RescueTime uses crowdsourcing methods to categorize which activities are productive and which aren't. End users designate how productive or unproductive a certain Web site is, for instance, and when enough people consistently assign the same ranking, RescueTime begins to apply that ranking by default.
Today RescueTime offers both a free version of its software for individual use and a paid version that includes more detailed reporting. For instance, instead of simply reporting that someone spent two hours using Microsoft Word, the paid version will also track which documents that person used. Other features built into the paid version include alerting, goal-setting, and the ability to block distracting applications or Web sites for a period of time.
Corporate RescueTime users can track their time and productivity individually and as part of a group. "We built the ability for people to see how they're doing compared to members of their team or, depending on their security levels, how they're doing against the average of their team," RescueTime's Hruska says.
An employee on a 10-person team might notice he is spending 50% more time on social networking and unproductive tasks than the average team member. Obviously, a manager may notice this trend too, and strongly suggest the employee dial back the habit.
Hruska sees RescueTime as an alternative to simply blocking access to recreational Web sites and applications. It gives employees some control over their time, while still making it clear there should be a cap on unproductive activities.
"Numerous studies have shown that allowing some amount of leisure surfing during a workday actually increases productivity," Hruskra says, "so why not just manage how much time people spend doing that?"
While employees may resent feeling spied upon, both RWave and RescueTime see their software as benefitting employees, who can use it to demonstrate how much work they're accomplishing. The vendors have also worked to give end users some control over how the software runs.
With RWorks, a desktop dashboard lets users indicate if they're working, in a meeting, on the phone, or on personal time. "The person is nominating whether they're working or not," Redmond says. "If they click that they're on personal time, we absolutely stop tracking everything they're doing."