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Timesheet Troubles: Avoiding Late and Inaccurate Submissions

Timely and accurate submission of timesheets is crucial for both employees and employers. Late and error-ridden timesheets can lead to a host of problems that affect payroll processing, project management, and overall organizational efficiency.
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C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt

Why are Timesheets Important?

According to Precursive, timesheets are essential for service-oriented businesses, ensuring accurate time tracking for tasks, which in turn aids precise forecasting and invoicing. They also help managers pinpoint project delays and streamline processes [1].

However, ensuring employees adhere to timesheet protocols can be challenging. As a project manager, balancing rules with work demands and remembering hours worked can be tough. This can negatively impact your business in several ways, all conveniently starting with ‘P’:

Inaccurate timesheets can lead to faulty forecasting, resulting in clients being overcharged or undercharged. Overcharging can erode customer trust, leading to poor customer success, churn, and loss of repeat business. Mischarging often requires correctional work, which cuts into profits. Additionally, misjudging the time needed for projects can delay start times and further harm your bottom line – Precursive

Undercharging clients can result in employees being unfairly compensated, especially when billable rates vary due to different work types or offshoring resources. Accurate timesheets ensure fairness for both employees and clients, highlighting the importance of precise time tracking.

Forecast accuracy relies on historical data. Poor timesheet compliance skews this data, causing inaccurate projections. This can lead to losing clients during the bidding process as competitors provide more realistic timelines and statements of work (SOWs). Inaccurate timesheets also disrupt project milestones, affecting overall success and profit margins.

Accurate timesheets are crucial for monitoring project and business performance. They help identify risks such as burnout, underperformance, unprofitable work, lack of client engagement, and unmet promises. Ensuring timesheet compliance is vital for managing customer relationships and maintaining employee satisfaction.

Common Timesheet Errors

Incorrect Data Entry
According to Timely, incorrect data entry occurs when an employee enters the wrong times into the timesheet. This can result from inaccurate clock-in or clock-out times or when an entry is missed entirely. Such errors lead to an inaccurate log of time worked, potentially showing the employee working more or fewer hours than contracted [2].

Calculation Errors
Calculation errors are more frequent than one might think. These often stem from misreading physical timesheets due to poor handwriting. This necessitates endless follow-ups with employees and recreating timesheets, wasting significant time.

Rounding errors also contribute to calculation mistakes. Rounding up or down to the nearest hour for easier wage calculation can complicate correct pay. This leads to inaccurate records of total hours worked at the end of a week or month.

Time Theft
Time theft occurs when employees misrepresent the hours they have worked. This can happen if employees extend “hours worked” to include break times. If breaks are logged, it creates a loophole for taking longer breaks without management noticing.

Time theft also happens when clock-in and clock-out times are inaccurately recorded. Employees may get paid for more or less time than they worked, causing financial losses for the business or unfair compensation for the employee.

Damaged or Misplaced Paper Timesheets
Physical timesheets, such as paper logs, are prone to numerous issues. Employees must ensure they locate the timesheet, which can be easily moved around the workplace, and remember to update it daily and during breaks.

Physical timesheets can easily be damaged or lost, leading to partial or total miscalculations. Additionally, simple laziness or forgetfulness can result in employees postponing the update of their timesheets, increasing the likelihood of misrepresentation or repeated forgetfulness.

5 Ways to Prevent Timesheet Errors: A Guide for Employers

According to ZoomShifts, timesheet errors can be a significant burden for employers and equally costly for employees. Mistakes can lead to short paychecks, inaccurate benefit accruals, or delayed payments [3]. Fortunately, there are effective strategies to minimize these errors and ensure accurate timesheet submissions. Here are five ways to enhance timesheet accuracy:

1. Educate Employees on Time Tracking
Ensuring employees understand the importance of accurate time tracking is crucial. Explain the federal laws mandating breaks and the broader implications of mis-tracked time on the company’s success and the accounting team’s efficiency.

  • Training: Provide comprehensive training on your time-tracking system. If using a manual system, ensure all materials are easily accessible. For digital systems, teach employees how to log in, navigate the platform, clock in/out, and reset their passwords.
  • Awareness: Emphasize the significance of accurate time tracking for payroll accuracy and legal compliance.

2. Set Clear Expectations
Clear and consistent communication about time-tracking expectations helps prevent errors.

  • Work Hours: Clearly outline expected work hours, including how to track scheduled breaks and any policies on early or late clock-ins.
  • Overtime: If overtime is allowed, ensure employees understand how to track it properly to avoid unnecessary payroll stress.

3. Implement Protocols to Catch Mistakes
Establish protocols to review timesheets thoroughly and catch common errors.

  • Double-Check: Ensure that each timesheet is reviewed by at least two people before approval to catch missed clock-outs, lunches, or unauthorized hours.
  • Software Solutions: Use time tracking software to provide automated reminders and flag inconsistencies, reducing human error.

4. Empower Staff as a Defense Line
Encourage employees to take responsibility for their timesheet accuracy.

  • Reminders: Use calendar invites to remind employees to review their timesheets regularly.
  • Reporting: Create a formal process for employees to report payroll discrepancies, making the accounting team approachable and supportive.

5. Leverage Software for Automation
Transition from manual to digital timesheets to reduce errors and streamline the process.

  • Digital Tools: Use software like ZoomShift, which provides real-time visibility of who is clocked in, tracks late arrivals, and offers GPS verification for accurate location tracking.
  • Automated Alerts: Implement automatic clock-in reminders and alerts for unauthorized overtime to ensure compliance and accuracy.

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