How to Avoid/Minimize Timesheet Errors

Timesheets seem like a pretty straightforward and foolproof method to track time and log employee hours. The reality, however, is quite different. Timesheet mistakes do happen and are more common than you might have thought.  

For this reason, we’ve created an article on the six most common timesheet mistakes and how to fix them, as well as some ways to avoid/minimize timesheet errors in the future.

How to Avoid/Minimize Timesheet Errors
In this guide, you’ll learn:
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6 Most Common Timesheet Errors and How to Fix Them With Time Tracking Software

how to fix 6 most common timesheet errors with the help of time tracking software

1. Writing/Typing Timesheet Errors

Illegible handwriting and regular writing mistakes are common occurrences when dealing with paper timesheets. Mistaking 1s for 4s and 5s for 6s or writing an 8 instead of 6 can lead to overpaying or underpaying your employees and under- or overcharging your clients. 

Similarly, digital timesheets are prone to typing timesheet mistakes that can lead to many of the same problems.

Fix: With time tracking software, you can avoid writing/typing timesheet errors by tracking time with a stopwatch. You can start the watch when you begin working on your tasks and stop it when finished. The tool automatically shows the amount of time you’ve spent working, removing the need to manually type in the numbers, i.e., manually track time.

Alternatively, other types of software track time automatically – they don’t require any manual input and will usually start counting the time once the person using the software logs into their account.

2. Calculation Timesheet Errors

Whether it’s for payroll purposes or billing your clients, you have to calculate the total number of work hours your employees have put in first. 

When we feel stressed, overworked, fatigued, or distracted, the chances of making a slip-up rise exponentially, including calculation errors.

Making timesheet errors when adding the numbers to figure out the working hours of your employees or calculating how much you should bill your client can cause several problems for your business, such as:

  • Creating and sending incorrect invoices to your client
  • Over or under-paying your employees

Clients won't usually mind a discount, even if that discount resulted from an error. But overcharging them, especially if they are the ones to catch the mistake, could put you into big trouble. If they get the impression you overcharged them on purpose, you could end up in a lawsuit or receive a lot of negative PR.

The reverse is true for employees. They probably won’t mind the “unintentional bonus” to their pay, but underpaying them could lead to lawsuits and could damage the morale within the company.

Fix: Time tracking software allows you to track and calculate the total number of work hours automatically and use that data for payroll, billing clients, or creating time reports. The whole process is optimized to prevent unnecessary timesheet mistakes while alleviating the administrative burden from your HR and Accounting departments.

3. Forgetting to Log Time

Forgetting to log time is a common timesheet mistake that can happen when using either paper or digital timesheets. When an employee fails/forgets to record the work hours for a particular day or shift, it can cause a variety of issues for your company. Problems such as:

Fix: As a solution to this commonly occurring timesheet mistake, time-tracking software feature a reminder option, popularly called timesheet reminders.  Usually, this type of feature is available to anyone who wants to use it, but you can easily turn it off if you don’t feel like you need it. 

For example, with My Hours timesheet reminders, your employees can set daily or weekly reminders to log their work hours or send in their timesheets. On the timesheet dashboard, team leads have a clear overview of the employees who have submitted their timesheets and those who haven’t. 

Other time-tracking software might offer a different variation of this solution, but the gist of it will remain the same – an automatic (hands-off) way to remind employees to log their work hours.  

4. Not Including Breaks or Overtime

Employees failing to record their breaks or forgetting to include overtime hours for a certain pay period is a common timesheet mistake. 

The lack of recorded breaks will result in an inflated number of work hours, while failing to include overtime can lead to employees getting paid less.

Fix: Various kinds of time tracking software allow their users to account for both breaks and overtime hours and add them directly to their work schedules. This option gives team leads/managers a detailed overview of all employee work hours within a given pay period. This lets them discern which employees qualify for overtime pay easily and with a higher degree of accuracy.

5. Time Theft 

Time theft is a timesheet error that can come as a result of an honest mistake or a deliberate intention to defraud your company. 

Employees might commit time theft for a variety of reasons, such as:

  • A desire for more pay;
  • Feeling pressured to meet deadlines;
  • Feeling pressured to meet KPIs and different productivity goals;
  • Lack of oversight;

No matter the reason, time theft is a serious problem and can have severe ramifications for both employees and employers.

Employees who engage in time theft can end up terminated or have disciplinary actions taken against them. They could face legal issues and be forced to pay fines. Also, their reputation as working professionals could be damaged, which can significantly hinder their future job prospects.  

For employers, time theft can cause financial losses, decreased productivity within the team, lower morale and cohesion, and an overall loss of trust.

Fix: Naturally, the best way to deal with time theft is to foster open communication and mutual trust between you, your management/team leads, and your employees. If this approach doesn’t help, and you still notice frequent instances of time theft among your employees, you can try using an auto-lock past timesheets feature. A lot of software solutions and time-tracking apps offer the option to bar anyone without administrative access from tampering with already submitted timesheets.

6. Physical Damage 

Physically damaged paper timesheets could be difficult to read and process or be completely illegible and thus useless. 

Although you can’t physically damage digital timesheets, you might lose your data records if something happens to the hard drives and they start to malfunction. 

So, whether you’re using paper or digital timesheets, physical damage can cause companies a variety of issues, which can have dire legal and/or financial consequences.

Fix: A lot of time-tracking software products on the market today are cloud-based, meaning they allow users to track time and get access to various time-tracking data no matter where they are in the world. And unlike manual time tracking, which sometimes involves filling out paper timesheets that can easily get damaged, time-tracking software is digital and deals with digital timesheets. This completely nullifies the chances of you having to deal with damaged paper timesheets. 

3 Tips to Minimize Timesheet Errors

3 tips to minimize timesheet errors

1. Teach Employees How to Track Time

Whether you’re using paper or digital timesheets, you still have to start by teaching your employees how to fill out timesheets correctly.

It’s imperative that your team knows about the importance of time tracking. Having everybody on the same page can ensure all legal requirements are met, and no unnecessary lawsuits end up coming your way.

Inform your employees about all the specifics of your company’s time-tracking practices. If you rely on manual time tracking, ensure your employees have everything they need to do that. 

If you are using an app (mobile or web-based), ensure all of your employees know how to use it (e.g., how to log in, what’s required of them, how to report their work hours, etc.). 

Also, try to be available and answer any questions your team might have about your company’s time-tracking policy. The faster you empower them, the fewer worries in regard to time tracking you’ll have in the future, and the likelihood of anyone making a timesheet mistake will be significantly lower.

2. Set Expectations

Communicate your expectations regarding your company’s time tracking and timesheet policies early on and reiterate them occasionally. Don’t give your employees leeway when it comes to tracking time properly. Be with them every step of the way if necessary, and ensure everyone knows the number of work hours they should be putting in.

Teach your employees how to track their breaks and differentiate between billable and non-billable hours. Educate them on the most common timesheet mistakes and the necessary steps on how to avoid them. 

If the nature of your business allows for overtime, make sure your team knows exactly how they are supposed to track those hours.

3. Try out Time Tracking Software 

Frankly speaking, digital and/or paper timesheets just don’t cut it anymore. Most of the problems and mistakes related to using paper or digital timesheets can be traced back to these time-tracking methods simply being outdated. 

Paper timesheets have to be kept in storage, which has businesses incurring additional costs. Digital timesheets, although better, still pose a significant administrative burden. Work hours have to be inputted and calculated manually. Someone has to look at those timesheets, approve them, and more. 

So, why not try time-tracking software and relieve yourself and your business from unnecessary burdens and costs?