Common time clock issues at work you want to avoid

It’s always nice to know we’re not alone in our struggles. When it comes to time clock issues at work, we can tell you right now that you’re not alone. There are common time clock mistakes that every business experiences.

But don’t worry: we aren’t going to leave you hanging. In this article, not only will we define time tracking, the benefits of time tracking, and the most common time clock problems, but we also tackle the 5 things you should look for in a time clock to solve those issues.

What is time tracking? 

Let’s start with the basics. What is time tracking? Time tracking is the process of tracking an employee’s hours at work so they can get paid for their time on the job.

There are so many different ways you can track an employee’s hours but let’s first dive into the benefits of tracking your employees’ hours accurately.

Benefits of time tracking employees accurately for your small business

When you have hourly employees, every minute counts. Literally: you pay for every minute your team is on the job. Having an accurate tracking system for hours worked will save you money, save you time, and help prevent disputes. 

But let’s spell out the benefits you’ll see when you start accurately time tracking your employees’ hours.

1. An increase in profitability

Let’s do some math. Let’s say an employee clocks in 5 minutes before they actually start working. Then they forget to clock out right after work and rack up another 5 minutes. And then, what if they forgot to clock back in right after break, and they add another 5 minutes to their total for the day? That’s 15 minutes a day. Sure, it doesn’t seem like a lot here and there. But multiply that by a couple employees a day, and a couple of days a week…? All of a sudden your profitability decreases by quite a bit, all thanks to 5 minutes here, and 5 minutes there.

Get control of time theft, both large and small. If you’re time tracking accurately, you can avoid these small errors that turn into big losses.

2. More employee accountability

Did you know that 16% of US employees admitted to buddy punching? Buddy punching is when one employee punches in for another. Employees can do this if they’re running a couple of minutes late, or want to duck out of work a couple of minutes early. Remember that math we did earlier? Again, a few minutes here and there adds up real quick. Buddy punching is estimated to cost employers at least $373 million dollars a year. 

If you’re time tracking with the right tools––like using a time clock app––you don’t have to worry about time theft or buddy punching.

3. More accurate payroll

Is there anything worse than a huge sigh of relief after completing payroll—but then an employee telling you their check is off? We think not. There are so many variables when it comes to payroll. Hours worked, breaks taken, overtime, paid time-off––any slight error can set off the delicate balance that is payroll.

Accurately tracking your employees’ time with all-in-one tools that immediately translate to timesheets and payroll can have you breathing easy––instead of into a paper bag.

4. Easier labor law compliance

This one’s a biggie. Accurately time tracking your employees’ hours keeps the Fair Labor Standards Act people away. And no offense, but they’re not people you want hanging around. 

There are two big ways time tracking’s a huge benefit for labor law compliance.

  1. If you don’t track your hourly employees accurately, you could miss those sneaky overtime hours. Those hours add up fast and they need to be paid appropriately or you could find the FSLA peeps knocking at your door.
  2. If you DO find the FSLA knocking at your door, you’re going to need impeccable records of those hours worked to help with the dispute. Using the right time tracking tools will make keeping records easy.

Using a time clock at work to track employee time

The easiest way to track time for your employees––and take advantage of those benefits mentioned above––is to use a time clock. A time clock is a device that records the time a team member clocks in and clocks out. 

The days of using a pen and paper to record when an employee shows up to work are over––or at least they should be. A big clunky mechanical machine that you feed a piece of card paper into is on its way out as well. There are so many new forms of digital time trackers that can be used as time clocks.

But no matter what time clock your business decides to choose, there are some universal time clock issues at work.

Common time clock issues at work

Let’s explore these time clock issues at work so you know where the speed bumps are before choosing a time clock that’s right for you.

Using a paper method as a time clock

Whether it’s a time tracking Excel template you found online, or a punch card in a mechanical machine, paper (which includes anything that’s not cloud-based) methods are a disaster waiting to happen. There’s way too much room for error using paper methods.

Have you ever had your doctor write you a prescription and you can’t make out a single word? This will be the case if you have your team writing down the time they arrived and left work. Now multiply that by however many employees you have. Trying to figure out if that number is a 1 or a 7 is an unnecessary obstacle. Not only does this lead to payroll errors, but it leads to extra hours squinting at the page and calling employees to ask questions.

