Considering using a free digital time clock for your employees to punch in and out? A free time clock app could do the trick.
Payroll processes are often tedious and time-consuming, and the less manual labor your team needs to do, the better. For example, clocking in and out of work using a paper timecard or wall time clocks wastes both time and money. That's why many businesses are going digital and introducing a clock app for their employees to use.
There are many benefits of using a digital time clock app to track your employees' hours, including efficiency and security. Not only is it a convenient option, it also doesn't need to break the bank.
While there are many expensive online time clocks, free options are also abundant. Considering using a free time clock for your business? Here's what you'll get – and what you'll be missing.
Feature benefits of free time clocks
There are many key features of free time clocks for tracking employee time. Here are a few popular benefits you'll reap without paying a single penny for a digital time clock.
Of course, the most obvious pro of using a free time clock is that you don't need to invest any money to add users. While some services limit your number of users (sometimes only allowing one), many free time clocks allow unlimited users for no cost. That means your entire company can use the application to track their hours in one cohesive place.
Most free applications keep copies of recent timesheets for you to track employee time, helping you better manage your team and identify any concerns with how company time is being used. In this way, a time clock can also serve as a tracking app that helps employers manage employee scheduling efficiently.
"Time clock systems help employers keep accurate records of their employees' daily work time," said Norhanie Pangulima, content ambassador at Her Norm. "It can also serve as a basis for an employee's work ethics, which can either cause him/her to be promoted or fired."
Not only is this good news for employers, who can easily identify patterns of tardiness, long breaks or inefficiencies – it also helps reward employees who go above and beyond and wouldn't otherwise be recognized.
"Time clocks protect employees from being taken advantage of, ensuring they get paid for overtime," said Scot J. Chrisman, founder and CEO of The Media House. If an employee is ever denied their earned overtime pay, they can use their timesheet as proof of their long hours.
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GPS tracking is a must-have for most managers in a time clock app. This feature ensures employees are clocking in from the right location – in other words, that they're not logging time while running errands or still on the commute to work.
However, Chrisman noted that many employees clock in for their tardy or absent co-workers by logging in with their information from the proper location, which can breed mistrust between managers and staff. Free time clock systems are not foolproof in this aspect.
Today, there's an app for everything – including most free time clocks. Mobile time clock apps allow workers to clock in and out, request days off, submit time and attendance records for payroll, and more from any location. They also serve as a centralized location for employers to track time and employee attendance patterns.
Managers can also review their workers' hours and perform associated tasks from the mobile app. Is your train running late when timesheet submissions are due to payroll in 30 minutes? Use the mobile app. Got a notification that an employee clocked out too early when you've already left the office for the day? You can address the issue right on your phone.
Feature downfalls of free time clocks
When you aren't paying anything for your online time clock, it's inevitable that you'll miss some features that the paid versions offer. Here are a few important ones that might be deal-breakers for you.
Lack of integration
It's important for most of your business software to seamlessly integrate so you won't have as much manual data entry or face issues bred from disorganization. For instance, time clocks often work together with other payroll processes, like calculating pay and creating employee reports. However, free applications often don't integrate well, if at all.
To experience seamless integration with time clock software, you'll likely be expected to upgrade your plan and pay for the services – which, of course, defeats the purpose of having a "free" time clock.
"The cons are certain key features, such as integration with other software tools, are typically done only through a paid plan," said James Banks, co-founder and CEO of Web3. "For online time-clocking to be successful in your business, you may require some key integrations, so it is always best to research all viable options on the market (both free and paid), trial them and see which ones work best for your business."
Time theft is a common issue for businesses that use free time clocks, as there is little to no surveillance preventing it – especially if there is no GPS location or facial recognition feature to ensure your employees truly worked the total hours they recorded.
"Manual systems can easily be fooled, as some employees may just clock in but leave the office, or they can simply ask someone else to clock in for them," said Pangulima. "This is why such systems must be coupled with surveillance or a much more efficient time-tracking tool one."
If you have a small team and trust your workers, this might not concern you. To protect your business from time theft while using a system with no surveillance, though, you should still actively analyze your workers' performance levels to ensure they're not suffering.
Many time clocks only accommodate a few users, which might cancel out the benefits. If your entire team can't use the system, it can lead to disorganization and confusion in the workplace. Timesheets will be held in various locations, and your payroll report could become much more difficult to manage. It is best to use a single solution for employee time tracking to keep things organized.
Choosing the right free time clock system
A simple Google search will find you countless free time clock systems, but not all are created equal. For instance, one application might let you enable facial recognition and GPS tracking for clock-ins to ensure your employee is actually at work – and is actually who they say they are, not another employee covering for them – when they start their day.
However, this same application's free version might only allow one user. Meanwhile, another free time clock might not possess the same GPS tracking feature the other does but allows for unlimited users. Ideally, you'll find a free software time clock that does both, but that's not always the case.
When vetting your options, keep in mind the features you consider essential for your business, and make sure they are available without additional costs or upgrades.