What Is a Timesheet? Essential Advantages, Use Cases, and Types

Time flies no matter what. It is in our power to get time on our your side, not against us.

Whether you are a freelancer, you work in a small/ medium-sized company, or a large corporation, you are most likely always looking for innovative ways of measuring your effort spent vs. the compensation received.

With the cost of running a business on the rise, companies are compelled to optimize their expenses. One of the groundbreaking approaches is shifting from the traditional managing work time on paper to digital timesheets. Digital timesheets help save direct costs in several areas by systematically accumulating work time day, giving you insights into your actual productivity levels.

If you're one of the millions of workers who track their time on timesheets, you know how tedious it can be to account for every minute of your workday. Tracking your time may be monotonous, but timesheets are an essential business tool. Since the invention of the clock, virtually every industry and profession have measured the value of labor in shifts, hours, and minutes. Timesheets make these measurements possible.

What are timesheets?

A timesheet is a data table that an employer can use to track the time a particular employee has worked during a specific period. Businesses use timesheets to record time carried out on tasks, projects, or clients by individual workers. Collectively correlated, these allow for payments to be calculated and correctly distributed.

Timesheets come very handily in project management: knowing the average productivity of a team while performing specific tasks makes it easier to make customer quotations and optimize project flow.

Digital timesheets allow work to become more transparent, significantly when enriching data in other systems. Gain insights by comparing the efficiency of employees in similar roles executing similar tasks, duration of breaks and absences, etc. This data can also be quite helpful for employees to engage in self-analysis.

Last but not least, there is also the “proof” component, as data in timesheets can be used to prove employee work and performance in case of disputes.

These digital time-management tools are used for long-term planning, time tracking, estimating future projects, monitoring cash flow, and paying employee wages. Timesheets are indispensable tools, both for the employer and the workforce.

A timesheet is a document or tool used to track and record the time spent by employees on various tasks or projects. It records hours worked, allowing companies to analyze and manage employee productivity, allocate resources efficiently, and calculate payroll accurately.

Businesses use timesheets for several reasons

It doesn't matter if you're a small or large business, you will need timesheets for the following reasons:

  • Payroll and Billing: Timesheets provide accurate data for calculating employee wages, overtime, and benefits. They also help in billing clients accurately for the time spent on their projects or services.
  • Project Management: Timesheets help track the time allocated to different projects, allowing managers to monitor progress, allocate resources, and make informed decisions.
  • Performance Evaluation: Timesheets provide valuable insights into employee productivity and performance, facilitating performance evaluations, promotions, and incentives.
  • Resource Allocation: Timesheets enable businesses to identify workload imbalances, optimize resource allocation, and prevent burnout or underutilization of employees.
  • Compliance and Legal Requirements: Timesheets serve as evidence of hours worked, ensuring compliance with labor laws and regulations, and can be used to resolve disputes or claims.

Key use cases (applications) for timesheets include.

Now, based on the industry your company serves, you can address multiple specific applications using timesheets.

  • Consulting firms and professional services: Tracking billable hours for client projects.
  • Construction and field service industries: Monitoring employee hours spent on specific job sites or tasks.
  • Remote work and freelancers: Keeping track of hours worked for remote employees or contractors.
  • Project-based organizations: Managing time and resources for multiple projects simultaneously.
  • Nonprofit organizations: Reporting volunteer hours for grant applications or funding purposes.

Advantages of timesheets

Timesheets offer a lot of benefits to both company owners, managers, and employees themselves. Let's find the most important ones: 

  • Accurate Payroll: Timesheets ensure employees are paid accurately based on the hours worked, reducing errors and disputes.
  • Resource Optimization: Timesheets help businesses allocate resources effectively, ensuring projects are adequately staffed and deadlines are met.
  • Performance Tracking: Timesheets provide data for evaluating employee performance, identifying areas for improvement, and recognizing high performers.
  • Cost Control: Timesheets allow businesses to monitor and control labor costs, identify inefficiencies, and make informed decisions to improve profitability.

Main timesheet types

Managers use several types of timesheets to track time for their employees: daily, weekly, bi-weekly, semi-monthly, and monthly. Their main differences lie in the pay period frequency and duration covered by each timesheet.

Here's a breakdown of their characteristics:

1. Daily Timesheets

Frequency: Employees record their daily hours at the end of each workday.

Duration: Each timesheet covers a single day, capturing the hours worked and tasks performed during that specific day.

