When you're ready to start hiring freelancers or full time employees, you're going to have some important questions to answer.
- How will you accurately track their time?
- How will you make sure they're paid on time?
- How will you ensure that they're staying on task?
Hubstaff aims to answer all three of these.
In this article, I (Carol Dunlop) will be reviewing Hubstaff from a team member prospective. Then, Nate will add his perspective as an owner/manager using Hubstaff to track my time.
You’ll get to see what it’s like to use Hubstaff from two different perspectives.
Before I dive in, I want to make a distinction that’s very important for you to be aware of.
Hubstaff is made primarily for businesses to keep track of time, activity, and productivity of employees. However, it can definitely be used to track time for any type of worker, whether they are employees or Independent contractors.
OK, now that we have that out of the way, let’s get into how Hubstaff keeps Nate and I on track and in sync when it comes to getting work done.
What is Hubstaff?
By their own definition, Hubstaff is a service for Growing businesses that want to accomplish more. Over 8,000 agencies, development firms, e-commerce sites, law firms, construction companies, and startups use Hubstaff to maximize productivity.
Hubstaff tracks the time that team members work and allows you, the admin/owner, to monitor what they work on.
It tracks websites and applications that team members visit. It also tracks how much time each member spends on a particular project, along with keeping track of how much time is spent on the entire project by all team members.
Hubstaff then gathers all the data and creates individual reports for each employee that can be viewed by the owners and the team member.
The service can automatically create an invoice for your client bases on the total hours spent on a project.
Hubstaff is reasonably priced.
There is a Free Plan that allows for single user access.
With any of the plans, you can add clients and allow them to monitor their project’s progression, if you choose.
If you can’t decide which plan will work better for you, go with the 14-Day Free Trial. During the trial, you can switch between the plans to check them out.
The differences in the plans is the level of monitoring you can do, the number of integrations you get, and the addition of the shift management feature for owners.
Hubstaff is available for Mac, Windows, Linus, and iOS.
An owner can view the team’s progress from anywhere using Hubstaff’s apps (available on Apple and Google Play.)
On the Desktop
The desktop client is essential for time tracking. You can use it to manually start and stop the tracking plus track your To-Do’s.
On the Mobile App
Through the mobile app, you can track GPS locations of team members by both owners and team members.
As a team member, you can also track offline tasks such as phone calls and meetings.
As an owner, you can use the mobile app to review time sheets, see who’s working at any particular time, and change admin settings.
Team Member Monitoring
The main attraction for using Hubstaff is the activity monitoring of team members.
As a business owner, especially if you use remote teams, you aren’t able to view each team member’s desktop or hover over their shoulder.
With Hubstaff, you have the ability to go into “Big Brother” mode. You can easily view screenshots of what team members are working on.
Hubstaff takes screenshots of the team member’s desktop at random intervals of up to three shots per hour. There is a blur setting that can be enabled so you can’t see sensitive information, but you’re still able to see if what they are doing is on-task or not.
I was a little concerned about privacy when I read about the screenshots. Nate and I discussed it and I decided that I would only work on Entreresource-related tasks during the recorded sessions. That seems like a no-brainer. But with all the distractions we have nowadays, plus the temptation to veer off-course to “check in” on my own social media or personal sites, I felt this was the right thing to do. Doing so makes it much easier when I submit my timesheet. I don’t have to worry about any sites showing up that I shouldn’t have been on during that time.
Hubstaff also monitors the productivity of team members. Although it doesn’t log key strokes, it does calculate how often the mouse and keyboard are used. This gives you a productivity rating percentage that records onto the dashboard and is shown with each screenshot.
At first, I didn’t understand what the percentage number meant. I write my articles (actually everything) long-hand and then transfer it to a word processor. This makes my productivity seem low at times, but I explained that to Nate and he was fine with it.
GPS Tracking with Hubstaff
GPS tracking is a feature that can be used by owners who employ team members that travel from one location to another (Realtors, service providers, technicians, etc.,).
As the admin, you can view which employees are at what location and see their time spent and work performed.
