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What Are the Different Types of Time Clock Systems?

Kristie Lorette
Kristie Lorette

Time clock systems allow employers to track the number of hours that employees work for payroll purposes. These types of systems also allow the employer to track if employees are showing up for work and leaving work on time. The three primary types of time clock systems include manual time clock, digital time clock, and time clock software.

A manual time click system is only made up of a pen and time card. When the employee arrives at work, they mark their arrival time on the time card for the date they are working. When the employee leaves work, they again record the time they are leaving on the time card for the day. At the end of the payroll period, which is typically once a week or once every two weeks, the employee submits the time card from the manual time clock systems for approval. The time card then goes to the payroll company or the human resources department for the check to be cut and handed out to the employee.

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

A digital time clock system is another type of the time clock systems that companies can choose to use. The digital time clock system tends to be more accurate than the manual time clock system. A digital time clock system requires each employee to punch in their employee number or some number assigned to them when they arrive at work and again when they punch out for breaks or to leave for the day. All of the information is digitally stored in the time clock, which can be downloaded by the department or company responsible for cutting payroll checks.

Another form of digital time clock systems is an older system that still uses time cards. The employee slides the time card into the digital clock and it time stamps the card. The employee does this each time they check in and out of work.

Time management software.
Time management software.

Another type of time clock systems is computer software that is typically loaded or accessed from the computer of each employee. The employee opens the software program to log in when they arrive to work, to clock out for lunch or breaks and when they leave for the day. Computer software time clock systems are also more sophisticated so that the system can track vacation time, sick time and personal days for payroll purposes.

A similar software exists on some business telephone systems rather than the computer. The employee punches in their employee number or a code they are assigned to clock in and out of work using the business phone system.

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Discussion Comments


Our employees use computer programs to clock in and out. They just go to their profiles and note the times they arrived and left. It's not complicated, but I do wonder how much opportunity there is to game the system.

We used to have the old fashioned punch cards. At least those were a physical record of when we clocked in and out. It was probably a little more difficult for the payroll department, though. I'm sure the computerized system is much easier for the numbers folks.

The one advantage is that if we're five minutes late coming back from lunch or whatever, we round it back to the nearest quarter hour. If we're more than five minutes late, we round it up to the nearest quarter hour. That's nice if you have a boss who is so persnickety that he keeps up with whether an employee clocked out at 12:04 and clocked back in at 12:07. With the computerized clocks, it's rounded up or down.


We have a time clock system that records our handprints. We punch in our employee numbers and then place our hands on the pad. Then we are clocked in and out. It's kind of cantankerous, though.

I have small hands and have to place my fingers just right so the computer can read my handprint. The pad is meant for people whose hands are larger than mine, so I have to place my hand carefully.

The worst part is keeping the darn thing clean. With so many hands on it, I know it's a hotbed of germs. Yuck. I clean it all the time with hand sanitizer and a paper towel.

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    • Employee pulling her punch card to clock in.
      Employee pulling her punch card to clock in.
    • Time management software.
      By: Hedgehog
      Time management software.