Clocking In & Clocking Out: Make It Easy on Your Employees

If you’ve got hourly employees, you’re going to need a system for clocking in and out that’s easy and feels like second nature to your employees. And let’s be real: anything that would make your life easier would be a bonus too.

In this article, we’re going to learn all things clocking in and out––like systems and types of time clocks––but mostly how to make it easier on your employees to track their time at work. Plus, we’ll go into what system will save you time and money on those sneaky administrative tasks.

Let’s get started.

What Does Clocking In and Clocking Out Mean?

Clocking in and out is the most accurate way for employees to track the hours that they work, log their shifts, and calculate overtime. It’s also how managers and small business owners track payroll and wages, manage attendance, and keep accurate records for Fair Labor Standards Act purposes.

When an employee clocks in and out using a time clock (more on that soon), it keeps track of the time they arrive at work, the amount of hours they worked, when they took their breaks, and when they leave work. This record is beneficial to both the employee and the employer in case of any disputes that may come up. 

Take the margin of error out of it and make clocking in and out easy with the right time clock and time tracking method for your business.

What is a Clocking in & Clocking Out System for Employees?

So how do employees actually clock in and out? Well, with a system. A clocking in and out system for employees will be the system by which you actually track employees’ time on the job. They’ll use this system at the beginning of their work day and at the end of their work day. Ideally, this system is digitized so that you get all of the time stamps and hours worked sent directly to you for easy payroll.

If you go digital––an upgrade from old school with paper timesheets––your time tracking system for clocking in and out can have lots of different features. Timecards, digital timesheets, and GPS location tracking are all great features to look for. Even without the (totally useful and time-saving) bells and whistles, the most important feature to look for is a time clock feature that helps you with payroll.

What is a Time Clock?

A time clock is simply a device that records start and end times for hourly employees. When you’re instituting a clocking in and out system, you’re going to want a time clock that’s reliable and easy to use for everyone.

Gone are the days of mechanical time clocks with paper slips that make that really cool sound when you punch them. Ok, not gone gone. But fewer and fewer workplaces are using them. We have better options now.

Four Types of Time Clocks

Each business type is going to need a time clock that works best for their particular needs. A restaurant will need a different clocking in and out system than, say, a landscaping crew. A daycare’s time tracking system will be different than a coffee shop’s.

Let’s take a look at some of the types of time clocks that make time tracking easier for both employees and employers. ‘Easy’ is the name of the game here.

1. A Mobile Time Clock App With GPS Tracking

A mobile app time clock with GPS tracking can help employers keep track of their employees once they’re on site. This can be very important when you’ve got a business where employees are traveling between locations.

Let’s say you run all of the food sites in an amusement park. You’ve got staff that rotate between food locations to help cover breaks, supervisors who are in charge of replenishing stock when items run out, and floating staff for when certain sites get busy. Gets complicated fast, right? Not with GPS tracking.

If you use a team communication tool with this type of time clock, you can let your pizza shop employees know that you’ve got a team member on their way to help with the rush––and they’re only 10 minutes away.

2. A Time Tracking Time Clock on a Mobile Device

If your business has the internet and a mobile device, you can use a time tracking time clock app. They’re all the rage these days because they’re inexpensive––if not free––and easy to use. You download the software onto an iPad or communal computer and every employee who walks through the door uses the same device to sign in.

Everybody gets their own PIN––in an effort to avoid buddy punching––and they type in the code when they arrive at work and when they leave work.

This is a great option for retail stores that have back rooms where everyone needs to head when they arrive at work. That way when they arrive to put their jackets and bags away, they have to walk past the clock-in area. 

These time clock apps can be a huge benefit for employees. Oftentimes––like with the time clock that Homebase offers––you can link it directly to payroll and turn those punches into timesheets.

3. A Time Clock Kiosk

If you aren’t keen on using your company devices for clocking in and out, many time clock app developers offer physical kiosk systems to go along with the app. This device would live in one place––let’s say a manager’s office––where everyone would check in. 

If you run a business where you need your employees to check in with a manager before they start their shift, this could be the best choice for you.

4. A Biometric Time Clock

This is the fanciest of fancy time clocks. Do you know how in spy movies they do retinal scans to enter their spy buildings? That’s biometric. This time clock either scans your fingerprint, your iris, your whole face, or your whole hand to identify you and clock you in for your shift.

