What Is Manual Time Tracking?

Manual time tracking is a timekeeping method by which employees track their work hours on their own with the help of classic paper timesheets, digital spreadsheets, or time cards. Managers and employers later read the data from the manual time entries and approve them for accurate client billing and payroll.

In comparison to manual time tracking, automatic time tracking often comes in the form of time tracking apps or time tracking software. This is a fully digitalized time tracking method that’s considered more accurate and easier to use. 

The software is capable of recognizing what an employee is doing on their computer and accurately tracking employee work hours, including breaks and absences. Moreover, its algorithms allow it to learn the data input from previous manual entries and fill the tracked time automatically on its own.

Pros and Cons of Manual Time Tracking


  • The user has complete control over their time tracking data, resulting in a more trusting relationship between the employer and the employees.
  • When employees track their work hours manually, they put a little more time and effort into the ordeal. However, this practice greatly enhances their focus and allows them to reflect on their workdays.
  • The manual time tracking approach is usually a bit more detailed as the software can’t include every single detail about the employee’s work activities.
  • Manual time tracking methods are easy to implement in any work environment. 
  • With manual time tracking, companies don’t have to invest in additional staff training for specialized time tracking programs as manual timesheets are intuitive and straightforward to understand even for older and/or technologically illiterate employees.


  • Manual time tracking systems are prone to human error, as management or HR manually calculates the employee timesheet totals (i.e., total work hours, regular hours, overtime hours, absences, and hourly rates), which can lead to inaccurate billing or payroll
  • Employees might forget to clock in or out or forget to include breaks and other types of work absences into their timesheets, which makes manual time tracking prone to time theft and buddy punch occurrences. This problem appears in the case of remote workers too.

Time theft occurs when employees enter hours into their timesheets that they haven’t worked for. For example, employees leave work half an hour earlier but write a full shift into the timesheet. Time theft can also be done accidentally by employees who forget to clock in and have no proof of the hours they’ve worked.

Buddy punching occurs when employees use a time clock or some other type of manual punch clock. Employees give their punch cards or swipe cards to other employees to clock them in or out without them being present at the workplace.

  • The manual timesheet approval and calculation process takes a lot of time, and companies often have to hire an additional accounting team to manage it.
  • More spreadsheet paperwork leads to difficulties with business upscaling.