Clocking In And Out: Best Practices

computer to clock in work

Clocking in and out at work is an integral part of how your business functions every day.

Without accurate records of who worked when and on what, a sizable portion of your operation — everything from payroll to invoicing to strategic planning to day-to-day team management — would eventually grind to a halt.

And, while work hour tracking is essentially just a matter of writing down start and end times, there are ways to make it more efficient, productive, and easier to manage.

In this article, we discuss some of those best practices that can help improve the way you and your team conduct the clocking in and out activity.

Clocking In And Out At Work: Best Practices

Looking at watch to clock in work

1) Obey All Timekeeping Laws

Whether you’re building a brand new system for clocking in and out at work or revamping an old one, one of the first things to do is make sure your business is obeying all local, state, and federal timekeeping laws.

At the federal level, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) sets guidelines for things such as:

All businesses in the United States must comply with these laws. But most states also have their own time-tracking laws.

Then, to complicate matters even more, timekeeping laws often differ from city to city and industry to industry.

To avoid running afoul of these regulations, it’s essential that you talk to an attorney who is well-versed in both labor law and the industry in which your business operates.

2) Customize The Process According To Your Needs

Not all time tracking systems are exactly the same.

You can customize many of the variables that make up the inner workings of your process to accommodate the way your business operates — both in the short term and in the long term.

Two of the most important variables to consider are time format and rounding rules.

Time Format

The time format you choose for your clocking in and out process may not seem all that important, but it can make things easier or harder later on in the payroll and recordkeeping parts of your business.

In this case, you have two options:

  • Standard format (a.k.a. 12-hour format)
  • Military format (a.k.a. 24-hour format)

Standard format is the most familiar — because it’s how the majority of the workforce reads their clocks — but is often the least useful for tracking employee work time for two crucial reasons:

  • It starts over every 12 hours
  • It relies on a time-of-day indicator (i.e., a.m. and p.m.)

For example, if Nancy works from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., her total hours (10) are not immediately obvious, and you’re going to have to do some thinking to figure out the final number.

The other format you can choose often makes this calculation a bit easier.

Military format is the least familiar to a large portion of the workforce but is the most useful for tracking employee work time for two crucial reasons:

  • It starts over every 24 hours
  • It doesn’t rely on a time-of-day indicator

Here’s how military time works:

  • Hours from midnight to noon are displayed just like the standard format (e.g., 8:15, 10:30, 11:45, etc.)
  • Hours from noon to midnight are displayed by adding hours to twelve (e.g., 3:20 p.m. would be 12 + 3:20, or 15:20 in military format)

This format makes it simpler to calculate total work hours at the end of the day.

For example, if Nancy works from 08:00 (military format) to 18:00, calculating total time on the job is easier because all you have to do is subtract 8 from 18 — Nancy worked 10 hours.


If you allow team members to record small fractions (e.g., eight hours and 17 minutes) when clocking in and out at work, the payroll calculations that follow closely behind are going to be extremely difficult.

To avoid this issue, the federal government allows businesses to round up or down to the nearest 10 or 15 minutes.

For example, if your business chooses to track employee hours in 10-minute increments, 07:01, 07:02, 07:03, and 07:04 (military format) would round down to 07:00 for tracking, payroll, and record-keeping purposes. 07:05, 07:06, 070:07, and 07:09 would round up to 07:10.

If, on the other hand, your business chooses to track employee hours in 15-minute increments, any time between 07:01 and 07:07.59 rounds down to 07:00, while any time between 07:08 and 07:14.59 rounds up to 07:15.

If rounding wasn’t allowed and your business had to accommodate all numbers between one and 60, the calculations for payroll and other business metrics would be extremely tedious and unnecessarily complicated.

Take advantage of the 10- and 15-minute rounding laws to make your job easier.

3) Keep The System Simple

Timeclock machine

Once you’ve settled on the inner workings of your clocking in and out process, do your best to keep the rest of the system as simple as possible — both for employees and managers alike.


With an efficient system in place, clocking in and out should only take a few seconds to complete.

Anything more than 10 or 15 seconds, and you’re throwing a speed bump into the workflow.

Examine the system you have in mind before rolling it out, practice it yourself, and, if the process is too complicated, overhaul it to make it simpler and quicker to execute.


For managers, it’s less about the speed with which they execute the clocking in and out process itself and more about the speed with which they can work with the data they need to get their job done.

A simple system will allow your managers and HR personnel to analyze and manipulate all the data as quickly, easily, and intuitively as possible in order to streamline many of the other complicated processes, such as payroll, invoicing, and team management.

4) Prevent Time Theft

Time theft is accepting wages for time not actually spent on the job.

The theft can be deliberate, accidental, or just negligent, but, regardless of how it occurs, the loss of time and money may have a negative effect on the way your business is able to operate.

Depending on the system you have in place, there may be no way to actually prevent time theft from occurring, but you can make it a serious offense — punishable by loss of pay, suspension, and even termination — in order to deter the practice.

If you have a digital time tracking system, consider incorporating biometrics to make it harder for your employees to claim they worked periods of time that they actually didn’t.

5) Automate As Much As Possible

Modern time tracking technology, such as Inch, can automate much of the clocking in and out process with built-in features that allow you to do a good portion of the work right there at the recording terminal, including:

  • Approving or denying overtime
  • Adhering to labor budgets
  • Applying wages by employee or position worked
  • Tracking location
  • Restricting when and where employees can clock in or out (with geofencing)

With this type of automation in place, your business will be better positioned to keep employee time tracking as simple and as efficient for everyone involved

Choose The Right System For Clocking In And Out At Work

clock in work with inch

Choosing the right system for clocking in and out at work is essential for the success of your business.

So many other parts of your business depend on those numbers that it would be counterproductive to create a system that didn’t integrate well with them.

Instead, choose an all-in-one solution to track employee hours that also offers advanced features, such as scheduling, task management, attendance reporting, payroll capabilities, communication features, and much more.

What is that solution? The Inch app.

We built Inch with the express purpose of simplifying and streamlining every aspect of your employee management activities — from time tracking to task management to team communication and beyond.

Inch also makes it possible for your employees to clock in and out right from their mobile devices so they don’t have to come into the office before heading back out into the field.

Inch can even help you keep track of their team by notifying you when an employee is running late or forgets to clock in.

Take your clocking in and out best practices to the next level with the Inch suite of team management tools.

For more free resources to help you manage your business better, organize and schedule your team, and track and calculate labor costs, visit today.

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