What Is an Attendance Time Clock?

Gregory Hanson

An attendance time clock is used to monitor and regulate the comings and goings of employees in a place of business. These devices run the gamut from simple machines that stamp information onto cards all the way to sophisticated computerized systems that collect biometric data from employees. Using a time clock provides management with a way to automatically record the number of hours worked by individual employees and to monitor the punctuality of workers. Sophisticated modern systems also offer enhanced workplace security.

Employee pulling her punch card to clock in.
Employee pulling her punch card to clock in.

The later stages of the industrial revolution were partially defined by an increased emphasis on the efficient and organized use of time. Early models of attendance time clock were introduced in the last years of the 19th century. These devices were initially used mostly in large factories and served as a tool to ensure the timeliness of workers. The introduction of an attendance time clock in a workplace was a mixed blessing for workers, as these devices made it harder for employers to under-report hours worked but made it easier for employers to enforce strict penalties for tardiness.

Time management software.
Time management software.

Most medium and large modern workplaces make use of some sort of attendance time clock. In some cases, employees physically clock in by using a time clock to punch an attendance card and then clock out at the end of their shifts. In other cases, attendance information is collected electronically, and employees can clock in and clock out using keycards or biometric scanners.

The information collected by an attendance time clock is used by employers to monitor the punctuality of employees. Time clocks also serve to simplify the work of payroll departments. Some modern time clock software can interface directly with payroll software, but even older time clocks made record-keeping and salary dispersal significantly easier by centralizing and standardizing attendance information.

In some modern workplaces, the attendance time clock at the door has been replaced with software that tracks the activities of individual employees. Workers in a call center, for instance, may be monitored by software that is integrated into individual workstations. This sort of distributed attendance time clock software allows employers to more accurately track the individual activities of employees and makes it possible to monitor employee time use during the course of a work day.

Some workplaces use attendance time clocks as a form of security. Advanced software systems may employ keycard or biometric scanners to grant or restrict access to certain parts of a facility. These systems provide security for sensitive areas but can also serve to monitor the comings and goings of employees. The most sophisticated systems keep detailed and time-stamped records of the movements of employees throughout a particular facility during the course of a working day.

Some time clocks use keycard technology.
Some time clocks use keycard technology.

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