How to Avoid This One Issue With Manual Time Cards

Manual and paper time cards have been around for a long time, and because many companies are reluctant to spend money to update their paper timesheet systems they’re still in use today.

But just because they work, to an extent, doesn’t mean that sticking with manual attendance systems is the best option. These days, having a robust and automated employee timesheet system that verifies work hours, and syncs up with your payroll processing system is the best way to streamline efficiency in your workforce management, all while ensuring that you’re paying your team for the total hours they’ve worked.

While there are many issues with manual time cards, one of the most common problems with manual systems is improper interpretation of time card data.

When entering the data manually into a payroll system, there’s a good chance of human error occurring. This, of course, can result in inaccurate paychecks – something that can add up considerably over the year. In fact, the American Payroll Association estimates that the average business wastes 1-8 percent of its total payroll on clerical errors.

In this post, we’re going to go into how small businesses and enterprises alike can fall prey to this issue with manually calculating employee hours. Then, we’re going to talk about ways to protect yourself from it.

Note: If you’re frustrated with the issues that come from manually monitoring daily timesheets to track time and attendance for employees, you might want to try out our time clock software Buddy Punch. We built this tool after struggling to manage 20 employees at 3 different locations and grew it into a powerful piece of software that over 10,000 business owners have adopted. Click here to learn more.

Improper Interpretation of Time Card Data: A Serious Issue

The improper interpretation of time card data can happen to anyone. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean everyone is free of the consequences.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) makes it an employers’ responsibility to track regular hours, overtime hours, and time off for their team members in order to ensure that compensation is accurate on weekly, biweekly, or monthly timesheets.

Even when your employees, eager to make sure all their billable hours are properly accounted for, are aligned with this goal – human error is inevitable.

And if you’re using manual timesheets to monitor when employees clock in and clock out, human error can be downright pervasive.

Common Issues with Manual Timekeeping:

Clarity – Since handwriting is often hard to read, it is possible that your employees can end up paid past their clock out times – which can quickly add up. On the other end of the spectrum, if you can’t see their proper start time, either issue might end up in team members not being properly compensated at the appropriate hourly rate, which can end up having serious legal implications.

Errors During Transfer of Data – Even if you’re making use of a time card template, there’s a risk of numbers being transposed incorrectly as you move start and end times from the calculator to whatever you’re using to set up payroll. Something similar can happen if you use a time card calculator, where moving employee work times between Google Docs or Excel spreadsheets to the calculator and finally to payroll presents three different opportunities for data to be misconstrued. Even something as simple as employee names being similar can cause a massive skewing of your data.

Time Usage – Manual timekeeping is a time-consuming process no matter what sort of tricks you try to use. The American Payroll Association estimates that the average time spent adding up timecards is 7 minutes per card. And as many business owners know, it’s not uncommon for organizations with a manual timekeeping and payroll process to spend five hours or more running payroll at the end of each pay period.

Time Theft – Unfortunately, there’s also the chance of an employee deciding to flub the numbers that they’re working in real-time. If you’re using manual methods of monitoring employee work time, they might lie about when they punch in or out to pad the timesheet, or one employee might lie and say that an employee is present when they really aren’t.

The whole point of employee time cards is to exercise greater control over schedules; it’s antithetical to then spend a large amount of time just counting the number of hours worked. And since a handwritten, manual timecard has no supporting evidence – if there’s any discrepancies, you’ll have no choice but to take your employees’ word that they worked the hours that they say they did, even if they didn’t.

How to Avoid Improper Interpretation of Time Card Data

The best way to avoid the issue of improper interpretation of time card data is by upgrading to a new time tracking system. For some businesses (especially small business owners), they think this means making the switch to a weekly timesheet template to help them monitor hours and overtime pay.

The problem with this solution is that it only moderately reduces the chance of human error. Whether you’re using Google Sheets, Microsoft Excel, or some other form of template, there’s still a chance that something can go wrong – a misplaced decimal, an employee underplaying how long of a lunch break they took, someone punching in for someone that isn’t present.

This is why savvy business owners turn to using timesheet software to completely eliminate the odds of human error and employee manipulation.

Digital Time Tracking Software Completely Solves This Issue

The only way to completely eliminate improper interpretation of time card data is to completely automate the process. Luckily, that’s exactly what time card software happens to do. Instead of risking time data being inaccurate, you can rest easy knowing that it’s been digitally recorded.

Take a look at our very own Buddy Punch for example. We built this software to ensure that employees were held accountable for their time on the clock, even if they were working at remote locations.

Buddy Punch’s Features For Ensuring Accurate Time Data

Webcam Photos on Punch

Buddy Punch’s Webcam Photos on Punch feature will automatically take a photo of an employee when they clock in – which is perfect for making sure they are who they say they are. No more worrying about time theft or buddy punching.

Job Codes

Buddy Punch’s Job Codes feature allows you to track the amount of time your employees spend working a job. Simply create a custom code and assign it to your employees, and they can clock into that task as they work. This is perfect for seeing what team members are working on every day of the week, and determining which tasks are most profitable on a monthly basis.


With Buddy Punch’s Geofencing feature, you can create a radius on a map (known as a geofence) that will determine where your employees are able to start logging time. If they try to start logging time while outside one of these radii, they’ll receive an error notification and be denied.

GPS Tracking

Buddy Punch’s GPS Tracking feature enables you to keep track of where employees are even when they’re not on site. Once they clock in on their mobile devices, you’ll see where they are via a pin marked on an interactive map.

Drag & Drop Employee Scheduling

Drag and drop employee scheduling makes it easy to get your team members set up for a week of work. Simply click on an empty cell in Buddy Punch’s interface, then drag and drop as needed. Once you’ve created a schedule you’re satisfied with, publishing it will send an automatic notification to all scheduled employees.

Built-In Payroll

While Buddy Punch has a payroll integration feature to connect directly with popular tools such as QuickBooks and PayChex, we’ve also recently added a built-in payroll option. With this feature, you can keep all your employee data in-house and enjoy the benefits of automated timesheets, employee self-onboarding, and more. (Click here to read on).

What we’ve touched on are just some of the features Buddy Punch has to offer business owners who want to make sure time cards are accurate. And we’re not the only ones who like the tool we’ve built. On software review site Capterra, Buddy Punch currently has a rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars, based on 832 reviews.

Buddy Punch works as both a desktop app and a mobile app for smartphones and tablets. You can start a 14-day free trial (no credit card required) by clicking here.

Avoiding the Issues Associated with Manual Time Cards

Though manual methods of timekeeping can be adequate at the start of a business, it’s important to move on to digital methods if you wants if you want to scale your business, keep your team honest and accountable, and ensure accuracy and optimization of the time you’re paying for.

Your employees will be happy to know that they are being accurately compensated for time worked and overtime, and your payroll admin will be glad that they no longer have to spend time deciphering handwriting.

And of course, you will be happy to know for certain that your workers are being paid fairly – and knowing that you’re not paying out for time that wasn’t worked.

Try Buddy Punch Free

If you’ve decided that a time card software would make it easy for you to ensure that employee work hours are always accurate, you can sign up for a 14-day free trial of Buddy Punch here. You can also book a one-on-one demo, or view a pre-recorded demo video here.

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