Skip to content

Should you invest in an electronic time clock? Pros & cons

6 min read
electronic time clock

There was a time when the only way employers could keep track of the hours that their employees worked was by using paper timesheets or a manual punch clock. These methods were time-consuming, and data was often unreliable. In fact, according to a survey by the American Payroll Association, manual time-tracking methods have an average error rate of 7%. Thankfully, technology has advanced a great deal and most companies these days now use an electronic time clock.

So, what is an electronic time clock, exactly? What are the pros and cons of using one? Is it the same as a digital employee time clock?

In today’s post, we’ll be answering all these questions and more.

free trial

What is an electronic time clock?

An electronic time clock, often referred to as a digital employee time clock, is a device used for employee time tracking. Employers use them to record the hours that employees work for payroll and attendance purposes. This information also helps employers ensure they are complying with federal and state labor laws relating to overtime and breaks.

In the past, time-tracking was a manual process. However, electronic time clocks are far more accurate and efficient than manual systems for tracking employee time, and, as a result, they are now the preferred choice for most organizations.

With an electronic time clock, employees can clock in and out, either by swiping a card, logging into an app, entering a PIN, or using biometric technology, depending on the solution used. The clock then records the employee’s start and end time together with any breaks and calculates the number of hours worked each day. Employers can then use this data to generate employee timesheets, calculate pay and overtime, and monitor attendance. Employees, in turn, can track their own schedules through an employee portal and, with certain time clocks for small business, even manage their time off requests through the application.

Types of electronic time clocks

Electronic time clocks have become a vital tool for businesses of all sizes to manage their workforce and track employee attendance accurately. But with so many different types of electronic time clocks available, each with unique features and capabilities, choosing the right solution can sometimes be a challenge.

To help you out, we are now going to explore 3 of the most popular types of electronic time clocks for employees: biometric, digital, and mobile time clocks.

Biometric time clocks

A biometric time clock is a type of electronic time clock that uses biometric technology to identify employees and record their attendance. It relies on unique biological characteristics, such as fingerprints, facial features, or iris patterns, to identify employees.

A biometric time clock can be a standalone device, or it can be integrated into a larger time and attendance system. They are widely used in businesses of all sizes to track employee attendance, calculate payroll, and manage the workforce efficiently.

Biometric time clocks are more secure than traditional time clock methods that use cards or PINs since, due to their reliance on biometric data, they cannot be easily faked or duplicated. This makes them a good choice for businesses that need to ensure the accuracy and security of their attendance tracking.

Digital time clock

A digital time clock, also known as an employee digital clock system, is a type of electronic time clock system that you can use to track employee attendance. The system can be either hardware-based or software-based and offers a range of features including the ability to generate employee timesheets, calculate payroll, and monitor attendance.

As with biometric time clocks, employees can clock in and out, and the digital time clock records their attendance automatically. The only difference is the method used for identification. Instead of relying on biometric data, with a digital time clock system, employees must either use a swipe card in the case of a physical device or a PIN in the case of computer software applications. Employee digital clock systems can also be integrated with other HR management software, such as payroll systems and employee scheduling software, to provide a comprehensive HR management solution.

Mobile time clocks

A mobile electronic time clock, often referred to as a time card app or timesheet software, is a mobile software application used for employee time-tracking. As with all other types of electronic time clocks, a mobile time clock keeps track of employee hours worked. This helps organizations monitor time and attendance, calculate payroll, and manage their workforce efficiently. However, instead of using hardware or computer software, employees clock in and out using a smartphone or tablet.

Mobile time clocks are typically accessed through an app that employees download to their mobile devices. The app then uses GPS technology to verify the location of the employee when they clock in or out. Some mobile time clocks also use facial recognition or biometric technology to verify the identity of the employee.

Mobile time clocks offer several advantages over traditional time clock systems, including convenience, flexibility, and cost-effectiveness. They allow employees to clock in and out from anywhere, which is especially beneficial for remote employee time tracking or if you have employees working from different locations. Mobile time clocks also eliminate the need for physical time clock devices, eliminating equipment costs and maintenance expenses.

Overall, mobile time clocks are an excellent option for businesses that need a convenient and cost-effective way to track employee attendance, especially those with remote employees.

