To make the process of tracking employees' time more efficient, many employees have turned to digital solutions. Instead of making hourly employees clock in and out of work using paper timecards or wall timeclocks, today's digital offerings not only make time tracking a smoother process, it also makes your payroll process easier.
There are many benefits of using a digital timeclock beyond simplifying your company's payroll process. Timeclock apps track your employees' work hours, improve efficiency and boost security. Not only is it a convenient option, it also doesn't need to break the bank.
While there are many expensive online timeclocks, there are an abundance of free options. Considering using a free timeclock for your business? Here's what you'll get (and what you'll be missing).
The benefits of free timeclocks
There are many key features of free timeclocks and clock apps. Here are a few popular benefits you'll reap without paying a single penny.
Of course, the most obvious pro of using a free timeclock is that you don't need to invest any money in it. While some services limit their users to as few as one, many free attendance software programs support unlimited users.
As Pangulima points out, timeclock apps call attention to an employee's habits and behaviors, bad or good. With these apps, employers can easily identify patterns of tardiness, long breaks or inefficiencies; conversely, it can reward employees who go above and beyond and wouldn't otherwise be recognized.
Timeclocks also serve to benefit employees. "Timeclocks protect employees from being taken advantage of, ensuring they get paid for overtime," said Scot J. Chrisman, founder and CEO at The Media House.
If an employee is ever denied pay for overtime hours, their timesheets serve as proof of their total work hours.
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If your employ workers who drive company vehicles or who do work for your business away from the office, GPS tracking is a must have. GPS location tracking ensures employees are clocking in and out from the right location; that is, an employee isn't not logging time on their iPhone or iPad while running errands or commuting to and from work.
However, Chrisman noted that many employees will clock in for their tardy or absent co-workers by logging in with their information from the proper location, which can bread mistrust among managers and their staff. Free time-clock systems are not foolproof in this aspect.
Today, there's an app for everything -- including most free employee time-tracking clocks. Mobile timeclock apps allow workers to clock in and out, request days off, submit time and attendance records for payroll using their mobile device.
Managers can also review employee hours and perform other associated tasks from the mobile app. Train running late and timesheet submissions due to payroll in 30 minutes? Use the mobile timeclock app. Got a notification that an employee clocked out too early when you left the office for the day? Check the mobile app so you can address the issue without pulling out your laptop on the bus ride home.
The limitations of free timeclocks
There are, however, some important features that only paid versions offer. Here are some 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 work or contend with technical issues. Timeclocks often work together with other payroll processes, like calculating labor costs and creating employee time reports. However, free applications often don't integrate well, if at all.
To experience seamless integration of time-clock software, you'll likely need to upgrade your plan and pay for the services, which, of course, defeats the purpose of a "free" employee timeclock.
"The cons are certain key features, such as integration with other software tools, [that] are typically done only through a paid plan," said James Banks, co-founder and CEO of Web3. "For online timeclocking 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 many businesses that use free online timeclocks, as there is little to no surveillance to prevent it, especially if there is no GPS location tracking or facial recognition feature available.
"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."
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, actively analyze your workers' performance levels to ensure that you are seeing consistency with the number of hours they are reporting on their timesheets and their output.
Limited number of users
Many timeclock solutions accommodate a few users, which might be a deal-breaker for your business. If your entire team can't use the system, it can lead to disorganization and confusion in the workplace.
Choosing the right free time-clock system
A simple Google search returns countless free timeclock systems, but as noted above, there are significant disparities between each solution. For instance, one application might offer facial recognition and GPS tracking for clock-ins, so you can ensure your employee is actually at work -- and is actually who they say they are, and not another employee covering for them – when they start their day.
However, this same application's free version might limit the number of users allowed to only one. Meanwhile, another clock solution might not possess the same GPS-tracking feature the other does but allows for unlimited users.
When vetting your options, keep in mind the features you consider essential for your business, and make sure they are available without additional costs and/or upgrades.