How to track employee time effectively

If the prospect of inaccurate timekeeping, accidental time theft, and headache-inducing payroll runs aren’t enough to make you reconsider manual time tracking methods, then how about the likelihood of underpaid employees?

One short paycheck is easy enough to fix — simply edit your timesheets and submit a new check or direct deposit. But a series of insufficient paychecks could lead to the loss of a valued staff member or costly legal troubles.

That’s what you risk when you stick to conventional, error-prone time tracking methods. But don’t stress. We’re going to talk about how you can track employee time effectively and discuss:

  • How to choose the right time tracking method
  • How simple it is to track time with Homebase
  • The benefits of time tracking software

Choosing the best employee hour tracking method

Many business owners may find time clock apps and software helpful to streamline their time keeping processes, while others prefer manual approaches for their simplicity. Let’s look at a few different methods so you can decide which will best serve your small business.

Web-based time tracking software

Manual systems like spreadsheets and pen and paper seem straightforward, but they can easily lead to errors, instances of buddy punching, and inaccurate paychecks. Web-based time tracking software is designed to eliminate these issues in a few ways:

  • Employees can clock in and out from a computer with a secure PIN, preventing them from signing in for their teammates.
  • Once someone punches in, the time tracking system instantly logs their hours on their time cards, helping you avoid double-entry errors.
  • The system will notify you about timesheet discrepancies like missing breaks or unusually long or short shifts before you process employee checks.
  • Once you’ve reviewed the timesheets, you can export the data to third-party software. Or, if you use Homebase, you can run payroll directly from the timesheets dashboard.

Mobile time tracking apps

If you run a business like a restaurant, cafe, or shop, you probably get a lot of extra foot traffic at certain times of the day. That means employees won’t always have much time to access the nearest clock in station when they arrive during peak hours, which makes mobile time tracking apps especially useful.

Mobile time clock apps typically work together with a web-based platform to turn any team member’s mobile device into a clock in kiosk. Employees simply have to enter a unique PIN to start and end their shifts straight from their phones. And apps like Homebase also have GPS and geofencing capabilities that prevent staff from clocking in before they get to work.

Caption: Mobile time clock apps like Homebase make clock ins easier for those who arrive at work at peak hours.

Mobile time tracking apps are also effective because they reduce no-shows by sending team members reminders when their shifts are about to start. Plus, they make it easier for staff to coordinate shift swaps and submit time tracking requests, saving managers time and administrative work.

Biometric systems

Biometric time clocks use physical features like fingerprints, palm identification, iris scans, or facial recognition to verify an employee’s identity when they clock in. Although they may provide an extra layer of protection against time theft, they’re currently restricted or illegal in several states, prompting the question: Are biometric time clocks worth it?

Like other electronic systems, they can give you more precise timekeeping data. They also make buddy punching impossible, saving the money you might lose from stolen time.

But they also require employees to share their biometric data, which may feel like an invasion of privacy. And if that data is leaked, it could compromise their personal security for life. Additionally, people with disabilities or facial and body differences may not be able to use them, affecting the accessibility of your work environment.

Manual time cards

Small business owners appreciate manual time cards and spreadsheets because they’re straightforward and highly customizable. It doesn’t take very long to train employees to record their hours this way, and it shows that you trust them to be honest when logging their start and end times.

However, manual systems aren’t very efficient for running payroll. You have to be thorough when combing through each person’s time card and check it against their shift schedules to make sure they match. Additionally, you won’t have help with tracking breaks, personal time off (PTO), and overtime.

How to track employee time with Homebase

Web-based systems like Homebase aren’t just built to make time tracking accurate — they’re designed to make payroll and compliance simpler for small business owners. But before you start using them yourself, it’s best to learn about all the tasks they can help you with. Let’s walk through how Homebase works, step by step.

1. Set your work hours


Before you schedule any employee shifts and start tracking hours, set your work hours and establish parameters for overtime. It’s simple to start: Go to Settings on the sidebar and click Overtime. You can customize your overtime rules at the top of this page. And at the bottom, you can enter the desired day of the week and time you want staff schedules and shifts to begin.


2. Establish break and meal periods


Stay on the Settings page and go to Breaks & Compliance to establish breaks and meal periods. You’ll have the ability to customize:

  • How long breaks last
  • Whether breaks are paid or unpaid
  • How often they occur
  • Whether they’re mandatory or optional

Here, you can also define other rules for staff breaks. For example, you can award employees additional paid hours for missed breaks and subtract unpaid breaks from scheduled hours and wage forecasting.

3. Create employee schedules


Homebase makes scheduling team members simple with its interactive, intuitive schedule builder. Start by clicking on empty spaces across from an employee’s name and below the day of the week. Then, fill in:

  • Start and end times
  • Days of the week
  • Roles
  • Shift notes
  • A designated color (for easier readability)

Once your schedule’s complete, you can send it to staff by clicking Publish in the top right-hand corner. And to save yourself more time in the future, go to Tools and then Templates to name your current schedule and turn it into a recurring template to reuse later in the month or year.


