The Top 5 Employee Time Clock Solutions for Small Businesses

Trying to manually manage schedules, track time, and organize time off is a major headache. Find out how the right employee time clock solution can bring your business out of the dark ages.

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A lot of businesses still use Excel to track time and create schedules. While Excel is an extremely versatile tool that has multiple uses, you’ll see the difference immediately if you switch to an employee time clock solution.

You can get rid of manual data entry, free yourself of those tedious admin tasks, provide your employees with a much better clocking-in experience, and improve accuracy.

But time clock solutions can be designed for specific industries and types of businesses. That’s why you need to do your research before jumping in and paying for a new tool.

Here are our top picks for the best employee time clocks for small businesses:

What to consider when choosing an employee time clock

Any business that wants or needs a better, more accurate understanding of employee availability and time usage could benefit from implementing a time clock. But before buying the first one you see, take into account the points below and use them to inform your software selection.

1. Time logging method

One of the most important considerations when choosing an employee time clock is how you want your staff to log their time. Either you can take the lead from the time clock app you choose, or you can look for a tool that has a specific method of time tracking.

Common time tracking options include:

  • A tablet or kiosk in your place of work
  • An app (ideally for both iOS and Android)
  • A dedicated workstation
  • An online time card that your employees can use either on their work or home computers

If you decide to go down the route of setting up a dedicated workstation or tablet/kiosk for your employees to clock in and out, you’ll need to factor in the additional cost of equipment.

2. Industry-specific functionality

Time clocks can be very different depending on the industry they are aimed at. If you work in a retail setting, you’ll need different functionality than if you work in a factory. The same goes for if you need to use an online time clock for office-based employees versus those working remotely or in the field.

Check if the time tracking solutions you’re looking at are industry specific or if they can be tailored to meet the needs of your business.

3. Price point

There are free time clocks available, but will they provide all the features you need? Will you need to switch software when you realize it’s missing specific functionality? As your employees need to use your time tracking solution regularly, you don’t want to be constantly shopping for and changing what software you use.

Work out your budget and your must-have features and look for a solution that can deliver all you need at the best price possible.

5 best employee time clocks for small businesses

Tracking employee shifts and hours worked in a spreadsheet is time consuming, laborious, and error prone. Using a time clock that automates this process, as well as tracks employee availability, time-off requests, wages, and local labor laws, is much less of a headache.

Here are our picks of the best time clock software to help you gain better visibility into employee time and labor costs, which ultimately helps you make better, more cost-effective staffing decisions.

1. Homebase

Homebase’s time tracking and scheduling solution lets you manage employees’ schedules and view timesheets. Employees can clock in and out and communicate with managers from within the software. Other features include:

  • Geofencing
  • Manager logbooks
  • Clock-in options depending on location
  • Image recognition for employee clock in

Homebase has useful accounting and budgeting features. As you create a work schedule and add the number of hours you want employees to work. Homebase shows you how much you can expect to pay your workforce for that time period.

A screen showing workers’ schedules with the total hours and wages displayed beneath.

Homebase displays your expected budget on your schedule. Source: Homebase.

Homebase’s reporting functionality helps you manage your workforce and create more cost-effective schedules by comparing your labor costs to sales and predicting how much you can expect to spend on wages.

It also integrates with popular payroll solutions, such as Gusto, Square, and QuickBooks, to ensure that employees are paid for all their hours worked.

Read The Blueprint’s full Homebase review

2. When I Work

When I Work has one of the widest range of features you’ll see in a time clock solution. The one-click scheduling functionality automatically assigns open shifts based on employee availability and your company's scheduling rules.

You can view your schedule by employee and role to make sure everyone has hours and every position is covered.

A view of a schedule with positions and days displayed.

Make sure every role is covered for every shift in When I Work. Source: When I Work.

The self-service portal gives employees the ability to request time off and submit shifts for approval to be traded themselves rather than a manager having to input those details.

You can choose how employees clock in, whether that's at a workstation, from an app, or using the online clock.

When I Work's geofencing tool helps you overcome problems such as buddy-punching (where one employee clocks in for another) and time theft by letting you create a clock-in bubble around your office or worksite. This means your staff can only start their shifts when they're actually at work.

Read The Blueprint’s full When I Work review

3. 7shifts

We talked earlier about making sure that you choose a time clock solution that caters to your industry. 7shifts is designed for the restaurant and foodservice industry.

Employee scheduling is one area that 7shifts excels in. As well as creating schedules with employees’ regular shifts, you can also add special events, such as large group bookings. This gives employees the heads-up that there might be adjustments to the schedule.

The self-service portal allows staff to request shift trades or claim open shifts. Managers can also add notes regarding shifts and employee availability, as well as approving time-off requests.

A view of the back-end of 7shifts displaying dates, availability, and notes fields.

Managers can add notes about shifts and staff availability. Source: 7shifts.

Managers can create reports in accordance with their attendance policy. These reports show who is clocking in on time, who is showing up for their shifts, and who has requested time off.

7shifts has a separate employee punch clocks app called 7punches, which employees can use to clock in and out on the device of your choice.

Read The Blueprint’s full 7shifts review

4. ClockShark

ClockShark is another industry-specific time clock solution, which is designed for construction and field service businesses. It caters to both employees in the field through its mobile clock-in app and geofencing nudges as well as staff in the office with its reporting and scheduling functionality.

When you have employees working at multiple locations in the field, you can create color-coded schedules to see where they are working. You can add one-time events for simple jobs or recurring events for long-term and ongoing projects.

Employees can request time off, and you can create custom time-off and overtime policies with overtime pay and scheduled breaks.

ClockShark’s mobile time clock allows you to set up geofencing rules, which only let workers clock in when they arrive at specific locations. You can also use these geofencing parameters to remind employees to clock in and out when they reach or leave sites. GPS tracking lets you see where employees are in real time.

A view of a map with the location of employees and the time they clocked in at these places.

See where your mobile workforce is in real time with ClockShark's GPS tracking feature. Source: ClockShark.

Read The Blueprint’s full ClockShark review

5. busybusy

busybusy is designed for the construction industry and specializes in mobile time tracking. Workers can clock in and out via a mobile app from different worksites and you can also set up a kiosk clock-in station or allow supervisors to clock their crews in and out.

With busybusy's geofencing rules, when an employee arrives at or leaves a site, they'll be prompted to clock in or out. busybusy's GPS stamps also let you see when and where your employees clocked in and out during the day.

A push notification prompting an employee to clock in.

Employees get reminders to clock in and out when they arrive at and leave a site. Source: busybusy.

Workers can take pictures of job sites and projects and attach notes from within the mobile app even if they don’t have access to the internet at the time.

However, only supervisors and owners can log time off; employees can not do it themselves. busybusy also doesn’t let employees request time off.

Read The Blueprint’s full busybusy review

Out with the analog, in with time clock software

Many of us have worked in retail, service, or construction businesses and we know the pain of trying to organize schedules, logging hours, and keeping track of employees' whereabouts using analog methods.

Texts get missed or go unread. People misunderstand or forget about changes. Conflicts and last minute emergencies aren’t accounted for.

Time clock software is a much better way of organizing your business, managing employees, and ensuring you have the optimal level of staff.


Star Top Rated

Our top rated time clock software, Homebase streamlines shift scheduling and keeps employees updated. Perfect for restaurants and retail stores, this tool makes managing shift work easy.

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Teresa Kersten, an employee of LinkedIn, a Microsoft subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Intuit, Microsoft, and Square. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.