When choosing a time tracking tool, it’s important to understand the various types of tools available. Tools such as Mavenlink, Wrike, and Zoho Projects all feature robust time tracking tools for professional services companies. However, the time tracking elements in these programs are available only as part of larger project management (PM) suites. As a result, you’re paying a lot more money for things such as file storage, in-app chat, progress reports, and shift management. On the opposite end of the spectrum, you’ll find pure play time tracking tools such as Hubstaff (which begins at $5 per month per user) and our Editors’ Choice tool for time tracking, TSheets.
Pricing and Plans
Hubstaff is purpose-built to give you Big Brother-level oversight into when employees are working, what they are doing while they work, and what you need to pay them when the work is done. The Basic $5-per-month plan gives you access to simple time tracking tools, an employee payment schedule manager, 24/7 support, and user settings that can be managed on an employee-by-employee basis. Additionally, this plan lets you keep track of whether or not your employees are working by letting you record screenshots while they work, as well as keyboard and mouse activity volumes during shifts. Of the five tools we tested, Hubstaff is the only tool that offered this level of insight into how workers are progressing. Although keyboard and screen monitoring are useful (albeit over-reaching) features for a shift monitor, Hubstaff’s implementation leaves much to be desired (more on this later).
The $9-per-user-per-month Premium plan includes everything you’ll find in the Basic plan, but you’ll also get access to Hubstaff’s application programming interface (API) to integrate the tool with other third-party software. The Premium package also comes with a lightweight scheduling tool that gives administrators the power to assign shifts and delegate tasks from within the console. Premium customers can also use the tool to create invoices and make PayPal payments automatically. Customers that pay annually will receive two months free (for both price tiers).
Compared to TSheets, its closest competitor in our roundup, Hubstaff is reasonably priced, especially given the added monitoring features that are unavailable in competitive tools. TSheets offers a basic free account, as well as a $4-per-user-per-month account that charges a $16 base fee per month for teams with fewer than 100 users, and an $80 base fee per month for teams with more than 100 users. The base fee, which Hubstaff doesn’t charge, makes TSheets slightly more expensive than Hubstaff, even at Hubstaff’s Premium level.
If you’re more interested in those hulky PM solutions, then you’ll need to pony up a bit more cash. Mavenlink’s cheapest plan that includes time tracking costs $39 per user per month. Zoho’s cheapest time tracking plan is $25 per month for an unlimited number of users (which is a pretty solid deal if you need all of the extra PM features). Wrike’s cheapest time tracking plan costs $24.80 per user per month.
Interface and Features
Hubstaff’s user interface (UI) is designed with an attractive left-rail blue navigation bar that leaves plenty of room on the right-hand side of your screen for data entry and analysis. When you first log into the system, you’ll be taken to the main dashboard, which gives you an overview of how many hours your employees have worked that day and how many hours they’ve worked over the past seven days. You’ll also see a list of each member, their most recent tasks, and how active they’ve been over the past week. This is a solid data visualization that lets you immediately differentiate between workhorses and do-nothings, and it immediately calls to attention projects that are getting more than enough attention and projects that are being neglected.
There are two ways to add time in Hubstaff: You can build manual timesheets with past hours worked, or you can use the stopwatch feature on Hubstaff’s native desktop app. With the timesheet feature, you log your hours as you probably did with pen and paper during the analog era of time tracking. Essentially, you work your shift, you add time to your timesheet, and you sign off on it. This is a pretty standard method of tracking time. Unfortunately, because Hubstaff doesn’t let you add future time, you can’t use the platform as a shift planner. Administrators can let users manually edit previously submitted timesheets, and they can force users to require a reason to ensure they’re actually adding hours they worked. Admins can also set the system up to remind users to start tracking time if they haven’t clocked into the system in a while.
