What Is a Standard Time Clock?

B. Turner

A standard time clock is a device used to track hours worked by employees within a company. These machines mount to a wall or tabletop in an easy-to-access part of the workplace, typically near the entrance or exit. The traditional standard time clock model relies on a simple stamp or punch made to a heavy paper timecard, while newer versions use digital technology to track time electronically. These units play an important role in company operations by creating a permanent record of employee timeliness, hours worked and any breaks or missed time. Using the records from a company time clock, management can calculate payroll, and make decisions regarding human resources and employee performance.

Employee pulling her punch card to clock in.
Employee pulling her punch card to clock in.

Compared to handwritten time cards, the standard time clock offers a number of important benefits. By creating a permanent time stamp on the card, the time clock encourages honesty among employees, who are unable to adjust the time written on the card. The time clock also serves as an unbiased judge of time, so there are fewer disagreements over lateness or pay. The standard time clock also makes timekeeping fair for all workers, and eliminates many issues of bias or discrepancy on the part of management.

These clocks are easy to use, and the most basic models require little setup. Employees need little to no training to learn how to use these devices, as they are largely self-explanatory. Digital models can make payroll even easier by automatically adding hours and printing reports for each employee, though these units require additional programming and training. Finally, the time clock frees managers from the task of monitoring employee timeliness, allowing the managers to focus on other tasks.

The standard time clock can be found in a number of different designs to suit the needs of various businesses. Simple models are fairly small, and are designed to stamp the date and time onto a card when the card is placed into the device. Digital units require the employee to enter a code or use an identification card to record their time electronically. Computer-based units allow employees to input time into a computer software program. The most advanced time clocks rely on biometric identification, and scan an employee's thumb print or retina to eliminate all possibilities of tampering or cheating.

One potential drawback to the standard time clock is that employees or management could misplace the time cards, which are the only record of hours worked. Digital units eliminate this problem, but pose problems of their own in terms of costs, setup and training time. While the traditional punch or stamp tracks time effectively, it also requires managers to add each employee's times when preparing paychecks. Another potential drawback is that employees can cover for one another by simply punching each other's card to hide a lateness. This issue can be avoided using biometric devices.

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