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Time and Attendance Systems: Types and Top Providers

Businesses in a wide variety of industries today are using time and attendance systems to track employee hours. But knowing where to begin and what type of time and attendance system to look for can be difficult. When it comes to choosing a type of time and attendance system, you will want to explore:

  • Authentication options (ie. hardware): How would you like employees to record their time and attendance data?
  • Types of software: Where do you plan to oversee the time and attendance system?
  • Providers: Which company should you choose to buy from?

Luckily, most providers today offer various hardware and software options for you to choose from. In this article, we will help you explore different time and attendance options so you can make the best decision for your workplace. 

Types of Time and Attendance Authentication

There are two main types of time and attendance systems available to businesses today – manual and automated systems. Keep in mind that manual systems are becoming more outdated every year. Automated systems are benefiting businesses today in multiple ways as well as becoming more cost-effective.

Manual Systems (less common)

Manual time and attendance systems are low-tech methods of time and attendance tracking that do not use software to operate.  Take a look at some of the common manual systems.

1. Time stamp cards

Also known as “punch cards,” time stamp cards require employees to hand-write their employee information on a “timecard.” The employee then inserts this card through a time stamping system when starting/ending their shifts, which stamps the time and date on the card. 

2. Sign-in sheets

The most basic form of time and attendance tracking is using a handwritten sign-in sheet with a calendar. Most of the time, employees will sign into and out of their shifts by hand by noting the time and date on the page. Of course, this is the cheapest option when it comes to time and attendance tracking systems. But it is also the most risky, as it is very prone to error and time theft.

3. Spreadsheets 

As an alternative to a handwritten sign-in sheet, some businesses use digital spreadsheets for time and attendance purposes. For instance, employees may use an Excel sheet on a business computer to record their hours. While this method reduces paper, it is no less prone to error or time theft than a paper-based sign-in sheet.

Automated Systems (best value)

Automated time and attendance systems use a combination of hardware and software to track employee time and attendance. They are a higher-tech solution to time tracking systems, and they are becoming more and more cost-effective every year.

1. Digital timecards

Best for: hospitality, hotels, and restaurants 

Digital timecards, also known as digital punch systems or web-based passcode systems, are similar to manual timecards. However, they use a web-based system to log employee hours. Essentially, an employee types in their ID number and password on a computer screen to indicate a shift is starting or ending. 

This system can usually be integrated with back-end systems, such as payroll processing or point of sale systems. In this way, it provides businesses an all-in-one solution.

2. ID (Badge) Cards

Best for: Healthcare and hospitals 


ID cards or badges are commonly used forms of automated time and attendance systems at businesses. Businesses will print employees ID cards which can be used to enter the building and record time information. In this way, they are a good solution for businesses that need an integrated access control and time and attendance solution.

Most ID cards and badges use magnetic strips or barcodes, which can be swiped or scanned through a card reader. There are also proximity cards, which can be held close to a proximity reader to grant access and record time information.

3. Biometric solutions 

Best for: public service and government agencies 


Biometric time and attendance systems require employees to scan their fingerprint, palm print, face, etc. to record time and attendance data. Like other automated time and attendance systems, they can work for access control purposes and integrate with payroll at the same time.

There are several reasons why businesses choose biometric systems. Since employees cannot “fake” biometric authentication, they help to reduce time theft and inaccurate time reporting by employees. They are also well-suited for organizations that need higher levels of security.

4. Voice Recognition

Best for: automotive or on-the-go employees


Voice recognition is a type of time and attendance system that requires employees to indicate the start or stop of their shift by speaking to the system. Typically, employees either call in to record their voice or speak through a mobile app or intercom box. 

Voice recognition can be a useful form of time and attendance for several reasons. First, when you have remote or on-the-go employees that can’t be there physically to “clock in” and “clock out,” this is an ideal method. For instance, drivers or employees of trucking companies may take advantage. It also helps to prevent time theft or fraudulent time tracking, as voice recognition is highly accurate in determining the correct voice.

5. Mobile authentication

Best for: remote or office employees


Mobile authentication is also good for remote employees as it allows them to record time and attendance data using a mobile device. For security purposes, mobile authentication usually uses a two-step verification method to ensure the right employee is recording their information. 

With mobile authentication, employees use a cloud-based mobile app that can be accessed anywhere as long as there is Internet connection. 

Web-based vs. cloud-based vs. manual systems 

In addition to types of time and attendance authentication methods, there are also different types of hardware and software. 