This feature doesn’t apply to me since I work from my home office. Traveling is not part of my duties.
Getting Paid with Hubstaff
One of the first things Nate and I addresses was how I would get paid. Hubstaff integrates the monitoring system with their payout system.
Basically, all the team member needs to do is start and stop the timer. The system calculates the time worked and transfers the calculations to the timesheet.
The admin can set up the maximum number of hours that can be worked for the week. Once the limit is met, the team member will not be paid for any further time worked.
You can set up automatic payments or choose to do them manually.
I love this timesheet/payment feature. I know each time I log on how much time I’ve already worked and how much time I have left until I max out. Once I’ve completed my time for the week, I submit my timesheet, Nate approves it and I get paid. It was easy to set up payments as well since Hubstaff uses Paypal.
The main reason I use Hubstaff is so I can payout for the work done properly. The freelancer or employee is able to see exactly where they spent there time and exactly how much they will be paid so there are no surprises come payout time.
I did however have some headaches at first getting Hubstaff integrated with PayPal but that was due to PayPal, not Hubstaff.
App Integrations for Hubstaff
Although Nate and I have not integrated any apps yet, Hubstaff can work with other applications to increate productivity.
Two of my favorite productivity apps, Asana and Trello are on the integration list.
Hubstaff monitors team member activity. Once you understand that, you’re good to go.
Having a conversation with your team members before you ask/tell them that you’ll be using this software will go a long way to foster a god working relationship.
I don’t mind the monitoring or the screenshots. Nate hired me to do a job and this software helps me to stay on track and on-task. It also eliminates him having to wonder what I’m doing or working on during the time he’s paying me.
This function is great but I've only checked it once or twice to make sure it was working. I only work with people I trust so I don't see myself needing this feature beyond an employees first week of work just to ensure they are working on the right things.
What Hubstaff is Missing
Although Hubstaff covers a lot of ground with tracking and monitoring team member activities, it can do with some tweaking.
All the reports that I read in researching for this article, said that Hubstaff’s customer service was good, even if it’s a little slow. The biggest annoyance is that they don’t have a phone number dedicated to customer service. They use chat, their online support portal, and a ticketing system for support services.
They are based in Indiana, but their team is 100% remote. Maybe they don’t want the hassle of trying to coordinate timezones?
I haven’t had any issues, yet, that couldn’t be solved via one of their three support options.
Their support was prompt when I had issues syncing PayPal initially. Fortunately I haven't needed them beyond that!
Heading off Distraction
As I mentioned earlier, it’s very easy to get distracted during the time you should be working. Culprits like social media and attending to personal tasks can cause team members to veer off track.
Having a pop-up that asks you if you are still working on the current task can snap you back to reality.
Hubstaff does have an “Idle Timeout” feature that alerts you when you’ve been idle for 10 minutes or more. You have 3 choices of how to handle the warning:
- Keep it listed as idle time
- Continue or Stop work
- Re-assign idle time to a task
The Idle Timeout doesn’t automatically pop up, it waits until you’ve been idle and then when you move the mouse it prompts you. This can be managed better if it popped up at regular intervals.
My Overall Take on Hubstaff
I have thoroughly enjoyed working with and using Hubstaff. The only issue I’ve had is the frequent updates to the software that take forever (it seems) to download, install, and reset up. But it always seems to work better once the update is complete.
- The desktop application is lightweight and doesn’t interfere with other processes.
- Starting and stopping the timer is all I need to do to get paid.
- Tracking my time is super easy.
- Submitting my timesheet is fast and simple.
- Reliable and accurate
- Relatively affordable compared to other options
- Integrates with big name 3rd party software like Trello, Freshbooks and more.
- Easy to navigate from day #1
The only CON that I have at this moment is the frequent updates that take time away from actually working.
I see no issues with the software itself. The only area that may cause concern is the activity monitoring. This could dampen morale and give the sense that you don't trust your people. Fortunately, you can turn this off or turn the frequency down greatly if you'd like.