An accurate way to track employee hours is essential to so many different aspects of your business. If you’re not properly tracking hours worked, it can negatively impact everything from resource planning to project management to employee morale.
The best way to ensure your time tracking is accurate? IA clear time tracking policy, open communication with your team, and a great work hours tracker.
If you’re looking for time tracking software for your small business, you want to be sure you’re choosing the application that’s right for you—so you won’t end up seeking a better one a few months down the line.
Read on for our guide to work hours trackers as we dive into the benefits of app-based employee time tracking systems. We’ll go through time tracking tips along with some problems that often crop up, then explore some top work hours trackers that meet the needs of different kinds of teams.
What is a work hours tracker?
A work hours tracker, also called a time tracking app, is an application that lets you track how much time is being spent by your team on their work tasks. With an employee hours tracker, you can calculate regular and overtime pay for each team member to pay them correct wages, plus see the labor cost for each of your projects.
Why is it important to track employee hours?
Making the transition from manual time tracking to work hours tracker has many advantages, including less human error, less paperwork, simplified payroll, and easy tracking for both onsite and remote employees. When you know exactly how your employees are spending their time, you’re better equipped to improve employee productivity, enable accurate project planning, and optimize staffing costs.
Tracking employee hours allows you to:
- Say goodbye to time-consuming spreadsheets | Automated time tracking means that you and your team don’t need to spend valuable time maintaining and calculating timesheets. That’s more time for working, planning and communicating with teams.
- Accurately calculate payroll | If you have a team of hourly employees, you’ll need the exact hours worked to calculate payroll accurately. Without an accurate record, you risk making payroll errors, overlooking time theft, paying staff for unworked hours, and overspending on labor.
- Stay compliant with labor laws | By tracking your hourly employees’ time on a daily and weekly basis, your business will stay compliant with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Besides correct record-keeping, tracking time helps you stay compliant with other laws regarding paid time off, overtime, and wages.
- Improve project planning | When you’re not 100% sure how much your employees are working, it’s extremely challenging to plan for the future. Hourly tracking gives you the data you need to estimate how much time is needed to complete a project, making it much easier to cost out future projects.
- Improve the employer–employee relationship | Without tracking employee hours, you’ll need to rely on other measures to make sure work’s getting done, like regularly checking in on your team’s progress. This can lead to discipline issues and unnecessary problems with employee trust, breeding resentment when people feel micromanaged. However, when you’ve got good ol’ data to rely on, you know at a glance which team members can be trusted to work independently, and who need more supervision.
4 tips for how to track employee hours
There are several different ways that businesses can go about tracking their hours. The most basic, long-established ways of tracking employee time are:
- Manual time tracking (pen and paper)
- Manual timesheets (spreadsheets like Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets)
Although they can be time-consuming and will always be error prone, these manual methods of time tracking can be a good place to start if you have a very small team. But if you’re concerned about the best ways to keep track of hours worked, here are four time tracking best practices to consider:
Establish a clear time tracking policy
Make sure your employees know exactly what you want them to track each day. Should they only be tracking time in, time out, and breaks? Another approach is to have them track when they start and finish a task, or how much time they’re spending on a certain aspect of their job.
Your team members also need to know when you expect them to enter their time each week, along with how to make changes—and what the consequences will be if they don’t follow the policy. You’re in for much smoother sailing if you’re clear about your expectations.
Your employee welcome package is a great place to communicate your policy. If it changes over time, be sure to update everyone using a team communication app so everyone is aware of the new rules.
Communicate to your team why they need to track their hours
If you aren’t open about your reasons for tracking work hours, your team members might feel that they aren’t trusted. Even worse, they may worry they’re being penalized.
That’s why it’s important to explain to them the importance of time tracking at work. And, why a work hours tracker benefits them as much as it benefits you. Tracking time accurately helps your team get paid correctly and on time, and improves their time management skills and overall performance. You’ll avoid complaints down the road if you have honest conversations to answer questions and address any doubts they may be having.
Make clocking in and out easy
No matter what kind of time tracking system you have in place, it’s no good to you if your employees forget to use it. Especially if they’re being pulled into a hectic shift, it’s all too easy to get distracted and neglect to punch in.
A time clock app makes clocking in and out easier to remember. It’s a great tool for reminding employees when their shifts are about to begin, and it can even let you know if a team member is running late.
Use a work hours tracker
Hands down, a work hours tracker is the most effective way to make sure your employees’ hours are correctly recorded. Unlike manual solutions, you can be sure of quick, accurate time tracking every time, and benefit from the breakdown of your valuable time-tracking data.
Potential issues with work hours trackers
Before choosing a work hours tracker that’s right for you, let’s review the common speed bumps that small businesses encounter in their time tracking process.
The most common time clock issues at work are:
- Having inaccurate logs from using a paper system or a spreadsheet
- Not having a clear time tracking policy
- Not communicating often and clearly
- Not understanding the rules around on-call shifts
- Not taking the time to actually look through the time tracking entries
- Time theft issues: falsifying time cards, buddy punching, taking extended breaks, excessive social media usage, personal activities on company time
- Failing to monitor off-the-clock work: not compensating for work that happens before or after clocking in
These are all issues that a good work hours tracker will help you avoid. Make sure to bear them in mind as you begin your research.
