Tracking Employee Hours: Everything You Need To Know

This article covers different ways of tracking employee hours, their benefits, and business owners' responsibility to track time accurately.
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tracking employee hours
Time Tracking Fundamentals
Understanding Labor Laws
GPS Tracking
Tracking More Than Time
Time Tracking Benefits
Choosing A System
Implementing A System
Time Tracking Fundamentals
Understanding Labor Laws
GPS Tracking
Tracking More Than Time
Time Tracking Benefits
Choosing A System
Implementing A System

Track Employee Hours Accurately With Workyard

To stay profitable, productive, and legally compliant, you must accurately track time in a way that benefits your business. From physical timesheets to hour-tracking apps, there are many ways to track employee hours. 

In this article, we’ll uncover a few, plus dive deep into the benefits of tracking employee hours using various hour-tracking apps. You’ll also learn about the legal responsibility you have as a business owner to accurately track time. 

How to Track Employee Hours

There are several ways to track employee hours, these four being the most common. 

1. Hour Tracking Apps

An employee hour tracking app, or time tracking app, is a mobile app that allows employees to accurately track their hours using the device in their pockets. From any smartphone, they can effortlessly track billable hours, meal breaks, overtime, and more. With the right employee hour tracker, they can even track driving routes, travel time, and mileage. Best of all, they won’t need to carry around a physical timesheet or extra device to do so. 

Cons of using hour-tracking apps

  • Human error: Similar to timesheets and time-tracking devices, some hour-tracking apps rely on employees remembering to log start times, meal breaks, and overtime.
  • Decreased morale: Some hour-tracking apps will automatically track employees based on GPS coordinates. This could make them feel like they’re being spied on which negatively affects morale. 

Pros of using hour-tracking apps

  • Automation: Do you wish you could automate time and location tracking? Well, with some hour-tracking apps, you can. Workyard, for example, uses precise GPS tracking technology to identify exactly when an employee enters and exits a job site. 
  • Accuracy: GPS tracking helps to ensure that employees are paid accurately and on time by providing you with up-to-date time and location data. In addition, GPS hour-tracking apps may include features such as messaging and chat functions, which help streamline communication between employees and management.
  • Transparency and productivity: Employee hour tracking apps help employers identify which tasks or projects are taking up the most time, and which employees are the most productive. This helps managers make more informed decisions about staffing and task assignments.

2. Time Tracking Devices 

Time tracking devices are often simple, interactive cubes used to track billable hours. Time tracking devices also include physical time clocks, or punch clocks, commonly used in construction. Similarly to timesheets, time-tracking devices come with a host of pros and cons.

Cons of using time tracking devices

  • Unreliable: Many time tracking devices, such as time cubes, rely on batteries to operate. If the batteries die without your employees knowing, they’ll have no idea where their time was spent.
  • Human error: Having an employee track their hours using a time tracking device is fairly simple, as long as they remember to use the device. Some time tracking devices also require employees to clock in and out, and/or task switch. Failure to do so would result in inaccurate payroll. 
  • Rigid: Unfortunately, some time-tracking devices cannot track workers moving between different job sites.
  • Basic: Time-tracking devices lack additional (and helpful) features such as employee scheduling, task management, and communication.
  • Slow implementation: Adding users can be tedious, especially if you’re using a punch clock that requires physical keys to be distributed to your workforce.
  • Slow data transfer from the device to the cloud.

Pros of using time-tracking devices 

  • Versatile: Some time-tracking devices on the market are durable and portable, making them great options for employees who need to track time in various or harsh environments. 
  • Battery-operated: Giving your employees a battery-powered time-tracking device allows them to track their hours regardless of internet connectivity. 
  • Hassle-free: You don’t need to rely on employees’ personal phones or devices for time tracking.

3. Biometric Time Clocks

Biometric time clocks require employees to clock in and out of work using facial, fingerprint, or palm recognition technology. When it comes to tracking employee hours, this is the most accurate method. Biometric time clocks, however, can raise serious safety concerns for some employees.

Cons of using biometric time clocks

  • Poor hygiene: Asking someone to place their finger on a scanner, for example, to enter a building puts their health at risk. In a post-pandemic world, this could lead to poor employee retention. 
  • Exclusivity: Not all biometric time clocks are inclusive of all workers, especially those with disabilities. 
  • Expensive: Unfortunately, biometric time clocks can be expensive as they require a significant investment in hardware and infrastructure. 
  • Invasive: As you might have guessed, biometric databases can be hacked, and this puts employee privacy at risk.  

