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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.