Time and tide waits for none. Indeed is an old saying! However is very relevant to businesses at present. Timing is the key to business success is an usual ‘given’, and which is why time keeping, recording need deep thinking and strategizing. Timesheets quite do the job. If that leaves you wondering how and when to use timesheets, you’ve indeed landed onto the right place!
- What Is a Timesheet
- Why Timesheets Are Important
- When Should You Use a Timesheet Template
- What Should Your Timesheet Template Contain
- Who Is Responsible for the Timesheet
- Figuring out Your Timesheet Period
- Timesheet Alternatives
- Timesheet Best Practices
- Timesheet FAQs
- Free Timesheet Templates for Excel
What Is a Timesheet
Timesheets, as the name suggests, capture or track time spent by employees and staff at work. They can be either physical documents or software records.
Historically, timesheets grew from the concepts of punch cards, job cards, and time cards. These were tools used to track attendance, time spent at work, and jobs completed (or not). Modern timesheets can be designed to capture everything from data as basic as ‘Time In/Time Out’ to more complex aspects such as advanced analytics or ‘Cost Trend’ reports.
Most businesses use timesheets to get a broad understanding of their payroll costs by recording the time spent by employees on a particular job, project, client, etc.
Why Timesheets Are Important
Timesheets are key to business operations! They help businesses with a wide range of issues, both macro and micro, such as staffing, time-spent, and cost variants per unit of work either by client or by a custom unit.
Timesheets are both versatile and flexible, and can be customized to meet a business’s needs. They can help determine overall:
- Staffing/labor cost,
- Idle-time costs,
- Overtime costs,
- Individual contributions,
- Time per piece manufactured,
- Time spent per project/client, etc.
When Should You Use a Timesheet Template
Whatever the nature of the business – one time, seasonal, project-by-project, or ongoing – it is important to define a timesheet format and stick to it. A timesheet template will certainly help begin this process. Templates help bring consistency to the way things are being recorded, which makes it easier for the users to understand and use the timesheet, which helps them adhere to policies. Templates also offer other business advantages, such as:
- Client Management – Track the current services being offered, as well as new opportunities,
- Track Projects – Tally not just the time spent, but also all the costs involved, and
- Accurate billing – Enables your business to provide clients with bills that record whatever level of detail they need, which also leads to accurate analytics & management reports.
What Should Your Timesheet Template Contain
There are various types of timesheet formats available:
- Hard-copy versions, which are usually available offline.
- Soft-copy versions which may be available online as off-the-shelf varieties, or custom made.
Timesheets can be daily, weekly, biweekly, monthly, or whatever timescale you need! Simply choose the one that’s right for your business.
In my opinion, all businesses should use daily timesheets. However, they can be submitted weekly (or at even lower frequencies), depending on the employee’s maturity and trustworthiness.
Also – timesheets are critical for businesses that are in phases of growth. The organization usually lacks structure at that stage, but that is also the very stage at which everyone most needs to be working in the same direction and in tandem. Though it might not be possible for everyone to be on the same page all the time while in a growth spurt, templates provide a structure that can help the business make the best of its dynamic state while remaining connected.
Matured businesses, on the other hand, need a ‘daily reporting & weekly submission’ process, to ensure that the machinery is not slacking off due to a lack of challenges or overlooked potentials. This kind of minutia is the busy-ness of business, and you can be sure that even if you don’t feel your company needs to do this work, some of your competitors will. In the era of big-data, the companies that harness these kinds of potential will be the companies that thrive.
The main drawback with a bi-weekly or a monthly timesheet is that data may be missed due to the long gap between occurrence and recording. Usually in these cases, submission frequency is being spaced out to manage the administrative aspect of managing the submission of the timesheets. While this can be a hassle, daily recording is usually the best practice.
Who Is Responsible for the Timesheet
The responsibility of the timesheet can be divided into a few aspects, such as:
- Recording initial data,
- Ensuring accuracy,
- Timely submission, and
- Legislative compliance.
The primary responsibility of filling in the timesheet with correct data, and submitting them on time, lies with the ‘employee’ whose time or activity is being recorded.
The ‘reviewer’ is responsible for the accuracy, as well as following up with employees who submit their records consistently late.
The payroll administrator is partly responsible, as they must validate that the entries look consistent with previous months, and alert appropriate channels in case of any suspicious entries or trends.
Human resources and the legal team may be looped in at the design stage to ensure that the timesheet adheres to the laws of the land (vacation/benefits/work hours). They may also come into play if there are any discrepancies that require coaching or terminations.
Figuring out Your Timesheet Period
Here are some questions to ask, and issues to consider, while configuring a timesheet template to suit your requirements:
Identify the common and unique elements of each type of business activity. The questions you could ask while fleshing out the format could be:
- What do my people do on a day-to-day basis? Projects, client management, manufacturing, accounting, etc…
- How frequently do their activities change. As in – Do they only pick apples? Or do they pick apples, oranges, and pears, and then also puree them into apple sauce, jams, and preserves?
