Every business needs some form of time and attendance tracking. It’s the cornerstone of all payroll activity and can even provide insight into how your team works and what you can do to help them get better.
In recent years, though, many teams have changed from doing the majority of their work together in the office to doing the majority of their work on their own in different locations (even other countries).
That shift has made time and attendance tracking more difficult for everyone involved. But it doesn’t have to be that way. With the right tools in place, tracking when your employees work has never been easier.
In this article, we discuss the various methods for tracking time and attendance and give you tips for making your system the best it can be.
Time And Attendance Tracking Methods
1) Sign-In/Sign-Out Sheets
The most basic method of tracking time and attendance is the sign-in/sign-out sheet.
As simple as they are, sign-in/sign-out sheets bring with them a whole host of problems, including:
- It’s very easy for employees to make mistakes (e.g., forgetting to sign their name or failing to enter the time they arrived)
- Signing in takes time (causing delays for large groups of employees trying to access a single sheet at the same time)
- The sign-in/sign-out sheet is not secure in any way (meaning it’s very easy for employees to “fudge” their numbers)
For these reasons, the use of sign-in/sign-out sheets has largely diminished. Some businesses, though, may still find them useful in certain circumstances.
2) Manual Time Clocks
Manual time clocks replaced the sign-in/sign-out sheet in the last few years of the 19th century as a more efficient — and less error-prone — method of time and attendance tracking.
They’ve remained popular for almost 135 years because they’re more difficult to forge than sign-in/sign-out sheets, and the only issues that come up are:
- Forgetting to punch in/punch out
- Printing the time on the wrong line
- Having a friend punch in or punch out for you
- Delays moving a large number of people past a single station
Manual time clocks do such an effective job tracking time and attendance that many automated, software-based systems still make use of them in one form or another.
3) Software Time Clocks
As computers grew more and more common in businesses of all types and sizes, software time clocks grew in popularity.
Though some software timesheets still use a single sign-in/sign-out station, like the manual variety mentioned in the previous section, other options have the ability to transform any computer into a clock terminal.
This type of computer-based solution reduced the number of errors (and the ability to forge time) because everything was digital — the only mistake that an employee could make was forgetting to sign in and out.
Software time clocks are also more secure because, in many instances, they incorporate a unique PIN number, fingerprint, or even a retinal scan into the process to ensure that the correct employee is starting or leaving work.
4) Mobile Time And Attendance Trackers
Mobile time and attendance trackers are the most recent and, many would argue, the most effective method for recording a variety of workday and time-on-task data.
Mobile work hour tracker apps can be used both in and out of the office to record total time worked and time spent on one (or multiple) projects.
Some of these apps are even replacing the software time clock as the go-to choice for time and attendance tracking in industries of all types.
More and more businesses are choosing this solution because the apps themselves are relatively simple to operate; can be accessed on any smartphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop; and can be linked to other software to provide a variety of extra features.
Tips For Effective Time And Attendance Tracking
1) Abide By All Laws
One of the most important tips for effective time and attendance tracking is to make sure your business is abiding by all of the laws that apply to your industry.
The rules and regulations laid out by local, state, and federal authorities provide a basic framework for how your tracking system should and shouldn’t operate.
To make sure that your business is in full compliance with these laws, consult an attorney who is familiar with labor laws in your industry and your location.
2) Define Important Terms
To make everything as clear as possible, define important terms in your employee handbook.
Include terms like:
- Start time
- End time
- Excused absence
- Unexcused absence
The more understandable you make the vocabulary the better. When your team is clear on exactly what each term means, there will be less chance for confusion and fewer difficulties along the way.
3) Simplify The Procedure For Employees
An overly complicated time and attendance tracking procedure will cause problems for your team. It’s either going to feel like a speed bump in the workflow, or it’s going to aggravate employees and lower their job satisfaction.
Modern tools, such as Inch, help you keep the employee time-tracking side of things as simple as possible so that your team can focus on efficiency, productivity, and quality in their job rather than how long it’s going to take to operate the software.
4) Document The Process
However you choose to structure your time and attendance tracking system, it’s essential that you document the process that all team members must follow when signing in or out.
Post specific instructions (i.e., how to use the equipment) at the clock-in/clock-out site so employees don’t always have to rely on their memory.
Then, publish more general information about the entire process in your employee handbook so team members can access it whenever they need it.
5) Record The Right Information
Another key aspect of effective time and attendance tracking is recording the right information. Most systems collect at least two fundamental pieces of data: start and end time. Your business, though, may also need employees to track breaks and lunches during the workday.
Does your business need more information than that? Does it need to go even deeper than start/stop time, breaks, and lunch to track time on task for specific jobs?
If so, tracking software, like Inch, can make the whole process easier and more accessible for everyone involved.
6) Make Time And Attendance Tracking Available Anywhere
The best time and attendance tracking solutions prioritize mobility and are accessible anywhere there’s an internet, Wi-Fi, or cellular connection.
The Inch app, for example, makes this possible — and easy — because everything is based in the cloud. All your team needs is internet access and a Windows, Android, or iOS/macOS device.
That’s mobility and accessibility for the new way businesses work in the 21st century.
7) Implement Automation
Modern mobile time and attendance tracking apps offer many features that can make the whole process much easier. Chief among those features is automation.
With Inch, for example, you can:
- Set wages by employee or position
- See how much each shift will cost
- Forecast and optimize labor costs while you schedule
- Stay on budget
- Avoid potential overtime
- View labor as a percentage of sales
- Create payroll reports that give you insight into how your business is running
Once you’ve set the automation, the app takes care of the rest, leaving you and your team more time to focus on getting things done.
8) Train Your Team
Another factor to consider when implementing (or modifying) a time and attendance tracking system is how you’re going to provide training for your team.
Everyone who uses the system will need to be trained to operate the hardware and software and will need at least a basic understanding of how and why it all works.
Give them as much information as possible — including hands-on practice — so that they feel as comfortable and confident as possible with the clock-in/clock-out process.
9) Save All Of Your Records
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires that all businesses keep time and attendance tracking data for a minimum of two years.
This applies to any records on which your business based wage computations, including:
- Time cards
- Work schedules
- Time schedules
- Benefits information
The federal government also requires that businesses keep any payroll records that result from the time and attendance tracking data — typically for more than two years.
Visit the Department of Labor’s website for more details.
10) Analyze Data
While many managers only focus on time and attendance tracking as it relates to payroll, there’s much more to those numbers than you might at first expect.
Take the time to analyze the data periodically to uncover new ways to manage your team and optimize the way they work.
Streamline Time And Attendance Tracking
The best way to make time and attendance tracking easy is with cloud-based workforce management tools, such as Inch.
The Inch app is available anywhere, anytime, and on any device your team might use. Such versatility and flexibility make tracking the activities of in-office teams, distributed teams, remote teams, field service teams (and everything in between) easier than ever before.
And employee time tracking is just the start of what Inch has to offer. You also get other robust features, such as:
For more free resources to help you manage your business better, organize and schedule your team, and track and calculate labor costs, visit TryInch.com today.