An employee clocking in using Namely's time-tracking software.

5 Ways to Track Employee Hours

Where does the time go? When it comes to managing HR and payroll, losing track of time is never a good thing. Accurately recording employee hours consistently ranks as one of the most stubborn compliance changes companies face.

Thankfully, there’s more than one way to get the job done. New software and technology has relegated the old punch clock to the dustbin, providing employers with options better-tailored to their workforce.

From paper timesheets to biometric time clocks, we’ll dive into the ways that employers are managing hours today.

Paper Timesheets

Pros: Requires little to no training.
Cons: Impossible to verify, time-consuming, and can’t be imported into payroll.
Convenience: ★☆☆☆

Businesses without time tracking software may opt to record employee hours the old-fashioned way, with pen and paper. Unfortunately, that approach has serious drawbacks, like malicious compliance. A member of your team will have to manually input employee hours into payroll, an error-prone process that can result in under or over-payment. If you’re growing, the amount of time needed to process payroll will only grow exponentially.

Another drawback of using paper is that the lack of timestamp information makes hours impossible to verify for compliance purposes. That means payroll administrators are reliant on the honor system for arguably the diciest wage and hour issue of all: overtime. Try explaining that one to the Department of Labor if they come knocking.

Desktop Tracking

Pros: Easily integrates with your HRIS and payroll system.
Cons: Depending on the configuration, employees may be able to input hours in advance or retroactively.
Convenience: ★★★☆

It’s time to retire the pen and paper. Cloud-based software make it possible for employees to securely log their hours even when they’re working from home or away from the office. Most solutions should also integrate with your payroll system, saving administrators hours of data entry.

The best software goes further than just allowing users to punch in or approve hours. Managers will be able to spot runaway overtime before it becomes an issue, review employee schedules, and even generate custom reports.

Mobile Apps

Pros: Can be used by employees any time, anywhere.
Cons: Not all time trackers are iOS and Android compatible.
Convenience: ★★★★

Whether they’re hourly or salaried, today’s workers are seldom tied to one place. Being able to punch in and out from a mobile device is often a must for traveling employees. As an additional perk, many apps make it possible for supervisors to approve hours as well. That means fewer payroll processing day scrambles due to managers leaving the office before approving timesheets.

If you’re considering mobile time tracking software, be sure that it can work with all devices. You can learn more about Namely’s Android and iOS mobile app here.

Physical Time Clocks (PIN or ID Cards)

Pros: Convenient for blue collar industries.
Cons: “Buddy punching” is a potential issue.
Convenience: ★★★☆

Physical time clocks are popular in industries like manufacturing and construction, where employees don’t typically have access to a computer. In these applications, it makes sense to keep a time clock in a central location that employees can easily access.

All this said, this approach does have some drawbacks. Employees running late can simply provide their PIN to a colleague to enter, a tactic called “buddy punching.” Similarly, using a system where employees clock in with an ID card poses challenges as well. Employees may forget or misplace their ID cards, which means you’ll need to be able to provide replacements at a moment’s notice. This can be partially avoided by having employees turn in ID cards at the end of their shifts.  

Biometric Time Clocks

Pros: Ease of use, the most secure way to confirm an employee’s identity.
Cons: May potentially spread germs.
Convenience: ★★★★

Imagine punching into a shift with nothing more than just your fingerprint. No, this isn’t the future. Biometric time clocks have been around for years and offer employees a quick way to log their time—and businesses a foolproof way to verify it. Some time clocks will even take a photo of employees as they “swipe in,” providing an additional layer of security.

There’s one downside to using this method to clock in and out. Some argue that the need to physically touch the device isn’t sanitary, but one Purdue University study found that biometric devices were no dirtier than the typical doorknob.

None of the methods described above are one-size-fits-all. While desktop solutions may work for office environments, for example, they might not be suited for the factory floor. Carefully evaluate your options and determine what actually makes sense for your workforce.

You know the drill: time is money. When it comes to processing payroll, that adage really rings true. Click here to see how all-in-one HR software, when paired with time tracking, can save you both.

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