Online clock-in systems & the benefits for a deskless workforce


UPDATED: 22/04/2024

Today, the image of factory workers ‘clocking in’ for work using a manual punch card machine is only familiar to most of us thanks to its use in countless Hollywood movies.  


These time tracking systems were an important aspect of paying people correctly for the hours they worked, but they were also limited. They were open to misuse, such as getting a buddy to clock in your card when you were absent (buddy punching). In 2024, they seem antiquated, outmoded and definitely not fit for purpose in the modern age. 


Online clock-in systems have evolved steadily in recent years, and today they are an essential part of work for frontline, ‘deskless’ workers in industries such as manufacturing, healthcare, childcare and logistics. 

What is an online clock-in system?

An online clock-in system is a digital solution to the age-old problem of employee time tracking from the start to the end of their shift.  

All time tracking software has a digital clock that helps employers to track time, calculate payroll and tally hourly wages to the end of their shift. Digital timesheets can be sent to direct managers for approval, removing the need for manual calculations and reducing the risk of human error. 

These systems have proliferated in recent years and vary widely in their level of functionality and available services. Critically, the rise of cloud computing and mobile apps has provided an additional layer of functionality for workers, enabling contact-less clocking in and out. 

Challenges faced by deskless workforces (and their employers) 

Without digital, mobile-friendly technology, deskless workers and their employers face numerous challenges. For example: 

Manual clocking and errors 

Manually writing work hours into a diary or spreadsheet takes time. This can be frustrating in high pressure environments, where countless workers might be clocking in or out at the same time. Worker expectations have shifted and today, if the clock in and out process can’t be done in several seconds via an app, or it can’t be done ‘in the flow of work’ but instead requires an employee to use a new system, that can be a source of contention.  


In addition, it’s all too easy for errors – both intentional and accidental – to creep in if employees need to write their clock in and out times in by hand. When it comes to managers approving multiple timesheets, it’s easy to misinterpret a ‘3’ as an ‘8’ or a ‘1’ for a ‘7’. Again, digital tools remove those risks. 

Buddy punching

It might be easy to assume that the days of buddy punching are long gone but in 2024 some organisations are still using paper timesheets or shared logins. These only serve to enable dishonest practices to flourish. Digital clocking tools remove this risk.  

For example, fingerprint or facial recognition clocking systems, like that offered by Humanforce, guarantee verified identities. Tying an employee’s time clock activity to their device’s IP address can also help prevent buddy punching incidents. 


Similarly, QR clocking, also offered by Humanforce, offers secure authentication. Unique QR codes assigned to authorised employees are refreshed every 3 seconds – limiting the chance of timesheet fraud and buddy punching. Read more in our blog here. 

In addition, geofencing can automatically clock workers in when they are on-site, and GPS can confirm their location while on the road. The latter is ideal for employees who are on-the-go, perhaps in logistics or transport, and the former is perfect for those who work in large venues such as sports and leisure centres, where being ‘on the premises’ might be quite different to being ‘in the right location on those premises, ready for work’.  

If these systems are integrated with timesheet and payroll processing systems, a much more accurate reflection of hours worked (and hours paid) emerges.  

Time theft 

Time theft, or the false claiming of hours worked, is a significant problem for business. An American study (Pomeroy, 2007) found that 73% of employees have witnessed unethical practices in the workplace, including late clock-ins, leaving early, buddy punching and false recording of hours. 

A Forbes article reports that around 4.5 hours per week on average are stolen from employers. If that doesn’t sound like much, consider that it totals nearly six weeks of work per year – work not done but paid for by employers, amounting to hundreds of billions of dollars worldwide.  

Yet another study (“How Much Can You Save with Automated Time and Attendance?” Contractor’s Business Management, 2006) found that 53 minutes per employee per day is lost to time theft in the construction industry and another study (McGee & Fillion, 1995) found that more than 60% of retail employees owned up to time theft.  

Clearly, there’s a huge need to eliminate buddy punching and accurately track hours so that pay reflects actual hours worked. 

Benefits of online clock-in systems for employers 

There are benefits to both employees and employers if online clock-in systems are implemented. First, employers: 

Real-time monitoring 

Being made aware that someone has not shown up for a shift well after the fact helps no one. For operations managers and frontline managers, it’s crucial to know in real-time that people are where they need to be, at the right time and place.  


If someone does not show up, for whatever reason, contingency plans need to be kicked off immediately – whether that’s filling the shift with another person who was not scheduled to work, calling an agency, or moving an employee from a less-busy part of the business. Modern time & attendance software, like that offered by Humanforce, provide greater transparency, giving managers confidence that their shifts are always properly staffed.   

Enabling clocking-in at approved locations 

GPS tracking via mobile apps can be a powerful feature to define employee locations and track attendance. 

As an example, it’s possible to limit clock-in locations to head office and a remote job site. The use of multiple on-site check-in points is unlimited. It’s even possible to use Bluetooth to further specify locations right down to individual rooms within a building.   

