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Updated Jun 14, 2024

A Primer on Time Clock Apps and Your Business

You need an accurate record of when your employees are on the clock. Here are some apps that can help.

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Andrew Martins, Senior Analyst & Expert on Business Strategy
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The ability to set and track your employees’ work hours is important, no matter how big your company is. These days, with no shortage of highly connected and cloud-based options, business owners can use modern time clock apps to view their employees’ locations, respond to time-off requests and view specialized payroll reports almost instantly.

Here’s what to keep in mind when you’re choosing the perfect time clock app for your business. 

Editor’s note: Looking for a time and attendance system? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you with free information.

What is a time clock app?

Time clock apps allow businesses and their employees to keep track of hours worked and streamline the payroll process. Instead of utilizing a physical time clock to punch in and out, employees use an app on their phones or computers. Then, managers can access the data whenever necessary.

Many time clock apps allow you to differentiate between regular time and overtime, as well as track any unpaid breaks your staff has earned, without having to sort through paperwork. The latest time clock apps include facial recognition, fingerprint scanners, digital proximity clocks and more. Different options can minimize the risk of time theft, buddy punching and human error.

FYIDid you know
The best time clock app for your business depends on your company's and employees' unique needs, so consider those requirements before you select a time clock app.

What to consider when choosing a time clock app

As with any business-related search, you should figure out your business’s needs before you start. If you have only a dozen employees at a single location, there’s no reason to splurge on a time clock app designed for multinational enterprises with thousands of employees. A little introspection saves time and money and ensures that whatever option you choose will be the best fit. Think about the following questions during your search.

How closely do you want to track your employees?

In the past, clocking in for work meant grabbing your timecard and punching in at a station. While that system worked for a long time, there was one major flaw: Unscrupulous employees used a tactic dubbed “buddy punching,” in which their friends would punch them in at the employee time clock station when they weren’t at the office.

Timecard fraud remains a real problem, but options in today’s web-based time clock apps can curtail that costly problem.

Some services allow managers to track employees’ locations through their smartphones’ GPS. Because nearly every app works on both Android and iOS devices, geolocation functionality can pinpoint where employees are when they clock in and out.

In addition, geofencing uses GPS tracking to restrict where employees can clock in or out. You can require them to be at your business’s physical location to do so. A biometric time clock may ask for a fingerprint scan or use facial recognition when employees clock in or out.

That may seem like a lot of employee data for managers to collect, but in the case of employee schedules and your company’s bottom line, time is literally money.

Do you need a time clock app that has additional employee scheduling features?

While a time clock app is important, a variety of additional functions can make everyone’s lives easier. Your managers may benefit from a time clock wizard, time-off management capabilities or the ability to draw up reports detailing the impact of your employees’ schedules on the company’s bottom line. 

FYIDid you know
With enough data in hand, you can make sure your payroll is correct while complying with overtime laws.

How well does a time clock app integrate with other programs?

Running a modern business is a lot like spinning plates: There’s a lot to consider at any one moment, and if you don’t have your attention on multiple things at once, everything can come crashing down. Various business programs can mitigate that issue. These days, top accounting software and Google Calendar are just as important as a cash register, so make sure your app is compatible with programs you’ve already implemented.

With the right app, you can automatically import employee schedules into a company calendar and email or text it to employees. Some integrations also allow your online time clock data to go directly to payroll, further ensuring that you’re accurately compensating employees for their time on the job.

Is there a best time clock app for Android or iOS?

Nearly every time clock company strives to get their apps in both the Google Play store and the Apple App Store. Smartphones are ubiquitous today, so these companies want to have their products on as many devices as possible.

If you come across a time clock app that supports only one type of device or the other, you should probably skip it and find a service that covers both mobile operating systems. Unless you provide business phones to your employees, you don’t want to hamstring your time-tracking capabilities by supporting only one. If you do need to choose, however, be aware that, according to StatCounter, iOS represents about 56 percent of the U.S. smartphone market, while Android has around 44 percent.

How much does a time clock app cost?

The cost of time clock apps and their associated services depends on multiple factors.

For example, if the software is hosted in the cloud, you may need to pay for additional online storage. Some companies charge extra based on the number of employees who will use the system or how many locations it will serve. If you want a wall-mounted time clock to give you more protection against timecard fraud, that will likely come with an additional cost as well.

According to our research, businesses with 20 employees might see their time and attendance program cost anywhere from $20 to $400 per month. Some providers have a monthly minimum cost, especially if they charge per employee. There may be additional setup and implementation fees.

Best time clock apps 

Here are some of our picks for the best time and attendance software solutions that offer mobile options.

Clockify

Clockify is a top option for organizations that have employees who work in the office and at home. The cloud-hosted system is accessible through the web and mobile apps. This platform offers both free and paid plans and includes an option for client billing. Learn more in our comprehensive review of Clockify.

QuickBooks Time

Accessible through a mobile app, computer or telephone, QuickBooks Time is a top solution for businesses with remote workforces. It offers GPS features to track remote employees, flexibility for workers to clock in and out, and other handy options, such as note-keeping capabilities. Learn more in our full review of QuickBooks Time.

TCP

If your business is growing, TCP could be the ideal option. In addition to providing essentials such as employee scheduling and overtime management, the app can be customized with add-ons. You can build your own package without paying for features you don’t need. Learn more in our full review of TCP (formerly TimeClock Plus)

Time Doctor

Time Doctor provides a full breakdown of what employees are working on and for how long, allowing you to stay on top of project deadlines and monitor time management skills. Employees can even add screenshots of updates to track progress and provide clarity. With this highly detailed timekeeping app, you can track where projects stall and figure out how to improve for the future. Learn more in our full review of Time Doctor.

When I Work

When I Work is a great option for restaurants and retail businesses. It offers scheduling software and tracks when your employees are on the clock, comparing the hours completed with the original schedule. It also allows staff members to swap shifts. When I Work offers web and mobile capabilities. Learn more in our full review of When I Work.

Did You Know?Did you know
Biometric time clocks, which use technologies such as facial recognition or fingerprint scanners, are not legal in every state. Plus, employees may find these technologies invasive, so make sure you do your research before implementing a biometric time clock.

Choose the best time clock app for your business

Regardless of your business’s size, a good time clock app can ensure that you compensate employees fairly and accurately. When you’re looking for such an app, remember that the question isn’t which app is best overall but rather which is best for your business’s unique needs. 

Sean Peek and Stella Morrison contributed to this article.

author image
Andrew Martins, Senior Analyst & Expert on Business Strategy
Andrew Martins is an award-winning expert in business and economics, known for his meticulous analysis of industry trends and his deep understanding of small business dynamics. With years of hands-on experience and on-the-ground reporting, Martins has crafted invaluable guides covering essential topics in small business technology and finance. In recent years, Martins has turned his attention to examining the impact of major events such as the 2020 presidential election and the COVID-19 pandemic on small businesses. Armed with a bachelor's degree in communication, his work has been featured on respected financial platforms like Investopedia, The Balance and LowerMyBills, as well as technology outlet Lifewire, and the pages of the New York Daily News.
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