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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 importance of tracking time and attendance, various tracking methods, and how the new hybrid work model impacts tracking systems. We’ll also give you tips for making your system the best it can be.
It may go without saying, but tracking employees’ time and attendance is crucial for a business. As we mentioned, it’s the backbone of payroll because you have to record accurate time in order to pay your employees the correct amount.
Without proper systems, payroll may not get done promptly, which can cause disgruntled employees. Furthermore, compliance with labor laws relies on proper tracking so that any required payments (e.g., overtime) are applied correctly.
Productivity is also positively affected by efficient time and attendance management. Understanding how long various tasks take allows resources to be allocated correctly.
In addition, keeping a good record of employee work hours allows managers to get a big-picture understanding of an individual’s performance with regard to unexpected absences and overtime.
Even employees benefit from the tracking process because management gets more visibility into their strengths and weaknesses, identifying opportunities for retraining or promotion.
In all, a careful analysis of time and attendance alongside other business data can show patterns and correlations that can help direct business decisions.
Now that we’ve looked at the importance of time and attendance tracking, let’s turn our attention to the different methods.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
Whatever tracking method you choose for your business, make sure it gathers the correct information from your employees and makes the whole process as frictionless as possible.
With this in mind, we’ve laid out a few tips to consider as you set your time and attendance tracking strategy.
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.
To make everything as clear as possible, define important terms in your employee handbook.
Include terms like:
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.
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.
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.
As we’ve mentioned, 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 may also need employees to track breaks and lunches.
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?
For billable work that gets directly charged to a client, tracking time on task is essential. But even beyond billable work, it may be important for your business to understand not just the overall time spent at work but the time various duties take.
This information can be used to determine a task’s cost and benefit by correlating the time spent to the work output of employees. By using this information, you may discover opportunities to support employees where they need it or even shift responsibilities between employees.
The downside of adding more granular tracking information in your time and attendance is that it might feel burdensome for your employees and create a higher level of stress.
If you do need this additional time on task insight, tracking software, like Inch, can make the whole process easier and more accessible for everyone involved.
When adopting a time and attendance tracking system, you want to be transparent with your employees about what information you’re collecting and why it’s important.
If employees don’t understand the importance of the information you are tracking (especially information beyond the basic time and attendance), the system could end up reducing employee morale due to them feeling micromanaged.
Employees could also be wary of a tracking system because they feel a lack of privacy. Ensure that everyone truly understands the system and gives consent to the information shared so there is no misunderstanding.
The best time and attendance tracking solutions prioritize mobility and are accessible anywhere there’s an internet, Wi-Fi, or cellular connection.
Having a system that’s easy to access, whether an employee is traveling from worksite to worksite or whether they’re working from a remote location, is key.
The Inch app, for example, makes this possible — and simple — 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.
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:
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.
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.
Don’t forget to share why you are making certain decisions. Remind employees of the impact time and attendance have on the overall business — from payroll to planning to profit. Even customer satisfaction is tied to time and attendance.
If your team feels more included in business processes and understands their purpose, they are more likely to lean in and learn a new tracking system.
Remember, changing systems requires an investment of time for everyone. So don’t change systems frequently. If your team is constantly learning a new system, their buy-in could wane.
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:
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.
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.
Time and attendance data can shed light on business efficiencies and areas for improvement. It can also point to places where you could save money. Analyzing staff levels is an easy place to start digging into the data.
For instance, if you correlate time and attendance with profitability, you might see that absenteeism has a high negative correlation to revenue. On the other hand, you may see no difference in revenue on days when you are overstaffed.
A quick analysis of your team’s time and attendance can also show you what times of day most employees are working so that you can schedule calls and activities when people are on the clock.
If you have more granular task-related time data, you can go even further and optimize your workflow, improving productivity. For instance, when preparing project estimates, you can review similar projects that your team has done and better gauge the time that required tasks will take.
Reviewing task-related data can also show you workflow bottlenecks, as well as what tools your team is using to complete their tasks. You may find that certain subscriptions are not being used by your team, and as a result, you might choose to cut the expense.
This on-task data can also help you get to know your employees better. You could find that an employee does certain tasks quickly. Correlating the time and attendance with employee reviews may make it clear that an employee should be considered for a promotion or raise.
On the other hand, this data could reveal struggles certain employees are having, with too much relative time spent on a given task. This could signal a manager to retrain on the task or take time to better understand why certain tasks are more time-consuming than they should be.
As the saying goes, knowledge is power, and on-task data can help you improve your business significantly. But don’t keep the information to yourself.
Sharing these observations and the decisions made as a result helps employees understand the impact of their actions and encourages them to strive for workplace success.
Take the time to analyze the data periodically to uncover new ways to manage your team and optimize the way they work.
If you’re implementing a new system, it’s always good to ask for feedback. At set intervals, find out if employees are having any challenges using the system and get them addressed quickly.
It’s important that all stakeholders are comfortable using your tracking system and it’s serving its intended purpose.
Over the last few years, many employers have adopted a hybrid model with workers splitting time between being in the office and working remotely. This new model bestows benefits to both employers and employees, though a hybrid workplace is not without its challenges.
One such challenge is tracking time and attendance when people are often working from home or elsewhere. It’s clear that any paper or punch-in system is not efficient in a hybrid scenario.
This new way of working requires a more flexible solution that is simple and easy to use no matter where an employee is working. As far as time and attendance tracking methods go, a mobile tracker is a clear winner for a hybrid workplace.
In fact, a mobile tracking system can come in handy in other ways as well. Today, companies are reassessing their real estate footprints. And many have downsized their need for square footage.
With workers both in and out of the office, “hoteling” has become popular. In this model, employees book out desks for the days they work in the office, instead of having a dedicated desk.
The right time and attendance tracking system can help managers understand patterns and predict the daily demand for office space. This, in turn, can help inform how much square footage is actually needed for the team.
Even if your business is currently operating in-office only, a solution that allows for remote work may still make sense because it gives you more flexibility to react to any future changes.
Finding the right system that’s easy and convenient for your team to use — yet robust enough to help you discern patterns and connect business data to smart decision-making — will make your teams more efficient and productive.
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.
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