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May 26, 2021 | Time and Attendance | Posted by Ascentis Thought Leadership

How to Track Employee Hours

The question of how to track employee hours has almost as many answers as there are employers. Every business has its own process and policies regarding time and attendance, and there is no single correct solution for how to track hours worked. A small business like a healthcare facility with a few dozen employees will have very different time-tracking methods than a mid-sized manufacturing facility with several hundred workers, and both will likely use different ways to track employee hours than a large enterprise employer with multiple locations and thousands of employees.

When determining how to track employee time and attendance for your business, it is important to keep in mind a number of factors specific to your organization, as well as some best practices and regulatory compliance issues that apply to nearly every employer. A few things to keep in mind include:

  •  Number of employees whose time is being tracked
  •  Desired budget for time tracking software and other tools
  • Shift schedules and other employee scheduling needs
  • Physical size of the facilities where time is being tracked

Proper classification for full-time employees and contingent workers

Benefits of a Time Tracking System for Employees and Employers

What is time tracking?

“Time tracking” is a general term for a wide range of ways employers record and manage their employees’ time at work and the billable hours they have worked. Time tracking generally falls into the category of time and attendance and is closely related to areas like payroll, scheduling, benefits administration, and leave management. Not so long ago time tracking was managed mostly by hand using paper time sheets, and later Excel spreadsheets.

Why does time tracking matter to employees?

Efficient time tracking processes are important to employees because they help ensure that they are paid accurately and on time, and also that they receive appropriate amounts of paid time off, adequate healthcare coverage, and other key employee benefits. While some employees may have initial concerns about their work being monitored so closely, studies show that workers overall appreciate the increased transparency, accountability, and accuracy that come with an effective time tracking system. When your employees’ time is better accounted for, everyone makes better use of that time.

Why does time tracking matter to employers?

The benefits of time tracking are well documented. Using an automated system to track time at work generates a whole lot of data that impacts nearly every aspect of workforce management. When you track employee hours carefully, you can draw a clear picture of how much time each worker is spending on specific tasks. That gives your HR administrators a better idea of productivity in your workplace, helping you to set new policies and optimize your day-to-day functions. A reliable system to track work hours can even inform future hiring and recruitment efforts by identifying areas where your current workforce is spending an inordinate amount of time.

How to Keep Track of Employee Time Off

Once you have a solid handle on how to track work hours, you will need to make sure that you have the right tools available for the job. Employee time tracking has become a much more exact science in recent years. Advancements in technology have created a wide variety of both time tracking software systems and time and attendance hardware that make it easier than ever to track employee attendance and hours worked from any location, with a minimal chance of errors. Let’s take a closer look at some of the software and hardware shaping the modern employment landscape.

Employee Time Tracking Software

American workforces are becoming more and more diversified each year. As more and more businesses employ a mix of salaried and hourly employees, contract and contingent labor, part-time workers, and freelance workers, a customizable time and attendance software system that can automate timekeeping functions becomes more of a necessity. While every business has its own unique time tracking needs, some tools are fairly universal.

4 tools to track employee attendance

  • Automatic time tracking systems
  • GPS tracking
  • Mobile tracking app
  • Integrated time and attendance software

Let’s take a closer look at a few of the most relied-upon examples of how to track employee time in the modern workforce.

  1. Automatic time tracking systems - Whether your organization is trying to improve overall accuracy, reduce overtime hours, keep track of employee time off, or make hiring and recruitment decisions for the future, automatic time tracking software has become a necessity in today’s work environment. Trying to track employee time off and leave management, complicated employee scheduling processes, and regulatory compliance issues is simply too big a task to handle manually. Automating time tracking functions frees up time to manage bigger issues, increases the accuracy and efficiency of reporting, and helps reduce turnover by preventing burnout in your HR team members.
  2. Mobile tracking apps - A mobile time and attendance system helps to empower employees by letting them enter their own hours, submit paid time off and sick leave requests, and request schedule changes from any location, all using a time and attendance app on their smartphone or mobile device. Mobile time tracking apps also help the employer keep track of employee hours and activities for off-site workers. That is a hugely useful tool for businesses with remote workers or those that need to track employee time in the field. Mobile time apps are also very helpful for companies with facilities in multiple locations, and employers with nontraditional shift structures.
  3. GPS tracking - For many employers looking for ways to track employee attendance, making use of a global positioning satellite (GPS) system is essential. Organizations with a number of mobile or remote workers can track their employees’ attendance and location via a GPS-enabled phone or mobile device. That allows an organization to confirm hours worked even when employees are not onsite. A mobile app with GPS also makes it easier for employers to track employee movements within a facility. That can be a great help in enforcing workplace safety policies and making sure that employees are where they are supposed to be when they are supposed to be there.
  4. Integrated time and attendance software - One of the biggest advantages of automated employee time tracking software is the ability to customize and integrate time and attendance data across your entire system. Automating the ways you track your time and attendance makes it much simpler to apply that information to other areas of workforce management, including payroll, HR and benefits administration, talent management, and recruiting and hiring functions. That kind of integration helps with everything from planning budgets to maintaining compliance to improving employee scheduling.

