Workforce management ideas

​Timesheets – challenges of paper recording and the online alternatives

Love them or hate them, paper timesheets have been used by companies for years and years despite the many problems and challenges to overcome when dealing with them.

Information collection

The process of collecting the information for the completion and submission of timesheets can be slow and very labour intensive . It can involve systems for checking, authentication, processing, reviewing and correcting. Never mind incorrect information slipping through and creating payroll errors, difficult conversations and de-motivated staff.

Payroll managers and most payroll systems have to allow for some form of delay in collecting and collating paper timesheets and the information they contain. With an online timesheet system the information is always there, from the moment it’s captured, for the relevant management and payroll department to see and use.

Paper timesheet paradox

One of the paradoxes of using paper timesheets is that whilst they are individually cheap, the processing of them is expensive because of the sheer labour and time involved. The other paradox is that the risk of errors or incorrect information being used is higher. Paper timesheets can be lost, damaged or destroyed. These types of problem can then be compounded by the issues of transmitting the information; fax machines can be busy and a post service can be slow and unreliable.

Some online timesheet or shift recording systems may have a set up charge or initial fee but not all of them. There are many cost effective solutions and when you weigh up the costs of paper saved plus the huge staff and management time saving the technology replacing existing timesheet system equals potential huge savings. It’s logical that, the greater your staff numbers or your workforce size, the greater the saving.

Wasted management time

We are all busier these days, that’s the nature of work. Modern work seems more time demanding and more immediate. Even travel time no longer affords you any peace and quiet. People can, and do, expect to be able to reach you whenever they want to and wherever you are. Their expectation is that you can provide them with information or the answers they want instantly, whether they are your colleagues, staff or clients.

Therefore it goes without saying that there are so many more productive things your management or supervisors should or could be doing than chasing down timesheets, manually checking paper timesheets and their calculations. How accurate is your memory going to be anyway when you end up checking Monday’s clocking in time and therefore hours on Friday afternoon? No need for any of this with an online system. The data is entered and can be checked hourly, daily or when you are ready to.

Information reporting

A business runs more efficiently when its Key Performance Outcomes or Indicators, if you prefer, are easy to find and report. The ease of access of these numbers leads to a business being more proactive to market changes, more challenging questions being asked by management and a leaner more efficient business being created. Your labour, its cost and efficiency has to be one of these.

Paper timesheets systems do not lend themselves to instant reporting and analysis as say online timesheet systems do and if you can get meaningful data from them it’s very time consuming indeed. Online timesheet systems and their reporting features can normally instantly pinpoint these vital business statistics by site, by client, by month, week, day or hour flagging up negative variances almost immediately and prompting management action.

So stick or twist?

The question is whether to stick with an old paper based timesheet system or to change and select an online timesheet one. More and more companies are picking online or cloud based timesheet systems. It’s a leap of faith but will benefit your business in the long term.

Changing will save lots of time, reduce errors and duplications and your key staff could have a slightly better work life balance enabling them to manage shifts, check and approve timesheets wherever they are and still meeting deadlines, whenever they can. There are also mindset barriers to overcome in order for the management of a company to look favourably on an alternative online timesheet system to their current paper variety.


I categorise these below with examples of the likely accompanying statements.

  • Intransigence or inertia – phrases or statements like “We have a system, it’s tried and tested and we have been using it for many years” or “Adopting a new system will take effort or time our management don’t have”.
  • Too costly – “a new system would be very costly to install and run, never mind the man hours our I.T department will have to spend”. In fact with an online or cloud based system you don’t need any input from the I.T department as normally all training and support are included in the price.
  • Too risky – “its too risky to change from the system we are already using.” There is a greater risk of error. This isn’t true as online systems aren’t prone to handwriting errors, ink smudges, torn paper or misaligned information. Online systems also allow instant view and checking of records and clock in times so if there are errors then they can be addressed immediately. With the increased visibility and transparency of online systems incidences of deliberate malpractice or time cheating should be decreased.

Where to start?

Many companies want to change but aren’t sure where to start. The start point is the actual will to change which is a powerful driver when coupled with the desire to have your staff more productively employed than dealing with the mundane, non revenue generating, administrative tasks such as chasing, checking, correcting and collating paper timesheets.

Look at rota systems that simplify the whole worksheet/ timesheet process. Assess what you want your staff to be able to do for themselves and in some cases your clients and pick a solution, like PARiM, that really understands your desire to free up staff time and minimise the mundane.

For a simple alternative to the challenges of paper timesheets, book a demo with PARiM today! »

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