Clocking In/Out of Work

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Clocking In & Out

According to a recent survey conducted by TSheets, the most prevalent forms of time-tracking in American workplaces, in descending order, are time-tracking applications, paper/spreadsheets, touch screen/kiosks, punch cards, biometrics, point-of-sale systems, and text/email. These methods have a wide variety of functionalities, benefits, and drawbacks; below, we break down how each method is used by both employers and employees, as well as the potential pain points caused by each.

1. Time-tracking applications

  • Mobile time-tracking applications, described as the "current darling of the timekeeping world," are used by about 25% of American workers whose workplaces track time, tied for the most common time-tracking method.
  • Depending on the application, companies may be able to utilize a wide array of functionalities. For example, the popular application Buddy Punch provide an extensive selection customization and data-collection features.
  • Workers clock in and out on an application downloaded on their smartphones. These applications are often integrated with technologies such as "location stamping and geo-fencing" to ensure that employees are at the desired location, and
  • These mobile applications offer numerous benefits. For one, "as the world shifts to a more mobile-centric approach," allowing workers to clock in and out on phones allows for greater flexibility and ease than traditional paper methods or computer-based methods. However, this also leads to one potential pain point: if workers don't have a working smartphone, clocking in and out can be a challenge.

2. Paper/spreadsheet

  • A 2017 survey revealed that paper/spreadsheet time-tracking methods are currently tied with time-tracking applications as the most common method of time-tracking in the United States, used by 25% of American workers whose organizations track time.
  • These timesheets can be either a paper form or an electronic spreadsheet, depending on the organization. Workers record their hours worked per day on the timesheet, then submit it to supervisors at a regular interval.
  • Timesheets may be submitted daily or weekly (67%), bi-weekly (22%), or at longer intervals.
  • One pain point regarding paper or electronic spreadsheets is that they can, in some cases, be difficult to decipher, leading to errors. This is because timesheets are sometimes customized with various "tasks, projects and activities," among other factors, to ensure proper compensation.
  • This method can also be inflexible, leading to problems recording time spent doing certain tasks not accounted for in the sheet, or recording job-related purchases, or recording other specific data with no place in the sheet to record it.

3. Touch screen/kiosk

  • 14% of US organizations that utilize some form of time-tracking use a touch screen/kiosk clock-in device in the workplace.
  • Employees visit a kiosk (often using a touch screen monitor) at the workplace to clock in. One software solution that can be utilized with such a kiosk is Savance EIOBoard. At the kiosk, employees can enter a passcode at a computer, scan an ID, or use a touch-screen to clock in.
  • These electronic time-tracking solutions can be similar to mobile applications or traditional paper time-tracking, with the defining feature being a designated kiosk or touch-screen device on-site where employees clock in. For example, TSheets Time Clock Kiosk allows employers to install time-tracking software on a computer or tablet, which can then be placed in a designated location in the workplace.
  • One potential pain point is that some kiosk software solutions may require that employees remember "complicated usernames or passwords," leading to slower clock-in times or inability to clock in.

4. Punch Card

  • The iconic punch card is now only the fourth-most-common time-tracking method in the United States, with 10% of organizations that use some form of time-tracking utilizing a punch card system.
  • This conventional method utilizes a machine in which employees insert their individual punch card (commonly referred to as a 'time card') and the machine punches a hole in it. Employees repeat this routine to clock in and out, then provide the employer with the card at the end of a designated period (e.g. weekly or bi-weekly).
  • The traditional punch card has been replaced by a swipe time card resembling a credit card. Employees simply swipe the card at a machine in the workplace, instead of punching a hole in a paper card. T
  • The swipe method is less wasteful, given that employees don't regularly need to be provided new time cards, and the swipe card has the benefit of being more durable than its paper counterpart. Additionally, employers or personnel in charge of payroll are put under less strain given that hours no longer need to be tallied manually, as they are automatically uploaded to an associated software program.
  • Some potential pain points associated with these traditional time card methods are the potential for human error and the inefficiencies associated with them (for example, employees at medium or large operations may have to wait in line to clock in). Employees may also forget or lose their cards.