Pros of using biometric time clocks

  • Accurate: Biometric time clocks help prevent errors and discrepancies in employee time records, as they provide a clear record of when an employee starts and ends their day.
  • Secure: Biometric time clocks ensure that only employees with security clearance can enter and exit a building. 
  • Safe: Touch-free biometric time clocks like facial recognition scanners are a safe option for tracking employee hours. Without having to touch a physical device, employees can clock in and out with ease.

4. Timesheets

Excel timesheets are often used by employees to keep track of time using pen and paper. Workers can easily add their hours for each day to a timesheet, and submit it for approval at the end of each week. While it sounds pretty simple in theory, there are some problems with using timesheets to track employee hours.

Cons of using timesheets 

  • Inaccurate payroll: For weekly hours to be calculated correctly, timesheets must be designed with the correct formulas. If they’re not, you may fail to comply with labor laws and regulations related to record-keeping and overtime pay. 
  • Time-consuming: As you may already know, creating and managing Excel time card templates to track employee hours is a tedious and time-consuming process. 
  • Time theft: When employees are tasked with manually keeping track of their hours, they may be more inclined to commit “time theft” by rounding up their hours for the week.
  • Human error: Not everyone will remember to keep track of the hours they’ve worked, especially after a long day. When time tracking is an afterthought, employees are more likely to input hours incorrectly, and this can lead to payroll inaccuracies. 

Pros of using timesheets 

  • Low cost: Timesheets are the most affordable option for tracking time. You can find plenty of free timesheet templates and time log templates for tracking employee hours on the web. 
  • Ease-of-use: Because most workers are familiar with timesheets, they’re quick and easy to implement.  
  • Trust: Employees have control over how their time is tracked, which makes them more likely to trust you.

What To Look For in an Employee Hour Tracking App

If you have employees stationed in the field or workers who bounce between job sites, we encourage you to look for the following features when evaluating time-tracking apps:

Live GPS tracking

With this feature, you’ll always know who is on the clock, where they’re at, and what they’re working on.

Mileage tracking

If you’re tracking time spent driving, look for an app that tracks mileage and travel time to streamline expense reporting. 

Geofencing

Let’s face it, not all employees are going to remember to clock in. That’s why employee hour trackers with geofencing capabilities are great. Once set up, geofences automatically detect when an employee arrives on-site to ensure they get paid for every hour worked.

Overtime/break calculations and alerts 

To help with compliance, look for an employee hour tracking app that can send break reminders to an employee’s mobile phone.

Integrations

Make sure your chosen app is compatible with your existing systems and processes. This could include payroll software, scheduling software, or other HR systems used for tracking employee time. 

Easy-to-use mobile app 

If you want to ensure buy-in and adoption from your team, look for a time-tracking tool that’s easy for employees to use and understand. If you’re worried about the implementation process, partner with a company that offers good customer support, such as online resources, phone support, or email assistance. This can be particularly beneficial if you encounter any issues or have questions while using the app.

At Workyard, we understand that no two businesses are the same. Here’s a simple breakdown of features to look for based on the type of business you run. 

Business Type
Key Features
Field Service Business
✅ Time and attendance tracking
✅ Task management 
✅ Shift Scheduling 
✅ Live GPS tracking
✅ Mileage tracking
✅ Geofencing 
✅ Overtime/break calculations and alerts
✅ Payroll integrations
✅ Easy-to-use mobile app
Single Location Business
✅ Time and attendance tracking
✅ Task management
✅ Shift scheduling
✅ Overtime/break calculations and alerts
✅ Payroll integrations
Remote Business
✅ Time and attendance tracking
✅ Task management
✅ Website and social media monitoring
✅ Keypad and mouse activity tracking
✅ Payroll integrations
✅ Easy-to-use mobile app

The Best Apps for Tracking Employee Hours

Without the right app or software, tracking labor can be a long and tedious process. Thankfully, these time clock apps exist to make time tracking easy. 

Workyard  

Workyard offers the best employee time-tracking app for construction and field services companies. Its precise GPS time tracking software helps users create accurate timesheets that keep businesses compliant and profitable.

Key features:

  • Easy-to-use time clock app
  • Break and overtime compliance
  • Timesheets, detailed reporting, audit trails
  • GPS Tracking and geofencing
  • Live view of employee locations
  • Mileage/travel time tracking and reporting
  • Integrations with payroll systems
  • Easy office-to-field scheduling
  • Task management 
  • Notes, photos, and checklist sharing
  • Real human support team

Sign up for a free trial of Workyard today!

QuickBooks Time

QuickBooks Time is the best employee hour tracker for small businesses with a single location, such as a retail store. It’s great for time tracking, payroll, and getting the insights you need for growth.