Then you have to store all of those papers so you’ve got accurate records for the Fair Standard Labor Act. Papers that can go missing really easily. And, is that ink going to hold up over the years? We think not.

Lack of clear time tracking policies

If you want everyone to be on the same page––about anything in your business––you need a policy. It needs to be clear and accessible. This is doubly important when it comes to tracking time. Not having a clear policy can lead to time clock problems.

Here are some things you should include in your policy:

  • What hours they should clock: time of arrival, break time start and end, and time of departure
  • How to and what tool to use to clock in and out
  • Who’s in charge of converting hours into timesheets (unless you’ve got a system that does this automatically, like with Homebase)
  • Who your employees should report to if they made a time clock mistake
  • Any disciplinary measures that will take place if an employee repeatedly forgets to clock in or out
  • How and to whom to report if there’s a discrepancy with payroll

Any time you make a change to the policies, make sure to update staff. Time clock issues at work can occur most when changes happen and not everybody’s informed. 

Make sure that your onboarding package and training include all of your time tracking and time clock policies so you set employees up for success on day one.

Lack of communication with your team

In line with what we mentioned above, a lack of communication about common mistakes being made and changes to policies can lead to confusion.

Your communication with expectations for clocking in should be top notch. If someone’s not meeting expectations, let them know as soon as possible. The earlier you can intervene, the faster they can learn. That may mean a re-training of policy. You may also need to schedule a team meeting to go over how to use the time clock you have chosen and the common issues that have come up.

If the same issues keep coming up it may be time to evaluate your communication.

You want to make sure that you’ve done everything you can to help with time clock mistakes before executing disciplinary measures. 

Homebase offers a team communication tool that makes it easy to keep your team up-to-date on any policy changes or privately communicate with an employee who made an error. Big or small, Homebase helps you keep the lines of communication open.

Employees committing time theft

You don’t want to believe it about your own employees. We get it. But time theft’s a massive profit loss every year for small businesses. 49% of US employees admit to time theft and it costs employers $11 billion every single year. Those numbers are staggering. 

But what does time theft look like? The top 5 ways people commit time theft are:

  1. Falsifying time cards – They say they worked 40 hours when they only worked 35 hours
  2. Buddy punching – They get their friends to clock them in if they’re running late or want to leave work a bit early
  3. Taking extended breaks – If they get a 15 minute break, they stay off the floor for 25 minutes
  4. Social media usage – Technically they’re on the job, but they aren’t doing the job
  5. Personal activities on company time – Taking personal calls, running errands, online shopping––these are all ways that employees can commit time theft by doing personal activities on company time

Not reviewing the entries for compliance

Time theft isn’t only an employee’s responsibility. How would you even know someone was committing time theft if you weren’t reviewing entries for compliance? Taking the time to actually look through the time tracking entries will save your bottom line. Catching innocent mistakes––like a missed clock out––or intentional time theft can be fixed quickly and easily with regularly scheduled reviews.

Another quick note: these entry reviews can also catch unintentional overtime or someone nearing overtime.

Assign this task to a supervisor on shift if you want this done daily or to the person in charge of scheduling if you want it reviewed weekly. Either way, make sure it’s someone’s responsibility.

Not counting off-the-clock hours

Off-the-clock work is any work that happens outside of the hours that employees are officially clocked in. It may seem easy, but off-the-clock work can creep in just like time theft can.

Let’s take a retail shift as an example. If an employee shows up to work and their supervisor starts updating them on everything that happened before they arrived and then another employee asks them to just run these 5 pants to the back, all before they’ve clocked in, that’s off-the-clock. It may only be 5-10 minutes, but it’s illegal––and those 10 minutes can add up day over day, paycheck over paycheck.

Another off-the-clock example is when someone brings work home with them. If a supervisor in charge of scheduling takes the time-off requests home to finish the schedule, they’re working off-the-clock. And, again, it’s illegal. Hourly workers must be paid for all hours worked. Period.

Other tasks that should never be off-the-clock:

  • Prepping for a shift before doors open: like folding clothes for a clothing store before it opens for the day
  • Cleaning and arranging before or after a shift: think of a daycare that needs a strict cleaning protocol before kids can enter the space
  • Transporting equipment from a site, back to the workplace: a construction worker who needs a special tool from the office and must return it before the next day
  • Work tasks during an unpaid lunch break: think making roll-ups at a restaurant while on break
  • Answering work emails or calls while not on shift: a quick phone call to ask a question can turn into a 15-minute work conversation while not on duty

This can be a big time clock problem if your team’s working, but that time clock isn’t running.