5. Biometrics

  • The fifth-most-common time-tracking method in America, biometrics, is used by approximately 7% of workplaces that track time.
  • This method captures attendance data by scanning individuals' "unique traits" (generally fingerprints but this could also include a facial or iris scan), matching this trait to the corresponding employee record, and automatically recording the employee's clock-in and clock-out times.
  • On the employee's end, the clock-in and clock-out process is fairly simple: scan the relevant trait and wait for the system to match the scan with its internal records. In secure workplaces, a successful scan can also activate an electromagnetically-sealed door, so that only authorized individuals gain access.
  • However, one pain point is that not all biometric scanning technologies are fast or completely accurate (i.e., several scans may be required to recognize employees), although this technology has improved significantly in recent years.
  • Another potential pain point is that if a company is utilizing facial scans, long-time employees may change over time to the extent that their scans are no longer recognized. Similarly, diabetes can change the appearance of the eyes, resulting in false-negative iris scans.

6. Point-of-Sale Systems

  • Tied for fifth-most-common among American workers, 7% of workplaces that track time utilize point-of-sale systems with integrated time-tracking capabilities.
  • These systems are comparable to other electronic time-tracking methods, but are integrated with the organization's broader point-of-sale system; employees clock in and out at the same place that they record sales. For example, retail businesses can have workers "clock in and out at the register" with these systems, and restaurants can have them "clock in and clock out on any network workstation," where they can also record payments. Attendance data is captured in the system and can be pulled by supervisors for payroll purposes or to check attendance.
  • We did not find any specific pain points with this method, but it may suffer from the same drawback as the kiosk method (namely, requiring employees to remember a specific ID in order to clock in and out), given its similarity to this method.

7. Text/Email

  • Text/email is the seventh-most-common time-tracking method in the US, with only 3% of workplaces that track time utilizing this method.
  • No additional information was found to shed light on this method. Presumably, it is used in small workplaces in which there is a strong degree of trust between the employee and the employer, as this method lacks all the safeguards inherent in most other methods, such as geo-fencing to ensure that the employee is actually on the premises when he or she clocks in, or biometric recognition to ensure that the employee is actually who he or she claims.
  • It would also put additional strain on supervisors in anything larger than a small workforce, given that supervisors would need to manually record all texts or emails received in relation to clocking in or out. This likely also leaves the process open to human error, as with the traditional timesheets or time cards.

Your research team employed the following strategy:

To provide insights regarding the seven most common ways that American workers clock in and out at work, we first researched the most common means of executing these activities, collectively known as time-keeping. We found this in the form of a 2017 survey from TSheets providing the seven most common time-keeping methods among American workers (the survey itself does not specify that the workers were American, but an additional fact sheet provided by TSheets refers to the survey's findings and describes the survey respondents as "US workers"). After locating this data, we utilized information from relevant sources such as HR organizations and software providers in the time-tracking space to provide insights regarding how companies and workers use the method in question, as well as any potential pain points that may arise when employing it.

For the seventh-most-common time-tracking method, text/email, we could not find any additional information provided by HR organizations or software providers in the time-tracking space. We also conducted a generalized press search as a third research approach, hoping to find articles or other publications that address this method of time-tracking, but none could be found. This is likely the result of the highly informal, localized, and personalized nature of this approach, combined with the fact that no additional technology is required to utilize it (aside from any device that can send and receive texts or emails). As such, we simply compared the prospect of texting or emailing clock-in and clock-out data to the other time-tracking methods described, in an attempt to provide an overview of the process in absence of additional information.
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Clocking In & Out Tools

There are a wide variety of ways for employees to clock in and out at their workplaces. Time tracking applications like Buddy Punch and Time Tracker by Ebillity are among the most common ways of doing so in the United States, as are spreadsheets like the ones provided by TSheets. Below, we provide details regarding these tools, as well as other popular tools that offer different methods of time-tracking, such as biometrics or integrated point-of-sale systems.

1. Buddy Punch

  • The ironically-named Buddy Punch ("buddy punching" is a colloquial phrase used to describe one employee clocking in for another) is a web-based time-tracking application. It is highly popular and widely-used, based on data from the prominent software review site Capterra.
  • Companies have a range of built-in tools at their disposal when using Buddy Punch, including a range of reporting features, job codes, manager delegation features, and notification capabilities to stay up-to-date. These and other features allow employers to customize the time-keeping and data-capturing functionalities of their companies.
  • Because Buddy Punch is web-based, it can be accessed via any device with web browser capabilities, including smartphones and computers. It also has a GPS feature to ensure that workers are clocking in and out at the desired location.
  • To ensure that its detrimental namesake does not occur, Buddy Punch offers a webcam feature that records an employee photo with every clock-in and clock-out to ensure that employees are only clocking in and out for themselves, not each other.
  • Employees can track their paid time off (PTO) within the app, and employers can set manual or automatic PTO accrual.

