What is the Best Employee Time Clock Hardware?

time clock hardware

Liz Strikwerda

Content strategist and corporate blogger (2000+ posts). Her work has been featured on G2's Learning Hub, Human Resources Today, CloserIQ, Better Buys and over 500 business websites. She plays bluegrass mandolin and enjoys hiking in the red rock wilderness of southern Utah. Connect with me on LinkedIn

What is employee time clock hardware?

An employee time clock is a hardware device for tracking work time. To use it, employees ‘punch’ in/out or ‘clock’ in/out. The term ‘punch in’ stems from early employee time clock hardware that required a physical card.

With a traditional mechanical time clock, the process from clocking to paycheck works as follows: First, at the beginning and ending of each shift, the employee inserts the card into the device which punches the card with a timestamp.

time clock hardware

At the end of the pay period, employees add up work hours based on the timestamps. Following that, each employee submits their timecard to their manager. If an employee forgets, the manager has to remind the employee. A manager with a forgetful team might spend time every pay period tracking down timesheets.

When all employees have submitted their timesheets, a manager approves hours for those under their supervision. If the manager finds a mistake, like a missing punch, for example, they have to investigate and correct the error. As part of the process, the manager may have to manually enter the hours data into a spreadsheet.

Following that, the manager sends the time data to the payroll department. The payroll department uses the timecard data to calculate withholdings, overtime if necessary, and issue a paycheck. In addition, the HR team uses the data to calculate accruals and do compliance reporting.

Modern Time Clocks Simplify Time and Attendance

Modern digital time clock hardware/software systems automate the majority of the workflow previously explained. First off, they don’t require paper timesheets because they create a digital record of time worked. At the end of the pay period, the data can be imported directly into the payroll system.

time clock hardware

Both employees and managers can see hours data in the system, including real time updates. Managers can approve time worked without having to collect physical timesheets. Modern timekeeping systems eliminate the end-of-pay-period mad dash to collect timecards and submit to payroll.

The elimination of manual data entry prevent payroll errors and employee hours fraud. This improves labor management, reduces costs and protects against compliance violations.

Time Clock Hardware Integrations

Now that we’ve discussed the basic process, let’s talk about other things modern employee time clock hardware can do. In addition to tracking work hours, time clock hardware can handle many HR tasks. They do this with integrations.

An integration is when the physical time clock software works with specialized HR software. Basically, the integration allows the time tracking system and HR software to share information. In addition, the user can set automatic triggers for various shared workflows.

For example, time clocks can sync with employee scheduling, PTO management, and overtime tracking. There are also tasks associated with compliance. Predictive employee scheduling laws and Payroll Based Journal reporting, for instance.

Features for Every Business Type

The time clock market has a clock for every employer type, business size and budget. For example, there are clocks that track remote and mobile employees. Field service businesses, for instance, can use time clock systems that track GPS location and mileage, for instance. And restaurants and hotels can use time clocks that track tips.

Professional services and construction can use time clocks that assign work time to jobs or clients. Healthcare and manufacturing businesses can use non-contact biometric clocks for employees wearing PPE and gloves. With these devices, the clock scans the employee’s face or iris to identify the employee.

How does employee time clock hardware help my small business?

Employee time clock systems provide the following benefits:

  1. Increased payroll accuracy
  2. HR metrics for time and labor management
  3. Prevention of unauthorized overtime
  4. Employee hours theft prevention
  5. Improved compliance
  6. Work schedule enforcement
  7. Access control for restricted work environments
  8. Devices with built-in thermal scanners can screen for elevated temperature

What are the different types of employee time clocks?

Let’s talk about specific types of employee time clock hardware:

PIN Entry Time Clocks

A PIN or key code time clock use a PIN to identify the employee. In addition, buttons indicate clock in or clock out. Employers use PIN clocks because they are affordable and convenient.

Proximity Card (or Fob) Time Clocks

A proximity-based time clock uses proximity cards or fobs. As such, the timer activates when the employee places their fob or card near the device. Companies with large work groups use proximity card time clocks because they can speed shift changes. This is because the employee doesn’t need to touch the physical clock.

Magnetic Card Swipe Time Clock

Similarly, card swipe clocks use magnetic cards to register access. Employees use a magnetic swipe card, like a credit card. In addition, most devices have buttons to indicate clock in or clock out.