Employee Time Tracking Hardware

As essential as automated time and attendance software is to employers, many businesses also require top quality employee time tracking hardware solutions. For organizations in industries such as manufacturing, healthcare, construction, and other fields where hourly employees clock in and clock out physically every day, reliable time and attendance hardware is a vital part of doing business.

4 hardware solutions to track employee hours

  • Employee time clocks
  • Mobile time tracking apps
  • Phone-in time tracking
  • Manual time tracking

Let’s take a closer look at a few of the most prevalent pieces in physical time tracking hardware.

  1. Employee time clocks - Paper time cards and manual punch clocks are quickly becoming a thing of the past as the workforce moves toward smart time clock hardware. To track employee time effectively in a complex modern work environment, organizations are moving toward smart time clock systems that use artificial intelligence and automation. Customizable employee time clocks that offer Wi-Fi connectivity, touchscreen interfaces, and multi-language functionality make it easier to track a blend of hourly employees, contingent workers, freelancers and more while staying compliant with regulations. Some newer time clocks even bring health and safety into the time tracking mix, offering touchless interfaces with voice commands, automated temperature scans, and Bluetooth beacon technology for easy GPS tracking of employees in the workspace. These time tracking tools help to control the spread of sickness in the workplace. Less need for sick days and paid employee time off equals reduced labor costs and higher employee productivity.
  2. Mobile time tracking apps - As mentioned in our time tracking software overview, mobile apps have become a crucial tool for tracking employee hours. Many employers now provide smartphones and other mobile devices to employees who need them for work purposes, or offer mobile apps compatible with iOS and Android phones. Mobile time tracking apps allow real-time reporting that lets employers track employee attendance and hours from any location, an ideal solution for organizations with workers in multiple locations.
  3. Phone-in time tracking - There are some areas where mobile tracking apps are not a feasible option. For employers in rural areas wondering how to track employee time in the field, or workers in secure facilities where communication is limited, a phone-in time tracking solution allows workers to clock in and out, adjust work schedules, and more without using mobile data.
  4. Manual time tracking - Tracking employee hours manually goes back to the roots of hourly employment. Even in the modern era of fully automated methods to track hours worked, a surprising number of employers still rely on paper time sheets, Excel spreadsheets, manual punch clocks, swipeable key cards, and other outdated time tracking tools. For all but the smallest of small businesses, these methods are very time-consuming and create too much opportunity for timekeeping errors and compliance violations to be effective workforce management solutions.

Compliance with FLSA Timekeeping Requirements

Compliance with federal, state, and local regulations is another important element of employee time tracking. The most notable of these regulations is the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which sets some specific rules about how to track employee time and attendance, including rules applying to hourly employees, salaried workers, and employees with non-exempt status. Here are a few key areas where time tracking has an impact on regulatory compliance.

4 FLSA rules for tracking hourly employees

  1. Employers must keep records of the time each worker clocks in and out, the number of hours worked per day, and total hours worked per week, as well as any overtime hours or break time.
  2. Clock-in and clock-out times are rounded to the nearest quarter-hour.
  3. Employees cannot work any “off-the-clock” or otherwise unreported hours.
  4. Any non-exempt employee — which includes most hourly workers — who works more than 40 hours in a week must be paid 1.5 times their regular rate for all overtime hours.

It is important for employers to keep in mind that time tracking and attendance rules vary widely from state to state, including regulations about how to record employee hours, how to report employee time and attendance data, and even time clock location laws that specify where timekeeping hardware must be located within the workplace.

Keeping track of all of this information is simply too big a task to be managed by hand. For any employer who wants to avoid the heavy fines and penalties that come with FLSA noncompliance, an automatic time tracking system with customizable recordkeeping and reporting functions is a virtual necessity.

As new technology, evolving government regulations, and workplace best practices continue to reshape the way American employees work, employers will continue to benefit by investing in customizable, automated workforce management systems with reliable employee time tracking functions. Ascentis offers high quality time and attendance software for small businesses, mid-sized employers, and enterprise organizations that need to track employee hours accurately and consistently. Find out more about the many ways Ascentis can help improve your time tracking to keep your business more productive, compliant, and profitable

With more than 35 years of experience in providing Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions, Ascentis thought leaders have become a respected source for insights, tips, and innovations in the Human Capital Management (HCM) space.