2. TSheets Time Clock Kiosk

  • Intuit Quickbook's popular TSheets time-tracking software offers a kiosk software solution for use with "any device with an internet connection."
  • Employers can install the Time Clock Kiosk software on a tablet, functioning as a touch screen clock-in option, or on a computer as a more traditional kiosk option.
  • Employees use personalized PIN numbers to clock in and out using the Time Clock Kiosk software, which allows them to keep track of their hours worked, and submit them to supervisors. However, there is no method by which employers or employees can track PTO within this system.

3. Square Point-of-Sale

  • Square is a popular point-of-sale system designed for use on Apple or Android devices. It offers integrated time-tracking functionality.
  • Employees simply "clock in and out at the register" using a designated ID number, and attendance is automatically recorded within the system. Employers can then draw that data for use with payroll (which is also included within the Square system) or to see who clocked in and when.
  • The Square software allows employers and employees to easily "track employee time," and on the employer side it allows for a range of analytic features that help visualize employees' hours worked and how they change over time. However, there is no method by which employers or employees can track PTO within this system.

4. IconTime TotalPass Biometric

  • IconTime's TotalPass Biometric time, which was recently included among the top biometric time clocks by BiometricLock Reviews, is a biometric time-tracking tool that utilizes fingerprints to verify employee identity and capture clock-in and clock-out data.
  • The system also includes a "wide-lens camera" to capture failed login attempts, identifying potential intruders or employees attempting to "buddy punch."
  • While employees can't track their own hours within the system, employers can "conveniently sort and track employee hours in up to 99 individual departments." The system does not seem to provide a means by which either employees or employers can track PTO, however.

5. uPunch Time Clock

  • Recently identified as one of the top time-tracking clocks by The Balance, uPunch's cloud-connected punch clock technology combines traditional punch card clock-in systems with the connectivity of the cloud.
  • Employees insert their time cards into one of the company's punch clock machines, and then at the end of a designated period (e.g. a week), employers collect the time cards and manually enter attendance data, which can be recorded in the company's free cloud software.
  • The software allows employers (though not employees, unless they are granted access) to view hours worked and produce reports on this data. However, it does not appear to include any features regarding PTO.

6. TSheets Time-Tracking Excel Template

  • Spreadsheets are among the most prevalent ways by which US employers track employee hours worked, and the popular TSheets software solution offers free time-tracking spreadsheet templates for use with Microsoft Excel.
  • Employers fill out information such as "employee’s name, their manager, your company’s name, the pay period start date, [their] employee’s standard pay rate, and [their] employee’s overtime pay rate," then provide the employee with a copy of the spreadsheet.
  • Employees then fill in the spreadsheet with "day, date, job/shift, job/shift code, their time in/out (including breaks), and any remaining hours (overtime, sick, holiday, and vacation)." Thus, the spreadsheet serves as a means of tracking both hours worked and PTO for both employee and employer. At the end of the designated period (e.g. a week), the employee submits the completed spreadsheet to his or her supervisor.

7. Time Tracker by Ebillity

  • The popular Time Tracker by Ebillity is a software solution that allows employers to flexibly determine the best way (or ways) for their employees to clock in and out, and to seamlessly capture and track that attendance data.
  • Employers have the choice of selecting one of Ebillity's mobile apps for virtual time card functionality, or kiosk software to allow employees to clock in at a designated on-site location. They could even opt to use a combination of the two, if that best suits their workplace.
  • Teams can track the amount of work hours completed by individual team members, and then that data is submitted to administrators. Employers can create rules and personalized settings around PTO. They can also view who is on the clock at any given time, and where those employees are working. Similarly, the software also offers a reporting feature to provide in-depth analytics related to employee work hours.

Your research team employed the following strategy:

To find the seven time-tracking tools provided above, we conducted a search of software review sites like Capterra, judging popularity by the relative number of reviews of a given product as well as the quality of those reviews. We also searched relevant publications, such as The Balance, for lists of top products in this space. Using this combination of sources, we selected products from a variety of time-tracking methods, including applications, kiosk software, point-of-sale systems, biometrics, and traditional punch-card technology. We also ensured that each tool provided is based in the United States and is either primarily or solely utilized there.

From Part 02