Use Case: Daily timesheets are used in industries where projects or tasks change frequently, such as construction, field service, or hospitality.

2. Weekly Timesheets

Frequency: Employees record their hours worked once weekly, typically at the end of the workweek.

Duration: Each timesheet covers a full week, usually from Monday to Sunday, summarizing the hours worked and tasks completed throughout the week.

Use Case: Weekly timesheets are widely used in various industries and are suitable when tasks or projects have longer timeframes or stable schedules.

3. Biweekly Timesheets

Frequency: Employees record their hours worked once every two weeks.

Duration: Each timesheet covers two weeks, capturing the cumulative hours worked and tasks performed during that period.

Use Case: Biweekly timesheets are commonly used in organizations where payroll is processed biweekly.

4. Semi-monthly Timesheets

Frequency: Employees record their hours worked twice per month.

Duration: Each timesheet covers a half-month period, usually the first half (1st to 15th) and the second half (16th to the end of the month), capturing the hours worked and tasks performed in each period separately.

Use Case: Semi-monthly timesheets are commonly used in organizations where payroll is processed twice a month.

5. Monthly Timesheets

Frequency: Employees record their hours worked once per month.

Duration: Each timesheet covers a full calendar month, summarizing the hours worked and tasks completed throughout that month.

Use Case: Monthly timesheets are often used in office settings or professional service industries where work hours are relatively stable and consistent over longer periods.

The choice of timesheet type depends on factors such as the nature of the work, payroll processing frequency, and the need for detailed or summary-level reporting. Selecting a timesheet frequency that aligns with your business requirements and ensures accurate tracking and reporting of employee work hours is essential.

Related: Download the Excel free timesheet templates from our database.

What does a timesheet usually contain?

A timesheet typically includes the following key details:

  • Employee name or ID
  • Date and day of the week
  • Project or task description
  • Start and end times for each task or shift
  • Break or lunch durations
  • Total hours worked for the day or week
  • Overtime hours (if applicable)
  • Notes or comments related to the work performed.

What digital timesheets are better than paper timesheets?

Using digital timesheets offers several advantages over paper timesheets:

  • Accessibility: Digital timesheets can be accessed and updated from anywhere, making them suitable for remote work or mobile employees.
  • Real-time Updates: Digital timesheets allow instant updates, ensuring accurate and up-to-date time tracking information.
  • Automated Calculations: Digital timesheets can automatically calculate total hours, overtime, and other relevant data, saving time and reducing errors in manual calculations.
  • Integration with Other Systems: Digital timesheets can be integrated with payroll, project management, or accounting software, automating existing processes and eliminating the need for duplicate data entry.
  • Analytics and Reporting: Digital timesheets enable businesses to make custom reports, analyze employee time-related data, and gain more efficient insights into employee productivity and project costs.

Digital timesheets provide greater convenience, accuracy, and efficiency than paper timesheets, making them a preferred choice for many businesses.

What means timesheet software?

A timesheet software allows employees to accurately record their time spent on projects, tasks, and activities to automate payroll and time tracking. A cloud timesheet software is flexible, configurable, user-intuitive, and eliminates administrative hassles. It helps managers track time spent by employees on each task to keep the project on schedule and within the budget.

The timesheet software is going to be mainly used by your employees regularly. It would be best if you considered them while choosing the best online timesheet software to implement. You should ensure that the timesheet is simple to use and easy to learn daily. Since they would be using it constantly, it is vital to have them test it before purchase. This way, such software will give you key insights that you didn’t initially consider.

What are the must-have features of timesheet software?


Each company has a different strategy, metrics, and needs for time tracking. Fully configurable timesheet software allows you to create multiple timesheet templates and assign them to appropriate user profiles. With customizable timesheets, you can create filters with the most important elements to accompany and gather them in one place instead of wasting time gathering loose sheets and looking at each metric separately.

Intuitive interface

A user-friendly software will be useful when inspiring your employees to sustain their time records. A simple interface is easy to navigate, delivers important data in one glance, and does not affect your focus or priority with irrelevant details. Legible employee databases help managers to identify trends and improvement opportunities.

Time entry automation

An auto-fill option for recurring time entries reduces the time spent on recording everyday activities. When tasks are repeated, the timesheet should automatically copy the entries based on historical data and present the pre-filled timesheet for employees to review.

User management

Every competitive timesheet software should allow building groups and hierarchy to manage users by team or department. Admins should have the ability to add and remove users while giving permissions for different user types like managers and staff to manage system access.

