Timesheet errors aren’t just annoying—they’re costly. When your teams don’t have the right tools to keep their shifts organized and tracked, your business pays for it. But with the right technology, timesheet errors can be avoided, so your employees get paid for the time they worked and your operational costs stay on budget.
Read on for more about timesheets, the causes and impact of errors, and how to prevent mistakes once and for all.
What is a timesheet?
A timesheet is a tool that employers use to monitor the duration of a time that an employee spends on their work or a specific task. Commonly known as “time cards,” a timesheet is like a log of employee clock-ins and clock-outs, especially for workers who are paid on an hourly basis. Its purpose is to keep track of employees’ hours and time records, supporting the calculation of payroll based on their working hours.
What are the common types of timesheets
There are a number of common types of timesheets that small business use—some convenient, and some less so. Like the paper version, which is a physical document, and a digital timesheet which provides a more modern take on tracking time.
Let’s break down both paper and digital timesheets to help you decide what’s best for your business.
Paper timesheets are physical documents that employees use to manually record their clock in-and-out times, plus any breaks or notes. At their best, paper timesheets typically include:
- Employee information, like name and ID
- The date, so employers can know what pay period they are tracking for
- Times worked, including clock in-and-out times and breaks taken
- A tally of total hours worked, so employers can see how much an employee worked over a pay period
- Shift notes, including any overtime, vacation or sick leave
- Approvals, including signatures from employees and their manager
While the above is a list of what paper timesheets should include, often they don’t. A hastily scribbled schedule that doubles as a timesheet isn’t that surprising to find tacked to a bulletin board. Although paper timesheets can seem easy and efficient, tracking time manually is extra prone to errors.
Plus, paper timesheets lack the real-time tracking that your business might need to stay on top of things, like federal labor requirements. For instance, in order to see how much time an employee worked this week, you have to wait for the timesheets to be submitted. And that’s if it happens on time.
Let’s get digital. Digital with your time tracking, that is.
Digital timesheets are electronic versions of timesheets. They allow for a more automated approach to time tracking, and can be accessed using any number of devices, including computers and tablets, and even an employee’s personal smartphone.
Digital timesheets are used by small businesses to make the tedious task of time tracking more streamlined. Bonus: digital timesheets mean a lot less error. They automatically calculate total hours worked, overtime, and things like special pay rates, meaning managers don’t have to sit around with a calculator to figure out who gets paid what and when.
On top of that, certain digital timesheets are made to integrate with payroll software or systems, which means processing pay gets a whole lot simpler, not to mention accurate.
4 common timesheet errors to look out for
1. Forgetting to track time
Employees rushing in to make their shift on time? Whoops—that might result in starting without a clock-in. The same thing can happen if an employee is returning from break, asked to hop on during a busy period, or has to run out to catch the next bus, which unfortunately, comes just two minutes after their shift ends.
When workers are rushed, frantic, or simply just being helpful by cutting their break short to lend a hand, timesheet errors are destined to occur. Especially when they’re done manually and without automation.
2. Incorrect times
Do your workers’ timesheets seem a little off? You might be right. Recording incorrect times is a common timesheet error. It can happen with clocking in, clocking out, and when employees take their breaks. When done intentionally, it’s called time theft, and it can cost you money. Regardless, when it’s done on a regular basis or by multiple workers, the price adds up, costing you money, and the time and energy to fix it.
3. Round ups, downs, and approximations
This type of timesheet error is very common. For example, an employee is scheduled to finish their shift at noon, but it’s 11:51 a.m. and the day is slow. So, the employee decides to mark their end time at 12, but leaves almost 10 minutes early. This is easily done with paper timesheets, and depending on how much it happens, it can be a significant loss to your business for time you’re paying your team when they’re not working.
We thought about leaving this one off the list… but omissions are a timesheet error that shouldn’t be missed. This error can happen when an employee leaves out certain information or notes that pertain to their shift. For instance, a worker takes an extra 5 minute break each shift, but only makes it as their 15, or an employee left 20 minutes early to make a doctor’s appointment but jotted down their usual end time instead.
What seem like small omissions can make a big impact: on your budgets, and also on the performance of your workers.
What’s the cause of timesheet errors?
Finding errors in your timesheets? It might be due to one of these four common causes.
The wrong technology
Technology is great, but it isn’t always perfect. Depending on the tools your workers are using, you might experience bugs or technical issues that can leave your timesheets with errors. For example, maybe your Google Sheet has a formula wrong that regularly skips all Wednesday shifts for payroll. On top of that, if the technology wasn’t specifically designed for how your team works, you and your team might end up with some questions.
They say “to err is human”, and if you’re using timesheets at your business, you’d probably have to agree. But to be fair, it’s normal for mistakes to happen, especially when there’s lots to keep track of.
With budgets, schedules, performance reviews, busy peaks, and payroll, you don’t always have time to keep up with timesheets. This can lead to mistakes that add more to your to-do list and subtract from your profits. Not the growth your small business is looking to achieve.
This timesheet error can be an accidental mistake, but sometimes can be committed purposely. Time theft is when a worker takes unauthorized time without clocking it, or using paid time off or paid sick leave. Simply put, it’s about stealing time. And that’s all top easy to do with manual timesheets.
Damaged or lost timesheets
This one’s for the paper-timesheet losers. No, we’re not being mean—we’re being honest.
Losing a timesheet is easy, especially given the fact that shift workers are often on-the-go, working in a busy environment or in the field, and already have many tasks to take care of.
Add manual time tracking to the list, and it’s no wonder mistakes happen, like losing or damaging their timesheet.
What’s the impact of timesheet errors?
