This is particularly applicable to mobile time tracking software where there are many different ways to enter time.
Time entry can be broken down into two main categories, real-time and after-the-fact.
Time tracking in real-time involves capturing the actual time when an employee clocks in and out of the mobile time clock application. As mentioned in a previous post, owners or managers concerned about the accuracy of the work hours being reported will often resort to some form of a real-time tracking system. By capturing the precise clock in and out times, there is no misunderstanding of the hours worked.
But tracking labor time in real-time generally requires that the foreman or supervisor responsible for capturing the time punches, actually be available for recording those punches. Sometimes, that is not always the case. In those cases, the foremen or supervisor might designate that responsibility to a trusted employee.
Real-time tracking comes in several varieties. It can be used on portable devices such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops. On smartphones, you can use the device’s camera to scan bar codes to clock in and out. On a laptop, you can clock in and out by using a USB connected bar code reader or fingerprint scanner.
For longer term jobs with many workers, companies often use data collection terminals to capture real-time punches. These devices offer several input options including mag stripe readers, bar code readers, fingerprint readers, and proximity readers. The disadvantages of time clocks are a lack of portability, and the need for a power source for the clock. The advantages are 1) a foreman or supervisor does not have to be present when a field worker clocks in, and 2) “buddy punching” can be eliminated with the addition of biometric fingerprint scanning to the device.
While real-time tracking represents the ultimate in accountability, after-the-fact time tracking is the most practical. Oftentimes a foreman will be unavailable to perform real-time clock ins and outs - they can be at another job site, they can be in a meeting, they can be on the phone, any number of things.
After-the-fact tracking allows a foreman to enter hours that his crew worked on his own schedule, whether it be during the day or at the end.
There are many formats for entering time in this manner. It can be entered by employee, by crew, or by job. For each of those, time can be entered in hours and break minutes, or it can be calculated based on the start and stop times entered.
The disadvantage of after-the-fact remote time tracking is that, oftentimes, it provides less accuracy than time tracking in real-time. If a supervisor is busy or not at the jobsite when employees clock in or out, he pretty much has to take their word for when they began or ended work. The same issue applies to individual employees tracking their own time.
Deciding on which method of time entry to utilize requires a lot of forethought but generally breaks down into two main factors – accountability and practicality. If there is little trust between management and employees, the accountability provided through a real-time mobile time tracking system may be the deciding factor. There can be very few disputes when actual clock-in and clock-out times are recorded. Where there is an adequate level of trust in employees, an after-the-fact system can be much more convenient and practical. Finally, for long-term jobs with many employees, an on-site time clock will often be the best solution, especially when enhanced with a biometric option such as fingerprint scanning.
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