What Is a Punch Clock?

A punch clock is a mechanical device used to track the starting and ending times of employee work days. The data from the punch clock is used to pay employees and bill clients accurately. Although punch clocks are still in operation, they’ve been largely supplanted by time tracking software.

Types of Punch Clocks

Aside from the mechanical punch clock device, there are three other types of punch clocks used for measuring employee work hours.

Time Card Punch Clocks

A time card punch clock is the basic mechanical punch clock where employees insert a paper time card into the device’s card slot, which stamps the time card upon entry to indicate the start and end time for that employee’s workday.

Punch clock devices are simple to use, which is why they are still a really popular method in factories or industrial workspaces. These devices are also practical for small businesses that don’t employ remote workers.

Digital Punch Clocks

The difference between digital punch clocks and time card punch clocks is that employees use a magnetic stripe card through the digital clock instead of feeding a paper card into a punch clock slot.

Digital punch clocks automatically track the total hours by making calculations using the dates and employees' start and end times. These punch clocks come in the form of an electronic touchpad where employees have to input their personal code when they start and finish work.

Time Tracking Software

Time tracking software is the most modern method to date that allows companies to track their employees' work hour data from a computer. The time tracking software makes time tracking calculations, including client billing and payroll, with complete accuracy. 

In addition, the software can be used to create reports regarding employee productivity, project ETAs, profitability, and more.

Fingerprint and Palm Clocks

Fingerprint punch clocks are also a popular method for clocking in and out used in many industries today, thanks to biometric technology. These punch clocks work similarly to a regular punch clock, but instead of punching in with a card, employees place their thumb on the touch screen to scan their unique fingerprint to mark that they’ve started working.

Companies add each employee’s unique fingerprints to the time clock’s database, so the software can recognize and authorize them. 

Palm punch clocks work in the same manner as fingerprint punch clocks, but instead of just a finger, employees need to place their whole palms on the scanner.

Why Are Punch Clocks Used?

When a company applies an effective and accurate time tracking system using a punch clock, the management gets insight into whether everyone in the workplace is at their work position when they are expected to be. Moreover, managers trace unauthorized absences by reviewing the punch clock data and inserting the absences into the appropriate timesheets

Management teams use the punch clock data to identify any employees who aren’t adhereing to the company’s time tracking policy, i.e., they’re running late, they aren’t clocking in and out properly, or they’re taking longer lunch breaks. This helps management eliminate time theft and maximize workplace productivity and efficiency.

Punch clocks help the company adhere to timekeeping laws by using the data from the clocks for timekeeping records and help them pay their employees appropriately for the hours they’ve worked.

The Advantages of Advanced Punch Clocks 

Saving Time and Money

Companies that use digital time clocks save money as the time tracking data is automatically pooled together and calculated into a final number. This reduces the workload of HR and allows them to focus on other company-related tasks. On top of that, the computer-based calculations eliminate the human error factor.

With digital time clocks, companies know the exact work hours for all employees and bill clients according to that data. In contrast, with manual calculation, the numbers can often be off and companies end up overbilling or underbilling their clients – in which case they have to cover the costs out of pocket.

Tracking Labor Costs

If the punch clock comes in the form of time tracking software, managers can see which employees are putting in the most hours at work and what areas of labor are the most expensive with the data from the software. Moreover, time tracking software displays which employees are using overtime hours to finish tasks and makes calculations to compare their hours with industry-standard parameters.

Increased productivity.

Employees who track their work hours actively are more likely to be productive as their wages are tied to hourly rates, including their performance on past projects. Managers have access to the employee hourly data, which makes it easy for them to notice low workplace performance and recurring absences or irregularities.