Smart approval workflow

Timesheet software should ease the burden of your approving managers. The ability to define dynamic and simple approval workflows based on real-time data validations streamlines the process. Real-time alerts and notifications on both desktop and mobile devices allow managers and supervisors to review and approve requests timely.

Mobile app

Remote teams need access to timesheets anytime, anywhere to quickly enter time - whether for attendance management, internal project costing, online billing of clients, or managing shared services resources. The mobile app also enables managers and supervisors to instantly view employee hours and approve timesheets, time off, and expenses for their teams.

Touchless cloud clock

Employees returning to the office space after the pandemic expect a contactless way to punch at arrival, breaks, and end of shift. Enable your staff to clock in and out using their mobile devices. Managers will be able to see employees' exact times and locations when verifying timesheets.

Smart time reports

One of the huge benefits a good online timesheet must have is flexible reporting. Having online data is ineffective if you can’t understand or envision it. The best online timesheet software must be able to convert data into actionable custom employee reports.

Main steps in convincing your employees to fill out timesheets

Before implementing timekeeping, you should consider how everyone will take the news. Despite the benefits, any kind of time management reporting is likely to cause resistance from the team. Misunderstanding of how the data will be used will be a major concern and resistance.

As a manager, it is your job to facilitate the conversation about tracking time and its reasons and take the necessary steps towards implementing it. 

Make the process as easy as possible

The entire entry process shouldn’t take longer than 5-10 minutes per week on average. If someone spends this much each day or more, then the whole idea becomes flawed. Timesheets should reduce the admin burden, not increase it.

Show your employees the value of the timesheet

A simple and reasonable explanation is the best argument. Explain the progress behind the timesheet process and the way work time data is going to be used. Show the connection between recording working hours and getting proper pay, higher company income, and salary growth.

Encourage honesty

Most people report their project-based work hours but hesitate to report the hours spent in the “Miscellaneous” category. Encourage your employees to be honest and don’t scold them for reporting on their inefficiency. Instead, find the reason and a solution for it.

Automate timesheet data entry

Continuously work on reducing the amount of manual data entry and data transfer. Automation will save a considerable amount of time for various managers, accountants, and other employees. Also, automation will reduce the number of errors associated with the so-called “human factor.” Employees will appreciate the swift and transparent nature of the process.

Convert time data into insights efficiently

Some companies try to force the highest levels of precision and triple-checking of accuracy, making the information flow uselessly complicated. Try to opt for full automatization of the process to ensure that data moves from employees to reports swiftly without unnecessary barriers.

You might be interested on How to get employees to track time and submit timesheets on time?

Benefits of using a timesheet software

For individual employees, the insights they get from time tracking can often be an eye-opener. How much of your time do you spend browsing the web, looking through your inbox, or trying to find that one document in a pile of folders? These are often viewed as minor daily activities, but accumulated, they are probably some of the most time-consuming non-billable activities in your workweek - is that justified?

AffinityLive’s Time Is Money survey on filling timesheets shows that the U.S. economy wastes a wholesome $7.4 billion a day in productivity simply because of workers who haven’t recorded their hours. 

When your workforce tracks time correctly, a myriad of benefits for the business emerges, including:

Keep employees on track and accountable

Do you find your employees wondering what they should do next? Are they way too relaxed when there is a pressuring deadline? Empower your team to take ownership of their workload with time tracking. Thus, everyone realizes the clock is ticking and tries to be as productive as possible. By looking at their week, employees will notice trends and patterns in their work hours and strive to minimize non-billable work. They can turn their time tracking into a positive competition with their colleagues and a personal challenge - seeing if they can beat their previous time. If they’re using time tracking software, they’ll also be able to see all the jobs in the queue, so they will always have something to get on with.

Ensure transparency into the process, from the start till the end

Making time registrations a vital part of your routine, you automatically make your business more transparent. It allows you to gain insights into the jobs being completed and their duration. Additionally, you start to understand which activities are being constantly delayed and start prioritizing work better. Eventually, time tracking tools also provide the bigger picture for employees. They can look back at their workloads and optimize productivity when needed while keeping tabs on what everyone else has done.

See the status of a job instantly

With so many different people working on different parts of a project (and several projects on the go at once), it can be challenging to know the status of each task as you require it. Not so if you’re using time tracking software! Simply log in and see the status of every single job. You can narrow down your view to a certain department or type of job, and if your software is in the cloud, you can even access this data from anywhere in the world.