These time clocks definitely aren’t for most small businesses. But if you run a shop within an airport or a government building, you may have access to a biometric time clock. The use of this time clock can be a huge benefit for businesses that have sensitive data that only employees should have access to.

Benefits of Using a Time Clock With Hourly Employees for Clocking In and Out

Even if you consider yourself a pen and paper person and reject all things technical, we know that using a time clock with your hourly employees for clocking in and out will save you so many late nights just trying to make the math add up.

These are some key benefits to using a time clock up.

1. Minimizes Record-Keeping Errors

Clocking in and out as a form of record-keeping has massive benefits for employers. The Fair Labor Standards Act stipulates that you have to have impeccable records in case of a dispute with an employee over hours worked. If you’ve digitized every single time an employee has clocked in or out, then turned those clock-ins into timesheets and payroll, you’re going to have definitive records.

2. Saves Time, Money, and Headaches

Instead of manually inputting every time an employee walks in or out your door collate all of that data into paychecks with the press of just a couple of buttons. A good time clock software will increase accuracy in timesheets and reduce errors in payroll. It’ll also reduce the amount of hours you’re spending every single month on payroll––or the wages you would normally pay someone to do it. That’s time and money saved.

3. Helps to Prevent Buddy Punching

Time theft is a real problem for small businesses. Buddy punching is one of the ways employers find their employees are cheating the system. If an employee was running late, they could just get a buddy to punch them in and their boss was none the wiser. Helpful for the employee? Sure. Expensive for you? You bet. A time clock app helps you reduce the overhead of time theft. 

Did you know? An online time clock like Homebase can take a photo of the employee and provide unique pin codes, eliminating buddy punching and saving you money.

4. Gives You a Real-Time View of Your Team’s Hours

Sometimes you just need to check in with where your team is at in terms of hours for the week. Maybe you’re making a decision about adding some team members to a busy Friday night shift at your restaurant, or maybe you’ve got an employee who called in sick at your cafe and need to schedule someone to replace them. A time clock can give you an overview of where everyone’s at for hours that week so you don’t accidentally send someone into overtime hours.

How to Make Clocking in and Out Easy for Your Hourly Employees

Even though it’s relatively easy to time clock sign in, there’s always human error. Our brains are full of the little things from our everyday lives. We can forget to clock in. Even though it’s a pain, it’s an easy mistake to make.

But what happens when an employee consistently forgets to clock in and out? What do you do? 

Have a clear written policy for clocking in and out 

The clearer you can make your expectations of your employees when it comes to tracking their time by clocking in and out, the easier it’ll be on them. Set those expectations upfront—literally. When you onboard a new employee, include this policy in their welcome packet. 

Here’s a list of things you should include in your policy.

  • How to clock in and out
  • What situations would involve clocking in and out––like lunchbreaks
  • Who to report to if they make a time clock mistake
  • Disciplinary actions for not following procedure or failing to clock in and out
  • Disciplinary actions for those who are caught committing time theft

You can use Homebase to help you distribute your time tracking policy to all employees, view whether they’ve read it, and get them to e-sign it––all in one place.

One last thing. Don’t forget to send the doc to employees and ask for a signature every time you make a change. 

The simplest things can have the biggest impact

Have you ever heard of Occam’s razor? Basically, it’s the idea that if you’ve got two possibilities, go with the simplest one. So, yes, you can set up elaborate systems to ensure your employees are remembering to clock in and out, but have you ever thought of just adding a big sign? And all it needs to say is, ‘Don’t forget to clock in and out!’ The simplest solution can have the biggest impact. You can make the sign huge, you can make it funny, you can make it colourful, you can change it every week so it doesn’t fade into the background.

Use what you’ve got to help remind your employees to clock in and out

Everyone carries a phone. You can help make clocking in second nature for your employees if you suggest they set a phone reminder or alarm when the schedule comes out. If they can easily set those reminders ahead of time, it’ll help them when they’re distracted by seeing their coworkers, the shift updates for the day, and making their coffee to get through the night. This can be especially useful if your time clock is a digital app because they’ill already have their phone in hand.

Use creative ways to encourage your employees to take clocking in and out seriously

It’s not always fun, but you may need to implement some disciplinary measures if employees are consistently forgetting to clock in and out. It can start with a verbal warning and then escalate to a written warning kept in their file. Touch wood that’s as far as you’ll need to go.

Important note: It’s illegal to dock an employee’s pay if they forget to clock in or out. Remind all managers and supervisors that this can’t be a disciplinary method.

