The Time Clocking Guide: Best Practices For Your Workforce

11 min read

Clocking in to work is a daily part of the hourly workforce.

Especially in the healthcare, retail and manufacturing industries where every minute counts.

As a manager, you may think clocking in to work should feel like “clockwork” for employees, yet it’s a step that can get easily overlooked. Especially when employees come into work hitting the ground running or have a lot on their minds.

Whether it’s intentional or not, forgetting to clock in at work has some serious consequences like time theft and the flip side of that: employees not being properly compensated. Both negatively impact your business in more ways than one.

In this guide, we’ll look over what a time clock system is (a.k.a. punch in system), share some best practices on clocking in to work as well as look at the different types of clocking systems to consider :

Table of Contents

What is a clocking-in system?

A time clock system (a.k.a. a time and attendance software) is designed to track the number of hours worked by employees. 

This is achieved by employees clocking in when they begin their workday and clocking out when they finish. The goal is to avoid costly payroll errors and simplify the complex and time-consuming process of managing time and attendance.

Benefits of Having a Time Clock System

Now that you’re familiar with what a time clock system does, it’s time to look at the main benefits it’ll bring to your workforce:

Reduces labor costs 

Labor costs are one of the biggest expenses your business incurs. 

In the U.S. alone, the overall labour budget can range anywhere from ten to 30 percent. From employees misreporting time to logging in double data entries into your payroll system, these common situations increase your labour cost.

Using a time clock system can significantly reduce your labour costs by automatically adjusting time entries according to your preferences. The less time spent manually doing it yourself offers you a greater degree of control over labour costs.

Saves time for everyone

Managing and submitting timesheets can be a time-consuming process for your workforce.

Employees have to manually submit their timesheets, leaving managers playing detective to ensure there are no costly errors.

Having a time clock system in place streamlines the process by letting employees submit timesheets on the go while keeping managers informed and in control of errors through smart time tracking.

A workforce management solution like Evolia lets you take it a step further by offering GPS capabilities like geo-fencing your area for exact employee clock-in location.

Eliminates buddy punching 

Buddy punching, a.k.a an employee clocking in and out of their shift for another coworker, is an ongoing problem for the hourly workforce.

Regardless of the reason behind it (like running into work late or not feeling motivated), there are serious consequences to it. Loss of revenue, overpaying staff and poor productivity to name a few. 

The easiest and quickest way to stop buddy punching is to eliminate the use of paper timesheets and timecards. Both of which can be forged or used by anyone.

Having your staff clock in and out digitally on their phones or via a local web-based time clock using GPS validation keeps them accountable and lets you keep track of employee hours ensuring it doesn’t affect your bottom line.

Decreases turnover by offering timely and accurate pay

With nearly 55% of employees in the U.S. workforce affected by payroll problems, it’s no surprise how only two payroll errors can cause 49% of employees to look for another job.

With the current labor market being a goldmine of opportunities for job seekers, as a manager, it’s in your best interest to retain your top talent.

Having a time-clocking system in place ensures employee payroll data is accurate and calculated in a timely manner.

Recommended Reading: How to Schedule Employees Effectively

5 Best Practices for Clocking in to Work:

As a manager, it can be challenging to stay on top of things and know when employees are properly clocking in and out of their workday.

When it comes down to it, forgetfulness, time theft or simply lack of know-how all play a role in inconsistent clock-ins. 

Here are 5 best practices to ensure your employees are clocking in accurately and consistently:

1. Know your time clock laws & create a clear policy

 Without rules in place, anything goes including cases of time theft and buddy punching. Before creating a policy, it’s best to consider the time clock laws applicable to your country. Such as laws regarding rounding hours and time breaks to meet employment standards.

United States 

A good starting point is by looking at the Fair Labor Standards Act.

It’ll give you a better understanding of universal rules regarding time clock laws, minimum wage, overtime pay and hours worked. 


For Canadians, a great resource would be the Federal Labour Standards.

Establishing a clear policy around time clocking is essential to set structure and guide employees on policies around clocking in and out. It’s best to set up a meeting in person and inform them about the policy in place as well as the consequences of not following them. To ensure clarity and avoid misunderstandings, be sure to leave some time for a Q&A.

2. Offer Incentives

When it comes to motivating change, incentives can work wonders.

Offering a small reward at the end of the month like a restaurant or Amazon gift card to the employee who follows through the most on properly clocking in and out can be that extra incentive your workforce needs.

You can even take it a step further by offering a customized monetary add-on or bonus on an employee’s shift using a Workforce Management Software like Evolia.

3. Enable Notifications

When it comes to learning, repetition is key.

Rather than take time away from your day by having to call or text your employees to remind them to clock in or out, let employees set their own automated reminders instead.

smart scheduling software like Evolia has built-in notifications for various areas that your employee can tailor according to their preferences (push or email). That way, they can set it and forget it. 

