DEV Community

Cover image for Do you agree with intrusive time tracking software?

Posted on

Do you agree with intrusive time tracking software?

I've started my developer career as a remote worker in a remote-only company, I thought it was great and that in this way I would have had a generally happier life (more free time, flexible time schedule and so on).

I was wrong.

I understand the usage of time tracking apps, but I guess there is a limit.

Our current software (HubStaff) is set to track EVERYTHING on my PC. I don't know if this is the industry standard for small companies (less than 10 employees), but having my desktop screenshot every x minute, all my browser activity logged and having a statistic for combined mouse/keyboard usage (with mail alerts when the daily avarage is under 50%) kinda feels like is too much and makes me feel anxious.

Should I just get used to this or it's actually an extreme case?

Top comments (17)

lepinekong profile image
lepinekong • Edited

This is bad management practice : Edwards Deming Management Guru (who taught Japanese after WWII Quality and Productivity Management) say that Management by Fear is counterproductive as people will try to cheat the system instead of concentrating on their job ;)

I think in the future this is going to be a mounting risk to be widespread so developers beware...

Though I understand companies want to do so because there are employees who would be lazy there should be better ways, I am thinking about them.

cartinez profile image

Yes, that's why agree with time tracking apps if they actually just track the time spent. If in 4 hours there are no commits or actual results to represent the time spent "working", that would be an indicator of unproductivity.

I would immediately try looking for an other opportuinity but my salary doesn't allow me to take a time off for now. We'll see how it will go.

I would also try to confront my manager/CTO with the issue, but I'm afraid they'll just think I'm the "lazy employee" who wants to waste time on job time.

themobiledev profile image
Chris McKay

I personally don't like commits being used as a metric. Right now, my team is working on a fairly large project and frequently, we don't commit until the very end of the day (or maybe even the next day). That's mostly because we're spending a lot of time writing, rewriting and discarding our code. Someone could see that as unproductive, but we're learning a bunch of new technologies as we work.

alexisfinn profile image

don't bother confronting your manager, if they're already this far down the rabbit hole, they'll undoubtedly just hear whatever they want to hear. All you're going to accomplish is increasing your blood pressure.

Tracking work time doesn't really make much sense in programming as it's generally a result obligation. So you don't want to track work-time, you want to track jobs done.

A good analogy is if you bring your car in for repair, and he says it'll be done by tomorrow and cost 200$, so you're paying to get your car repaired by tomorrow for 200$ and he must deliver on that, whether it takes him 5 minutes and he slacks off all the rest of the time or whether he spends all-night repairing your car, you don't care as long as he delivers on what was promised.

joeattardi profile image
Joe Attardi

Wow. IMO that's way too intrusive. Time to look for a new job. I would never want to work for a company that trusts its employees so little!

sandordargo profile image
Sandor Dargo

To me (also a remote worker), it's definitely an extreme.

sargalias profile image
Spyros Argalias

It's as you said. It makes you feel anxious. If you feel anxious, that doesn't sound healthy. That's the only answer you need. But yeah, it sounds extreme.

What to do about it depends on your confidence and experience.

One option is to completely disregard the program and do your work as normal. Just pretend it doesn't exist. If a manager brings it up, direct them instead to your performance. Mention that you do good work, you complete stories on time, etc. Also explain that you're in meetings often, that programming requires a lot of thought, etc. In other words the metrics from the program don't correlate with your performance. Although, depending on how much the company values those metrics, this could put your job at risk.

If you're not as confident about disregarding the program. Then another option is to discuss it with your manager. Mention things like "you performed well 2 days ago but had an issue that required a lot of thought, etc. so you got a warning email. Is this something that you should worry about or can you just ignore it?"

The solution that requires the least confidence, and can even make you look best in your company's eyes, is to game the system. In my experience, this is the one that most people go for. This means to artificially change your actions to please the program. Not the most ethical, but the easiest. And frankly, it's naive to incentivise metrics and expect (most) people not to dedicate themselves to those metrics above all else.

Finally, the last solution, which requires the most confidence, is to talk with your managers about the metrics. This is only if you genuinely believe that the metrics affect the workplace negatively. You would have to make a good case for why the metrics are bad and how the company would be better without them, perhaps by focusing on different metrics instead. So, this is a tough one. It may also paint you in a bad light if management doesn't welcome feedback and suggestions from employees.