Track time on different devices

What if you have remote workers, team members out on site, or staff working in various parts of the world? Can you still maintain a consistent time-tracking solution? With a cloud-based time tracking system, your whole team will be able to enter time quickly and accurately, no matter where they are or what they’re doing. Everyone can have access to an instantly updating cloud system from their chosen device.

Review team performance

When your annual performance reviews approach, it can be great to hang discussion off a specific set of data. You can pull numbers on individual employees and how they compare to the rest of the team and discuss them during their review. It is useful too for your team members to see their results, and it helps you both identify strengths to emphasize and weaknesses to work on. Just don’t fall into the trap of becoming reliant on time as the sole factor of judging performance - it is one factor of many.

Understand where resource demand is the highest

The time spent on a task or project is a key measure of the resources needed. It shows whether a department needs more in terms of the workforce or other inputs, and it gives you insights on who brings the most value to the team. Time usage is crucial information for the team and organization. You can make data-driven decisions based on insights concerning the redistribution or sharing of responsibility and workload.

Accurately report hours for compliance

In some industries, reports with hours worked by a team are required for compliance reasons. This can be a huge task to compile and send off at the end of each month or quarter. Only if your team is not accurately tracking your time. If you use a cloud-based time tracking software like AraHR, you will be able to quickly run a report to pull out the information you need. The software acts as a facilitator when it comes to compliance. Moreover, managers can do this kind of tasks in a matter of minutes.

Enables rewarding excellence

Many staff - especially those not used to time tracking - worry that clocking their hours will make them look as though they’re slacking off. The opposite is usually true - an accurate log of hours worked enables the business owner to see when good work is being done and reward accordingly. If someone is consistently performing above their targets, it may be time to consider a promotion. Likewise, you can incentivize staff to challenge themselves with friendly time-based competitions or challenges.

A brief history of timekeeping

These days, most businesses store their attendance records with online time tracking software. Before the rise of internet tools, a time clock would have been a physical punch clock utilizing swipe cards, badges, or biometric data that recorded the time on a software program. Even longer ago, a time clock was a large machine that stamped the time in and the time out on thick paper cards.

Ancient Wages

The modern timesheet has its roots in ancient history. The Code of Hammurabi, a Babylonian treatise written in 1772 BC, set a typical worker's daily wage at 6 grains of silver. That's about $0.25 per day, without adjusting for 3,793 years of inflation. Some trades earned less than a laborer. A tailor gained 5 grains of silver per day, while a carpenter made 4 grains.

The Time Clock

As timekeeping technology developed, the hourly wage replaced the daily wage. In 1888, a New Yorker named Willard Le Grand Bundy invented and patented a mechanical time clock - the ‘Bundy’ clock. When workers entered the site, they would slot their individualized card into a machine that would punch a physical hole into the paper. These would then be collected and internally reconciled, letting businesses quickly calculate what was owed to whom. This physical perforation led to the term ‘punching in’, meaning to show up for work and start your day.

The Billable Hour

During the 1950s, within the business, a new unit of measure emerged: the billable hour. Around the same time, modern project management became a discipline on its own. Billable and non-billable hours became a significant part of every project forecast. Workers tracked their tasks by the hour on a paper timesheet, creating an enormous source of information about how long it takes to do a particular task. 

The Modern Timesheet

Many industries use cloud-based time tracking systems and timesheet applications with sophisticated timekeeping functions. Increasingly, supervisors and employees are using mobile devices to capture time and other entries. Automating these functions frees employees up to focus on more critical work than writing down their time.


What is time entry?

Time entry refers to the process of recording the hours worked by employees on a timesheet or in a time-tracking system. It involves logging each task or project's beginning and end times and any breaks or interruptions.

Wrap up

Successful leaders go to great lengths to show that time tracking is beneficial for individuals and business entities. Team members can use time tracking to work towards their assigned and shared goals - spending time where the most value is created, personally and professionally. Managers use time tracking insights to get an accurate overview of the team’s peak performance, overall well-being, productivity, and even task distribution.

As an executive, use insights and data from time tracking to steer your organization in the right direction put the strategy into action, and ensure that every manager and team member understands and pulls the organization towards the same mission, with the same vision in mind. That is the recipe for a successful organization.

Unquestionably the future is in the numbers. Successful time tracking is all about recording data in your business. What you do with that data is up to you, but we hope we have given you some ideas to think about.