What Are Time Tracking Methods?

The specific, company-requested way employees track time is referred to as the time tracking method. Your organization can have a single time tracking method for all non-exempt employees, or you may use a less common approach and let some use one method and others use another. In this article, we will evaluate different methods you can utilize to track employees’ time so you can make the best decision for your organization.

How Does Finding the Right Time Tracking Method Benefit Employers?

While there are a number of methods out there, let’s review why finding the right method can save your organization major headaches.

  • Takes the guesswork out of time keeping. When your company chooses a single time tracking method, you take the confusion out of keeping time for your team. You’re setting clear expectations and streamlining the process for employees, and that sets you up for success.
  • Streamlines payroll. When you find a time tracking method that works for your organization, it will aid in your payroll process exponentially. Not having to email employees to send in time sheets or check a bunch of time tracking methods to input into your payroll system will save you hours of administrative work for payroll week alone.
  • Increases employee accountability. Employees thrive on autonomy, and it’s essential for engagement. A single time tracking method allows employees to be accountable for their time. It gives them the autonomy they are looking for while still supporting your organization.

Popular Time Tracking Methods

In order to select the best time tracking method for your organization, you’ll need to understand what tried-and-true methods are out there. Let’s review the popular time tracking methods.

The Honor System

This method typically works best when employees work more on a project basis. Typically with this method, employees and their managers estimate the hours needed for a specific project and pay the employees based on the agreed-upon hours for that project.

While this is an easy method of time tracking, it also leaves room for overestimating or underestimating the time a project can take, and therefore over or underpaying an employee. With the honor system, employees and managers can at any point amend the hours originally estimated for the project and adjust accordingly, but in that case, you might as well select a different time tracking method.

The Spreadsheet Method

If your organization is a lover of spreadsheets, this method is for you. There are a few ways this method can be administered, but the underlying point is the same: employees’ time is tracked on spreadsheets. The most common use of the spreadsheet method is for employees to utilize it as an official time clock. They put their time in down to the minute, including lunch or break time and their time out for the day. Employees would do this daily, and these numbers are utilized when inputting the hours worked into your company payroll system.

You can also use the spreadsheet method for total hours worked. Employees would update their spreadsheet daily after completing their work with how long they worked for the day. Either use of this method is beneficial for employees to take ownership and for employees to oversee employees’ daily time.

The Software Method

Even if your employer doesn’t pay for a time tracking software, you don’t have to rule out this time tracking method. There are plenty of free apps employees can use to track their time.

The software method is when employees will use a time tracking software to log their time. This can be through your payroll system if your organization has that option. From there, the tracked hours are easy to process for payroll, streamlining the process beautifully. If your organization only has a few employees tracking time, you may not have this option through a payroll company, but you may look into free software like clockify or toggle track. Either way, the software method puts employees’ time in a program that allows reporting and clearer metrics, which can be helpful to your organization.

The Stop-Watch Method

Some organizations still stand by the tried and true stop-watch or pen and paper method. This way to track time is exactly as it sounds: you start a stopwatch or timer on your phone when you start work and you track your time accordingly. You might use notes in your phone if you’re on the go or on paper when you’re in the office. Most employers that choose this method do so strictly because it’s easy to utilize. When it comes to using this data to pay employees, it can become tricky.

If your organization is on the smaller side or you have a small number of employees tracking time, this method could work for you, but remember to collect all the time sheets prior to payroll. If your organization has a lot of employees tracking time, stay away from this heavy administratively-focused method of tracking time.

Tips for Implementing Time Tracking Methods in the Workplace

Now that you have seen the different methods to track employees’ time, you may be leaning towards one or the other. Whichever you choose, it’s important to follow these tips for implementing your time tracking method at your organization.

Tip 1: Stay Consistent

There is nothing worse for employees trying to track their time than their employer being inconsistent. Their hours directly relate to their pay, and if they feel their employer is not taking that seriously, it could drastically hurt the culture of your company. Stay consistent in the method you choose unless there is a major error or continual issues that prompt the change. Should that happen, communicate to ensure employees understand it’s not a lack of consistency, but a stride toward becoming a better organization. Then stay consistent.

Tip 2: Provide Training

Training goes a long way for any new implementation at your organization, so don’t overlook that as you institute a new time tracking method. Be sure you explain to your employees the why behind the change and encourage them through company provided training. Ensure your training is thorough and allow employees time to ask questions as they learn the new method. Understand that there may be some hiccups along the way as your employees are learning, so give yourself extra time before any required time-sheet deadline to make sure you have all the necessary employee hours.

Tip 3: Don’t Micro-Manage

As you implement the time tracking method, be sure to not over manage your employees. Micro-management can happen with any time tracking method; even the honor system can have managers checking and double checking time and nit-picking every hour agreed upon. Don’t allow your organization to fall into that category. Select a method and stick to it, trusting that, until issues or time tracking errors occur, your employees can follow the method you selected.