But let’s think outside of the box. Instead of focusing on discipline, how can you gamify clocking in and out? Positive reinforcement has a much longer lasting impact than negative consequences. So, how can you make clocking in and out fun?

  • Remember those attendance awards at school? Make an award for the employee who never forgets to clock in and out. It could be a silly, plastic, gold trophy with their name on it or a medal. Make it fun!
  • Draw a monthly gift certificate from all the employees who clocked in and out consistently. It doesn’t have to be big, but even a $10 gift certificate to a local coffee shop can go a long way.
  • Acknowledge and offer a small reward to the ‘most improved’ employee who’s made a consistent effort to improve their time tracking.

Small acknowledgements go a long way and can help make clocking and out fun.

Education is key

Teaching your employees how to use the actual time clock you choose is important, but equally important is teaching why time tracking is important. If you can stress how accuracy with their time tracking is beneficial to them, you may see fewer and fewer mistakes.

Explain to them that having accurate records of their hours worked means that if they ever need to dispute their paycheck, there’s a record of every moment on the floor. On the other hand, if they miss a punch and their paycheck is off because it didn’t get caught straight away, they’ll have to wait for that pay adjustment until their next paycheck. Payroll adjustments take time!

The easiest time clock = makes things easiest on your employees

If you want to make clocking in and out easy for your hourly employees, then picking the easiest time clock for your business needs is going to have the biggest impact. Want to know what we think the best time clock is? Drum roll, please… A mobile time clock app with geofencing. You set a parameter in your time clock app and the moment an employee crosses the ‘fence’, they’re clocked in. The moment they leave that ‘fence’, they’re clocked out. No need to remember at all.

It’s easily accessible in this digital age and can connect to other great tools like scheduling and payroll, automating many admin steps, saving you time and money.

Why you should choose Homebase for your clocking in and out system for your employees

Homebase—in our humble opinion—is the best mobile time clock app for a variety of small businesses.

Run a small business with a small team? Great! Homebase offers basic time tracking and scheduling for one location with a team of up to 20 employees completely free of charge. You can build a weekly schedule, clock in on mobile devices, and store timesheets for up to 90 days. Keeping that overhead down is a huge advantage.

Run a construction business or a business with employees who travel between locations? We’ve got you covered! With our Essentials package, we offer GPS-enabled time tracking. Know exactly when your employees have arrived on site and when they’re on the go. You can verify clock-in locations, take pictures of employees when they clock in, and assign PINs.

Run a business with lots of employees and several locations with tricky scheduling and payroll? We make managing admin tasks for big teams easy. With our Plus package, your time clock links to scheduling and payroll, you can send reminders for upcoming shifts, and you can manage PTO and time off requests. Save yourself time and money on admin.

Whatever system you choose to clock in and out, take your time observing what needs fixing in your current system and research options that solve those exact problems. Asking for feedback from your employees on why they find it hard to remember to clock in and out could be helpful as well.

Hopefully, we’ve given you lots to think about and some reasons to choose Homebase for your clocking in and out needs.

Are your employees struggling with clocking in and out?

The time clock by Homebase offers an easy solution with its ability to track hours, breaks, and overtime and turn them into timesheets and its GPS-enabled time tracking. Get started for free today.

Clocking in and out FAQs

What is clocking in and out?

When an employee clocks in and out, it keeps a record of their working hours. It can be done through manual methods like a pen and paper on a timesheet, a mechanical time clock where it ‘punches’ a piece of paper, or digital time clocks like a time clock app. 

Why do employees need to clock in and out?

Not only does clocking in and out keep track of the hours employees are at work but it tracks their breaks, any overtime, the number of shifts they work, and it keeps a record of all of this in case of a dispute. This protects both employees and employers, making it a great option.

What is a time clock app?

A time clock is a device that actually records the clocking in and out. A time clock app is exactly what it sounds like. An app is a digital version of a time clock that can be used on mobile devices. A time clock app can be on a communal device or on the employees’ personal device. Each employee receives an individual PIN to log in or a picture can be taken at clock in to avoid time theft.

How do you make clocking in and out second nature for your employees?

The simplest way to make clocking in and out easier is to get a time clock that works best for your particular business. There are other smaller things––like making a sign and setting reminders––and bigger things like creating a policy that needs to be signed as an acknowledgement of receipt. But one of the best things you can do? Ask your employees what would make it easier for them.

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