What Is an Electronic Time Clock?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

An electronic time clock tracks employees hours with the use of an electronic rather than mechanical system. Another alternative timekeeping method is a computer time clock, which uses a software program to allow employees to clock in and out. The best option for a business can depend on the number of employees, the working conditions, and other factors, like the use of electronic bookkeeping programs that might interface with a time clock.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

These clocks can be wired directly into the wall and typically include backup battery power for information storage and functionality in power outages. They often have digital displays, although some may feature a traditional analog clock powered by electricity. Employees can interact with the electronic time clock in a variety of ways and authorized personnel can reset hours if adjustments are necessary.

Some have a mechanism for electronic punch card stamping, where the clock prints on a punch card when the employee inserts it. Others may work with magnetic swipe cards or radio frequency identification (RFID) key fobs. Employees may also clock in by punching a code into the interface of the electronic time clock. Punch cards must be handled traditionally, by a member of the staff who totals hours at the end of the pay period.

With other measures, the electronic time clock can connect with software to provide a bookkeeper with employee hour information. The clock sends data automatically to each employee file. It may be possible to monitor employee hours during the pay period to allow workers to catch and address overtime if they look like they are likely to go over. Automatic reports can be sent to the payroll department to tell it to generate checks, after a quick review to make sure the information is accurate.

Employees may forget to clock in or out with an electronic time clock. Some have alarms that will alert a member of the staff when an employee is clocked in for an unusual amount of time, suggesting that staff member may have left work without clocking out. Supervisors can also pull up a quick reference display to see who is clocked in or out, and this can be used to make sure all staff are clocked in. One advantage to computer time clocks is that they may control access to the company network, forcing employees to clock in before they start work, and reminding them to clock out at the end of the day.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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