When the Apple App Store initially launched, the term "app" hadn't yet made its way into the vernacular. Applications were something that ran on our personal computers, not our phones.
Today, apps are commonplace, and one of the most important business-related options is the time clock.
If you run your own small business, you likely recognize the importance of a good time clock app. The ability to set and track your employees' work hours is important, no matter how big your company is. These days, thanks to our highly connected and cloud-based options, business owners can use modern time-tracking apps to view their employees' locations, respond to time-off requests and view specialized payroll reports at a moment's notice.
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With so many time clock solutions and features available today, you may have a difficult time determining which one to use. Whether you need to manage schedules, track remote employees through real-time data, or any other time-tracking features for your small business, here's what to keep in mind when you start your search.
What to consider when choosing a time clock app
As with any business-related search, figure out your business's needs before you start. If you only have a dozen employees at a single location, there's no reason to splurge on a time clock app designed for multinational enterprises. A little introspection saves time and money, and ensures that whatever option you choose will be the best fit. Think about the following questions:
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, one major flaw existed: Less-scrupulous employees used a tactic dubbed "buddy punching," which entailed having their friends 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 your managers to track employees' locations through their smartphones' GPS. Since nearly every app works on both Android and iOS devices, geolocation functionality can pinpoint where the employee was when they clocked 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 in order to do so. A biometric time clock may ask for a fingerprint scan or use facial recognition when clocking 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, it's not the be-all and end-all in terms of employee scheduling. There is a range of additional functions that 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.
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, something can go wrong. 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 send it to employees' email inboxes or text it straight to their phones. 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 on both the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store. Smartphones are among the most ubiquitous pieces of technology today, so these companies want to have their product on as many devices as possible.
If you come across a time clock app that only supports 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 a business phone to your employees, you don't want to hamstring your time-tracking capabilities by only supporting one over the other. If you do need to choose, however, be aware that, according to Statista, iOS has about 15% of the global smartphone market share, while Android has around 84%.
How much does a time clock app cost?
Good time clock apps, like most time and attendance programs, come with a price tag. How much that app (and the associated service) costs 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 that will use the system or how many locations it will service. If you want to use a wall-mounted time clock to give yourself additional protections 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 costs end up anywhere from $20 to $300 per month. Some providers have a monthly minimum cost, especially if they charge on a per-employee basis. There may be additional setup and implementation fees.
Best time clock apps
Here are some of our best picks for time and attendance software that offer mobile options.
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 to the original schedule. It also allows staff to swap shifts. When I Work offers web and mobile capabilities. Learn more in our full review of When I Work.
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.
Accessible through a mobile app, computer or telephone, QuickBooks Time is a top solution for businesses with a remote workforce. 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
The bottom line on time clock apps
Regardless of where your small business is in its evolution or how many employees you currently have on staff, a good time clock app can help make sure you're fairly and accurately compensating employees.
When looking for such an app, remember that the question may not necessarily be "which is the best?" but rather "which is the best for my business?"
Stella Morrison contributed to the writing and research in this article.