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Interview with DeskTime project manager Toms Blodnieks

Track And Analyze Your Work Productivity With Desktime

Ditsa Keren

DeskTime is a real-time automatic time tracking software that tracks and analyzes your productivity by sorting the different applications that you or your employees use into the categories “productive”, “unproductive” or “neutral”. It runs quietly and unobtrusively in the background, requiring no user input. In this interview, DeskTime project manager Toms Blodnieks discusses time management in a post-COVID world, and offers a seamless solution to organizations working remotely.

Please describe the story behind the company: What sparked the idea, and how has it evolved so far?

It all started in 2011. Back then, DeskTime was part of a company that was running a social media platform here in Latvia. That company was growing rapidly and was recruiting a lot of new employees until eventually, they decided to split it into projects and became a group of companies, called the Draugiem Group. 

Draugiem Group’s brands work in many different fields, from print products and smart home solutions to strengthening friendships and providing wonderful gifts. But all of our brands share one thing in common – technology.

These new companies were growing and employees started to come in. The group owners saw the potential in giving employees the flexibility and freedom to work from home in their own time, but they needed something that will give a proof of work so that managers can see who’s coming to work and how they spend the time they get paid for. 

It’s never been our intention to be a micromanagement tool, but rather a time tracking tool and a productivity booster that shows employees what time they came into the office and how much time they spent working. They can watch their statistics and see how many hours they’ve worked. 

Originally, DeskTime was built for internal purposes. They gathered their in-house resources and developers to create this tool they used for the employees of the group companies. 

They quickly realized that many companies were facing the exact same issues around tracking the work time and productivity of employees and managing salaries and invoices accurately, so they decided to add DeskTime to their product offerings, and that’s how DeskTime was born. 

With DeskTime, you don’t have to fill Excel spreadsheets with hours you’ve worked or add comments about what you did. You don’t even have to remember to switch your time tracker on or off. Everything is tracked automatically for you. You can see how many hours you’ve worked and export reports to your manager or client on a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly basis.

At this moment, time tracking tools and time management tools are a huge trend. There’s enormous competition, but we were among the first companies who started doing this back 2010, so you can say we are pioneers in this field. 

What user types are available with DeskTime?

When you can create an account on DeskTime, you are the owner of the account, so you get all the admin privileges. Then, you can assign additional users in your account: 

  • A company admin, who would have the same access permissions that you do.
  • A user admin, who can manage a number of users or teams. 
  • The manager role can see everything employees or admins are doing, but cannot edit any details. 
  • The employee role, which has no permissions other than seeing their data, which they can use to monitor their performance at work.

Here’s a quick introduction to what DeskTime is all about:

What are some of the challenges that organizations and teams are facing these days, and how can DeskTime help?

We always ask new customers what are the issues they are looking to solve by using our time tracking and management tools. Typically, we’d get two types of answers. 

The first one is when a manager wants to monitor employees. We see this mostly in the Asian market, where employers often require more strict monitoring over what employees are doing, how they’re performing, and how they spend their time in the office by checking the statistics we offer. 

The other type of answer is that people want a productivity booster. We don’t want DeskTime to be used as a micromanagement tool but as a time tracking tool that helps employees to see where their time goes and boost their productivity.

These are two challenges employers are facing that lead them to try DeskTime. Either they don’t know how to monitor employees, or they don’t know how to boost employee productivity. We track and monitor all the information about employee productivity; the employees can access all the information and see what time they clocked in or out, how many hours they’ve worked, what their level of productivity was, and how they performed against their teammates. DeskTime automates all of this information and the employees can continue to work as usual. 

Now that a lot of organizations are moving towards work from home, what would be your tips for making this transition easier?

My best advice is to just take it easy. The situation is not much different than it was before, you just moved your location from the office to your home. If the situation was easier, then you might be traveling around the world and working anywhere you want. The most important thing that we can suggest, as a time tracking and management tool, is to not overdo it. Just work as you did before. Take regular, frequent breaks and don’t work overtime. Manage your day the same way you did before. If you worked from eight to five, keep working from eight to five. 

If you want to change your working hours, DeskTime can help you manage your day so you can, for example, work in the morning, take a break in the middle of the day, and work some more in the evening. If your employers accept that and you can manage it, then DeskTime will help you to work the hours you need and tell you when it’s time to eat lunch and, most importantly, don’t work overtime because it will affect your productivity.

DeskTime also shows an effectiveness calculation which is strictly tied with your work schedule. If you have an 8-hour working day, we don’t suggest that you work the entire day on the computer. You need to rest. Our suggested effectiveness percentage is around 85-90%, which is very good.

What do you do with the data that you collect?

We frequently quote the statistics we collect in our blog posts. One example is our annual blog post about shopping during work time. Every year, when Black Friday and Cyber Monday come, we check and publish the annual statistics of employee shopping during the work hours, and how they change, year by year. 

We also publish interesting stats around how people work, how many hours do they work, what affects their productivity, etc. We do a lot of internal tests and we compare them with the data that we see on DeskTime. We watch how companies from different countries perform and we make rankings based on that. We often quote our data, but we don’t see any specific company data, just general data about countries, timings, and percentages.

Which technologies or trends do you find to be particularly interesting these days around your field of work?

The first thing that comes to my mind is Zoom and other video conferencing tools which have grown immensely these past six months. They’ve really helped people to manage the “new normal”. It’s very interesting to see how all conferences, meetings, interviews, everything moved online. You can be at your home or office and participate everywhere. No one had ever imagined they could fit in so many conferences because it’s not always possible to fly everywhere, but now everything is online and you can join anything you want. 

The other thing is online courses. If you have time, you can learn so many things. All online courses are discounted and there are so many now. Universities are offering online courses so you can study at any university. This is very interesting and very useful for those who want to make use of it.

How do you envision the future of your industry?

Whatever the situation in the world might be, I hope that all those companies who tried our time management tools and time tracking tools will continue to use them because they will understand that this is a helpful tool in your everyday life, whatever the situation is. 

If you’re still working in an office, you can still perform flexible hours. You can still allow employees to work from any location they want. Either way, time management is a crucial part of the business. You can plan and monitor projects, calculate and estimate the project cost and timing compared to previous projects, and see exactly how many hours of work they took, as well as other factors like how many hours per day were spent on planned tasks, and how many hours were spent on unplanned tasks that delayed your projects. 

These are the things you can see when you track time. You cannot possibly remember or write all of that down on paper. DeskTime is tracked automatically. You can take a look at the numbers and you can summarize that. I hope that this will continue growing and managers and business owners will understand how useful it is. It’s also very important that they use it the correct way and rather than micromanage employees, they will use it to empower employees and boost their productivity. It’s widely known that when the employees are happy the business is growing and when the employees are not happy the business will not be growing and you will not succeed, so it’s very important to make employees happy so they know what they do and they have flexibility and freedom. DeskTime helps bridge that with all the data it provides for employees and managers so they can sleep well and trust their employees.

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