How to Minimize Timesheet Mistakes

Timekeeping is one of the most beneficial business practices. It allows business owners and managers to see the way their teams are doing, tracks the progress of all projects, and much more. However, many of them face difficulties when their employees and team members don’t track time properly.

We are here to help you make the most out of time tracking and help your employees overcome any obstacles in the practice.

The Reasons for Mistakes

Yet, from the point of view of the employees, time tracking is an additional step in their already busy days. This is one of the main reasons timesheet mistakes occur. Of course, this isn’t the only case. Most time tracking-related mistakes happen by accident.

Purposeful Mistakes

As we have mentioned, most time tracking mistakes happen by accident. Yet, some employees will abuse the time tracking systems to make themselves look more hardworking than they actually are.

There are many different ways to alter timesheets and other time tracking programs, including

  • Fudging with numbers
  • Coming in late and leaving work early without making a note about it
  • Solving personal matters on company time
  • Buddy punching
  • Unregulated overtime

All these practices share the common name of time theft and can cause serious problems for the employer. Time theft is possible no matter how you decide your team should track time. We will address it later on in the article and help you identify it.

Forgetfulness

Simply forgetting to log your time is a natural part of the business. It is especially prominent while your team is still getting used to the practice, or with new employees. The fact of the matter is that you need to get used to time tracking and make it a habit. This isn’t easy but is achievable with reminders and patience.

Unclear Instructions

Time tracking requires at least some initial training. Especially so if you are using electronic time tracking methods. The troubles you can face include

  • Older employees who aren’t computer-savvy or used to this type of program
  • Unsatisfactory initial instructions
  • The complexity of the program (a large number of required fields, a difficult interface, etc.)

Why Use Timesheets?

Electronic timesheet programs are one of the most convenient solutions when it comes to online time tracking. Let’s review their counterparts first.

Paper Timesheets

Paper timesheets are the old-school way of logging hours spent working. The employees fill in the time they’ve worked manually and hand in the document to their manager, who has to calculate the total hours. Paper timesheets are difficult to review and easy to forget to fill. The managers will have to spend a lot of time verifying the entered data and approving it. This, in turn, prevents them from doing their other tasks.

The information received through paper timesheets is usually used exclusively to verify the employees were working when they needed to, as getting any more information requires a lot of time and effort. Finally, finding a single piece of information in paper timesheets is a tedious job, as the managers will have to manually search for it in all timesheets one by one.

Excel Timesheets

Using Excel to track time is similar to paper timesheets in the sense that the employees are filling in tall their data. Whether they’re creating spreadsheets from scratch or using an Excel template, they must type in all necessary data in a specific format.

As you can imagine, the problems with Excel are similar to the ones managers will face while verifying the paper timesheets. Even though it’s easier to search for information, the managers still have to go through individual timesheets to find it.

Clock-in and Clock-out

Tracking time only by monitoring the time of your employees’ arrival and departure from the offices gives you the smallest possible amount of data to work with. It is possible to track time this way, but the method is quite archaic compared to its modern counterparts when it comes to office work. On the other hand, if you are leading a field team and have managers who monitor them and file reports, you may be completely satisfied with such a system.

Automatic Timers

This method of time tracking has an advantage over the other ones, as it’s extremely accurate. However, the problem arises when it comes to the data you will receive by using it.

  • A simple time clock doesn’t offer much more information than a clocking-in system.
  • A more complex system, in which your employees have to toggle between multiple timers can be confusing, take a lot of time, and be overlooked due to common use.
  • Both options are susceptible to human error, as the employees can easily forget to turn the timers on or off, which will impact the accuracy of data.

Digital Timesheets

Digital timesheets offer all the benefits of time tracking and are the most user-friendly. The platforms that combine a time clock and timesheets are the most convenient solution for most users. They offer the option of manual entry as well as measuring time through a timer and then automatically logging it into the timesheet.

That is why we have developed Time Analytics on this model. We firmly believe this way of logging time is the most convenient, both for the employees and the management. Our platform offers multiple convenient features we will be discussing later on. Its main advantage is that it doesn’t require a lot of time to fill but still delivers detailed reports and tracks important metrics.

