some of these tools have built-in productivity features to help you get more done in the same amount of time.
Others are designed to help you create a more productive routine on your own. You can use time tracking reports to optimize how you tackle tasks, or you can try the Pomodoro technique to improve your focus.
Ultimately, if your goal is to be more productive, it makes sense to track how your team spends their time.
Online work timers like the ones below can help.
Best online work timers for productivity
Hubstaff is a time tracking app that enables teams to work at peak productivity. Set up Hubstaff in five minutes or less and track time on your desktop or smartphone.
Teams who use Hubstaff can see the exact amount of time spent on each task, plus useful productivity data. You’ll know not just when you and your team worked, but also how you worked.
The Hubstaff app runs in the background and it’s easy for anyone to use.
You’ll get even more value out of Hubstaff when you connect it to your task tracking software. Instead of tracking working hours in general, you can track the amount of time spent on each specific task. That means you can easily see where there are productivity hangups preventing your team from getting work done.
How to use Hubstaff to improve productivity
When your team uses Hubstaff, you get data like what applications were used, what websites were visited, and how much time was spent in each app or website.
If you need even more granular data, you can use the optional screenshot feature.
Both you and your employees have total visibility into that productivity data. It’s easy to monitor performance and to look back at less productive days to find out what happened.
You can also track everyone’s daily productivity percentage. This productivity calculation is based on keyboard and mouse movements.
Use that productivity percentage as a baseline to measure how engaged you and your team are with work, but be aware that it’s based on physically interacting with the computer. A low productivity percentage doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re unproductive. It just means that you weren’t typing or moving the mouse.
Look at your time tracking data often to reap the productivity benefits.
Do certain types of tasks always take longer than you expect? Maybe you need to evaluate the tools you use or plan more time in your team’s schedule to complete that kind of work.
Does a certain employee usually have a productivity slump after lunch? You can check the data to figure out if there are more distractions or interruptions later in the day.
Hubstaff is the only work timer on this list that allows you to easily see your team’s time and productivity data. Knowing where your team spends time is vital for productivity, so make sure you have a strategy to collect this information in some other way if you use one of the other timers on this list.
2. Focus Booster
Focus Booster is a Pomodoro timer app with some basic tracking features. It has a minimalist interface that lets your team manually track time to specific tasks or projects.
Tools like this one helps your team avoid distractions so they can accomplish tasks faster.
It’s based on the Pomodoro Technique — the timer counts off 25 minute increments, then prompts you to take a break before diving back in.
Task tracking is manual. You type in the task you’re going to work on, select the client it’s associated with, and then let Focus Booster run in the background.
Make sure that your team enters their task information clearly so that you can tell what work was completed.
How to use Focus Booster to improve your team’s productivity
To get the most out of Focus Booster, your team needs to understand and use the Pomodoro Technique.
This tool doesn’t automatically turn off distractions. Aside from what your employees type manually, it doesn’t record tasks or specifics about activity.
All of that is up to you. Teach your team to turn off phones, mute your notifications, and focus entirely on the task at hand while the timer is running. Encourage focus by training your employees that they shouldn’t expect immediate responses from you or teammates.
The Pomodoro Technique works great for some types of work, but it might not be suitable for everyone on your team.
Want to try the Pomodoro Technique, but looking for something as simple to use as a stopwatch? Check out the next work timer on our list:
Timerdoro takes pride in simplicity. If your employees can use a stopwatch, they can use Timerdoro.
What makes it stand out is how you can create sequences of individual timers. Unlike most timer apps, you’re not limited to just one countdown at a time.
The interface works similarly to Kanban boards. The difference is that instead of tasks, each card is a timer.
Creating a new timer in the same column as another one will cause it to automatically start once the preceding timer has expired. If you want your timers to run at the same time, simply place them in 2 different columns. It’s very intuitive.
How to use Timerdoro to boost team productivity
Using multiple timers can help your team break complex tasks into manageable chunks without spending too long on any one thing.
Here’s an example:
You might want to use the Pomodoro Technique to focus on your email inbox for 25 minutes, but perhaps you also want to limit yourself to no more than 3 minutes on a single email so that you can get through all of your messages within that time frame.
With Timerdoro, you can set a 25 minute timer to alert you when your Pomodoro session is complete, and you can also set an alarm to go off every 3 minutes to alert you that it’s time to move to the next message.
You can also use it to balance your time between consecutive tasks whether you use the Pomodoro technique or not. Just set up a series of timers at whatever time limit you want to assign. When the alarm sounds, it’s time to switch tasks.
Each employee can decide what timers they need and how to segment their time.
Keep in mind that Timerdoro doesn’t connect timers to tasks. If you want to track how much time each employee spends on specific tasks, they’ll need to track that manually.
Its flexibility makes it a good all-around app regardless of which time management method you use. However, you might find Timerdoro a little too simple if you’re looking for something to track productivity metrics.
Toggl is an easy-to-use work timer with an excellent reports feature. If your team relies heavily on reporting and analysis, this is a great way to generate accurate data about how your team spends their time.
Set up your list of projects and tasks in Toggl’s web app, and you’re good to go. Employees can easily track time spent on each thing. If they need to add tasks or projects on the fly, it’s easy to do.
The app also helps address a common problem with work timers – forgetting to start the clock. Set up tracking reminders and employees will get a popup if they start work without tracking their time.
