best practices for clocking in and out in your business

Clocking In and Out: Best Practices to Apply in Your Business

Tracking employee hours requires a reliable system for clocking in and out. A proper system helps you pay employees accurately and spot attendance issues in time.

Even when your business has the tools and procedures in place for punching in and out, taking the time to find an efficient system is worth it.

Let’s learn more about systems and best practices for clocking in and out in your business.

What is a clocking in and out system?

A clocking in and out system records employees’ worked hours based on the time employees clock in and out of their shifts. It then generates those hours into timesheets that employers can use for processing payroll.

Types of clocking in and out systems

Manual time clocks

Manual time clocks include punch cards, pen and paper, timesheet forms, spreadsheets, etc. Employees clock in and out by filling in the start and end times of their shifts manually.

These time clocks are easy to get started for everyone. But human error is more likely to happen and it’s easier to commit time theft.

Biometric time clocks

Biometric time clocks scan employees’ biometric information (fingerprints, faces, iris, etc.) to clock them in and out.

These clocks reduce buddy punching because no one can clock in and out for someone else. However, since biometric data is sensitive information, the use of a biometric time clock may be legally restricted depending on where your business is located.

Time clock apps

Time clock apps allow employees to clock in and out using their phones or tablets. Employers can also check employee attendance and worked hours on these apps.

Time clock software systems

These systems often offer more tools than just clocking in and out. They may include digital employee scheduling, attendance tracking, or payroll processing.

Best practices for clocking in and out

By applying the best practices in your business, you can ensure clocking in and out is easy for employees and problems can be prevented or resolved in time.

clock out using the Camelo time tracking app

Create policy for clocking in and out

A policy for clocking in and out lays out what employees are expected to do and how you handle situations related to clocking in and out.

The policy should include:

  • Where, when, and how employees can clock in and out.
  • What happen if employees fail to clock in and out.
  • Rules about breaks, overtime, and time rounding.

Set procedures for handling clock-in problems

Situations where employees fail to clock in and out aren’t rare. If you wait for them to happen before thinking about what to do next, it’s easy to make inconsistent and biased decisions. Be prepared for those situations by setting up specific procedures.

Make sure the procedures can answer these types of questions:

  • What should an employee do if they can’t clock in?
  • What if someone forgets to clock in/out?
  • Should they submit documentation to prove their absences or late clock-ins?

Set disciplinary actions

If an employee repeatedly fails to clock in and out properly, they have to face disciplinary actions. Disciplinary actions can be an informal talk with the supervisor, a written warning, suspension, or termination.

Follow the policy consistently

After establishing your policy for clocking in and out, follow it consistently instead of playing favorites. This way employees have more respect for the policy and you can avoid unwanted workplace conflicts.

Offer incentives

You can offer small incentives such as gift cards or funny award titles to motivate employees to clock in and out consistently.

Simplify clocking in and out

If missing clock-ins happen regularly in your business, maybe it’s time to reconsider your system. Maybe there are too many steps in the process or the tools are hard to use. Your system should be simple enough so everyone can clock in and out within seconds.

Offer training

Not all employees can get familiar with clocking in and out right away, especially when you use a digital system. Offering careful and regular training at the beginning of employment will make it much easier for your workforce.

Review data regularly

By reviewing worked hours and attendance data regularly, you can ensure recorded hours are accurate and spot problems such as unwanted overtime.

Waiting for weeks to review employee hours can make it difficult to know whether they are accurate. It’s better to review the data when people still remember what they did during the day/week.

Rules for clocking in and out

Rules for clocking in and out let employees know what they’re required to do. The below rules are examples that you can use or tweak depending on how your business works:

1. Employees are required to clock in by the start of their assigned shift and clock out when the assigned shift ends.

2. Employees may clock in no more than 5 minutes before the start of their shift unless they have manager’s approval.

3. Employees may clock out no more than 5 minutes before or after the end of their shift unless they have manager’s approval.

4. Employees must clock out for their lunch break and clock back in when the break is over.

5. Employee timesheets are reviewed and verified by the supervisor. Any manual adjustments must be approved by the supervisor.

6. An employee is not allowed to clock in and out for another employee. Doing this is considered “time theft” and results in disciplinary actions.

7. Employees must get manager’s approval for working overtime.

8. Employees working over 40 hours a week are compensated for overtime at a rate of 1.5 times their regular rate.

9. Violations of the above rules may result in disciplinary actions, including oral and written warnings, suspension, or termination.

What to consider when establishing a system for clocking in and out

Work location

Choosing a system for clocking in and out depends on whether your employees go to work at a fixed location or multiple locations.

Businesses with employees working at different locations may benefit from a digital system where information is updated in real time. Punch cards or biometric time clocks are more suitable for businesses with fixed locations.

For example, cleaning employees work at different places, so cleaning businesses can benefit more from a digital clock-in system. Workers can clock in and out using their phones, and they must arrive at the right work location to do so.

On the other hand, employees working at a factory always go to the same location to work, so they can use a fixed time clock such as a fingerprint scanner.

Real-time updates

Real-time updates allow you to check employee attendance and spot attendance problems as soon as they arise.

For example, a mobile app can alert you when someone is 15-minute late for their shift. You can contact that employee to check if they can go to work or find a replacement in time.


It’s not uncommon to see employees forget to clock in and out of their shift, so a reminder notification before the shift can be very useful.

Why you should use time clock software

With all the time tracking needs and rules employees have to follow, time clock software is the ideal system for clocking in and out:

  • You don’t need an expert to create and maintain the system.
  • Employees can use the app easily without too much time and efforts getting used to it.
  • You don’t have to invest in too many devices. Time clock software requires a computer, phone, and Internet connection. Everyone has a phone which they can use to clock in and out. You can also set up a device as a terminal so everyone can clock in/out via that device.
  • You get real-time updates about employee attendance.
  • Employees get reminders so they don’t forget to show up at work.

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Clocking in and out doesn’t have to be complicated

Tracking employee time and paying them accurately keep your business compliant. To do so, you need an efficient system for clocking in and out and effective communication with your workforce.

Take the time to find a system that suits your business better, use the best practices, and communicate clearly with your employees. You’ll keep worked hours in check and avoid problems with payroll or attendance.

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