Automated Timesheets: Definition, Benefits, Tips, and More

Automated Timesheets: Definition, Benefits, Tips, and More

Munir Ahmed

April 15, 2024


Apr 15, 2024


10 min read

An automated timesheet on a computer screen
An automated timesheet on a computer screen
An automated timesheet on a computer screen
An automated timesheet on a computer screen

Can timesheets really be automated? Don't employees need to input their hours themselves to ensure accuracy?

Turns out that automation can make the timesheet submission process much more precise than traditional methods and provide valuable insights into workforce productivity. These tools are a major leap beyond what paper time tracking and punch cards can do for your company.

This article delves into why automated timesheets are important and how they transform the tedious task of tracking work hours into a simple, error-free process.

What is an automated timesheet?

An automated timesheet is a digital tool designed to streamline the process of tracking employee hours. Instead of relying on manual entries or paper-based systems, you use technology to record the time employees spend on various tasks and projects.

This system is commonly used for payroll processing, project management, and workforce planning. It offers a transparent, error-free method of managing labor costs and productivity.

Adopting automated timesheets is a strategic move that simplifies payroll processes and supports better management of your company's most valuable asset: its people.

An employee starting their daily time clock

How do automated timesheets work?

With automated timesheets, employees log their start and end times using various methods, such as web-based interfaces, mobile apps, or time clocks that are integrated with software. Some systems can automatically track the time spent on specific tasks or projects through computer use.

The information is then stored in a centralized database that integrates with other systems, such as payroll and project management tools. This integration allows for the automatic calculation of hours worked, overtime, and leave. Payroll processing becomes more efficient since the system can accurately compute salaries, taxes, and other deductions based on logged hours.

What are the limitations of traditional time-tracking methods?

There’s a reason automated timesheets were invented. Traditional time-tracking methods have quite a few limitations and challenges, including the following:

Lost or damaged physical tracking sheets

Paper timesheets are vulnerable to physical damage and being misplaced or lost in interoffice mail. These issues can lead to wasted time since the lost timesheet has to be recreated. They can also delay payroll and negatively impact the company’s financial reporting.

Inaccurate time tracking

Manual entries are prone to human error. Unless employees enter their hours immediately, they may forget their exact start and end times. These inaccuracies affect both payroll and project costs.

These payroll errors can add up. According to EYQuest, “The average cost per incident, when weighted by error frequency, is $281 in direct costs and $10 in indirect labor costs for a total of $291. When looking at each type of error, failing to enter sick time has the highest direct cost per error, $705.”

Easy opportunity for time theft

With manual systems, it’s easier for employees to falsify their hours.

An employee stealing time

Unfortunately for business owners, time theft is not uncommon. Forty-three percent of hourly workers admit that they exaggerate how much time they work during their shifts — and 25% say that they log excess hours more than three-quarters of the time.

And time theft is very costly. A business with 50 employees loses around $40,000 per year as a result of it. Employees who clock in without being present can cost a company up to 7% of its gross annual payroll.

Administrative burden

Paper timesheets also consume unnecessary time and money due to the manual data entry and verification they require. This ties up HR’s time in unproductive work. Plus, payroll is generally a slow process due to the time needed for manual timesheet processing.

Lack of real-time insights

Paper-based systems don’t offer immediate access to project-related data. This lack of real-time data makes it more difficult to recognize and respond quickly to changing staffing needs or adjust project timelines based on workforce availability.

In short, paper timesheets and manual time tracking cost precious time and resources that could be better spent elsewhere. Electronic timesheets could very well be the best answer to fix these problems.

What are the benefits of using automated timesheets?

Automated timesheets come with a multitude of benefits that can transform the way your business manages time and productivity. Here's an overview of the key advantages:

More accurate time reporting

At the top of the list is the fact that automated timesheets significantly reduce the risk of human error associated with manual entries. This means that not only are payroll and project costs based on precise data, but the company can also bypass the costly problems of errors and time theft discussed earlier.

Integration with payroll software

Many automated timesheet systems integrate with payroll software. This streamlines the payroll process.

Real-time data access

You gain immediate access to data on employee attendance, overtime, and leave data.

This improves decision-making and helps your business make fast adjustments to staffing or project timelines.

Improved performance insights

Automated timesheets offer detailed insights into employee performance. This makes it easier to identify high performers who deserve recognition or promotions and those who may need additional support or training.

Better idle time tracking

Advanced trackers come equipped with software that can detect when a worker is idle. This gives managers and HR a more accurate picture of productivity, which they can use to identify areas for improvement.

Employees on the clock but not working

Reduced administrative burden

Automated timesheets cut down on the amount of time and resources spent on manual data entry and verification, letting HR and finance focus on more strategic tasks.

Lower compliance risks

More accurate and timely record-keeping means staying compliant with labor laws and regulations and reducing the risk of costly legal issues.

More fairness and transparency

Automated timesheets promote a fair and transparent work environment where employees across the board are held accountable for their time.

Together, these benefits can have a positive effect on the company’s output — and bottom line.

How can you use Lark to automate your time tracking (and so much more)?

Lark Suite, a comprehensive collaboration and productivity platform, offers a powerful set of tools for time tracking and attendance that are designed to meet modern businesses’ needs.

Instead of manually filling out and submitting HR forms, for example, employees can use Lark's automated workflows to complete and submit their timesheets and other forms digitally. This frees up more time for them to complete more important tasks.