The second, and most frustrating, way of tracking time in Hubstaff is by using the stopwatch feature. In every solution we tested, this element is available within the confines of your web browser—every solution that is, except for Hubstaff. With Hubstaff, you’re required to download a native desktop application that lives within a separate window. In it, you can select your project, press Start, and your timer will begin counting. When you’re done, your activity and your screenshots will be sent to the main hub. The native app will take a photo at random intervals of up to three shots per hour depending on how often the admin wants to spy on workers. Screenshots can be partially blurred to not record sensitive information on every grab, but enough of the screen is left unsullied that you’ll still get a sense of whether the screen is on work-related or play-related content. This is an annoyingly complicated and convoluted way to manually track time, especially if you’re jumping from task to task throughout the day. Hubstaff must find a way to add the stopwatch and screengrab elements to the cloud-based architecture to simplify ease of use.
Tracking time in real-time on Hubstaff’s Android and iOS apps is exactly the same as it is on the desktop app. The mobile apps let admins monitor movements via GPS tracking. This gives you an overview of how much movement was done by your employee by capturing location data at different stages.
The Schedules tab lets you assign dates and times for employees to work. You can set a minimum number of hours to work, a lunch break duration, and you can make it a recurring shift. The tool’s reporting software is terribly basic: You’ll get access to weekly, daily, project, and member view reports as well as a “custom” report that lets you filter data from the aforementioned reports. When compared to the PM solutions in this class, Hubstaff’s reporting is downright embarrassing so, if your goal is to learn and evolve based on when and how your employees manage time, you’d be better off working with Zoho Projects, our Editors’ Choice for PM.
Admins receive notifications when they’ve reached weekly staffing and budget limits. Invoices are automatically calculated and created based on the time each employee worked, as well as his or her associated pay rate. You can set up automatic payroll through PayPal, which lets you automate payments based on time tracked within the tool. Keep in mind: Users don’t have to send time through for approval, so automatic payments will be made whether employees were right or wrong about the number of hours they worked. There is no reminder for managers to double-check each timesheet before automatic payments go out so, if you’re worried about making false payments, then you can set PayPal payments to manual.
Aside from its draconian screengrab and keystroke tracking, Hubstaff doesn’t do a very good job allowing for deeper shift oversight. For example, Hubstaff doesn’t allow advanced tracking. If you run a trucking company and you’re less concerned about how many hours a trucker drove than the distance driven, then there’s no way to manage that in Hubstaff. Users can add notes to an empty text field, but that data won’t be blended into reports. This means you can’t use it to learn about who is working, how they’re working, and what they’re producing (other than the number of hours tracked). TSheets not only gives you this option, it gives you the ability to create six additional customizable advanced tracking fields. You can also add a question for every clock-out (i.e., “Was there an incident? Yes. No.”) and the system forces the user to respond to the queries at the end of every shift or they won’t be able to clock out.
As hardcore as Hubstaff is about tracking work, the tool doesn’t allow for IP address restrictions, which means your employees can say they’re working from the office but they can actually be working from a cruise ship in the Bahamas (unless they’re using the mobile app to track time). This is a standard feature that’s available in almost every other tool we tested. Hubstaff also doesn’t enable admins to require users to snap a photo when they report to work. I suppose it’s overkill to make someone take a selfie right before you start recording their screen and monitoring their keystrokes, but TSheets lets you set this as a requirement (which makes sense, especially if you’re tracking tasks done outside of a computer, such as retail, construction, or entertainment work). The software also doesn’t let users clock in via a phone call, which is an element TSheets and other service providers make available for workers who don’t have a smartphone.
The Bottom Line
Hubstaff is an easy-to-administer, feature-rich, time tracking tool. If you’re diligent about monitoring employee behavior while on the clock, then there’s no better software available than Hubstaff. You’ll be able to log screenshots, track keystroke volume, and route movements via GPS tracking.
Unfortunately, if you’re looking for a platform that goes the extra mile to enable customization, atypical data entry, or a more advanced reporting structure, then Hubstaff won’t be right for you. Additionally, should you choose another system, your employees will thank you for not requiring them to download a secondary app for tracking time—especially when you consider that every other tool we reviewed makes this possible within the confines of their web-based UI.