Every Thursday I take some of the most interesting (and common) questions asked by companies that use Hubstaff. Some questions are related to our products and others are related to our business because we are a transparent company and share our growth strategies.

Our hope is that you’ll be able to uncover how to use Hubstaff more effectively, uncover some hidden uses, or learn and apply some of the marketing techniques we are using and apply them to your own business.

If you have questions or comments we’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Here are the questions I covered this time:

  1. If I track time to Basecamp to-do’s will my client see the time tracked?
  2. How can I see the websites and apps that my team is using?
  3. How do you measure time when someone is “Thinking” or “Reading” versus actively making movements on the computer?

If I track time to Basecamp to-do’s will my client see the time tracked?

Daniel Evans of Flipside Designs

This is a question that we get often for all of our integrations. Generally our clients fall into two camps – 1) they want to give client access to all of the time tracked, or 2) they want to track time internally to the projects assigned by the client, but they’d rather keep this information internal versus sharing with the client in real time.

The good news is that with Hubstaff time tracking, you can make either solution work. Let’s look at each scenario individually.

Full client access: If you want to share time tracking data with your clients in real time

There are three options to share time data with your clients.

Option 1: Invite them directly into Hubstaff where they can run reports, view work screenshots and see time tracked. Here’s how to invite your clients into Hubstaff (don’t worry, there’s no extra charge for this and they won’t count towards your overall limit). Many of our customers decide to go this route because it allows their clients to see work unfold in real time and helps to avoid questions about what their teams are doing and how much time has been tracked.

Option 2: Send time data directly to the integration partner – in this case Basecamp. When your team members complete a to-do (task) in the Hubstaff desktop app, the time that was spent on that task gets sent to Basecamp in the form of a comment. When the comment gets posted the client gets notified and they can see the amount of time tracked on the to-do.

Option 3: Use our time tracking API. This allows you to bring our time data into your own application so your clients can login to your site and see all the Hubstaff time data, screenshots and more. This is a method that is getting more and more popular for branding purposes, and we have an awesome API that’s easy to use. Here’s where you can find all the API documentation.

Partial or no client access: If you want to see the time internally and NOT share with your clients

Many of our customers choose this option if they prefer not to give their clients full access to what their team is doing, but they still need to know exactly how much time is spent on each task so they can invoice their clients effectively (one of the huge benefits of automatic time tracking is that you can drastically reduce admin work).

Once you connect the integration, you can track time on to-dos in the Hubstaff desktop apps. If you don’t complete any of the to-dos through the Hubstaff app, all that time tracked will remain on the Hubstaff side and no time data will get synced over to Basecamp or any other integration (you’ll be able to view it under the “Reports” section > “Custom” tab). Here’s what that report looks like.

Hubstaff reports showing tasks

If you want to keep your client from seeing anything on the Basecamp side, just keep any to-dos as uncompleted in the Hubstaff app (you can still mark them as completed in Basecamp, of course).

Control client access to your timesheets

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How can I see the websites and apps that my team is using?

Some of the newer features we released at Hubstaff are software monitoring and URL tracking. Hubstaff’s desktop time tracker now can track the websites your team is visiting while they’re logging time as well as the apps they use.

Here’s what the software applications report looks like:


Here’s what the internet monitoring looks like:


Hubstaff will only capture activity, URLs and app data if your team is actively using them. If they have a website open on another browser and they never click to that site, we don’t collect data from apps or URLs running in the background.

Software and URL monitoring is useful for a few reasons. First, the screenshots are awesome but they don’t tell you how someone works at a glance. You have to click into the screenshots and scroll through them for yourself. Apps and URLs indicate at a high level if someone is generally doing the work you expect.

App and URL usage indicates at a high level if someone is generally doing the work you expect. Click To Tweet

For instance, if you have a designer on staff and you expect them to be working in Photoshop 80% of the time, but they are only in Photoshop 30% of the time and in Chrome 70% of the time, that may indicate something that needs to be looked at.