Certain industries can greatly benefit from this kind of functionality. For example, in the events and stadia industry, employees may enter a large venue via a number of ‘muster points’ and then need to walk some distance to their actual starting point for work. Employers need to be able to see that employees are on-site but not have them clock-in to claim paid work until they arrive at their work location 

Similarly, transport firms will find GPS tracking data very helpful in tracking employee locations, an employee’s arrival, employee hours, total hours and time tracking in general. 

Manage absences more effectively 

By using an online clocking system as part of a broader workforce management suite, you can manage absences more easily than with a manual system. All kinds of leave requests, like sick leave, annual leave or business leave, can be entered into the system with user permissions.  

Requests for absences, with dates and duration of absence, can be approved with the aid of the online time clock. It’s far easier to see employee scheduling holistically across a pay period and make informed decisions quickly. 

Financial savings and operational benefits  

The proof is always in the pudding, and some customers using time clock-in software have reported significant benefits in terms of reduced labour and administrative costs with: 

  • Reduced overtime 

  • Reduced cost-per-hire 

  • Automated human resources functions 

  • Optimised shift scheduling 

  • Reduced employee time theft 

Your productivity can rise when you harness biometric technology to facilitate automated processes that track hours worked. Facial recognition technology, eye scans and fingerprints can all eliminate the need to keep time and attendance manually.  

This will reduce instances of employees contesting incorrectly documented times, reduces the number of staff required to process the data, and provides online timesheets for every team member to payroll providers. The result is improved productivity. 

Employee time clock software can include these functions: 

  • Allow employees to clock-in online 

  • Add reminders about timesheets 

  • Schedule staff and book meetings 

  • Use an interactive calendar 

  • Allow roster swaps 

Mobile accessibility 

Say goodbye to the Hollywood cliché. By definition, your online time clock software will not need any expensive hardware, paper time cards or spreadsheets. Instead, your workers can use almost any device with an internet connection, like mobile phones, tablets or computers, to tap into a sophisticated mobile time clock tracking system that does away with time-consuming tasks to track employee hours. 

Integration with payroll 

If your time & attendance solution is part of a broader human capital management (HCM) suite like Humanforce, you don’t need to worry about the need to integrate with other systems, as our suite covers all aspects of workforce management, HR management, payroll and financial wellbeing benefits 

From time & attendance to awards & compliance, and through to payroll, it’s easy to ensure people are being paid accurately for the hours they work. However, if you have existing platforms or use third party providers that you need to integrate with, that’s fine as well. 

Most vendors, including Humanforce, will offer an open application programming interface (API), which allows you to build your own integrations between systems, provided they both support the API and you’ve either got some in-house programming talent, or you are prepared to pay a third party to do this. 

Humanforce can connect directly with hundreds of payroll systems, management systems, point-of-sale (POS) systems and more – all in one place, through public API or one-click data export. In November 2021, we launched an Integration Central page for our customers in Humanforce Cloud to help them manage file imports and payroll integrations moving forward. Partner integrations ensure we provide an end-to-end ecosystem for our clients with one single source of data. 

Seamless integration also means more accurate payroll. It should go without saying that all of the features in an online time clock system reduce errors from manual inputs. The lack of physical timesheets saves manual processing where other errors can occur.  

Clarity around where time was spent and for which project 

You don’t need to rely on retrospective audits or team communication to identify which staff member worked on which project. Employee time tracking can be automatically allocated to clients, projects, campaigns or accounts. This makes task management much easier, as well as accounting, invoicing and business analysis. 

Benefits of online clock-in systems for employees 

While the benefits of online clocking tools for employers are obvious, what do employees gain? There are several elements that enhance the employee experience. 

For example: 

Fewer mistakes with a smart online clocking 

Everyone wants to be paid correctly for the hours they work. That’s only possible with accurate, digital time clocking.  


The best employee time tracking systems distinguish those errors that are unintentional and can even prevent them from occurring. We’ve all clicked the wrong button at some point and it shouldn’t mean the end of the world, a tonne of admin corrections or an embarrassing email to HR.  


Instead, online clocking apps can automatically know through employee scheduling where and when you’re expected to clock on.  

In the absence of leave requests, common errors and mistakes can be prevented by greying out options or limiting them. The result is less work for admin staff, greater employee accountability, and more accurate attendance tracking and payroll reporting. 

Fairer, more equitable shift distribution 

Deskless workers can often find managing their changing shifts is a considerable source of angst. Much of this can be eliminated with an employee time clock on a mobile app. 

This allows, for example, workers with shifting schedules or locations to clock in or out and record their time, no matter where they are.  

Because all the shift data is centralised and digitised, it’s far easier and more efficient to distribute shifts fairly and equitably among staff – improving fairness and potentially even enhancing wellbeing. It also opens up great flexibility for shift swaps, shift preferences and more staff autonomy. 