Let’s take a deep dive into how Lark Suite streamlines time tracking and attendance:

Set up automated timesheets in Lark

To set up automated timesheets in Lark, administrators first need to access the Lark Admin console to configure the timesheet settings, including work hours, overtime rules, and leave policies.

Employees can then log their hours directly in the Lark app, where timesheets are automatically generated based on predefined settings.

This integration simplifies the submission and approval process. It also reduces HR’s administrative workload and improves accuracy in payroll processing.

Use GPS and Wi-Fi in Lark Attendance

Lark Attendance also includes advanced features for tracking attendance through GPS and Wi-Fi.

By enabling GPS attendance, employees can clock in and out from any location — which is ideal for remote or field workers.

Wi-Fi attendance, on the other hand, uses the organization’s network to record attendance and ensure employees are on the premises.

GPS-enabled attendance tracking

Find attendance statistics in Lark

Lark provides detailed attendance statistics, offering valuable personnel and workforce insights for managers and HR. These analytics include data on attendance rates, late arrival or early departure patterns, and leave balances.

Accessible through the Lark dashboard, these statistics help with identifying trends, planning resources, and making informed decisions regarding staffing and productivity management.

Use other relevant Lark features

Lark Suite has additional features that support time tracking and attendance. For instance, the integration with Lark Calendar for scheduling and reminders means employees are always aware of their shifts and planned meetings.

Plus, Lark Suite’s communication tools, such as messaging and video conferencing, make real-time collaboration and regular updates a breeze. Here’s how:

Lark centralizes communication on one platform for the headquarters and frontline staff. It replaces personal chat apps, such as Whatsapp or Viber, which are typically used to communicate with frontline staff, and the task features embedded within the chat function allow for easy task management by frontliners.

This streamlined system can handle project management and time-tracking challenges, as demonstrated in this use case of the Singapore National Day Parade (NDP).

5 tips for tracking time with automated timesheets

Consider these practical tips to maximize the effectiveness of your automated timesheets:

1. Integrate your timesheets with other systems

Connect your automated timesheet system with payroll, HR, and project management software for seamless data transfer. Integration reduces manual entry errors and simplifies processes like payroll computation and project billing.

2. Set clear time-tracking policies

To maximize the usefulness of your automated timesheet, establish clear guidelines on how to record time, manage overtime, and handle discrepancies. Then, train your employees on how to use the timesheet system and reiterate the importance of accurate time tracking.

3. Configure the system for vacations and other types of employee leave

Program the system to recognize different types of leave, such as PTO, vacation, and sick leave. Each of these has its own rules for accrual, maximum carryover, and impact on payroll, so customize these settings to match your company’s policies.

Once these are configured correctly, employees can submit requests for time off directly through the automated timesheet system or a connected HR platform. This is usually done via a web interface or mobile app, where they select the type of leave, dates, and any other necessary details.

An employee on vacation

4. Set notifications and reminders

Many timesheet systems send automatic notifications to both employees and managers about upcoming leave, approvals, or any issues that need attention.

Managers or HR personnel receive notifications of these requests and can review them within the system. Approved leaves are automatically updated in the system.

5. Mine the system’s reporting and analytics functions

Automated timesheets keep a detailed record of all types of leave, which allows for easy reporting and analytics. You can use this data to track leave patterns, monitor absenteeism rates, and make sure the company is in compliance with labor laws and internal policies regarding leave.

Common FAQs about automated timesheets

Automated timesheets have become a cornerstone in modern business management. Below, we address some common FAQs about them.

How do I automate timesheet submissions?

To automate timesheet submission, start by selecting a time-tracking software that aligns with your business needs. Train your team on how to use the system for logging their hours worked, requesting leave, and completing timesheets.

The software should allow for automatic submission based on pre-set intervals (e.g., weekly or bi-weekly) and enable managers to review and approve timesheets digitally. Integration with payroll and project management tools further automates the process.

What is the best personal time tracking software?

The best personal time tracking software depends on individual needs and preferences.

However, tools like Toggl Track, Harvest, and RescueTime are widely recommended for their user-friendly interfaces and analytics features.

A person tracking time

What are the benefits of employee monitoring software?

Employee monitoring software offers several benefits, such as:

  • Improved productivity by identifying inefficiencies and time-wasting activities.

  • More accountability since employees are aware their work is being monitored. This can deter time theft and promote a more disciplined work environment.

  • Valuable data analytics so that managers can make informed decisions regarding workforce management and project allocations.

  • Improved security, as these systems can help with detecting unauthorized access or suspicious activities.

Which time tracker is recommended for remote work?

For remote work, the ideal time tracker offers flexibility, easy integration with other tools, and comprehensive reporting features.

Tools like Time Doctor, Clockify, and Asana are great for remote teams since they support tracking billable hours spent on specific tasks and projects. They also provide detailed, customizable reports for productivity and performance evaluation. However, you need to integrate them with other tools to gather data.

Lark is a super-app that offers time tracking and other tools to help you manage your workforce.

Embrace the future of automated timesheets

From this detailed exploration of automated timesheets, it's clear that the evolution from manual tracking to sophisticated automation offers many benefits, such as greater accuracy, more efficiency, less time theft, and a new level of valuable, actionable insights into employee productivity.

Embrace the future of automated timesheets and workforce management by subscribing to Lark, where you can experience the convenience and efficiency of its all-in-one workflow management platform.