When choosing a manual time and attendance system, you will either need basic hardware for punch clocks or spreadsheets, or no hardware at all for sign-in sheets. For automated systems, you can choose a variety of types of hardware (depending on your preferred authentication method) as well as choose between either web-based or cloud-based software.

  • Web-based time and attendance software requires businesses to use a web browser to record data. Often, this is best for businesses who use computer systems (ie. PoS) to have their employees clock into and out of shifts. 
  • Cloud-based time and attendance software is more portable than web-based systems. Because the software is accessible in the cloud, employees and business leaders can access the systems on-the-go. Oftentimes, you can open time and attendance systems and store data using smartphones, tablets, laptops, etc.
  • Manual time and attendance systems do not use software to record time and attendance data. You might see businesses manually record time and attendance using time stamped paper cards or Excel spreadsheets where data is entered manually. Manual systems are becoming less and less common as technology improves and becomes more affordable. 

Time and attendance: Available integrations

Keep in mind that most types of time and attendance systems can be integrated with other back-end systems that you use regularly at your business. This can help you to save time, boost productivity, and cut costs with automated technology. Check out some of your options when it comes to available time and attendance integrations:

Top time and attendance system providers 

Nowadays, there are many time and attendance system providers to choose from. Many popular payroll and/or access control providers, such as Paychex, may offer integrated time and attendance options with their services. There are also providers that offer more basic time and attendance solutions. Take a look at some commonly used providers in the time and attendance space as well as their offerings:

1. Zenefits

Best for: office environments 

Zenefits is an all-in-one software platform for time and attendance tracking, HR assets, health benefits, payroll, performance, and more. This is a great solution if you work for a company in an office setting that wants to streamline time and attendance tracking with other HR needs.

TypeIdeal business sizePricingIntegrations and tools
Cloud-basedSmall to mediumStarting at $21
per month per employee
Performance apps

2. TimeClock Plus

Best for: hospitals, large universities, government agencies 

TimeClock Plus is a flexible time and attendance solution that offers both on-premise and cloud-based options. It is a great option for businesses who need a more robust time and attendance tracking system, including time tracking, scheduling, PTO and leave management, labor and job costing, reporting and analytics, and more. 

While TimeClock plus can serve small, medium, and large businesses, they are best suited to large businesses based on their versatile and wide-spread offerings. Take a look at their various credentialing and hardware options.

TypeIdeal business sizePricingIntegrations and tools
On-premise, cloud-based or mobileLargeRequest a quoteScheduling
Absence and leave management
Document management
Mobile app
Advanced overtime

3. TSheets

Best for: mobile workforce 

TSheets (by Quickbooks) is a time and attendance system provider that provides many different options when it comes to entering credentials. For this reason, they are well-suited for on-the-go employees or remote workforces. TSheets has a mobile app available for time and attendance tracking as well as a geotracker, so that employers can ensure employees are where they need to be while working remotely. Geotechnology can also restrict mobile employees from clocking into or out of shifts in off-limits locations.

TSheets has additional tools that can be useful for mobile workforces, such as photo uploads, point of sale integrations, project tracking, and more.

TypeIdeal business sizePricingIntegrations and tools
Cloud-based AnyStarting at $20 monthly base charge
+ $8 per employee 
Mobile app
GPS time tracker
Project tracking
Time off management
Photo attachments

4. UAttend

Best for: Hospitality 

UAttend is a cloud-based time and attendance solution that does not require software or lots of upkeep to use. Because it is so low-maintenance, it tends to be best for small to medium sized businesses who work in a fast-paced, busy environment - such as restaurants or hotels.

While UAttend is easy to use, it is also very flexible. They offer lots of different options when it comes to time tracking systems, including biometric readers, ID cards, and mobile apps. UAttend can sell businesses both hardware and/or software all through their website.

TypeIdeal business sizePricingIntegrations and tools
Cloud-based or mobileSmallStarting at $22 per monthMobile app
PTO management

Learn More

Interested in exploring access control systems to integrate with your time and attendance system needs? Be sure to learn about how an access control system works as well as top manufacturers.

Some payroll providers also offer built-in time and attendance tracking with their services. Look into these 8 signs your business needs a payroll service as well as how much payroll services cost.

If you are ready to compare prices for time and attendance systems, we can help! You can use our free service to match with the best time and attendance system providers for your specific business and needs. 

Get free quotes from up to 5 time and attendance software suppliers!
Just answer a few questions and get matched to top suppliers near you.
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