How to minimize mistakes in timesheets
Last updated on: February 21, 2024
How often do you forget to clock in or clock out when working? Even if you’re a well-organized worker, we bet that, on particularly busy days, filling out a timesheet usually slips your mind. And this tiny mistake can affect the overall accuracy of your timesheets.
To help you better understand the topic of timesheet errors, we’ll shed light on the most common cases that can happen at a workplace. More importantly, we’ll show you how to minimize mistakes in timesheets.
Table of Contents
Paper vs. digital timesheets
Before we dive deeper into the basics of timesheet mistakes, let’s first clarify the difference between paper and digital timesheets.
When using paper timesheets, employees have to enter their working hours manually. Then, they hand a timesheet to a supervisor or a manager on a daily, weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly basis. Paper timesheets usually include details such as:
- start time,
- end time,
- lunch breaks,
- overtime hours.
Once workers have finished filling out timesheets, it’s up to their managers to calculate the total hours worked. In addition, some timesheets contain categories like vacation time, sick leave, and others.
On the other hand, digital timesheets make the process of tracking working hours much easier. Employees can either enter their hours manually at the end of the day or track time with a timer while working. Then, a digital timesheet will automatically calculate the total working hours per day, week, month, or year. Next, managers or supervisors can analyze the time employees have logged. Another convenient feature is that workers can keep a record of the billable and non-billable hours of a project.
So, what are the key benefits of using a timesheet of any kind? Apart from recording time, timesheets help you:
- Track attendance and overtime, but also give a better clue of how much employees should be paid.
- Keep an eye on your projects to know for sure how many hours you have worked on particular projects. Thus, you’ll know how much you need to charge your clients. Besides, timesheets will allow you to make better project budgets.
- Follow industry standards and compliance, such as The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and The Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA).
What are the most common timesheet errors?
Even when you’re familiar with timesheets and how to fill them out, making mistakes can still be possible. And that’s perfectly fine. But, here’s a thing, once you’re able to recognize the most common timesheet errors, you’ll be less likely to mess up with your timesheets.
When it comes to paper timesheets, employees have to complete them manually. Later, managers review these timesheets and analyze the data. So, as you can guess, if an employee has illegible handwriting, managers or supervisors might misinterpret some numbers. For example, the number 1 can look like the number 4, etc. That brings us to our next error.
If managers misread particular parts of a timesheet, they won’t be able to calculate the total hours worked properly. Aside from making mistakes because of unreadable handwriting, other types of calculation errors are reversing numbers and adding wrong ones.
What does it mean in practice? If managers miscalculate, employees won’t get a proper amount of money for the total hours worked. Therefore, workers will be underpaid or overpaid.
Moreover, calculation errors can affect clients, too. Here’s why: having precise timesheets implies that your company can create precise invoices for clients as well. On the contrary, inaccurate timesheets will only result in inaccurate invoices.
Time theft occurs when employees get paid for the hours they haven’t worked. This timesheet mistake can manifest in several ways:
- workers take extended breaks
- workers clock in or clock out on behalf of their colleagues (buddy punch)
- workers spend their time doing personal activities (browsing social media, websites, etc.)
- workers forget to clock in or clock out when working.
Speaking of buddy punch, this type of time theft costs companies $50 billion per year, according to the Statistic brain survey.
When it comes to forgetful employees, it’s worth mentioning that there are those workers who fail to log their working hours unintentionally. For instance, when employees have a lot on their plate throughout the day so filling out a timesheet simply escape’s their memory. On the other hand, some workers deliberately keep their time tracker going even when they’re done with their work. So, when employees intentionally forget to log out, they do this to gain more hours worked (even though they haven’t actually put in that many hours). Such shady behavior, right?
While time theft is an employee’s failure, wage theft is always an employer’s error. This timesheet mistake happens when employers underpay their employees. Therefore, employers violate Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) regulations.
There are several types of wage theft, such as when an employer:
- fails to give workers their paychecks
- pays their employees less than minimum wage
- fails to pay for employee overtime or the off-the-clock work.
This type of error can happen only if you use a paper timesheet. As you can imagine, if you keep your timesheets all over the desk, you’ll likely spill water or coffee by accident. Thus, such timesheets will be damaged, so you’ll need to rewrite your working hours again. Plus, your manager will need to recalculate all the data.
Apart from these damages, physical timesheets can easily get misplaced among other work documents.
How to minimize timesheet errors?
No matter if you use paper or digital timesheets, the chances are that you’ll be dealing with some mistakes we previously mentioned. To help you minimize these errors, we bring you some practical tips.
Set a transparent time tracking system
Employers and managers should set a clear time tracking system and make sure that all employees understand these rules. Therefore, workers will know exactly how to log their hours, which will decrease timesheet errors.
