Online VS Paper Timesheets

Online VS Paper Timesheets

What Are The Real Differences?

If paper is a thing of the past then online timesheets should be a no-brainer, but are they? In this article we take a look at the real differences between manual and online timesheets; consider whether switching to a digital solution could be the answer for your business; and explore why now, more than ever, is the time to leverage technology.

The Debate

Timesheets are a critical part of any business – they ensure that employees hours can be tracked and recorded for payroll purposes. Many recruiters rely on a mix of spreadsheets, data entry and paper forms to complete the essential task of taking timesheet data and turning it into invoices to hirers and payments to temps and contractors. In some workplaces, time and attendance are still measured manually, with employees writing down their start and end time on a paper timesheet. Whilst cloud-technology has meant that others have changed the way they do business entirely now that technology is affordable and accessible to anyone with a mobile phone.

So which approach is the right one for your business? What method will save you time and money? And is it time you switched your strategy?

Paper Timesheets

“If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” – could be the moto of this approach.  This method is as easy as it is simple for the employee as they only need to write down a few numbers and turn it in.

Small companies, with few staff, an older workforce, or those that have used the manual method for some time may question whether switching to online timesheets is worth the money or indeed the hassle.  Nevertheless, a paper-based system is prone to some indisputable faults that we will outline here.

Five problems with paper-based timesheets

  1. Inflexible – Paper schedules and timesheets are often inflexible and difficult to update if, for example, someone calls in sick or takes leave.  In the time it takes to update these paper-based records a shift may not have been filled.
  2. Time Theft Vulnerability – Paper timesheets are more prone to time theft and fraud. This could be as a result of simple errors, ‘harmless’ overestimation of hours, or more malicious attempts to extort.
  3. Onerous Task – The burden of manually filling out timesheets regularly can lead to sloppy recording and also distract employees from their primary job.
  4. Human Error – The potential for human error is higher with a paper-based system at every stage of the process.  It is so easy to forget to fill out a timesheet, fill it out incorrectly, forget to sign it off, misread figures, enter figures incorrectly and so on. With this method it is often difficult to trace where things went wrong too.
  5. Time Consuming – Every time there is a problem with a paper timesheet, the problem has to be followed up. Whether it has been submitted late, or there’s a blank space where a time should have been recorded. The double handling of data is costly too. All of this causes payroll delays and the unwanted impacts this generates.

Online Timesheets

There are many electronic solutions out there for companies to choose from. From desktop software to Web-based timesheets these options can help businesses better manage time tracking and payroll. Arguably, these solutions can be expensive, and desktop spreadsheets as prone to entry error and fire/flood damage as paper-based records.   Nonetheless, when it comes to efficiency and positive improve staff engagement an online approach seems to have the edge. Here are some of the other the advantages: 

The six advantages of online timesheets

  1. Customisable – Electronic timesheets are customisable based upon your business type and department. By customising timesheets, you reduce having to manually enter data for special circumstances or edit timesheets for individual employees every pay period.
  2. Central Access – Another area where the online timesheet approach helps is the centralized location for all time tracking, expense, and invoicing data.Online timesheets can be accessed and filled out anywhere, at any time, in real time. You can control access based upon the user or user type, so each user sees only the appropriate information. Central access means faster processing, quicker answers to questions and better overall time-tracking management.
  3. Reporting and History – With everything in one location, it is easy to generate reports for individuals, small groups of employees, departments or the entire company. Tracking changes made to timesheets is easy and you can quickly see if an employee updated his timesheet or if an error occurred when an employee tried to submit his timesheet.
  4. Security – Records can’t be lost or damaged since they are online and not on your computer- they are kept safe and secure.
  5. Efficiency – The more employees in a department, the harder it becomes to keep track of which employees have submitted timesheets. An online system means you can quickly see a list of which timesheets have and haven’t been submitted. The supervisor can then remind the employee immediately. Some electronic timesheets even generate automatic reminders to keep everyone on schedule. If, as an agency, you require approval of timesheets from clients many online solutions out there have this capability.
  6. Corrections – Making corrections to spreadsheets or paper timesheets is time consuming. Corrections may not even be seen until it’s too late for the pay period. Corrections made online are instant. Instant error correction means fewer payroll errors.

The Decision?

Determining whether to adopt an online timesheet system or to keep your existing paper-based one ultimately comes down to knowing your business’s needs. You alone know your company, the size, the workforce demographic, the levels of security in place and the potential risks involved.  All these factors must be considered against the opportunities a new system would offer.

Why Now Is the Time for Digital Transformation…

Online timesheets have always had the upper hand when it comes to minimising error. However, the events of this past year have proven that leveraging technology is vital for business survival. The pandemic has changed the way we live and work and it may spell the end for manual timesheets.


Online timesheets make remote working and logging those hours possible, they also eliminate forms and pens as a source of infection. Technological solutions, in general, allow businesses to grow, be more agile and overcome barriers to slowed cash flow. The pandemic has simply accelerated the uptake of digital technologies. To find out more about how our technology platform helps you be better prepared for whatever challenges the operating environment throws up, simply contact 1PS today.