Which Employee Time Tracking Tool Is Best for Your Mobile Workforce?

Keeping track of employee hours and wages is one of the main challenges of mobile workforce management. It's particularly difficult if you’re running a business that depends on hundreds (or even thousands) of mobile workers at multiple job sites to keep an accurate record of how much time each employee is working.

Even if you aren’t worried about time theft, timesheet errors, committed by both by employees and management, are a valid concern. Hours that are accidentally inflated can cost the company big bucks, and hours that, for whatever reason, aren’t reported lead to undercompensated and unhappy employees.  

Of course, there are strengths and weaknesses of most employee time tracking  systems. How does your method of tracking employee hours stack up against the rest?

Manual timesheets

Paper timesheets are still prevalent throughout the world, despite the availability of software for virtually any business need. Small businesses, in particular, are often hesitant to ditch a system that they believe has served them well for years, especially if it involves spending money or learning how to use a new technology. Heightened concerns about security risks might also make some businesses wary of relying on an employee timekeeping system that they fear rogue workers might be able to manipulate.

Above all else, the advantage of a paper system is that everybody understands how it works, and it does not require any training for management or employees.

However, there are many drawbacks to paper timesheets. For one, they do not work well for a mobile workforce that is dispersed across multiple job sites. Depending on how your business is set up, there might be manual timesheets at each work site. When employees are responsibile for filling in their timecards, the margin of error goes way up. Coming in a bit early, leaving a little late or rounding off hours may seen innocent enough, but those tweaks add up to big losses for the company.

Perhaps your employees are required to go to a home office to sign in and out using a punch clock or to drop off their timecards? If this has been a standard process from the start, it's easy to overlook at how archaic this method truly is! Not only is it a huge inconvenience for employees, but it's also a waste of valuable time and resources, prolonging their journey to and from work.

Second, paper timesheets are vulnerable to fraud. If not directly supervised, an employee can sign in for an absent or tardy coworker. Workers might take an unpaid break without clocking out as well.

Finally, traditional timesheets are a mess in terms of record-keeping and let's face it, the process is prone to human error. When you’re maintaining hundreds or thousands of paper timesheets, it’s very easy to misplace one or two – not to mention the fatigue that sets in as the hours rack up manually entering employee hours into a payroll system. 

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One time tracking option that may be attractive to businesses with mobile workforces is Interactive Voice Response (IVR). This technology allows employees to punch in and punch out of work by calling a phone number and answering a series of questions from an automated operator, which verifies the time and identity of the caller.

IVR has the advantage of being relatively simple: just about every worker knows how to answer questions on the phone, at least as long as the service is available in the employee's native language. The voice recognition also prevents employees from clocking in on behalf of a co-worker.

IVR is somewhat limited, however, as it means that the employee needs to make sure that he or she has a telephone signal to dial in to the service and punch in and out of work.  


Spreadsheets do lots of things that their paper predecessors don’t. By adding up hundreds or thousands of numbers instantaneously, spreadsheets can do in seconds what paper timesheets might take you or a bookkeeper hours to complete. That also helps reduce the element of human error, since the computer is not going to simply overlook a number in a column.

However, spreadsheets are by no means infallible – and are not much better than paper timesheets. Spreadsheets have no way of ensuring that the information being entered by the employee or employer is accurate. If employees are entering the data, they can obviously inflate their hours or enter hours on behalf of a co-worker. The system is also vulnerable to cheating if it’s the supervisor or employer in charge of filling in the timesheet, since they might try to reduce costs by reporting that employees worked fewer hours than they did.


Biometric punch clocks are an appealing option to businesses that find themselves paying for hours that clearly weren’t worked. Biometric devices typically require the employee to provide a fingerprint when they’re clocking in and out. This ensures that the worker whose hours are being recorded is actually on-site and shuts down buddy punching

Legacy biometric punch clocks, however, represent a significant additional expense and create a logistical challenge to implement at multiple job sites. The more mobile your workforce, the more cumbersome biometric devices become, both for you and your workers. Each new punch clock that needs to be installed is very costly, and your workers can only punch in from set job sites – making this system impossible to maintain if your team visits multiple job sites throughout the month or year.  

Many employees are hesitant to submit personal information to employers in fear that their information will be shared with other companies or government agencies in a way that will compromise their privacy. Even if you assure them that that the company won’t share the information, they may still be concerned that it will be leaked as the result of an accident or a cyber attack. Indeed, the headlines about people’s identities being stolen as a result of data breaches at major corporations and governments might make it even harder for you to assure employees that their personal information is safe.

Finally, biometric devices may not be an option where you’re located. Some jurisdictions, including states in the U.S., have strictly limited the ability of employers to require employees to share certain biometric data.

Geofence-enabled phone app

Employee time clock apps that allow workers to clock in remotely from their phones are an increasingly popular and cost-effective alternative to conventional methods. Such timekeeping and scheduling software yields a number of benefits to both workers and employers.

It only makes sense that the best timekeeping solution for field workers would come from mobile technology. A timesheet app ensures that every member of your mobile workforce can use their smartphone to punch in and punch out from any location, at any time. And in some cases, you don't even need a wireless signal. In other words, you don’t have to set up a punch clock at every construction site and you don't need to figure out how you're going to install one in each office and home that your janitorial staff is scheduled to clean.  

Just as important is the geofencing capability, which ensures that the worker is actually where they say they are. An employer can easily (and remotely) set up a virtual boundary around a job site, so that workers will receive a push notification when they are within the area, reminding them to clock in and clock out. This feature provides you with superior accountability in terms of attendance and punctuality. 

Are there drawbacks of phone apps and geofencing? Like any other product, it depends on the provider. It’s key that your geofencing solution safeguards employee privacy by only showing activity for on the clock workers. It should not track the worker beyond the boundaries of the job site.

Furthermore, some employees are not used to relying on apps at work, and they may be hesitant to entrust their hours and wages to a system they don’t fully understand. That’s why it’s key that you set aside some time to train employees on how to properly use the new system, as well as to address any concerns they may have about geofencing apps. However, with patience, training and practice, it’s a habit that’s easy to form.

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