Why paper timesheets are bad for your business

Phil Kendall

Apr 2021 ⋅ 4 min read

Devised as a way to monitor workers’ performance and calculate their wages, the humble paper timesheet has been a part of employees’ lives since as far back as the 1880s.

Proponents would argue that paper timesheets’ longevity speaks to their importance in the workplace. Others would argue that sticking with a solution popularised during the Second Industrial Revolution could hardly be the most efficient way for managers to keep track of the hours their staff have worked.

Of course, the mere fact that something is old doesn’t make it 'bad'. But there are a number of reasons why paper timesheets could be doing your business more harm than good. And today, we’ll be discussing just a few of them...

1: They waste everyone’s time

From start to finish, paper timesheets suck up both your and your employees’ time. Filling them out at the start and end of each shift might take your employees less than a minute, but those minutes add up at the end of every week, month, or year.

Managers, meanwhile, lose hours of their valuable time every time they sit down to calculate payroll, manually inputting days’ — sometimes even weeks’ — worth of shift data from their employees’ timesheets.

Put simply, you’ve got better things to do than type numbers into a computer, and paper timesheets only add to your already sizeable stack of admin.

2: They can lead to costly errors

Perhaps the biggest problem with paper timesheets is that, even after manually punching in all of those numbers, there’s no guarantee that the data you’ll be working with is 100% accurate.

A missed digit here, an incorrect keystroke here, a ‘1’ that looks like a ‘7’ — before you know it, you’re either paying staff for hours that they didn’t work, or underpaying them for shifts that they did.

Neither situation is good, but both are entirely avoidable.

3: Paper timesheets are easily abused

When you’re paying staff by the hour, and when turning up to work late to work could result in disciplinary action, it’s easy to see why some employees might feel the need to fudge the numbers on their timesheets from time to time.  

A couple of minutes here and there might not seem like much, but time theft costs businesses thousands of pounds every year, sometimes even contributing to their closure.

Managers don’t want to be constantly watching over their staff, nor do staff want to feel that they aren’t trusted by their managers. But the cold, hard truth is that, if you’re running your payroll based on data recorded on paper timesheets, you’re leaving your business’ finances open to abuse.

4: They’re easily lost or damaged

Paper documents go missing. They’re lost under piles of papers, end up creased, crumpled, stained with tea, the list goes on…

A lost or damaged timesheet means employees are paid late or paid the wrong amount. Resolving these situations is stressful for all involved, and takes up time that you’d probably rather be spending on something else — like running your business!

5: They don’t quickly highlight solvable problems

Short of manually checking each of your employees’ start and finish times against their scheduled shifts and highlighting any discrepancies, it’s hard to spot when one of your staff is consistently late for a particular shift, or starting late for another.

Staff lateness and excessive overtime can be indicative of underlying problems that could not only impact your business, but arguably fall under your jurisdiction as a manager with a duty of care to your employees.

A digital timesheet solution — auto-populated and with lateness highlighted

The solution: make your timesheets digital

It should come as no great surprise to hear that one alternative to paper-based timesheets is a digital clocking-in solution.

After all, when almost every aspect of your business is digital, why should something as important as your employees’ timesheets stay on paper?

Here are a few ways digital timesheets can not just solve the problems that paper timesheets cause, but also give your business a performance boost along the way.

No more data entry

Digital solutions like RotaCloud’s Time & Attendance platform automatically feed employees’ start, finish, and break times directly into their individual timesheets, which are then stored securely online, ready to export to payroll – with no need for data entry. You could recover hours every pay period – time you could put to better use elsewhere in the business.

More secure

The best digital clocking in solutions offer a variety of security features, from PIN-entry to optional photo-taking, to ensure that the people clocking in and out are who they say they are. For staff who work remotely or outdoors, meanwhile, you can choose software that records GPS map data along with shift start and end times for additional peace of mind.

Greater wellbeing insights

Time and attendance software lets you run a variety of reports — from lateness to sick days and scheduled vs actual hours — helping you spot possible wellbeing problems and offer support and solutions.

Quicker & easier for staff

It’s imperative that the clocking-in system you choose is easy enough for even the most technophobic employee to use. Staff should be able to clock in through either their own smartphone or a regular tablet set up as a static terminal – using both software and hardware they're familiar with.

Final thoughts

Clocking in has come a long way since the days of punch cards, time clocks, and paper logbooks. Fiddly, open to abuse, and often time-consuming, it’s time for us to leave them in the past.

Modern time and attendance software is built to streamline these important daily processes, making it quicker and easier for staff to clock in and out of their shifts, and for their managers to not only run payroll, but to look out for their staff's wellbeing.

With a variety of attendance and timesheet solutions on the market, be sure to put any product you’re considering through its paces before rolling it out for your team to use. Your staff — and your accountant — will thank you.  

paper plane icon

Easy, speedy clock-ins

No more paper timesheets, no more data entry — RotaCloud makes clocking in quick, secure, and easy.