Choose the Best Employee Timesheet Management Solution for Your Business

The first-ever employee timesheets were daily records made by an administrator who severely watched the clock on the wall. In the XIXth century, the industrial revolution made it impossible for a single administrator to watch hundreds of employees, so the punch cards took their place. It was easier and faster to allow the employees to record themselves the time when they arrived and left work. 

Nowadays, you have a wide range of employee timesheet management solutions. Although the old methods are still in place, more and more companies adopt modern digital solutions. Some companies are using automatic systems to track employees’ activity. Others rely on access badges. Many of them use dedicated software and store data in the cloud. However, the existence of so many different employee timesheet management solutions is proof that none of them is the best solution. So how can you choose the best employee timesheet management system for your business?

Types of employee timesheet management solutions

First of all, you should know all the available options. How many employee timesheet systems are, and what does each of them offer? Here are the major categories of employee timesheet management solutions:

  • Employee timesheet management on paper – They seem old-fashion but are still in use. Employees write the time and sign on a sheet of paper each day, when they arrive at work and when they finish their work hours. An administrator collects the files at the end of the month and reports the data to the accounting department. This system is free but uses a vast amount of paper each month and is hardly an eco-friendly system.
  • Employee timesheet management in Excel – Excel spreadsheets represent the perfect for well-structured records. Excel also provides calendars, time formats, and formulas for computing the amount of time an employee has worked in a day or month. There are many free Excel timesheet templates available. However, you need to buy a license for Microsoft Excel. Alternatively, you can use similar software that doesn’t require a license, like OpenOffice or cloud-based tools such as Google Sheets.
  • Dedicated timesheet management software – This solution provides tailored tools that adapt to your business’s needs. The data is processed manually, but you get periodic updates and maintenance, custom reports, and automatic backups. The software can run offline or online, with storage space in the cloud. While you can find free dedicated timesheet management software, most solutions for large businesses require a yearly license or monthly payments.
  • Automatic timesheet management – Many businesses choose to use the building’s access system or biometric systems to track how much time employees spend at the office. Working hours are recorded automatically, and this can save a lot of time. Even if the data is not 100% accurate, many companies prefer to have an overall situation without bothering employees with daily timesheet management. Other automatic timesheet management solutions track employees’ activity using software that records how employees use their workstations. Such algorithms use state of the art technologies, and some of them even artificial intelligence to learn how an employee uses the computer and shares working hours between different tasks. Nevertheless, automatic timesheet management solutions are expensive and can raise many ethical problems.
  • Employee timesheet management using access cards – Another alternative to classic timesheet management systems is recording information provided by access cards and biometric surveillance systems. Employees are identified when entering or leaving the office and data is automatically saved to track their working hours. However, these systems are expensive. They have other drawbacks too, such as recording data each time an employee exits the building even if it’s for work purposes, the possibility of exchanging access cards between employees, and losing data due to system malfunctions.

Things to consider when you choose an employee timesheet management solution

After doing your market research and finding out the available timesheet management alternatives, you should consider your business’s needs. It’s useless to dream at a sophisticated solution when you don’t have the budget for it. Also, choosing the cheapest solution when you have to manage hundreds of employees working in different time zones can create chaos and increase overall costs. Here is a list of things you should consider:

  • Budget;
  • Number of employees;
  • Working locations and their facilities;
  • Hardware resources and IT support;
  • Computer skills of the employees;
  • Internet connection;
  • Maintenance costs;
  • Company’s culture.

Nice-to-have features of digital employee timesheets:

Let’s face it: you probably won’t choose a paper-based timesheet in 2020. Thus we can focus more on digital solutions and help you decide between them. Digital timesheets can be amazing, but if they don’t fit your employees’ computer skills and hardware and software resources, they won’t help you. So, first of all, make sure the timesheet is accessible to your employees. For example, if your employees have never worked with Excel, it’s pointless to choose an Excel-based timesheet solution. Better go for dedicated software, with a user-friendly interface and many automatic processes. Nevertheless, prepare tutorials and workshops to ease employees’ accommodation with the new system.

To make things easy for everybody (employees, managers, the HR department, and the accounting department) look for the following features:

  • Online timesheet app with storage space in the cloud;
  • Customizable number of employees;
  • Tailored reports and statistics;
  • Automatic backups;
  • Automatic updates;
  • Payroll integration;
  • Maintenance included.

In conclusion

While time tracking automation can save a lot of time, you need to use a suitable time and attendance solution. We recommend staying away from free timesheet solutions, as most of the cases there are some strings attached. Moreover, when you have to manage remote work, part-time, and employees with different labor policies, you can’t rely on automatic systems anymore. Employee timesheet management has to be transparent, accurate, and flexible. It’s important for maintaining employees’ work satisfaction and motivation. Thus, in many cases, employee self-service is empowering and builds trust and good work relations. It’s up to you to choose the best employee timesheet management solution for your business. But keep in mind that it has to please all people involved, from employees to managers.