If your team works from multiple devices, they can install Toggl apps and extensions on all of them and their time records with sync automatically.
How to use Toggl to increase productivity
The best way to maximize productivity with Toggl is by using their detailed reports to find areas where you can improve.
While there are no built-in productivity tracking features, you can still analyze your team’s productivity based on the time it takes to complete tasks and projects.
You can also review useful metrics like your labor costs by project or the time spent per client.
Idle time reminders are handy for team members that frequently get distracted. They pop up when activity has stopped, and you can configure the length of time an employee sits idle before they get a reminder. You can also automatically stop tracking time if there’s no activity.
5. Productivity Timer
If you like the Pomodoro technique but want a little more flexibility, Productivity Timer is a simple and easy option. It runs in an open tab in your web browser.
The default timer length is 25 minutes, but you can adjust this and other basic settings.
In addition to setting your timer length, Productivity Timer also lets you customize long breaks and short breaks. If your team tends to take advantage of the frequent breaks built into the Pomodoro Technique, this is a good way to signal that it’s time to get back to work.
How to use Productivity Timer to increase productivity
Like most Pomodoro timers, your team’s success depends on following the technique faithfully. It’s up to you to train your team and make sure that they can stay focused during work time.
Productivity Timer keeps track of how many productive sessions, long breaks, and short breaks the user has finished. You can compare this information with the amount of productive work an employee has completed to gain insights into your team’s productivity levels.
Encourage your team to adjust the length of work sessions and breaks to best suit their work style and responsibilities. The whole point of having an adjustable work timer is the ability to customize it to work best for you.
Harvest is an effective tool to track time and manage expenses.
Tasks can be organized by project or by client. If you need to keep track of the time your team works for particular clients, it’s super easy with this software.
Expense tracking is also very easy. You can check expenses by client, by project, or by team member to see where you’re spending the most money.
To track time in Harvest, your employees select the task they’re working on and start the timer. The app automatically creates their timesheet. If someone forgets to start or stop the timer, it’s easy to make manual changes.
How to use Harvest to improve team productivity
When you use Harvest to manage your timesheets and expenses, you’ll save time on administrative tasks.
Use the recorded time tracking data to help your team manage their week more effectively.
The dashboard automatically shows all the hours you’ve logged this week, organized by task. Encourage your team to look back at that data before getting started each morning. Understanding how they’ve spent their time so far can help them spot when they’re spinning their wheels and should consider working on a different project.
On a larger scale, look at your team’s time tracking records to spot clients or projects that eat up more time than they should. If everyone has to put in extra hours to get stuff done, then you probably have problems to address in that project.
HourStack offers a unique visual interface that allows you to drag and drop tasks onto a weekly calendar. It works similarly to Timerdoro’s time cards, but it’s much more robust.
To use HourStack as a work timer, your employees create cards for all the tasks they need to work on throughout the week. If you use task management software, you may be able to use a built-in integration to pull your cards from there.
Drag and drop those tasks to lay out your schedule for the week. Each task has a timer associated with it, and as you move through your day, you run the timer for that task.
You can delegate tasks to your team, adjust schedules, and use the drag-and-drop interface to easily update priorities. HourStack operates like a to-do list in addition to being a great work timer.
How to use HourStack to increase productivity
HourStack places a heavy emphasis on planning. Use it to schedule your week and easily delegate tasks to your team.
Since the estimated time for completion is built into each task, you and your employees can easily spot things that take longer than expected. It’s also an effective tool to manage workloads since you can see which days are already full and which have room for new tasks.
The reporting feature includes a handy dashboard that shows each employee’s expected capacity, assigned work, and how much they actually got done. That’s super handy if you suspect that workload management is holding you back.
8. Timer Tab
Timer Tab has three timer types: countdown, alarm, and stopwatch.
The app doesn’t have any productivity measuring features built in. As its name implies, it’s an online timer app that’s designed to run in one of your browser tabs.
Timer Tab is a good choice if your team needs to work on being aware of how they spend their time.
Because it’s so simple, it’s very easy to use. However, most apps that are easy to use are also easy to ignore, so make sure that you stress its importance.
How to use Timer Tab to boost team productivity
Teach your team how to use Timer Tab to build awareness around time management.
Here are some examples:
Use the stopwatch feature to time breaks, or use it to measure how long it takes you to clear your email inbox in the morning. Fifteen minutes spent here and there on low priority tasks can quickly add up to hours.
The countdown mode is useful when someone needs to commit a certain amount of time to a project and you know they’ll struggle to sit down and focus.
Use the alarm for reminders to do things like check in with a coworker, change projects, or even to use the Pomodoro Technique.
Timer Tab is very helpful when your team only needs a little help to use time wisely. Each person can use it to address whatever challenge they struggle with the most. If you need other features, though, it’s probably a little too simple.
Which work timers do you use?
At the core of each of the work timers mentioned above is one common goal: to help you and your team become more productive.
Just remember that productivity doesn’t improve overnight. The more you use your work timer, the better you’ll get.
Productivity doesn’t come from using a timer alone — you need to look at work trends and consciously address your team’s behavior to get more done. The timer apps here help you see where you need improvement, but it’s up to you to make the change.
Do you use any of the timers we listed in this post? Did we miss any apps that worked notably well for you and your team? Let us know in the comments below.
This post was originally published in October 2017 and was updated in August 2020.