In today’s business world, it is not surprising when you learn your boss will be tracking your time, and only paying you for hours worked. Many jobs have set schedules, and even exempt employees are expected to punch in and out at specified hours. Where did the concept of tracking employee time come from, and how has it evolved into what is offered today? We will explore the history of time tracking, and how it has streamlined payroll and tracked trends in employee performance.

Time is Money

From the words of Benjamin Franklin came the phrase “time is money”, and Franklin emphasized efficiency in both personal matters and the workplace. Employers believed in this motto as well, and only wanted to pay their workers for actual time worked. Employees also wanted to make sure that they were getting fairly compensated for their work, and the need for time tracking became more pressing. Up until this time, any time tracking was done with a pen and paper and was time-consuming, mistake-prone, and relied on the recounting of both employers and employees. Clearly a more efficient system was needed, and in the 19th century one was finally invented.

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First Time Clock

Willard Legrand Bundy was the inventor of the first time clock, and this early system utilized paper cards that were stamped when the employee entered work or left for the day. Bundy’s mechanical device was patented, and Willard and his brother Harlow founded the Bundy Manufacturing Company in 1889. This successful business grew in part because large and small factories were popping up all over, and the Bundy’s device was much more efficient than other methods of timekeeping. Bundy Manufacturing Company eventually merged with other companies to become International Time Recorder Company (ITR) with offices all over the world. Tensions between the brothers led to the two parting ways and Willard starting his own Bundy Time Recording Company in 1903. Lawsuits and legal battles ensued between the competing time clock companies, with questions to the rights to patents regarding time clock innovation. Willard Bundy passed away in 1907, but his invention of the first time clock had made its mark on the world. The Bundy Manufacturing Company was renamed International Business Machines (IBM) in 1924. IBM eventually sold their Time Equipment Division, which has gone through several iterations and names throughout the years.

Move to Electronic Clocks

The late 20th century saw a move away from paper punch cards, as electronic, computer-based attendance systems were used. These electronic systems built on the early clocks, but were able to automatically do time calculations, and could integrate with HR departments and payroll to create an easier way to track not only time, but payroll. Sick days, vacation, overtime, and more can be easily tracked with electronic systems, and they are great for both employers and employees. Time clock software has become increasingly advanced, and newer systems such as biometrics work to combat time theft in the workplace. While it could have been easy to forge a buddy’s paper timecard back in the day, duplicating their unique fingerprint or retina scan is something left to the experts in spy movies. Time clocks are continually advancing to make timekeeping easier and more efficient.

Mobile Clocking

A great advance in time clock software has come with mobile technology. Now, employees can use their smartphones to track their time, which is especially useful for employees who work remotely or travel on the job. Geo targeting can help the employer know that their employees are doing the work they say they are, even on the go. Mobile clocking is also great for employees to be able to review their in and out punches, their vacation time, sick days, overtime and more. No longer is the time clock reserved only for 9-5 workers with static pay; today’s time clocks can be tailored to your businesses’ individual needs.

Timeco is proud to continue to innovate in the timekeeping world, and our online employee time clocks can streamline your business and increase efficiency. If you are still using outdated paper and pen recording systems for your timekeeping, or you are relying on your employee’s memory at the end of the month to reconcile hours, you could be losing both time and money! Invest in online employee time clock software today to help your business grow!