Selecting the Best Type of Time Clock for Your Business

Selecting the Best Type of Time Clock for Your Business

From Bundy clocks to punch cards to web-based software, there are multiple options for you to choose from.
Types of Time Clock

Humans have been tracking time for more than 3,500 years. In 1500 B.C., natives in Egypt, Greece, and Rome began tracking the sun’s shadow on dial plates to indicate the time of day.

From there, timekeeping continued to evolve, progressing from clepsydra — the counting of time via the flow of liquid, aka water thieving — to mechanical devices propelled by gears, pendulums, and springs. However, like most innovations, technological advancements have deemed many of these antiquated methodologies obsolete. Today, we’re able to track time using sophisticated, technology-rich, smart devices small enough to strap to our wrists.

Workplace time management systems have followed a similar technology-drenched trajectory, evolving from ink time stamps to systems designed to identify a human being based on the patterns of his or her iris.

When evaluating which time tracking system to implement within your company, there are many factors to take into account, including budget, employee size, and organizational structure. This article will explore the various types of time clocks available today and showcase some of the cutting-edge features they’re equipped with, all with the ultimate goal of helping you select the right time tracking system for your organization.

Types of Time Clocks

From basic punch cards to biometric scanners, there is no shortage of options. Here is a brief sampling of the various time clocks currently available for businesses to choose from.

Punch Card Time Clocks

Punch card time clocks are mechanical devices that became prominent in the 20th century. This system requires employees to insert paper cards into a machine, which punches or stamps the card with the time. Punch card time clocks — often referred to as Bundy clocks, in favor of their inventors, Willard and Harlow Bundy — were popular in manufacturing, retail, and other sectors with hourly employees. While these systems were an improvement over traditional pen-and-paper timekeeping, they had limitations. They relied on mechanical parts that could wear out, and there was potential for errors if an employee forgot to punch in or out.

While some legacy companies still use punch card time clocks, they’re largely considered obsolete, having been replaced by more modern and automated timekeeping systems, which offer greater accuracy, convenience, and additional workforce management features.

Tip: Consider using an online time clock—it makes tracking time and calculating overtime easier and faster.

Biometric Time Clocks

A biometric time clock is a timekeeping device that uses unique biological features or characteristics to identify and verify attendance. Biometric time clocks offer a secure and efficient way to track hours while minimizing the risk of time fraud. These systems are beneficial in that they help to eliminate buddy punching, are a convenient way for employees to punch in, do away with physical cards or PIN codes, and are incredibly accurate. Diving deeper, here are a few examples of biometric time clocks.

Fingerprint Recognition

Fingerprint biometric time clocks scan and analyze the unique ridges and valleys of an individual's fingertip. Employees register their fingerprints in the system, and subsequent clock-ins and clock-outs are verified by comparing the presented fingerprint with the stored template. These systems are accurate and relatively affordable for businesses to own and maintain.

Facial Recognition

Facial recognition time clocks use algorithms to analyze employees’ distinctive facial features, such as their eyes, noses, and mouths. Employees' facial templates are stored in the system, and the system compares the live facial image with the stored image. These systems offer quick, easy data collection; however, they’ve been commonly targeted by hackers, potentially leaving employees vulnerable to security breaches.

Iris or Retina Scanning

Iris or retina scanning involves capturing detailed images of employees’ eyes to create unique biometric templates, which are retained for future verification. While highly accurate, some individuals may consider this approach to be intrusive. Unless your company houses top-secret information, there may be better options available.

Hand Geometry Recognition

Hand geometry recognition measures and analyzes the shape and size of an individual's hand. Employees place their hands on a scanner, and the system verifies the unique hand geometry against stored templates. While not as robust as fingerprint or iris recognition, hand geometry systems are generally unaffected by surface-level changes, like dirt or scars, making them highly accurate.

Voice Recognition

Voice recognition biometric time clocks identify individuals through their unique vocal characteristics. Employees' voices are recorded and stored in the system, and subsequent punch-ins and -outs involve comparing their live voices with the stored templates. However, much like facial recognition software, voice recognition systems are vulnerable to hacks. In fact, University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers recently duped voice recognition software with PVC pipes.