The same goes for getting detailed information regarding internet usage. If you expect a team member to be using Yesware for outbound sales (which would show up as Gmail if they are using the Chrome extension), but you find that 60% of their time is on Zendesk, then maybe they have their priorities out of line.

Chances are this person is working on exactly what they think they should be working on (customer service), but it’s not what you think they should be working on. We see priority misalignments like this every day. One of the biggest benefits of time analytics is that you can confirm that priorities are correct and they keep everyone in the organization on the same page.

See which websites and apps your remote teams are using

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When you are responsible for managing remote teams, many of the issues that arise are really no one’s fault individually but that doesn’t mean that we can’t correct them. The real key is to have systems and checks in place so that your team running like a well-oiled machine. Having time tracking data in place makes those checks a lot easier.

The second reason that the apps and URLs are important are from a personal productivity standpoint. The screenshots don’t do anything to really motivate a person and show them what they are actually working on. Application tracking and even moreso, website monitoring really help a person understand how they are spending their time at work.

A quick example would be someone that spends time on fantasy football. We’ve got a league internally at Hubstaff.

Hubstaff fantasy football

We encourage people on our team to participate and have fun with it, but I can personally go in and see that I spent over an hour last month on http://football.fantasysports.yahoo.com/.

Another example is that I can tell how much time I spend in Gmail. One of my personal goals is to reduce the amount of time I spend in email, but for today at a quick glance I can see that it’s already consumed 28.35% of my total internet use. Those numbers are skewed because it’s early in the morning here and one of the first things I do is clear out all emails, but still, I’m looking for that number to be around 10%.

Gmail use

The point is that these are tools that you and your team can use to improve personal productivity.

How do you measure time when someone is “Thinking” or “Reading” versus actively making movements on the computer?

Mickey Deutsch of We Fix It

Mickey Deutsch inquiry

By nature what Hubstaff does is to measure activity on the computer, and it’s true that if you are not moving the mouse or typing on the keyboard frequently you’ll have lower activity percentages that those that are moving the mouse and typing a lot. For reference, here’s how Hubstaff measures activity levels.

Hubstaff Q&A: Client access, app tracking and work monitoring

If you’re doing a lot of thinking or reading as part of your job, the one of the things you can do is to turn the idle timeout threshold higher (such as 10 minutes, 20 minutes, or even OFF). This will make the inactivity timeout warning pop up less frequently than if it’s kept at 5 minutes. Here’s how the inactivity warning works.

Hubstaff idle time warning | Hubstaff Q&A: Client access, app tracking and work monitoring

The second thing you can do when the inactivity warning does pop up is to select “Keep” idle time. When you keep the idle time you will be asked to enter details on what was happening in the form of a note on the desktop system which will communicate this info to your manager. Maybe it was a phone call or maybe you were watching a youtube training video. That’s good information to know.

Hubstaff Q&A: Client access, app tracking and work monitoring

A final option is to turn activity levels off for your team – that might be beneficial for work that doesn’t involve as much interaction with the computer.

In other situations it may be better to add the timesheets manually instead of tracking it with the desktop app. Then the reason can noted alongside that as well.

As a manager, what you are looking for is trends. Is this happening every day? Is it happening certain times of the day? Do you have anyone else doing the same type of work that this person could be measured against? Have you looked at the screenshots for low activity level times? Many times this gives you the opportunity to learn what your team member is struggling with and so you can help them become successful.

If you see that they are researching a particular type of code for instance, then maybe you should offer to get them a course on that topic. If they are reading training materials that aren’t related to the task at hand, then this is an opportunity to ask them why this is happening before more time is wasted.

The important thing to keep in mind as a worker is that as long as you are proactively communicating what’s going on with your manager, he or she should understand. The key is to communicate and set expectations. For example, your manager will appreciate understanding why they should expect lower than normal activity for the next few days.

If you need to be on the phone for 3 hours a day and that is impacting your activity rates, it’s important to convey that to management. This will put the ball in their court. Maybe they’ll make an adjustment and you won’t be the person handling these phone calls, or at the least it will help them understand your activity levels for those times. Either way, it’s a win-win to proactively communicate.

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