Choosing an Online Time Clock App: 8 Key Factors

When running a small business, keeping track of employee work hours is essential for smooth operations and fair payroll. 99.9% of businesses across the US are small businesses.

Accurately tracking employee hours is crucial for small business success.

Online time clock apps like Homebase's user-friendly time clock provide a convenient way to track time, manage payroll, enforce compliance, and optimize productivity.

An online time clock app can be a valuable tool to manage this task efficiently. It allows employees to clock in and out digitally, making attendance tracking easier. However, choosing the right app requires careful consideration of various factors. However, with so many options available, how do you choose the right app for your specific needs?

Let's take a closer look at eight important factors you should keep in mind when selecting an online time clock app for your small business.

1. Accuracy of Time Tracking

69% of employees admit that they don't track their time accurately. Ensuring accurate time tracking prevents payroll errors and time theft:

  • GPS and Geofencing - Validates clock-in locations against job sites.

  • Facial/Fingerprint Recognition - Prevents buddy punching with biometric scans.

  • Random Photo Verification - Employees take selfies for random clock-ins.

  • Activity Level Tracking - Detects idle time based on computer activity.

  • Auto Clock-Out - Triggers clock-out when the system detects employee left.

  • Time Change Review - Flags edits/overrides for manager approval.

  • Data Exports - Provides raw data for external validation.

  • Real-time Tracking - The dashboard shows live team status.

Regular audits ensure the app delivers reliable data to base payroll and schedules on.

2. Integration With Payroll and Accounting Software

Seamless data sync avoids duplicate data entry and errors:

  • Payroll Platforms - Gusto, ADP, Paychex, OnPay, etc.

  • Accounting Software - QuickBooks, Xero, FreshBooks, Sage, etc.

  • HR Systems - BambooHR, Gusto, Zenefits, JazzHR.

  • Project Management - Asana, Trello, Basecamp, Jira.

  • Point of Sale - Square, Clover, Shopify POS.

  • CRM/ERP - Salesforce, SAP, Oracle, Microsoft Dynamics.

  • Custom Software - API connections to in-house systems.

Bi-directional sync keeps all systems updated with no manual re-entry. This streamlines operations and minimizes payroll errors.

3. Cost Structure

Evaluate both subscription and per-user fees:

  • Subscription Plans - Monthly or annual payments often with tiered pricing based on features.

  • Per-User Pricing - Some apps charge per active user per month. Others only charge for certain user roles.

  • Discount Tires - Larger or annual subscriptions often have discounted per-user rates.

  • Free Trial - Test the app free for a period before committing.

  • Set-up/Training Costs - Some apps charge for initial configuration or training.

  • Support Fees - Potential extra cost for premium support.

  • Hardware Costs - On-premise clocks require purchasing devices.

Run cost scenarios for different team sizes to find the most economical option. Factor in free trials and discounts.

4. Platform and Device Compatibility

The app should function seamlessly across:

  • iOS and Android phones and tablets

  • Mac and Windows computers

  • Browser access from any device


  • Offline access allows clocking in without the internet.

  • Native apps often provide better performance than the web.

  • Biometric hardware may limit device options.

Flexible platform support accommodates diverse workforces with BYOD policies.

5. Scheduling and Shift Management

Key scheduling and shift management features include:

  • Drag-and-drop schedule builder

  • Shift and job assignments

  • Time-off requests and approval

  • Shift swapping between employees

  • Schedule templates and recurring shifts

  • Demand-based staffing algorithms

  • Notifications and reminders

Robust tools provide needed flexibility in managing hourly workforces. Integrated payroll data enables streamlined operations.

6. Reporting and Analytics

Robust reporting and analytics capabilities are crucial for optimizing productivity and costs:

  • Real-Time Dashboards – Monitor clock-ins, schedules, overtime, labor costs, and more in real time.

  • Productivity Tracking – Track project hours, tasks completed, and jobs billed to gauge individual and team productivity.

  • Overtime Alerts – Configure thresholds and alerts to control overtime labor spend.

  • Schedule Adherence – Assess schedule compliance and absenteeism.

  • Custom Reports – Build reports specific to your business needs and permissions.

  • Data Exports – Export raw data to Excel, CSV, etc. for further analysis.

  • Visualizations – Charts and graphs provide insights at a glance.

  • Benchmarks – Compare performance vs. targets and industry benchmarks.

Without robust reporting, you are flying blind. To avoid this, you’ll need to ensure the app you opt for provides visibility on the data you need to know.

7. Added Features

Standard time clocks are limited to clocking in and out. Additional features that can optimize workflows include:

  • Mileage tracking for field services

  • Job costing and assignments

  • Inventory management

  • Equipment and asset logging

  • Location and geofencing

  • Tip tracking

  • Budgeting and goal-setting

  • Document and photo capture

  • Resource scheduling

Evaluate which features will be most impactful for your business.

8. Support for Labor Law Compliance

Non-compliance can lead to lawsuits and penalties. Time clock apps can support compliance with:

  • Meal and rest break laws

  • Overtime regulations

  • Timecard editing rules

  • Pay frequency and methods

  • Min wage and late pay laws

  • Child labor regulations

  • Contractor and intern rules

  • ACA compliance

  • Taxes and withholdings

Key Time Clock App Benefits

Beyond the factors above, online time clocks deliver additional benefits like:

  • Increased payroll accuracy and efficiency

  • Deterring time theft

  • Optimizing staff scheduling for demand

  • Improved analytics and data-driven decisions

  • Higher productivity and customer satisfaction

  • Seamless scaling as your business grows

Top Time Clock Apps

Leading time clock apps include:

  • Homebase - All-in-one employee management solution

  • TSheets - Feature-rich time tracker for construction firms

  • Deputy - Scheduling and shift management focused

  • TimeClock Plus - Robust compliance capabilities

  • uAttend - Specialized biometric time clocks

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the average cost of a time clock app?

The cost ranges from $1 to $10 per user per month based on features. Specialized apps for industries like healthcare cost more.

What are the pros and cons of cloud vs. on-premise time clocks?

Cloud apps offer more features but rely on internet connectivity. On-premise options work offline but lack advanced capabilities.

Can I use a time clock app for employee scheduling?

Yes, many time clock apps have built-in shift scheduling, PTO management, and assignment features. However, standalone apps like Shiftboard may offer deeper scheduling functionality.

How long does it take to implement a time clock app?

Most apps can be set up in under an hour. Larger organizations may take 1-2 weeks to configure custom rules, integrate with other software, train employees, and roll out company-wide.

Can time clock apps help with labor law compliance?

Yes, top time clock apps have configurable rules to automatically flag potential non-compliance with labor laws pertaining to breaks, overtime, time cards, etc.

Bottom Line

Choosing the right time clock app requires aligning features to your specific business needs and priorities.

Evaluating accuracy, integration, cost, platform support, analytics, and compliance will ensure you select the optimal app to drive productivity and streamline payroll. Leverage free trials to test options before deciding.

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