4. Lead by example & offer training

As a manager, it’s your job to educate and show employees the importance of properly clocking in and out.

If they see you’re not doing it yourself, chances are they won’t take it seriously. Understanding the “why” and “how” goes a long way.

Employees should grasp the idea that properly clocking in and out is the outcome of correct payroll.

Good leadership begins with offering the training and tools employees need to succeed. If for example, you’ve implemented a new time tracking app, empower employees by teaching them how to use it themselves and in the best way possible.

Knowing exactly how and when they should be clocking in will drastically improve their chances of doing it correctly.

5. Keep it simple

With the hourly workforce being a fast-paced environment, employees are bound to forget to clock in and out every now and then. 

Having a time clock system in place lets you keep things simple by centralizing clock-ins under one platform.

Knowing your audience goes a long way. If a majority of your workforce is Gen-Z or Millennials, chances are they prefer to keep things streamlined including clocking in and out directly on their mobile phones.

Rather than relying on timecards to clock in and out at specific locations, having a time and attendance software that’s in line with their communication style allows employees to easily clock in and out directly on their phones. Hassle-free.

Recommended Reading: Tips for Successful Shift Swaps

Different Types of Clocking Systems:

Avoiding costly errors from inconsistent clock-ins is essential to properly run your business.

When it comes to choosing a time clock system, there’s no size fits all solution.

Along with your budget, you need to factor in your business goals and workforce needs to find a solution that works best for everyone.

Here are some of the most popular systems for clocking in and out of work:

Digital Timecards

 If you aren’t open to change or technology then the timecard option is your best bet. 

It’s basically a digital version of the classic punch clock.

These timecards resemble a credit card and automate time tracking. Yet its simplicity has one major downside: Employees can swipe each other’s cards to cover for absences or late co-workers. 

Biometric Punch

Biometric punch is a great alternative for work environments where employees can’t have their phones with them because their hands are either full or too dirty to punch in their PIN.

This high-tech T&A tracking system uses facial recognition, fingerprints, palm prints or eye scanning to ensure your employee’s identities and locations throughout the workday. 

The biggest advantage is that it can’t be tricked. However, some employees may find it too intrusive and refuse to use it for privacy reasons.

RFID or Barcode Scanning

RFID or barcode scanners work in a similar fashion to timecards. 

Employees simply scan their badges to get clocked in and out of work. Like biometric scanners, they can be linked to a display device if more information is required from the employee to know what project or task they are actually clocking into.

The biggest difference between the two is that RFIDs can be read at a faster rate than barcodes, require more setup and are more costly. 

Whereas barcodes are more affordable and secure but less durable.

Mobile Clocking

Mobile clocking is often the most efficient solution for employees who don’t work in one place and whose manager isn’t on-premise.

For on-the-go time tracking, a time clock app like Evolia lets employees clock in directly from their phone and is usually geolocated to confirm they’re on-premise.

Ensuring employees are physically at work helps to avoid fraudulent behaviour like time theft from taking place. 

Mobile clocking is seen as a favourite in many logistical industries.

It’s simple and enables employers to confirm the arrival and departure times of their employees’ service customers and has the ability to bill them accordingly and automatically. 

The only con is that it would require a mobile phone for daily use (but who doesn’t use one already?).

Phone line time clocks

 Phone line clockings are useful when your employees work remotely and the network is not steady or available.

It lets employees call the clocking center from a fixed line and validate their presence through a provided PIN.

Con: Due to the time it takes to clock in and the lack of identity verification, make it a less favourable option.

Web-based Clocking

Over the past few years, web-based clocking has become the golden standard.

It’s simple to set up and allows employees to clock in and out using a PIN or their phone number via their computer or tablet.

This versatile feature makes it easy for employees on or off the field to clock in hassle-free. 

Making it an ideal manufacturing shift schedules tool option for employees that can’t carry many things on hand (including their phones and even keycards).

While some web-based time and attendance systems are offered as tablet apps, others can be operated from any browser, letting you deploy it on any model or hardware you already own and support. 

Choosing the Right Time Clock System

Now that you have some best practices on clocking in and out of work and know the different time clock options available, it’s time to ask yourself if your current system aligns with your workforce needs.

As much as a digital timecard may be the safe and comfortable option, if reducing labor costs & payroll errors is top of mind, then a mobile or web-based time clock may be right for you. If budget or privacy isn’t a concern then a biometric system can work as well.

Regardless of which solution you choose, know that Evolia offers a simple, affordable and effective time and attendance solutions that keep costly errors at bay.

Need help managing your workforce? Start a Free Trial of Evolia’s Workforce Management Platform.

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