Timesheet Mistakes

The human factor is the main reason for timesheet errors. Even the most diligent employees can slip up and make a mistake. Fortunately, the number of mistakes is finite, and the errors themselves are mostly predictable. If you know about the most common ones, you will be able to recognize them in time. So, let’s talk about types of timesheet mistakes.

Illegible Writing

This is a mistake that only refers to paper timesheets. If an employee’s writing is difficult or impossible to read, the managers won’t be able to calculate the total time or will make mistakes themselves. This is a problem that can be solved by transferring your timesheets from paper to digital.

Typing Mistakes and Continuity

The woes of writing mistakes don’t stop if you start using Excel timesheets. Simply put, you will have to set up guidelines for creating and filling the spreadsheets. Otherwise different employees can, for example, name the same project differently or log their time in different ways. Let’s look at an example.

A company employs two content writers. They are not given any instructions on how to log their time but have to fill out an Excel spreadsheet. One content writer will simply log each article they write as a task or project. The other, on the other hand, will log the time they spend researching, writing, editing, and publishing separately.

As you can see, the manager will be more efficient with the first writer, as they will only have to calculate time per project. However, the other employee offers a lot more detail and a better insight into their process, but this can create problems for the manager. The solution, as we have mentioned, is to set up clear guidelines. Yet, you will have to do it for each individual department and team and will need to consider all types of tasks each employee has on their plate.

Malicious Mistakes

We have mentioned intentional timesheet mistakes (also known as time theft) earlier on. There are several types of time theft, but their common trait is that they result in employees getting paid for the time they haven’t spent working. You can identify time theft by comparing employee performance. If two employees are logging the same hours but the outcome of their work is noticeably different (i.e. one of the employees has consistently better results) you should start paying attention. Time theft is a great cost to businesses all over the world, and costs business owners in the US over $400 billion a year.

Honest Mistakes

There are some days or periods in many industries when employees are overwhelmed. For example, the end of fiscal periods will have many accountants working overtime to the point of burnout. When you have many tasks of equal (high) importance, filling in a timesheet can easily be overlooked. These are the times of guesstimates, forgotten timers, and missed timesheet deadlines.

Math Mistakes

Having to go through a large number of timesheets and accurately calculate employees’ hours isn’t easy. It is especially difficult when you need to look through a large number of timesheets and take care of other duties as well. These are the times when calculation mistakes happen. Reversing numbers, subtracting instead of adding, misreading, etc. are some of the most common calculation errors.

The result of these mistakes is very tangible, as an employee will not be compensated accordingly – they will either receive more or less money than they should have. Additionally, your clients can also receive invoices with inaccurate data, which can impact your company’s reputation.

The Other Side

Not all timesheet mistakes come from the employees and managers. Sometimes, business owners and higher-ups will purposely miscalculate a person’s hours in order to pay them less than they should. This practice is called wage theft and defies the fair labor standards act (FLSA) regulations.

Fixing the Mistakes

There is no perfect time tracking method. Whether it’s a demanding system or human error, timesheet mistakes are bound to happen at one point or another. However, you should still try to minimize them as much as you can. Here are some of the most effective methods of reducing timesheet mistakes.

Set Clear Guidelines

Time tracking should be done in the same way throughout your organization. Hence, you will have to decide which method to use, as well as its specifics. For example, you can choose to use Excel spreadsheets. In this case, you will have to list all tasks and create a system that will allow you to track each task type. If you decide to use a more complex system, you should introduce it to your team by conducting company-wide training. Implementing a time tracking system isn’t an easy job, so take all necessary steps to ensure as few issues as possible.

Track all Elements of the Workday

Tracking only time spent working isn’t enough for efficient use of timesheets. The employees should also track their breaks (usually the ones longer than 15 minutes), and any overtime. Some companies opt not to track breaks, but you should require it if you want the data you receive to be as accurate as possible. however, if you decide to do so, you should define the rules for accurate break tracking.

Track Time Off

Tracking employee time off is another important part of business. You will need to know whether an employee is using their designated paid time off, as well as if they’re overusing their accrued days. In other words, you will have to find a way to track time off for employees and standardize the process on the entire company level.

Be Patient and Proactive in the Initial Run

Your team will be more prone to making timesheet mistakes immediately after you implement the system. This is a period when you will have to be prepared to help out, answer questions, and direct the employees’ attention to filling their timesheets according to the rules. Our suggestion is to collect the most common mistakes and questions and create a document with the answers and guidelines. The document should be available to each team member at all times, and you can use it during the onboarding process for the new employees as well.