Key features:

  • Payroll and invoicing
  • Job scheduling 
  • Customized reports
  • Mileage tracking
  • Alerts and notifications

DeskTime

DeskTime is the best all-in-one hour tracker for knowledge workers. It’s designed for everyone, from in-house managers to remote employees, and is suitable for small and large businesses. 

Key features:

  • Automatic time tracking
  • URL and app tracking
  • Offline time tracking 
  • Screenshots
  • Custom reports
  • Shift scheduling 

For a more in-depth comparison of time-tracking apps and software, check out our article on the best time clock apps for small businesses in 2023

The Benefits of Using an Employee Hour Tracking App to Track Employee Hours

Some key benefits include payroll accuracy, improved productivity, and precise project planning. With an employee hour tracking app, employees can easily track their hours from anywhere, eliminating the need to be physically present at a time clock or office. Most importantly, hour-tracking apps with GPS ensure that employees are paid accurately and on time, in addition to the following benefits:

Reduce admin burden

Collecting individual time cards from employees and punching their data into a payroll system takes time, especially if you have hundreds of employees. Thankfully, employee hour tracking apps eliminate the need for manual data entry, thus saving you time on admin and making it much easier to calculate the labor burden for any particular project.  

Improve transparency

With various spreadsheets to keep track of, workers are less likely to maintain an accurate record of their hours. By giving them one place to record and track their hours, they’re going to get paid for the work they complete.  

Understand job costs

In order to plan for future projects, you need to understand where time was spent in the past. Thankfully, hour-tracking apps show you exactly where time and money is spent on each project so that you can improve estimates and profits over time.

Improve productivity

Accurate time tracking can help you identify patterns and trends in employee productivity and understand where improvements need to be made. Thus helping you stay profitable.

Stay on track

By tracking hours accurately, employers can make more informed decisions, such as identifying when additional employees may be needed to meet project goals. Thus helping you stay on track and maintain healthy client relationships.

Foster healthy relationships

By improving transparency for both you and your clients, you’re able to share an exact breakdown of the hours you’re billing for. Thus improving payroll accuracy and client satisfaction.

Reduce disputes

At the end of each pay cycle, the last thing you want to do is reimburse an employee who wasn’t paid correctly. Minimize mistakes and get it right the first time with hour-tracking apps and software.

Stay compliant 

By tracking hours accurately, employers can rest assured their employees are paid for the work they complete, plus any overtime, breaks, or rest periods. Thus helping you comply with labor laws and regulations.

Why Tracking Employee Hours Accurately Is Important

Accurate time tracking is important for a variety of reasons. For example:

  • Tracking hours accurately is crucial for calculating payroll and ensuring that employees are paid correctly and on time. If you’re not tracking time accurately, you could be losing thousands of dollars each week.
  • Accurate tracking of employee hours can help you create more efficient and effective schedules. As a result, reducing the risk of over or understaffing and improving overall employee satisfaction.
  • Tracking hours accurately can help you better understand labor costs and make more informed budgeting and forecasting decisions. 
  • For businesses that bill clients based on employee hours worked, accurate tracking of employee hours is crucial for ensuring that clients are billed accurately and fairly.
  • Tracking hours accurately keeps you compliant with labor laws. The FLSA requires employers to keep accurate time records for all non-exempt employees (generally hourly employees) for a certain period of time, typically at least three years. Therefore, you must be tracking time in a way that complies with this law.

What Are the Labor Laws for Tracking Employee Hours?

In the United States, the main labor law that regulates the tracking of employee hours is the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The FLSA sets standards for minimum wage, overtime pay, and child labor, and applies to most employees in the U.S. 

Here are some specific provisions:

Minimum wage: The FLSA requires that employers pay employees at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour (as of 2021). Some states and localities may have higher minimum wage rates that apply to employees in those jurisdictions

Overtime pay: The FLSA requires that employers pay employees time and a half for all hours worked beyond 40 hours per week for non-exempt workers. However, some employees may be exempt from overtime pay requirements due to their job duties or job classification. Here’s a quick summary of how to calculate overtime pay

Note: Certain states have different overtime requirements. For example, the California overtime law states that employers must pay employers twice their rate of pay if they work more than eight hours for seven consecutive work days. 

Breaks and rest periods: The FLSA does not require employers to provide breaks or rest periods to employees, but if they do, any such breaks that last 20 minutes or less must be paid.

Note: Certain states have different laws requiring meal and rest breaks. For example, in California, employees are entitled to a 10-minute paid rest break every four hours.  

In addition to the FLSA, there may be other state and local laws that regulate the tracking of employee hours. You need to familiarize yourself with the labor laws that apply to your industry and location to ensure compliance.

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