4. Set up your chosen time tracking method

When you’re ready to start time tracking, go back to Settings and then Time Clock Options to establish parameters for clocking in and out. For example, you can create rules to round start and end times to the nearest five or 15-minute increments to make payroll calculations even easier.


You can also set up permissions on this page for a tablet or web time clock depending on which devices you want your employees to use.


And if you choose to turn on the mobile time clock option, you can click Enable Geofence to enter your address and select a radius of 150 feet, one block, or five blocks. By doing so, employees won’t be able to sign into work until they’re within your specified perimeter.


5. Train employees to clock in and out

If you’ve decided to give your staff the ability to clock in and out of work from their phones, you’ll have to train them how to do so to avoid any preventable mistakes.


Show each team member how to download the app, and once they have access to it, give them their unique PIN. If you go to Team and then Roster, you’ll find their PIN under their job details.

Once they have their PIN, ask them to do a practice clock in before their first shift so they don’t have to figure it out when they’re arriving at work and get overwhelmed.

6. Monitor breaks, estimated wages, and overtime


Once your employees have a handle on signing in and out of work with Homebase, you can monitor their estimated breaks, wages, tips, and overtime on the Timesheets page, allowing you to handle potential problems before they get out of hand. You can also add columns for tracking tip credits, PTO, and holiday pay, which will save you an extra step when it’s time to run payroll.

7. Review reports


If you visit the Reports page, you’ll find detailed charts to help you track trends and changes in attendance, labor costs, sales, and previous payroll runs. Not only can the Homebase reports feature help you with workforce planning and money management — it also makes performance management easier with on-time arrival statistics and graphs based on employee shift feedback.

8. Review and approve timesheets


Homebase’s timesheets tool is ideal for any small business owner who starts to panic around payday. It makes the process for reviewing and editing time tracking data straightforward: The platform automatically displays any time cards that need review at the top of the Timesheets page. You simply click on the time card, and that individual’s timesheet will pop up in the center of the screen for you to review, as seen in the image below.


So, for example, according to Jermaine Good’s time card above, he worked 11 minutes over schedule during this pay period. You can address this easily by messaging him to find out what might have happened. But he also missed two breaks, which you can either add or dismiss.

9. Process payroll


Once you’ve reviewed and edited your timesheets, Homebase also makes paying employees hassle-free with built-in payroll processing. Just stay on the Timesheets page and click Run Payroll in the top right corner to get started.


First, you’ll review PTO, sick leave, paid holiday, tips, and extra earnings data for every employee. You can input this data manually, but Homebase can also populate those fields if you choose to track that data on the timesheets page, sparing you extra data entry.


Click Next to make sure every team member’s gross wages and net pay are correct. Homebase also automatically deducts employee and company benefits from paychecks.


Finally, review and submit payroll to make sure your total payroll cost aligns with the totals from the previous page. And if you notice any errors at this point, you can always hit Save and Exit and go back to Timesheets to make the necessary adjustments.

The benefits of using an employee hour tracking system

Now that we’ve taken a detailed look at how Homebase’s system works, you have a better idea of how much flexibility and control time tracking software gives you. But here are a few other reasons why app-based time clocks make life easier than manual methods.

Improved productivity

When business owners find a more efficient way to manage their workload, they have more time to work on tasks and projects that help to move their business forward. And that’s what time tracking systems are designed to do: They save you hours you might otherwise spend reviewing employee timesheets one by one and transferring the data to your accounting system.

And with automatic reminders and alerts, app-based time clocks like Homebase also eliminate the need for team members to closely monitor their own hours just to avoid missed breaks and overtime. That way, they’ll be able to focus on the tasks at hand.

Reduced payroll errors

Payroll mistakes can result in employees being underpaid or overpaid — which can either lead to dissatisfied team members or losses in revenue.

But time tracking software removes the potential for error by cutting out the middleman and turning staff hours into timesheets complete with wages for you. Comprehensive platforms like Homebase can also flag time card discrepancies like missing breaks or irregular hours so you can make edits before running payroll.

Better decision-making

Detailed timekeeping data can make it easier for small businesses to plan for the future. How? By analyzing timesheets against staff member productivity, you can determine precisely how long it takes people to complete certain tasks or how much they can accomplish during a shift. And if you use Homebase, you’ll also have access to labor cost reports and sales data from your point of sale (POS) system, meaning you can make better long-term financial decisions, too.

Increased efficiency

A mobile time tracking system makes logging hours faster for team members. But it can also streamline internal processes for swapping shifts, updating availability, and requesting time off, reducing the need for time-consuming back-and-forth texting.

And if the platform comes with built-in payroll like Homebase, you’ll also save the time you’d otherwise spend transferring data to another platform or handling paychecks yourself.

Make better use of your time with Homebase

Now that you know how a time tracking platform like Homebase can help you streamline time tracking and stay compliant with labor laws, it’s time to start brainstorming how you’ll use your extra time and energy.

Maybe you’re ready to hire new team members, update your internal policies and procedures, or find creative ways to improve employee satisfaction.

Homebase can help with those things, too. We don’t just have tools for time tracking, scheduling, and payroll — we also offer hiring and onboarding, messaging, HR and compliance, and employee happiness features, giving you everything you need to manage your growing team and help your small business thrive.

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