Time tracking guidelines should include these categories:
- Time recording methods. How do you want your employees to log their working hours? For instance, by manually adding their time in a paper timesheet once per day or week. Or, by using a digital timesheet. If workers have any issues or concerns regarding the time tracking system, be sure to resolve these problems. Provide employees with all the details on how to use timesheets properly and where to store them safely, if you opt for paper timesheets.
- Tracking breaks. In some companies, keeping track of breaks during the day is obligatory, while other firms skip this part. If your company demands that employees clock their scheduled breaks, let them know how to enter this segment. Additionally, if you, as an employer, tolerate early or late clock-ins, notify your workers about this rule, too.
- Tracking overtime. If your firm allows employees to work overtime, be sure to inform workers. Also, define situations under which overtime is granted and tell your workers how to log these extra hours. Thus, you’ll avoid any risk of wage theft.
Another valuable tip here is to create a document that contains all essential information about the time tracking system. Then, share this document with all employees or keep it on your company’s wiki page.
Have a clear time theft policy
The most convenient way to prevent time theft at your company is to set the company’s official time theft policy. Be sure to include:
- examples of behavior that counts as time theft,
- the consequences employees are about to experience if they break these regulations.
Managers should also explain what doesn’t count as time theft. For example, remind employees that they have a right to take breaks throughout the day. Of course, workers should obey the company’s rules on breaks and their duration.
When it comes to time theft, it’s all about encouraging honesty among employees and staff. If workers feel trusted and appreciated, it’s more likely that they’ll perform their job the best they can. Thus, they won’t try to fool the clock.
Use timesheet templates
Instead of worrying about arranging and filling out vital categories of your timesheets every day, you can give timesheet templates a try. There are diverse types of templates, such as:
- monthly and semi-monthly
- weekly and biweekly
- daily hourly and daily supervisor timesheet
- project timesheet.
So, for example, if you’re an employer, and you pay your workers once per week, you can use the Weekly timesheet. In that case, employees need to note down their start and end times, as well as lunchtime. There are also columns for adding vacation time and sick leave. In addition, supervisors can calculate employee regular and overtime hours to get the total hours worked.
If you prefer paper timesheets, just print out these templates in PDF and write down the data. Alternatively, if you’re a manager, and you want to review the work of your employees, advise your workers to log their hours in Google Sheets or Google Docs forms of these templates, then share them with you.
Timesheet templates particularly come in handy if you make calculation errors frequently. To solve this problem, be sure to use the Google Sheets version of the templates. Thus, you’ll be able to upgrade your calculation skills.
Review timesheets before submitting them
Employers and managers should give their employees a chance to review timesheets before sending them to superiors. That’s the best way for workers to notice errors early on and fix any mistakes before they cause further problems. As we already explained, submitting correct timesheets ensures proper payment and lowers the risk of time and wage theft.
Fill out timesheets every day
Maybe you have a habit of logging in your working hours for the entire week on Friday. But, are you sure that you’ll remember every single task you’ve worked on during the week? If not, you’ll have some gaps in your weekly timeline.
To avoid such mistakes, consider filling out your timesheet every day. Why is it so important? Well, according to AffinityLive research, employees who handle their timesheets once per day are more accurate in record-keeping compared to workers who fill out timesheets once per week.
Now, if you’re worried that you’ll forget to log your working hours every day, we have two great solutions for you:
- Calendar invite. Add a calendar invite for the same time every day, let’s say, the last 30 minutes of your workday. Then spend a couple of minutes entering the data in your timesheet. In addition, managers can make weekly invites for all team members. Better yet, leaders can name these invites “Timesheet review,” which will be a perfect reminder to double-check your timesheets once per week.
- Clockify reminder. If you opt for a digital timesheet such as Clockify, be sure to try a timesheet reminder. First, you’ll have to set the target number of hours (per day, week, or month) that the team should track. Then, choose whether the reminder will be sent if someone logs more or less than target hours. The person who hasn’t tracked the target number of hours will get an email from Clockify, looking like this.
You’ll realize that completing your timesheets every day will soon become your new routine.
Making mistakes when completing timesheets can happen quite often. To prevent timesheet errors like time and wage theft, employers or managers should set the company’s official time tracking system and time theft policy. As for employees, they need to carefully review their timesheets before submitting them to superiors. That’s the best way to spot mistakes early on. Finally, using timesheet templates can be helpful for anyone since these templates reduce the risk of calculation errors.
✉️ What about you, do you make mistakes when filling out timesheets? Do you have any tips that help you minimize these errors? Send your answers, suggestions, and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org and we may include them in this or future posts.