Greater self-service functionality 

Again, it’s all about the effectiveness of workforce management apps. The Humanforce Work App, for example, gives employees greater control and oversight of their working lives. They can see at a glance: 

  • When their next shift is, when they need to be at work and when their shift will end 

  • How much leave they have 

  • How much they’ll be paid for a shift 

They can also bid on available shifts, make leave requests, and update their personal, tax and superannuation information without having to involve their manager or HR – cutting down admin time for these often-overstretched workers. 

Using mobile apps can help attract and retain talented staff. They facilitate remote teams, job sharing, freelance and part-time work that can all benefit your workforce, help build a better culture and create more engaged staff members. 

Meanwhile, managers benefit from the ability to make shift offers, quickly see who’s meant to be working and where/when, as well as approve timesheets and leave forms on-the-go. Bespoke, personalised dashboards and reports enable managers to only see what’s most important to them – again, helping to reduce admin but also improving compliance confidence. 

Streamlined internal processes 

As outlined above, an online clock-in system and sophisticated workforce management tools (e.g. rostering & scheduling, leave management) has benefits across the enterprise, both for workers and management. Not only does the automating of tasks reduce manual processing and increase accuracy in payroll reporting, but it lifts productivity. 

For workers, the increased transparency about their shifts provides less likelihood of mistakes, like missing a shift. It leads to better engagement because they can see they’re being treated equally.  

Allowing more self-service functions gives staff control they formerly lacked. Most people really appreciate these added benefits. 

Compliance and reporting 

Can you trust that your staff are where they should be, at the right time? And that their allocated shift is completed in full? Without that knowledge, the chances of compliance breaches escalate. Fortunately, as mentioned earlier, GPS or geolocation tracking can limit where employees clock on and off from to very specific locations. It basically means managers have far greater visibility of employee movements.  

There are other obligations that digital clocking systems and integrated workforce management suites can help with. For example, industrial instruments like modern awards and enterprise agreements (in Australia), fair pay agreements (in NZ), or employment agreements and collective employment agreements (in the UK) outline the many compliance obligations that employers must adhere to.  

Compliance depends not just on the worker’s role and status, but also on the number of hours worked, the days and dates worked, the time of day, providing adequate rest periods and breaks, the number of hours since their last shift, and more. 

Ensuring that accurate time & attendance is being recorded is the foundational block of compliance. Without that data, the chances of paying staff incorrectly increases, but so to do the risks associated with disregarding mandated staffing requirements (such as in healthcare or childcare). Your ability to facilitate and provide audit trails to authorities also declines. 

Without accessible data from time & attendance and rostering & scheduling software, it’s all too easy for managers to overlook these requirements or make silly mistakes. For example, they might schedule staff members in such a way that results in overtime rates or additional allowances for food, when a small tweak to the roster – an extra hour between shifts or finishing the shift 30 minutes earlier – would remove this necessity.    

With the Humanforce workforce management system, you can input workers’ awards/employment agreement statuses. The software will take this into account when auto-scheduling staff members and calculating shift costs, plus it will alert you of potential compliance issues. 

In addition, the Humanforce suite can help employers with auditing. The Humanforce Awards & Compliance solution, for example, can assist by carrying out a ‘what if?’ analysis on cost and compliance for shift swaps and critical decision points relating to cost reporting and history, including full audit logs on every shift. 

Online timesheets 

If you’ve taken the step of creating a digitised workspace by shifting to an online clock-in system, it makes sense that online timesheets will follow. The Humanforce Time & Attendance solution will automatically create timesheets based on the start/end times entered by the employee via mobile app or on-site kiosk. 

Their manager can access this data via the cloud and use it to track attendance, monitor labour costs, control overtime, and ensure breaks are being taken. They can opt to approve timesheets in bulk based on certain parameters, with automated alerts showing any anomalies or outlying results. That way, managers spend less time on routine administration and more time focused on anything outside the norm. 

By employing client and job codes, managers can also monitor online timesheets to more accurately track time, assess billable hours worked on various projects, and produce detailed reports. These new insights improve billing fidelity and also help identify staff or workflow problems – which may result in extra training for staff or streamlining of work processes. 

With those processes digitised, approved timesheets can be run through a suitable compliance engine, such as Humanforce Awards & Compliance, to ensure people will be paid in accordance with their award or agreement entitlements. The major benefit is ultimately more accurate payroll, as the data fed through to payroll teams will be checked, verified and compliant.   

With so many benefits to both employees and employers, online clock-in systems are not so much a ‘nice-to-have’ today; they are essential to the smooth running of a modern deskless workforce. Keen to know more? Get in touch below. 

About Humanforce 

Humanforce is the best-in-one platform for frontline and flexible workforces, offering a truly employee centred, intelligent and compliant human capital management (HCM) suite – without compromise. Founded in 2002, Humanforce has a 2300+ customer base and over half a million users worldwide. Today, we have offices across Australia, New Zealand, and the UK. 


Our vision is to make work easier and life better by focusing on the needs and fulfilment of frontline workers, and the efficiency and optimisation of businesses. 


To learn more about how Humanforce’s solutions can help automate people processes in your business, please contact us.