5 ways to track employee hours

Tracking employee hours, and doing it accurately, is essential to all aspects of your business. Without a proper time tracking system in place, small mistakes can easily lead to bigger issues like payroll error, time theft, noncompliance with labor laws, and problems with employee morale. There are many ways to track employee hours, each with their pros and cons, and it’s a matter of finding what works best for your business. 

Generally, the best way to ensure your time tracking is accurate is with a clear time tracking policy, open communication with your team, and an app for tracking employee hours. Making the transition from manual time tracking to an online solution has many advantages, including less human error, easy tracking for onsite and remote employees, simplified payroll, and way less paperwork. 

Why is tracking employee hours important?

Accurately tracking employee hours affects all aspects of your business, from budgeting and scheduling to how you spend your day. Without a proper time tracking program in place, it’s easy to lose sight of which hourly employees did what and for how long. This can lead to issues like payroll errors, violating labor laws, and time sheet fraud. 

If you’re not tracking employee hours properly, it can also have a negative impact on things like resource planning, project management, and employee morale. When you’re not 100% sure how much your employees are working, it’s tough to plan for the future. It can also lead to issues with employee discipline and trust. 

5 ways to keep track of employee hours

There are a few ways you can track your employees’ hours, some easier and some more reliable than others. Let’s look at five different time tracking systems and how they might affect your business. 

1. Old-school time tracking with punch cards

Punch cards are one of the oldest and most popular forms of manual time tracking. With this method, each employee has a card that they punch every time they start and stop working. At the end of the week, you can total up the hours for each employee and see how much work was done. 

While punch cards are simple and inexpensive, they’re susceptible to human error—whether intentional or unintentional. When you’re adding up hours by hand, it’s easy to make mistakes. You could wind up miscalculating pay or making errors when you file your taxes.

It’s also easy for employees to deliberately falsify their hours by shift, clocking in early, or buddy punching. Plus, punch cards only show you paid breaks and time worked during the day, they don’t give you any insight into what was done or the quality of work.

2. Manual timesheets

Another basic time tracking method is manual timesheets. If you’re not digital, it’s likely your employees have a piece of paper where they record the time they started their shift and the time they finished work. At the end of the week, you total up the hours and run your payroll. 

Like punch cards, timesheets are also highly susceptible to human error. You’re bound to make mistakes doing manual math and it’s simple for employees to add a little time to each of their shifts. Additionally, manual timesheets don’t automatically track overtime and breaks, so you’re at greater risk of violating state and local labor laws.

3. Time tracking app

Time tracking apps don’t just let you know when an employee’s present at work. They also tell you how much time employees spend on a particular task or project. 

Time tracking apps help you visualize how time is spent in your business and where it may be leaking. For example, your time tracking app might show you that your floor clerks spend two hours every day responding to customer emails. This tells you that you should consider a dedicated communications person. 

Time tracking apps help you plan, schedule, and budget more efficiently because you have a big picture view of where your employees’ time goes.

4. GPS clock-in

GPS clock-in, also known as a mobile time clock are mobile apps that let business owners and employees who travel to different work locations clock in using a mobile device. GPS time clocks work by setting a radius around the location where employees are supposed to clock in and start working. The GPS time clock app (like Homebase’s time clock) will then track remote employees’ devices to ensure they’re clocking in at the right place.

If you’ve got employees working at satellite locations, this can also help. Think about a landscaper who works in different places each day. A GPS clock saves employees the hassle of having to clock in at headquarters before going to their work location. Any staff member with access to a phone and an internet connection can clock in and out directly from their job site. 

GPS clocks have benefits for managers, too. It increases the accuracy of your timekeeping because you can see whether or not employees are clocking in at the right time and place. Since GPS clock alerts you if your employees clock in early, you keep your labor costs in check, too.  

5. Time clock app

A time clock app is a web-based alternative to mechanical punch clocks or paper timesheets. Time clock apps let employees clock in and out of their shifts from a computer or an app on their mobile devices. No paper required, just internet access.  

Using an online solution, like Homebase’s time clock app, means you can keep more accurate records of employee hours. You can even prevent employees from clocking in for their late or absent coworkers, which is also known as buddy punching. Our free time tracking app also automatically converts employee hours into timesheets for payroll and and even calculates overtime

We even track breaks and let you know when overtime is approaching for individual employees. You’ll save hours on data entry and greatly reduce the chance of human error.

Platforms like Homebase also save time and attendance data in cloud storage for up to four years, helping you stay compliant with Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) legal requirements.

Did you know? Nearly 75% of small businesses in the U.S. experience time theft, when a team member is paid for employee hours they didn’t work.

Tips for accurately keeping track of employee hours

Create a clear time tracking policy

Let your employees know what you want them to track each day, and be specific. Are you only tracking time in, time out, and breaks? Do you want them to track when they start and finish a task, or how long they spend on a particular aspect of their job? 

You should also let employees know when you expect them to enter their time for the week, if and how they can make changes, and what happens if they don’t follow the policy. When you’re clear about expectations upfront, you’re set up for smooth sailing.

Communicate everything to your team when they first start in their employee welcome package. When you make any changes, publicly share any updates via a team communication app so there’s no excuse for not knowing the rules.

Let employees know why they need to track their hours

If you aren’t transparent about your reasons for time tracking, your team might feel they’re being penalized, or worse, that you don’t trust them. 

Make it clear to your team that you’re tracking their hours for good reason. Tracking employee hours will make their work lives easier, ensure they get paid on time, decrease the chances of getting an incorrect paycheck, and more. And for you? It’ll simplify your payroll and administrative tasks, too.