Pick one based on how much difficulty vs ethics you're ready for :). In the worst case, you may just need to get used to it.

andrewdcato profile image
Andrew Cato

Honestly? This is absolutely insane.

Were I you, I'd start looking for a gig somewhere else. If your management team has this little trust in its employees, they're collectively too far gone.

cartinez profile image

There are many more things that makes me think about leaving. But I can't give up my income and where I live it's difficult to find an other job without a degree.

alexisfinn profile image

Sometimes sadly you just need to grit your teeth for a while until you find something better. My advice in that case is : don't let it get to you, don't let their problems become your problems otherwise you'll slowly start loosing confidence and self-esteem, as well as starting to hate your work.

Remember you spend most of your life at work, if that makes your life an unhappy one then what's the point of having money at all.. (I mean being happy should be the point of pretty much everything we do shouldn't it ?)

bearevans profile image
Bear Evans

This sounds straight up dystopian. I would never install this on any device the company didn't give me, and wouldn't want to work for a company that used this as a metric. It is clearly being put forth by some management person who has no idea how the process of programming actually works.

I'd jump ship to a company that treats me like a trained professional and not a factory worker.

alexisfinn profile image

One question: If they have so little faith and trust in you, why did they hire you ? This is horrible management practice, it destroys any semblance of trust between you and your manager.
I would understand the principle if it was a huge corporation where some top honcho somewhere feels he needs to put a number on everything, but in a small business ? You only have ~ 10 employees and yet you feel you can't trust them to get the job done ? If I were you I'd start looking elsewhere.

asmyshlyaev177 profile image

All of my career and personal achievements was done in situation with zero pressure and zero stress, i even didn't have formal tasks or any external motivation.

Time tracking implements an assumption that employees stupid and lazy by default, so need to constantly micromanage them.
It all come from Taylorism or "scientific management", intended to be used for factory workers that mindlessly do 1-2 simple operations whole day long.
It's horribly wrong for software development or any complex/creative work.

Can read

My advice - update CV and start look for a better job.

uclusion profile image
David Israel

I don't understand how the software is supposed to make you work. I get that it can make sure you are not at the beach or coding a side project on their laptop (which would be foolish anyway) but that seems about the extent of it.

At the end of the day doesn't someone have to check your committed code to see if you doing something anyway?

Anyway I don't see that this has much to do with remote or not. With this style of management there would have been something similar if you were in the office. Nor do they need sophisticated time tracking to pull this off - I've seen managers do the same thing with Slack presence.

jschleigher profile image
James Schleigher

In your case, it is extreme. The purpose of time tracking is to keep track of the time spent and improve what we can if needed. In our team, we just use time tracking to track the time, and my team can also choose the Pomodoro technique if they want. We collaborate using task management software with a time tracking feature like Trello and Quire.

kammillotos profile image
kammillotos • Edited

Quite interesting post. In my opinion not always but in general yes. For remote teams it can be quite useful. For example I work in IT company and we use application from for time tracking. It is automated tool to monitor team productivity and performance, for remote workers I think it is a must.

c_v_ya profile image

That's not only about tracking time. It's about tracking activity which, for me, just not acceptable. There was a discussion about tracking tools with lots of great thoughts.

And if I were you I'd do two things. First - just forget about that tracking tool. Do the work, commit code, close tasks. If it says you're only 30% productive - let that be it. If a manger comes and says you should work better - talk to them. "Didn't I finish my tasks on time? Did I let the project down? Is everything working as expected?". If the answer is along the lines of "you did great, but we need that percentages" - well, they know nothing about management. And that's when I'd do the second thing - update CV, contact HRs, and change the job in the end.

Also you need to shift your mindset from "I can't find a job {for some reasons}" to "I can do that". E.g. I didn't think I could make 2x what I was making on my previous job (both programming, same role). But when I started to think of it as "Why not, I can at least ask for more" - it happened. And it was so easy I even think I should've ask 3x more šŸ˜…

So, do the thing you do and if that doesn't work out change the mindset and go for the better workplace. Good luck!