Mistakes happen, but when it comes to your timesheets, they can add up. Literally.
In fact, one survey has reported that payroll problems affect 82 million American workers. So, what does that mean for your business?
The true cost of timesheet errors
First, let’s talk about money. Timesheet errors can put a dent in your budgets and profits. According to an American Payroll Association study, time tracking mistakes from issues like buddy punching are the reason why about 75% of businesses lose money.
Team morale can also drop from timesheet errors. Picture this: your employee receives their pay and notices that it’s about a hundred dollars short. This confuses them, as they were on the schedule for 30 hours in one week, but their pay is accounting for only 25.
Here’s what happened. This employee forgot to clock in and out for an afternoon shift. And because it didn’t show up on the timesheet, it was missed during payroll. Now, you have a worker who’s stressed, disappointed, and frustrated because they needed to receive their full pay. Their morale has dropped, along with the mood, and that impacts everyone in your business—including your customers.
Now, back to payroll and HR. Here’s where timesheet errors can be extra sticky.
Timesheet errors and human resources
Completing payroll requires a lot of accuracy and efficiency. If timesheets don’t offer that, the process is going to be more difficult than it needs to be. There’s the extra time spent tracking down teammates and their timesheets. Then, the questions about time off or missed clock-ins. Finally, you’ve got to bring everything together and hopefully calculate it all correctly to get your staff paid the right amount.
It’s a lot of time and energy that could be spent elsewhere—like, you know, growing your business.
Last but not least, let’s go over the legal stuff: labor laws. Timesheets aren’t just there to make sure that you’re not underpaying or overpaying your staff. Timesheets help you stay compliant with the law, including overtime violations and minimum wage disputes.
Let’s say there’s a timesheet error that leaves your team to believe that you’re not paying them the overtime they’ve earned. They have the ability to file a complaint with the Wage and Hour Division.
Now that we’ve reviewed impacts, let’s work on preventing timesheet errors in the first place.
3 ways to prevent timesheet errors
Timesheet errors are preventable. Here are three tips to reduce and prevent these tedious mistakes.
1. Move on from paper
If you haven’t guessed it already, paper timesheets aren’t usually the best way to track time. By saying goodbye to traditional logs you’re able to usher in more modern, streamlined, and efficient approaches to time tracking: the digital time clock and automated timesheets.
2. Use the right technology
So, you’ve said yes to going digital, but now what? You’ve got a few options to choose from when it comes to a modernizing timesheets, but you’ll want one that’s made for how you do business.
Look for something that’s simple to use, and can keep up with your employees. If your workers are always on-the-go, look for software that connects with their personal phones, like GPS time clocks.
On the HR and compliance side of running your small-but-mighty business, you’ll want software that can support your needs. Maybe that’s an HR expert who can walk you through your time off policies or time clocks that seamlessly integrate with your payroll.
Whatever it is, make sure you know your needs before implementing technology so it can check off the boxes you need it to. Digitally, of course.
“The fact that the time card collection is built right into the same app is really helpful. The seamless way the data goes over to Quickbooks and I can run payroll with a couple of button clicks is great.” – Keith Zimmerman, Owner of Plum Creek Farm in Bernville, PA
3. Communicate with your team
Congratulations! You’ve got the technology you need to make timesheets a breeze… so, now what? It’s time to communicate this to your team. And with the right software that’s built for teams just like yours, you won’t even need hour-long how-to videos.
Let your workers know how to download the time clock app, and give them a quick tutorial on how to use it, and its capabilities. Highlight the perks for them, like transparent and real-time tracking so they can see what they’re earning as it happens, or the automated reminders that let them know they forgot to clock in.
If you have new time clock or scheduling policies in place, review them with your team so they know the rules and how to easily follow them.
They’ll thank you for it—promise.
Avoid timesheet errors with Homebase
The good news? Timesheet errors don’t have to happen.
When you trade in your old-timey punch clocks and timesheets for newer models—i.e. Homebase’s time clock and automated online timesheets—timesheet errors become a thing of the past.
Automated timesheets make time tracking easy, for you and your teammates. Use it to calculate hours, breaks, overtime, and wages for your workers, and save the time you’d usually spend tracking down timesheets and approvals with a streamlined payroll process.
Here’s how it works. When your employers clock in and out using Homebase, it automatically calculates their total hours, paid and unpaid breaks, and overtime. It can also track salaried employees and calculate non-exempt salaried overtime—perfect for compliance and labor laws.
Timesheet errors FAQ
What are timesheet errors?
Timesheet errors are the mistakes that happen when workers improperly record and track their hours, including start and end times, breaks, and time off.
What are some examples of timesheet errors?
Some examples of timesheet errors are inputting the wrong time or rounding up or down. This could be an employee tracking their time as a 3 p.m. clock out when they actually left at 2:45 p.m. because their shift was slow.
Timesheet errors also include late submissions or data entry mistakes, like putting in the wrong date and time, or missing an entry altogether.
What causes timesheet errors?
Timesheet errors can happen for a number of reasons, like technological errors, human error, and unintentionally, like clocking in early or late without thinking of the impact it has on pay or the business.
What’s the impact of timesheet errors on a small business?
Timesheet errors can have big impacts on small businesses. When mistakes happen, it can result in overpaying or underpaying workers, plus a taxing and tedious payroll process. When mistakes come through on an employee’s pay, trust, morale and productivity can drop. Timesheet errors can also cause compliance issues with labor laws, which can impact the workload—and reputation–of business owners.
Is your business struggling with timesheet errors? Homebase can help your team avoid the headaches and stress that start with timesheet errors and end with disgruntled employees and lost payments. Get started for free.