Keep a To-Do List

This tip isn’t exclusively timesheet-related. It is always a good idea to create a list of tasks you will be tackling that day. Then you can cross off the completed tasks, or add new entries as new tasks come in. this is a great way to keep track of your work and changes in priorities. Finally, once you need to fill your timesheet you can look through the list and enter the data into the timesheet.

Make the Right Choice

You can minimize timesheet mistakes right from the start by choosing the right time tracking system. That means considering the following:

  • Your industry (i.e. whether you’re leading an office or field team)
  • The average age and computer skills of your team
  • The options the program offers
  • Ease of use and user experience

Automate as Much as Possible

Making the time tracking system easy to use often means automation. For example, creating a timesheet in Excel from scratch takes valuable time. If you decide to use this method you should also consider using pre-made templates, or designing one. These custom templates should contain all fields that your company needs for its analytics purposes.

Ask for Regular Timesheet Reviews

Your employees can make the number of mistakes in their timesheets significantly lower with a review. Hence, you should encourage them to regularly go through their timesheets before submitting them. this is a chance to eliminate any obvious mistakes, but also to look back on their day or week and notice the trends in their work.

This is a good business practice, as it allows the employees recognize their work patterns and most productive periods during the day or week (also known as work rhythms). They will then be able to utilize these trends to improve their overall performance and use the most productive hours for the most demanding tasks and vice versa.

Daily Timesheet Interaction

When we look at an average workweek, it is extremely difficult to fill in a Monday’s timesheet accurately on a Friday. That is to say, it is a good idea to instruct your team to fill in their timesheets every day instead of once a week (or, even worse, once every two weeks or month).

Of course, this can be difficult to get used to, so some face-to-face reminders will be beneficial to the entire team. Try not to single out anyone, especially in the beginning. There is also the option of sending email reminders or setting up alarms for the employees.

Time Analytics Responds

As we have already mentioned, we believe digital timesheet solutions are the best way to track employee time. The employees will feel more comfortable with a timesheet they can fill in themselves as opposed to other electronic solutions that monitor user activity and even take screenshots of their computer screens to make sure they’re working. These options create a lot of tension and can cause employees to leave the company. As you can imagine, this means turnover expenses – finding and training new employees.

Secondly, the employers who opt for this method of time tracking will also benefit. Time Analytics and other similar platforms take the data employees enter and calculate key performance indicators, allowing business owners to make informed decisions for the future.

However, mistakes are still possible even on platforms like ours. That is why we have equipped Time Analytics with several options and features that make the time tracking process easier, and, in turn, more accurate from the get-go.

Reminders

The employees who don’t fill in and submit their timesheets in a week will be notified about doing so. This way they will pay more attention to the practice and be more aware of its importance.

Templates

Once a user or an admin knows all the fields the employees need to fill to answer all important questions the management has, they can create and save a template. Then, the employees can use said templates and be sure they’ve entered all the data they needed to. This will ease the timesheet logging process, as the employees will only have to fill in the designated fields and not worry about forgetting an important piece of information.

Suggestions

Once an employee clicks on a field they need to fill, a drop-down menu will appear. The menu contains all their previous entries (i.e. tasks, clients, projects, etc.), with the most recent ones at the top. That is to say, it is very easy to log recurring tasks, and the process is significantly shorter. The employees can also start typing the name of the project, client, or task category, and the system will automatically fill in the rest of the entry.

The Interface

We are well aware of the fact that many companies use different software solutions in their everyday matters. That is why adding yet another platform can be met with less enthusiasm than the managers would like. We have decided to keep the interface of Time Analytics as clear and intuitive as possible. The commands are easy to find and manage, there are many automated elements, and anyone can get used to the system easily, as the time tracking process in and of itself takes only a few minutes and reduces the possibility of mistakes.

To conclude

Timesheet mistakes are unavoidable. However, you can significantly reduce their frequency and scope by using a time tracking method and tool your team will be using. It is a team effort, and all sides are supposed to do their parts diligently, but with these tips and the right tools, you can reduce the timesheet mistakes in your company to the absolute minimum. We hope our article has given you an idea or two on how to do it!

 

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