Benefits of an electronic time clock for employers

We’ve touched on a few advantages already. Now let’s take a look at some of the specific benefits of using an electronic time clock in a bit more detail:

  • Accuracy. Electronic time clocks record time precisely, ensuring accurate time and attendance calculations. This is a huge benefit, especially for payroll and calculating overtime at the end of each pay period. This accuracy can also help employers avoid disputes with employees over their hours worked, which can save time and money.
  • Efficiency. An electronic employee time clock automates the process of tracking employee attendance, increasing efficiency. As a result, your HR and payroll staff have more time to focus on more strategic tasks.
  • Compliance: An electronic time clock can help you comply with labor laws and regulations. This includes FLSA recordkeeping and overtime requirements, and state laws relating to meals and breaks where applicable.
  • Boost performance. A time clock gives you access to real-time information on employee hours worked. These insights can help you identify and address potential issues related to employee performance and productivity.
  • Improve scheduling. Time and attendance data can also help you identify potential issues with under or overstaffing so that you can improve scheduling. This is especially beneficial if you offer flexible options such as a 9/80 work schedule.
  • Cost-effective. Electronic time clocks can reduce the costs associated with paper timesheets, punch cards, and other manual tracking methods. They can also help reduce the risk of payroll errors that can result in costly overpayments or underpayments to employees.

Disadvantages of electronic time clocks

While electronic time clocks offer many benefits to employers, there are also some potential disadvantages to consider:

  • Technical issues. Electronic time clocks rely on technology. As a result, technical issues can occur. Risks include power outages, software glitches, or hardware malfunctions. These issues can cause delays in tracking employee attendance and may require additional IT support to resolve.
  • Cost. Some electronic time clock solutions can be expensive to purchase and maintain. This is especially true in the case of hardware devices.
  • Training. If employees are not adequately trained, it can lead to errors or discrepancies in attendance tracking.
  • Privacy concerns. Some employees may be uncomfortable with sharing biometric data and may worry about the security of their personal information.
  • Accessibility. Electronic time clocks may not be accessible for all employees, especially if some of your employees work remotely. This can create inequities in attendance tracking and may require additional accommodations to ensure all employees can clock in and out accurately.

Time and Attendance

What’s the verdict on electronic time clocks?

There are some potential disadvantages to using an electronic time clock. However, these are heavily outweighed by the benefits this form of time-tracking can bring to your business.

The key is using the right technology to overcome any potential issues that might arise.

For example, Factorial’s HRIS includes an affordable and easily accessible time clock app. Your employees can use this app to clock in and out straight from their mobile devices, whether they are at the office or working remotely. Not only that, but managers can use the app’s shift scheduling features to plan and allocate resources efficiently. You also get access to a range of leave management tools so you can process time-off requests smoothly and efficiently. Plus, our overtime tracking tools help you stay compliant with labor laws and regulations.

Factorial also offers a comprehensive suite of training materials and expert technical support to help with implementation and training. That way, all your employees can get up to speed with the app quickly. Plus, our solution includes a range of data protection features. This includes encryption, a single sign-on system (SSO), and regular vulnerability diagnostics. That way, you and your employees can rest assured that all data is safe and secure. What’s more, because Factorial is a cloud-based platform, you don’t need to purchase or maintain any costly hardware. This makes it an affordable and accessible solution for small businesses. Plus, it eliminates any risk of technical malfunction.

Ultimately, by choosing an electronic time clock solution like Factorial, you get all the benefits of digital time-tracking while minimizing potential drawbacks. That way, you will have access to all the time and attendance data you need to optimize your workforce, ensure accurate and timely payments, and stay compliant with federal and state labor laws.

Cat Symonds is a freelance writer, editor, and translator. Originally from Wales, she studied Spanish and French at the University of Swansea before moving to Barcelona where she lived and worked for 12 years. She has since relocated back to Wales where she continues to build her business, working with clients in Spain and the UK.  Cat is the founder of The Content CAT: Content And Translation, providing content development and translation services to her clients. She specializes in corporate blogs, articles of interest, ghostwriting, and translation (SP/FR/CA into EN), collaborating with a range of companies from a variety of business sectors. She also offers services to a number of NGOs including Oxfam Intermón, UNICEF, and Corporate Excellence - Centre for Reputation Leadership.  For more information or to contact Cat visit her website ( or send her a message through LinkedIn.

Related posts