Businesses with hourly employees need an efficient, accurate way to track work hours. The success of your business is at stake, especially when those hours directly affect both payroll for hourly workers and customer billing.

Even for salaried employees whose hours don’t require monitoring for payroll purposes, knowing how their time breaks down on projects can be very useful for project management.

There are a number of ways to track work hours. You’re probably already using at least one method. But payroll and payroll processing take a big enough bite of your time and operating expenses to warrant a look at which system will serve you best now and down the road.

Taking a closer look at why work hours are critical to track can help you decide which method you should be using.

Why track work hours

It’s essential to accurately track employee hours. Without a reliable method for recording worker hours, you are footing the bill for hours not worked. You’re also an expert in where your own labor hours are spent, which you should be.

There are three primary reasons you need a fool-proof system for tracking worker hours. All apply to companies with hourly employees. But as we said, there are good reasons for tracking salaried workers’ hours, too.

Making sure your payroll numbers are accurate.

It may seem easiest to have your employees send you their hours via text, or write them on a timecard, or just pay them for the same number of hours every week. The problem with these methods is that workers are human. So when they give you their hours, they’re rounding up—and you’re paying. Also, if a dispute ever arises and a worker says, “I worked forty hours that week and you only paid me for 35!”, you’ll have no reliable method of proving what they really told you—or what they really worked.

Meeting labor law standards for overtime and more.

Nearly every U.S. employer with wage workers—and some with non-exempt salaried employees—must comply with the Fair Labor Standards Ac. This Department of Labor law covers minimum wage, overtime, and payroll records. With clear and complete records of time worked, you can ensure that you are complying with FLSA standards—and you can show it easily in the case of a government audit.

Knowing where employee time is spent.

Do you hit bottlenecks in your construction, landscaping, manufacturing or other projects that could be relieved with schedule adjustments? Are employees spending too much time travelling to job sites when you could hire workers in different locales instead? Having an accurate picture of how your salaried or hourly employees spend their time enables you to make better staffing and scheduling decisions and boost productivity.

How you track work hours matters

Here are some methods for tracking worker hours, with a big warning that some of these techniques aren’t very accurate:

Paper timecards or time sheets – The “cheapest” method for tracking time, or so the old-school thinking goes. But you’re payingbig for hours not worked.

Excel spreadsheet – This is one way to gather thetimes employees worked into one place. But where are you getting the data? Are employees reporting it by email or text?Are you entering the numbers from paper timecards into a spreadsheet so you can export them into your accounting program? Either way, not only are the times not always accurate in the first place, but errors may be introduced in the data transfer.

Old-fashioned punch clock – These clocks will only serve you if a significant portion of your workforce stays in a fixed location for a long period of time. On the one hand, this solution prevents employees from fudging their hours. Though dishonest workers can punch in for each other on the sly. And if your team is spread out at different sites, this method is a no-go.

Biometric time tracking – Biometric hour tracking involves using biometric technology such as a fingerprint reader or facial recognition to confirm a worker’s identity at clock-in. While it is extremely accurate in confirming workers’ identities, a biometric solution can be expensive.

Time tracking app These apps collect data on workers’ phones and sync it with the centralized, often cloud-based software that the employer purchases. Using the app requires employees’ willingness, as do all the methods. To ensure it’s effective, employers simply require workers to use the app in order to get paid. The great thing about time tracking apps is that they’re in workers’ pockets and can easily collect and sync other important data to the office, so their functionality isn’t limited to just time collection. We’ll go into some of the other benefits below.

More benefits of a time tracking app to track work hours

As mentioned above, a time tracking app can include functionality beyond the simple collection of clock-ins and clock-outs from workers. With the data it collects, an app can give you insight into your labor hours and support more strategic decision-making.

With ExakTime’s feature-rich app—whose functionality is robust while remaining easy to use—there are about as many usage benefits as there are users. Here are just a few examples.

Confirming location

ExakTime’s time tracking app with GPS not only confirms the time of clock-in, but also the location. Our app immediately addresses the issue that employees can clock in and out from anywhere by allowing you to easily set a custom geofence for each job site in your software. Then, as employees select the name of their job site on clock-in, the app picks up their GPS location—and our software will alert you with a red flag if a worker clocked in or out off site. You can also see whether they were just outside the geofence, or a few blocks away at Starbucks.

Confirming ID with a photo

While each user of ExakTime has a unique four-digit PIN to enter as they clock in, employers can also enable the FaceFront photo ID verification function. This is an alternative to more expensive biometric clocks. It snaps a photo of the worker with the phone’s front-facing camera during clock-in and clock-out. This photo is instantly attached to their clock-in data in the cloud software, so you can be doubly sure that the face and name match.

Allowing for cost code tracking

Need to break down workers’ hours by task to better determine how long parts of a project took? With ExakTime’s time clock app, that isn’t a problem. Simply enter the relevant cost codes into your cloud software. They’ll be available for employees to select at clock-in. If they switch tasks in the middle of a shift, they can just change their cost code in the app. And you’ll have data that can help you bid and schedule better and streamline your projects.

Health & safety compliance made easier

ExakTime’s time tracking app is set up to capture quick answers to key compliance questions about health, injuries and breaks. For instance, when you activate our optional mobile health form, employees will be required to answer questions about COVID-19 exposure and symptoms as they clock in prior to starting their workday. Another compliance sign-off form asks employees at clock-out if they took breaks or were injured that day. You can even require a confirmation signature.