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The Comprehensive Guide to Timesheets: Tracking Time and Enhancing Productivity

  • Written By: Cheyenne Kolosky
The Comprehensive Guide to Timesheets: Tracking Time and Enhancing Productivity

A timesheet is a record-keeping document that logs the hours an employee has spent working within a designated time frame. It serves various purposes such as monitoring employee efficiency, invoicing clients for services rendered, and ensuring adherence to labor regulations.

Explore the definition and significance of timesheets in modern workforce management, the transition from traditional to digital systems, and how they have become indispensable tools for businesses across various industries.

Key Takeaways

  • Essential Tool for Business Operations: Timesheets are vital for tracking employee productivity, ensuring timely client billing, and maintaining compliance with labor laws. They can be used as an efficiency tracking system to give insights and feedback to key stakeholders and leadership.
  • Versatility in Application: Businesses employ various approaches, from traditional paper records to digital solutions, to implement timesheets. Timesheets can also function as an essential part of the business rules that keep systems and processes in working order.
  • Adaptability in the Era of Remote Work: Timesheets play a crucial role in managing remote workforces by adding accountability and facilitating progress tracking for those who are hourly or contract employees.

What are Timesheets?

A timesheet is a data collection tool used by employers to keep track of employee’s working hours over a certain period. Timesheets are used to record the time employees spend on particular projects, clients, and tasks. This information can be used to make better business decisions regarding resource allocation and strategic planning.

Businesses use different approaches when implementing timesheets including paper records, spreadsheets, and other online productivity/ tracking software. While paper timesheets have been the most common approach used, in recent years digital alternatives have become more useful, making them more popular. 

Why do Businesses Need Timesheets?

Timesheets are crucial for tracking productivity and ensuring that your business is meeting deadlines, not going over budget, and on track for success. To accomplish this, you need to keep an accurate record of work done in a timesheet. As such, timesheets are vital for any successful business.

Monitor Employee Efficiency

One of the primary functions of timesheets is to monitor employee efficiency. By recording how employees allocate their time, organizations can pinpoint areas where improvements in productivity are possible.

For instance, if an employee dedicates substantial time to non-billable activities, the organization can implement strategies to minimize these tasks or delegate them elsewhere.

Recent surveys found that a majority of employees allocate less than 50% of their time to productive work. Factors contributing to low productivity may include employee burnout, multitasking, stress, or inadequate work management.

Payroll Processing 

Payroll processing is impossible without relying on timesheets. Timesheets allow employees to log the hours they have worked during a pay period, which allows employers to keep track of how much they owe workers. 

Digital timesheets make payroll processing easier as they can automatically fill out reports showing how much work an employee has done in a week/ month and send this to the accounting department for processing. 

Having accurate records of your payroll also allows you to gain insight into your expenses for a week or month. This is very useful as wages and salaries are typically the single biggest expense in a company.

Client Billing Purposes

Timesheets are instrumental in client billing processes. By documenting the time spent by employees on each project, organizations can accurately invoice clients for the services provided. This is particularly crucial for businesses that bill clients on an hourly basis.

For professional service firms, reports generated at month-end or year-end can reveal whether sufficient time is being allocated to high-revenue clients.

Management Accounting

Timesheets are a handy tool for management accounting. Timesheets allow managers to see how much time is being allocated to different tasks throughout the day. This allows management to track progress on projects as well as identify bottlenecks and sources of delays to find solutions that boost efficiency and productivity in your operations

Compliance with Labor Laws and Regulations 

In most places, employers are legally required to have a timesheet to track employees’ work. This rule is in place to ensure employers do not exploit employees and not pay them adequately for the work they have completed. Your business could face legal repercussions if you do not include timesheets in your operations.

Types of Timesheets

Timesheets come in a variety of forms. The different types of timesheets can be used to assess work completed over different time periods or can work using different inputs, like digital vs manual. Some timesheets are also specific to a project as opposed to a given time period.

Some companies pay employees on a weekly basis, while others may offer bi-weekly and monthly payments. Your business should set up a timesheet that matches your pay schedule. For instance, if you pay employees weekly, you should use a weekly timesheet.

Businesses that operate on a project-to-project basis should choose a project-based timesheet. Even if the company pays on a weekly basis, using a project timesheet is important for managing the project and tracking productivity. 

Digital vs. Manual Timesheets 

After figuring out how often you will change your timesheet, it’s now time to choose between a manual or digital system. Manual timesheets are easy to use, cheap to install (all you need is paper) and offer accountability as employees usually need to sign with a signature beside their sign-ins. 

Some manual timesheets also include mechanical punch-in systems where employees have a card they need to get punched at the start and end of their shifts. These systems are efficient but are vulnerable to manipulation as an employee can mark another employee as present, even if they have missed work.

Digital systems are more expensive to install, but they are much more difficult to defraud and are actually cost-effective in the long term. Digital timesheets can automate processes to save your managers, employees, and payroll accountants a lot of time that would normally be required to process the physical paperwork of a manual system.

Timesheets in the Era of Remote Work

Remote work offers advantages to both businesses and employees, however, it is not without its drawbacks, like complications in managing productivity and tracking work hours. 

Timesheets are vital for businesses with remote workers as they add accountability to your remote staff and ensure that people are working when they claim to be. Without timesheets, tracking progress made or hours worked by remote employees is next to impossible, as you can’t check in with them in person. 