Not understanding the rules around employees being on-call 

On-call shifts can easily become a grey area. When is the employee actually working? When are they officially off-duty? It’s murky because when an employee’s on-call, they typically aren’t actually clocking in.

Here are the general rules:

  • If an employee doesn’t have to be at the physical location of their job and can do as they please while on standby, you don’t need to count those hours as worked
  • If an employee’s expected to be at a particular place, at a specific time, or they’re not able to go about their daily tasks––even if they’re not doing work tasks––they may be owed money for that on-call time

Get really clear on the FSLA rules around on-call shifts to avoid making this time clock mistake. If you need extra help, Homebase has HR support to offer advice and guidance.

5 things to look for in a time tracking app to avoid time clock issues

Ok. We know the traps we can fall into with time clocks and time tracking. Let’s learn what to look for in a time tracking app to avoid them.

1. Automation saves you time and headaches

The more you can automate your processes, the less room for error. Find yourself a time clock that automates processes like clocking in and out with reminders, timesheet creation, and payroll submissions.

2. GPS keeps track of your employees so you don’t have to

If you run a business that has several job sites, a time clock with GPS is your best option. With GPS tracking, you can see when someone arrives on site, send them an automated message to clock in, only allow clock-ins when employees are in a specific location, and snap pictures of employees to verify locations.

3. Free is always nice

Depending on the size of your team––and the size of your budget––the cost of a time clock app is going to come into play. Homebase offers a free time clock app for 1 location and teams of up to 20 members. It may not solve human errors, but it does solve budget issues.

4. Keep it easy

If you’re going to try an entirely new clock-in system, you’re going to want to make sure it’s easy to integrate. An easy time clock means fewer errors, lower training time, less money lost.

5. Data you can see at a glance

Sometimes you need to see all of the data laid out in front of you. Who’s at work currently? Who clocked in late? Did someone miss their shift entirely? Who has time-off coming up? With all of this data in front of you, it’s less likely there will be errors for shift clock-ins. 

Homebase is the answer to your time clock issues at work

When it comes to features small businesses need in a time clock, Homebase is stacked.

  • Easily track employee hours, breaks, and overtime overtime from a smartphone, tablet, or compatible POS device.
  • Automate accurate timesheets from employee clock-ins and outs with the press of a couple of buttons.
  • Avoid time theft with GPS-enabled time tracking. You can verify locations, take pictures of employees when they arrive on-site, and assign PINs to each team member.
  • Send and receive notifications: shift alerts for employees and late clock-in alerts for you. Everyone’s always up-to-date.
  • 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.  Avoid those small labor cost creeps that can happen.
  • Make payroll as simple as can be by turning those hours clocked into timesheets and then into paychecks.

You can’t go wrong with the Homebase suite of tools.

Are you having time clock issues at work?

Homebase is the answer you are looking for. With free options, ease of use, GPS tracking, and real-time data, you can relieve your time clock woes. Get started for free today.

Time clock issues at work FAQS

What is time tracking?

Time tracking is the simple act of tracking when an employee starts work, goes on break, returns from break, and leaves work. There are many different ways to track employee time, but one of the best ways is with a digital time clock.

What is a time clock?

A time clock is a device that records the shifts, hours, breaks, and overtime an employee works. These devices can be mechanical or digital. Each business will need different features from a time clock so make sure to do your research before you choose.

What are the benefits of tracking time to my business?

There are many benefits to tracking time in your business. The most obvious are increasing profitability, keeping employees accountable, an accurate payroll, and complying with the law. In fact, if you’ve got hourly workers, you have to track their hours––otherwise, your admin tasks will be pandemonium.

What are the most common time clock issues at work?

The most common time clock issues at work are:

  • Having inaccurate logs from using a paper and pen or an Excel spreadsheet
  • Not having a clear time tracking policy
  • Not communicating often and clearly
  • Time theft and buddy punching
  • Not monitoring off-the-clock work
  • Not understanding the rules around on-call shifts
  • Not reviewing the time tracking entries

These time clock problems are incredibly common and you should never feel you’re alone in these struggles.

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