Make it easy to clock in and out

It’s no good having a time tracking system in place if your team members forget to punch in and out. It’s easy to get distracted, especially if their shift starts at a busy time of day. 

An app like time clock makes it easy to remember. Homebase reminds your employees when their shifts are about to start and it will even let you know if someone’s running late so you can check in with them.  

Use time tracking software

The smartest way to ensure your employees’ hours are accurate is to use an online time tracking system. With a paper-free solution, you don’t have to worry about the challenges that come with manual time tracking. You can have an accurate, compliant, and easy time tracking experience every time. 

The benefits of using an app for time tracking

Paper time sheets or punch cards may be an easy low-cost way to track employee hours, but they have some pretty serious disadvantages. Manual time tracking is time consuming for both you and your employees, especially when you have to contend with a stack of physical timesheets at the start of payroll each month. Using paper has some other shortcomings as well.

  • It’s easy to lose or damage. Let’s face it: it’s a lot easier to reset an employee package than it is to replace a lost punch card and remember what was on it. Physical timesheets and punch cards are easy to lose or they can be damaged, which can lead to incomplete records. You’re also not likely to have backup copies, so if they go missing, it’s impossible to regain that information.
  • It’s tough for remote work. Manual time tracking also makes it difficult to track remote workers. Sharing paper timesheets or punch cards between locations without losing them is tough. Without them, there’s no way to know if they’re accurate. It’s also easy for remote workers to misreport their time when you’re relying on a sheet of paper and don’t have other oversight. Use a GPS time clock to avoid this issue even with remote workers.
  • It’s easy to make mistakes. Most importantly, manual time tracking is highly susceptible to human error. Your employees may make mistakes when they’re filling out their time. And vice-versa, you’re just as likely to make mistakes adding it all up. This can lead to payroll errors, issues filing your taxes, trouble with employee morale, and more. 

Homebase time tracking

There are huge advantages to using an app for time tracking, like Homebase time clock. As an online solution, Homebase time clock works from anywhere, making it easy to track time for onsite or remote employees. 

Time clock works on almost any device, from tablets and smartphones to the computer in your office and most POS devices. It’s easy to track hours, breaks, overtime, and paid time off—and there’s absolutely no paper required. Features like GPS time tracking ensure hours are accurate, prevent time theft, and make it easier to manage remote teams.

The Homebase free time tracking app also automatically converts employee hours into timesheets for payroll. It’ll even track breaks and let you know when overtime is approaching for individual employees. There’s no more double entry and human error won’t get in the way of accurate 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%. 

Is your business struggling with tracking employee hours? Homebase can help. Our modern tools make it easy to manage scheduling, time clocks, payroll, team communication, hiring, onboarding, compliance, and more. Get started for free.

How to track employee hours FAQS 

How do I track employee hours accurately?

The best way to track your employee hours accurately is by using a time tracking app. Online time tracking solutions greatly reduce human error, so you and your employees are less likely to make simple data entry errors. 

You can also do a few things to ensure accuracy when you’re tracking employee time. Lay out a clear policy so your employees know exactly what they should be tracking on a daily basis. They should understand how and when to enter their time, how to make changes, and what happens if they break the rules.

You should also be very clear about why you’re tracking employee hours. If you’re not upfront about why you’re tracking everyone’s time, it can cause problems. Your team might feel like they’re being punished or that you don’t trust them. Instead of just surprising them with the tracking, make the benefits clear. Tracking employee hours makes their work lives easier, ensures they get paid on time, decreases the chances of getting an incorrect paycheck, and more.  

Finally, make it easy to clock in and out. It’s easy to get distracted, especially at the start of a busy shift. An app like Time Clock reminds your employees when their shifts are about to start and will even let you know if someone’s running late.

Should I use an app to track my employee hours?

Yes, you should use an app to track your employee hours. Manual time tracking solutions, like paper timesheets and punch cards, are simple and low cost, but they come with quite a few disadvantages. They’re prone to human error, lost or damaged records make payroll extra difficult, and they make time theft more probable. It’s easier for employees to misreport their hours when they’re tracking their time on paper. 

Using an app to track your employee hours makes things much easier. Employees can track their time from any device, making it simpler for remote teams. And because there’s no paper involved, you and your team will make fewer mistakes. Time tracking apps also connect to your payroll program, automatically converting hours into timesheets for payroll. Say goodbye to time-consuming double entry and issues with compliance. 

Are there free time clock apps?

Yes, there are free time clock apps available. Homebase time clock is a free app. It allows you to track hours, breaks, and overtime from your computer, iOS or Android devices, or POS systems. At the end of each week, you’ll have automated, accurate timesheets. With Homebase time clock you can also verify clock-in locations, snap photos, and assign PINs to avoid time theft and buddy punching. Remote workers? No problem. GPS time tracking makes it simple to manage your remote teams. 

How do I switch from manual time tracking to using an app for time tracking?

Making the switch from manual time tracking to using an app for time tracking is one of the best decisions you can make for your company. Start by thoroughly researching your time tracking app options. Then, find one that works best for your business and your budget. 

Once you’ve chosen the right app, it’s important to get all your employees on board with the new system. Have a team meeting, or speak to everyone individually about the changes and how things will work going forward. Be honest about why you’re making the switch and how it will benefit your employees and the business. You should also have a clear time tracking policy so everyone knows the rules.

Homebase time clock is completely free and 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. 

Related posts

Effortlessly schedule and track your team's time with Homebase.
Try our basic plan free, forever.
Try Homebase for free