What is a Timesheet?

Timesheets have been around since the industrial revolution in the 19th century. Over time, they have changed their form, but their aim remained the same: to track employees’ work hours and determine their monthly payment.


A timesheet is a written record of the exact time an employee arrived and left work. In the older days, timesheets were made of paper or cardboard and stamped by administrative personal or time clock machines. While you can still find paper timesheets in some offices, most companies use digital timesheets created using text editors, Excel templates, dedicate software, online apps, or even access cards.

The benefits of timesheets

The main benefit of timesheets is maintaining accurate records of the time an employee arrived and left work. They are the easiest way to know how many hours an employee has worked. And based on these records, one can compute monthly wage.

Nowadays, monthly work hours are automatically calculated based on digital timesheets.

But timesheets have other benefits too. They eliminate mistakes and contradictions between staff and the management team. Timesheets also record overtime hours, which allows employees to be paid fairly for their work. By maintaining a transparent tracking of the work hours, the management team can combat burnouts and absenteeism. Timesheets are a good indicator of the efficiency of workers and stressful periods too.

By incorporating digital timesheets into the payroll system, a company can automatically manage remote teams, freelancers, and part-time employees.

How to use a timesheet?

Whether your company uses a paper or a digital timesheet, there are several ways to use it:

  1. The timesheet is updated by employees.
  2. The timesheet is updated by the administrative staff.
  3. The timesheet is automatically updated by reading employees’ access cards.
  4. The timesheet is automatically updated based on the clock-in punches.

A timesheet can cover a day, a week, two weeks, a month, or a specific period. At the end of the period specified by the timesheet, a member of the administrative team computes the number of hours an employee has worked for and communicated the results to the accounting department.

Integrated digital systems perform these operations automatically and provide real-time situations. In practice, the timesheet app reminds the employee to verify entries and submit and submit it for the line manager for approval. The supervisor checks the regular hours, and if there are overtime or additional absences and tries to avoid discrepancies like work within non-working days or multiple days of overtime, although the workload was not high.

Paper versus digital timesheets

One may say that’s no need for paper timesheets anymore. However, some companies prefer to use them because they’re accessible to all employees regardless of their computer skills, don’t need power or dedicated devices, and can be used in very remote locations. Moreover, for companies with few employees, the costs of implementing a digital system are not justified.

On the other side, large multinational companies with thousands of employees can’t work with paper timesheets. They need fast and efficient systems to track employees’ work hours. For them, costs aren’t an issue. They usually use integrated systems that track work hours, overtime, lunch breaks, and leave days and automatically communicate data to management, HR, and accounting departments.

As a result, before choosing between paper and digital timesheets, consider your company’s profile, number of employees, budget, and IT resources.

What features should digital timesheets have?

If you decide you need a digital timesheet solution, consider the following features:

  • Employee self-service with online clock-in – Employees can clock in and out from their desk even when they work from home or in remote locations.
  • Integration with the payroll system – You can skip manual computations because the system automatically communicates data to the accounting department.
  • Integration with the time-off manager – All employees’ data should be in one place, easy to manage and analyze. Using an integrated system allows the employees to manage their working hours and leave days in seconds.
  • Tailored calendars – When you’re in charge of employees working around the world you have to deal with public holidays, time zones, different leave policies, and different time schedules. Timesheet software should manage all this for you and give you the right tools for it.
  • Secure logins – Software should have secure connections and credentials for each employee. It should also accept different types of accounts and permissions.
  • Automatic reports – Timesheet software solutions should provide automatic working hour time reports making overall and individual statistics efficient and easy to follow.

How does digital timesheet software work?

Digital timesheet software can work offline (only in your company’s intranet) or online. You can choose from desktop software, online services, and mobile apps. You can choose to store data on your local servers or in the cloud. But regardless of the technical solution you choose, timesheet software provides customizable tools for time tracking.

Employees can use timesheet software to enter daily work hours, over time, the exact amount of time they spent with a task or project, leave days, and personal time off. Each employee has unique credentials to access their accounts. The software automatically generates reports and transmits data to the HR and accounting departments. Also, the software periodically creates backups and safely stores the employees’ data. And, of course, it doesn’t make mistakes or miscalculations.

In conclusion

Timesheets have been around for a long time and they’ll continue to be. So choose the best timesheet for your company and create a transparent and productive workflow. It’s important to use a timesheet that suits your employees’ work profile and skills, provides easy ways to enter data, and can be adapted to your company’s hierarchy.