What to look for in an employee hours tracker
Okay: we’ve covered the traps that businesses can fall into with employee time tracking. Now, let’s learn what to look for in a work hours tracker. As you settle on a time tracking app, you should consider factors like:
- Real-time tracking: Look for an app that lets you see what’s being worked on in real time. You can spot potential problems early, keep projects on track, and ensure your team’s focusing on the right tasks.
- Versatility: Avoid transferring data between different systems and risking errors. Instead, it’s best to start with an all-in-one platform like Homebase, especially if you’re new to automated time tracking. To help you simplify processes and improve efficiency, the best apps have features for messaging, hiring, and HR and compliance.
- Ease of use: Choose a tool that everyone on your team can get the hang of quickly. Your time tracking app should work well with the other software your team uses, like calendars and project management apps. An easy time tracker means fewer errors, lower training time, and less money lost.
- Integrations: You’ll save a lot of wasted time spent manually inputting data from one system to another if your time tracking software integrates with other popular apps. It should connect with the tools you use in your day-to-day operations, like your email system and your billing and payroll software.
- Scalability: As your business grows, your time tracking app should be able to handle more users and projects, saving you the trouble of needing to upgrade your system down the line.
5 best work hours trackers in 2024
Work hours trackers aren’t one-size-fits-all. Choosing the right time tracking app for your small business is all about finding the right match between the needs of your team and the tool’s functionality. If you have a specific challenge, you might choose a solution with a certain angle. Here’s a comprehensive list that’s sure to help you find the right work hours tracker for your small business.
Is employee productivity top of mind? TimeCamp is an employee time tracking app with a focus on improving overall team productivity. The free plan allows unlimited users, projects and tasks and includes basic time-tracking and reporting features. The downside? It doesn’t offer any billing or invoicing capabilities.
Are your team members always on the go? WorkLog is a time tracking app for mobile (Android) that accurately keeps track of hours worked and wages paid over your pay period. It’s a good solution for employees who are often on the move and need a mobile app to log their work time quickly.
Is simplicity the name of the game? Pulse is a job hours tracker for desktop, or in the web app in your favorite browser. Its minimalist features and clear, intuitive interface make it transparent and easy to use. It’s appealing for freelancers, small teams, and small businesses that need a straightforward time clock with time reporting to bill clients accurately for projects.
Is client management a top concern? Clockify is a cloud-based employee time tracking app that’s both budget-friendly and easy to use. The free plan for unlimited users includes basic timekeeping, reporting capabilities, and project and team management tools. It’s a great option for businesses that do a lot of tracking and billing of clients.
Looking for the strongest overall work tracking app for your small business? Budget-friendly and designed for hourly teams, Homebase offers a free time clock app plus robust features that any independent shop, restaurant, salon, or gym would need—including scheduling, payroll, and recruitment. Whether you have two employees or fifty, Homebase is your best all-in-one team management solution.
Homebase: the best work hours tracker for your team
When it comes to all the top features that small businesses need in a work hours tracker, Homebase has you covered.
The Homebase time clock works from anywhere, on almost any device, from tablets and smartphones to desktop computers to most POS devices, making it easy to track time for both onsite and remote employees.
Homebase’s free time tracking app lets you:
- Easily track employee hours, breaks, and overtime from a smartphone, tablet, or compatible POS device
- Automate accurate timesheets from employee clock-ins and outs with just a few clicks
- Avoid time theft with GPS-enabled time tracking. Verify locations, take pictures of employees when they arrive on-site, and assign PINs to each member of your team
- Send and receive notifications. Send shift alerts to employees, and receive late clock-in alerts when someone hasn’t turned up
- Send reminders when an employee forgets to clock out for the day or clock in after a break. And, get a notification if someone’s approaching overtime
- Automatically convert employee hours into timesheets for payroll
With Homebase, human error won’t throw a wrench in the accuracy of your payroll and record keeping. Small business owners tell us our time tracking app cuts the amount of time they spend on payroll by about 75%.
Making the switch is as easy as downloading the app. If you need any help making things work for your business, our customer support team is here to help.
Ready to start tracking your employee hours? You can’t go wrong with the Homebase suite of tools. Our platform makes it easy to manage scheduling, time clocks, payroll, team communication, hiring, onboarding, compliance, and more. Get started for free.
Work hours tracker FAQ
What's the best way to track employee hours?
The best way to track your employee hours accurately is to use a time tracking app like Homebase. Homebase and other online time tracking solutions greatly reduce human error and data entry errors while boosting employee productivity.
Along with choosing a good time tracking app, communicate a clear time tracking policy to your team so they understand how and when to enter their time, how to make changes, and what happens if they break the rules. To keep morale high, make the benefits of time tracking clear to your employees. Finally, make it easy to clock in and out: an app like Homebase reminds your team members when their shifts are about to start, and will even let you know if someone’s running late.
Is there a free employee hours tracker?
Yes, there are free employee hours trackers available. Homebase’s free app lets you track hours, breaks, and overtime from your computer, iOS or Android devices, or POS systems. At week’s end, you’ll have automated, accurate timesheets for payroll.
What's the best way to track employee time off?
The best way to track employee time off is with a time tracking software solution like Homebase. Automating your time tracking system also helps you stay compliant with labor laws regarding paid time off, overtime, and more.