- How discrete is each piece of work? Can your timesheets be as granular as per- piece handled/hour, or made/hour, or does it need to be managed by the time of each person or project?
- How many employee hours or days are in one month? Are all the work weeks of equal duration?
- Do employees work in different time zones?
- Time period and pay period – are they the same, or different?
A few other considerations to be made after analyzing the job(s) above, are:
What are the other purposes of your timesheet?
- Billing for clients/vendors
- Project management
The time period in your template needs to be configured to suit your business needs: weekly, bi-weekly, semi-monthly, monthly, yearly, by fiscal year or in custom time periods (Eg – per project/client contract).
Timesheets can also be set up so that weekly offs or company offs can be handled by flexing the first and last week of the month, so that each period is uniform/matches the pay period. The key is to identify your business needs, and get the time period aligned with those needs!
- Hard paper timesheets (time cards) have lost relevance due to their lack of portability. Swipe cards are still used for basic attendance and time tracking, and there are tools available to integrate swipe-card data into timesheets by pushing the swipe-card data into the reports at a predetermined frequency.
- Soft copies are still popular today. Tabular forms such as Microsoft Excel and online timesheets are widely available, suitable for most types of businesses, and easily shared and reviewed. They are particularly good for businesses with basic needs who don’t want to spend a lot of their operation’s budget on timesheets. Basic reporting on time or cost can easily be derived from such trackers. However, generating advanced reports from such tools isn’t easy, and requires skilled resources to generate meaningful management reports.
- Automated timesheet software such as Hubstaff or Replicon, or apps such as Tsheets or Toggl. All of these have key features that a business might need. However, all of these also come at a premium. Most offer free trials and customizations, and have reporting and scheduling functions. They can alert you when you reach a particular resource limit or, in the case of omissions, noncompliance threshold. Some of these help you plan your staffing schedule, and also offer productivity data for Performance Management functions, like in Zoho Projects.
The final choice of which type of timesheet you choose will depend on your needs, budget, and user base.
Timesheet Best Practices
- It is difficult to identify all your business needs in one shot and design a timesheet format that’s so perfect it can be written in stone! A good approach would be an iterative method. Start with a basic template and build on it.
- Change when there is need. Perhaps the business changes direction, a new client is on-boarded, or a new job description added. As changes happen, update the timesheet template!
- Try to have everyone complete it on the same date. That way, it’s easier to generate reports that track wages, expenses, etc.
- Add in a reviewer. It will prevent incorrect reporting.
- Add in an Admin (usually in HR) who can handle all timesheet-related queries/disputes.
- Add in a specialist to the timesheet ops team, who understands the laws of the land regarding compensation, time off, benefits, etc.
- Use automation as much as your budget and business allows, as it helps save time of the employees, and incentivises them to complete it.
Hopeful, we’ve already answered most of your timesheet related questions. But, here are the top few questions, answered for your convenience.
A timesheet is the document an employee fills in to detail how they spent their time. The same document may be termed a “report” once the employee submits it for review. A timesheet template is a blank timesheet, formatted in a particular way to suit a business’s needs.
A timesheet is a detailed record of how an employee has spent their time. It can be physical, or software. A timecard is a physical card that needs to be punched to clock time-in and time-out.
How employees spend their time is the most critical aspect of business success. Timesheets will not only help manage deadlines, but they will also help budget more effectively by providing insight into how time is being used.
Because timesheet templates can be customized and are flexible, it is advisable to use them from the very start. Even with a small team. Not only will it help track time, but it also sets up the expectation that this is an organized company that uses timesheets.
The different types of timesheet available are:
– Hard paper versions (time cards),
– Soft copies (vai MS Excel tracker, timesheet calculator, etc.)
– Automated software such as Hubstaff and Replicon, and
– Apps such as Tsheets and Toggl.
It totally depends on your business needs and employee base. A young team would prefer a timesheet app. Manufacturing units with huge volume of workers may find using swipe cards easier. A quick survey or discussion with your people will help you decide on the best option.
The kinds of reports that a business will find useful will change with their changing needs, but may include payroll, management reports, client reports, and utilization metrics.
The simplest timesheet template – one with the least number of columns that still meets your needs – is the one recommended by most experts. Timekeeping should not become a bottleneck to other activities.
Automated software or apps help reduce time waste when it comes to the repetitive description of the same tasks. The simpler – and more automated – the timesheet, the less time employees will spend filling out needless forms.
An Illustration of a basic timesheet template has been given below.
- Date, Project Name, Time Started, Time Ended, Remarks, Approver Name, Approver Remarks.
- Along with the above columns, like – company wide holidays, personal time offs need to be added to account for all the days of a month.
Free Timesheet Templates for Excel
If you need some assistance with timesheet templates, you may want to check out some of the free spreadsheet templates below. These formats have been created after deep analysis of various business models, and their needs. Optimized to suit multiple types and sizes of businesses. Like – Each of the timesheet templates are designed to help you keep track of attendance, timeliness/tardiness, conform to the employment laws and vacation information. Easy to use. Most importantly free for you to download and use. Go ahead and try!