Biometric Employee Time Clock Hardware

While the previous types of clocks have their advantages, small employers should consider a biometric device. A biometric time clock uses a unique physical identifier to confirm an employee’s identity when they clock in and out. For example, some require that the employee touch the device with their fingerprint or palm. Others, in contrast, scan the employee’s iris or use facial recognition.

facial recognition timeclock

Because they use a non-transferable identifier, biometric time clocks prevent hours theft including buddy clocking. Buddy clocking or punching is when an employee clocks in for another employee who is not at work. Another form of hours theft is when an employee habitually clocks in a few minutes early or clocks out a few minutes late. A few minutes every day adds up.

Mobile or Web-Based Time Clock

Mobile apps for timekeeping, not surprisingly, track time with a mobile device. In addition, many use GPS to identify employee location. Consequently, web-based time clocks are gaining in popularity. One reason is because employees can use their own smartphones to access the system in an app or web browser. Similarly, employers can access reports in the attendance software on their own mobile devices. Indeed, mobile time clocks increased in popularity during the massive transition to remote work in 2020.

Mobile Time Clocks With Geofencing

Let’s discuss geofencing, a key feature of some mobile timekeeping apps. What is a geofence? Geofencing is a tracking capability that allows a manager to define a virtual boundary. The virtual boundary is called a geofence. It is based on an actual physical location.

Because it tracks location, geofencing gives you and your managers oversight superpowers. This is how it works. Firstly, you set your geofences with a map in the app. Secondly, you assign employees to their authorized geofence. When an employee punches in, the app tracks their location relative to the geofence. Lastly, you can set manager alerts for out-of-bounds punches. Importantly, some apps (like WorkforceHub from Swipeclock, for example) let you identify numerous geofences.

Benefits of Geofencing for Time Tracking

Now that we’ve briefly described what geofencing is, let’s outline some specific advantages. Using a mobile timekeeping app with geofencing allows you to:

  1. Identify employees who clock in or out beyond their authorized location
  2. Receive a notification in real time if a punch occurs outside the fence
  3. Generate reports of punch times and locations for a specific employee or group
  4. Enforce employee attendance policies
  5. Ensure employees know they are at the correct location
  6. Track employee hours per project or job location
  7. Track mileage for reimbursement

Because geofencing verifies where each employee clocks in and out relative to the geofence, if the employee is inside the geofence, all is well. If not, a manager is alerted. Ultimately, geofencing makes it easy to confirm that employees are working where scheduled.

How does this help my company?

  • Improved Productivity
    • Employees know if they are at the right job site, managers can redirect employees who fail to clock in
  • Time Savings
    • Managers know where all clock activity occurs and can focus on exceptions without having to be physically present.
  • Job Costing
    • Track jobs by location, employee mileage for more accurate job costing and reimbursement.
  • Health and Safety
    • Employees use their smartphones for shift punching, avoiding a shared physical clock and crowded clock-in queues
  • Remote and Mobile Work Oversight
    • Track workers in the field who move around throughout the day
  • 24/7 Mobile Access
    • Employees and managers can see all punches anywhere, anytime

Mobile Location Management Sets You Free

Certainly, mobile location tools significantly reduce time spent monitoring where and when employees are working. Instead of tracking down mobile employees throughout the day, for example, you could concentrate on projects and employee development.

mobile employee timekeeping

Consider that geofencing alerts allow supervisors to manage by exception. They can address problem punches, not the in-bounds punches. Managing by exception is a best practice that saves time and improves efficiency.

In addition, geofencing helps with daily service schedules. If a worker doesn’t clock in when and where they are supposed to, you can adjust the schedule as needed.

What’s the best way to introduce a mobile system with geofencing?

If you use geofencing, be sure to make it part of your formal attendance policy. The policy should address the following issues for employees:

  • How do I punch in/out?
  • What if I forget to punch in/out?
  • Where do I see my schedule?
  • Where do I see my timecard?
  • What if I get to work a few minutes early—can I clock in?
  • Can I clock out after my shift end time?
  • Am I supposed to clock out for breaks and meals?
  • What if I need to trade a shift?
  • What alternative is there if I don’t want to use the timekeeping app?

In Conclusion

If you are a small business owner looking for a straightforward way to improve labor management, consider upgrading your employee time clock hardware and software. You will experience immediate ROI and can re-invest the money saved into growing your business

To learn more about employee time clock hardware and software, visit WorkforceHub.com.

Do you need help managing employees who are working from home?

For a detailed, in-depth guide, get our free eBook How to Master Remote Workforce Management.

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