Proximity Time Clocks

Proximity Time Clocks

A proximity time clock, also known as a radio-frequency identification (RFID) time clock, is designed to track employees’ time using contactless technology. Rather than swiping a card or punching a button, employees can simply hold a badge or fob near a reader, which transmits their information to the system. RFID systems are designed to log employees’ arrivals, breaks, departures, etc., streamlining the time tracking process. While RFID technology is an efficient way to track employees’ comings and goings, the systems can be expensive. Additionally, employees must carry tangible cards or fobs, which may become faulty or lost over time. With badges or fobs alone, these systems are susceptible to buddy punching, which can be problematic for employers.

Web-Based Time Clocks

Web-Based Time Clocks

A web-based time clock is a timekeeping system that operates through a web browser, allowing employees to clock in and out online from any device with internet access. This type of time clock allows employes to clock in and out wherever they are, which became paramount during the pandemic.

Web-based systems tend to be affordable, as they require minimal hardware to operate, and can be easily scaled to meet the needs of a growing workforce. Because these systems are easy to update, they’re often adaptable to changing labor laws, keeping up with changes regarding overtime calculations, break times, and other regulatory requirements.

One downside: These systems are internet-dependent and require a reliable internet connection to function. Additionally, when opting for a web-based system, ensure your partner has safeguards in place to protect your data and offers compatibility across each technology brand, i.e., Apple and Android.

Mobile Time Clocks

Mobile Time Clock

Much like web-based time clocks, mobile time clocks are digital tracking systems that rely on an internet or cellular connection; however, they differ in that the program is typically accessed through a dedicated app on a smart device.

Mobile time clocks differ from web-based time clocks in that mobile apps are typically able to store punches offline and sync the necessary data when a connection is available. Mobile time clocks may also leverage geolocation capabilities, allowing an employer to track an employee’s current location and provide breadcrumbs that visualize each worker’s journey.

Mobile apps tend to be fairly secure, as users are generally required to enter a security code or provide a face ID to log in to a smart device before passing a two-step authentication process to access the app itself. Additionally, most apps employ data encryption to help keep a user’s sensitive information safe.

Features to Consider

Modern-day time clocks do much more than just clock employees in and out. Thus, when evaluating each of the different time tracking systems, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons as well as the features each option affords.

Here are some basic features available in today’s more modern time clocks:

A Simple, User-Friendly Interface: The primary reason you’re shopping for a time tracking system is because you’re interested in improving your company’s ability to track time. Thus, first and foremost, ensure you’re comfortable with how the system you select manages punches. If employees can’t instantaneously punch in and out, consider an alternative system. Additionally, does the system offer a user-friendly interface that is easily understood by everyone who will be using it? If the system is difficult to decipher and requires a lot of administrative training, perhaps it’s not the right fit for your team.

On-Site or Off-Site?: Will employees only work from an office? Will they be punching in from remote locations? Will employees be roaming from job to job? Each of these questions has a bearing on the time clock you choose. For those confined to an office, a kiosk station or biometric time clock option may work best. For those on the go, consider a web- or mobile-based solution that utilizes geolocation functions to track an employee’s current and recent locations.

Project Management: Will you be using your time clock to track time spent on specific jobs or tasks within projects? If so, consider a time clock that offers job costing and reporting. Job costing serves as a comprehensive tool to report billable hours to clients and demonstrate proficiency with your accounting.

Payroll Integration: Several time tracking tools now offer seamless integration with various project management, collaboration, and accounting tools. This feature streamlines operational workflow, simplifying the payroll process for your internal team, eliminating the need for duplicate data entry.

Customer Support: At times, your employees are going to encounter roadblocks. They’ll have questions about how to account for tardiness, how to manage paid time off, what to do in case of an internet outage, etc. Make sure the time tracking company you select offers world-class customer support. When you need answers, ensure your time tracking company is ready and available to provide them.

Optimize Your Time Management with OnTheClock

Regardless of your situation, there is a time clock available to suit your needs. If you’re interested in optimizing how your company utilizes its time, and further increasing your productivity for years to come, consider adding OnTheClock, an all-in-one platform that embraces many of the features discussed in this article, including biometric capabilities, geolocation tracking, job costing and reporting, payroll integration, and much more. Adopted by more than 125,000 employees with a global 4.8-star rating, OnTheClock is an accurate, efficient, and flexible time tracking solution for businesses of all sizes and functions. to try it today, for free, for 30 days.

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Written by

Herb Woerpel

Herb Woerpel is a copywriter with OnTheClock. He has 17-plus years of professional journalism experience working for community and national media outlets.

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