As a result, if you are running a company with remote workers or managing a project remotely, you need accurate timesheets to keep track of progress, ensure your workers are doing the work they are paid to do, and ensure you are on track to meet deadlines. 

Must-Have Timesheet Software Capabilities

If you are searching for timesheet software to keep track of your operations and employee payroll, you need to look for certain capabilities to ensure the system is effective. Here are some key features to keep an eye out for: 

Self-service options

Timesheet systems need to be accessible to employees with self-service options. Your employees should have access to relevant information from the system, allowing them to track their shifts, the hours they have worked in a pay period, and whether their time off requests have been approved or denied. 

These self-service features can boost engagement by empowering employees to take control of their work schedule, while still offering absolute transparency on the progress of various projects. 

Automated reminders and notifications

Your timesheet software system and leverage automation and artificial intelligence to improve communications and efficiency in your operations. Timesheet software can automatically notify appropriate people when someone is late or has not shown up for work. Automated features can also automatically approve or deny PTO requests, based on preset parameters. 

Automation can also give updates to management regarding progress on different projects, ensuring you never miss a deadline or forget to do a task. 


Advanced reporting features are an important component of a timesheet system. Advanced reporting can measure key metrics in your operations, and they offer visualizations of the information, allowing you to make better strategic decisions. Reporting can measure everything from individual productivity to total payroll costs for a given period and even offer insights into whether you are on track to meet deadlines set by clients. 

Customization features

Customizable features are important for ensuring your chosen timesheet system suits your operations. Some systems are not flexible, meaning that you will need to change your timesheet processes to suit the system’s layout. You can avoid this stress by choosing a solution that can be shaped and changed to suit your operations and fit with your brand.


You need to find a timesheet software system that is capable of scaling to meet the demands of your growing business. Check out pricing features to see the cost of adding additional users, or features that you may need in the future, and take this into account when determining which system is best suited to match the growth of your organization. 


A timesheet system that integrates with your HR and payroll systems is crucial for reducing costs in your business. Integrations between systems can ensure that your payroll team and HR decision-makers know which employees have done which work at what time. This saves your payroll team the time and effort needed to track this information manually, and it offers your HR department key metrics, highlighting how you can get more out of your team. 

Tech Support

Another useful capability to seek in a timesheet solution is tech support. Software systems are prone to breaking down from time to time. This can cause major disruptions to your business, and make you lose track of your employees and their productivity. 

As such, you need to have a tech support team that is easy to contact for speedy solutions during emergencies.

Using Knack to Track Time

Knack is a no-code platform that allows businesses to build custom applications without writing any code. With Knack, companies can create a fully-fledged timesheet application that is tailored specifically to their unique workflow and business needs. 

Employees can easily log their hours worked on various projects directly into the Knack timesheet app from any device. The app can be built to include all relevant fields like date, project name, task description, hours logged, etc. Approvals, comments, and automatic reminders can also be configured through Knack’s simple drag-and-drop interface.

Data from the Knack timesheet app is automatically stored in the Knack database where it can then be accessed for reporting purposes. Managers can run reports to view hours logged by employees, projects, and tasks over a specified period. 

Detailed analytics help track productivity and identify inefficiencies. The timesheet data can also be integrated with other business systems like payroll to simplify processes. Custom validations, automatic approvals, and alerts prevent incorrect time logging.

With Knack’s flexible platform, changes can be made to the timesheet application on the fly without any technical skills. 

Additional fields, views, and workflows can be added intuitively. Businesses gain complete control over customizing the timesheet to support their evolving needs. Knack provides a cost-effective solution for digitizing time tracking and brings more accountability and insights to optimize operations.

Start Building a Custom Timesheet Software Tool with Knack

Getting started with timesheet tracking does not require extensive technical knowledge or a large development budget. Knack’s no-code platform allows anyone to create custom timesheet applications through an intuitive visual interface.

The Knack template inventory provides multiple pre-built templates that are ready to deploy within hours. These templates handle common timesheet workflows out of the box, providing a turnkey solution for organizations looking to digitize their time-tracking processes quickly.

Employee Timesheet App Template

This template allows employees to easily log their hours worked each day. Supervisors can review and approve timesheets. It includes features like task tracking, comments, and email notifications.

Project Management Template

Managers can track projects, assign tasks to team members, and collect timesheets all in one place. Status updates and reminders keep projects on schedule and on budget.

Construction Project Management App Template

Contractors can use this template to manage job sites, tasks, and materials, and track labor costs. Site supervisors log hours and submit timesheets remotely. Project managers maintain visibility of job progress and costs.

Vacation Tracker App Template

This template streamlines time-off management for all employees, managers, and HR administrators. Employees can easily request time off and check their accruals, while managers can efficiently review and approve requests, ensuring team schedules align. HR administrators handle setup and policy enforcement, while automated reminders and updates keep everyone informed.

By choosing from Knack’s extensive library of ready-made templates, businesses can start digitizing their timesheet process immediately without any coding. These templates provide a headstart and can be customized further as needed. Knack’s simple drag-and-drop interface makes it easy to launch effective timesheet-tracking solutions today.

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Timesheet FAQs

What is the purpose of timesheets?

Timesheets are used to track the amount of time employees spend on various tasks or projects. This helps organizations accurately bill clients, monitor project costs, and manage employee workloads.

Are there any risks of not having timesheets in a business?

Yes, not having timesheets can lead to inaccurate billing, difficulty managing project costs and budgets, and potential issues with employee productivity and workload management. It also makes it harder to comply with labor regulations and allocate resources effectively.