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Agency time card: An essential tool for every business

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Updated on:
February 25, 2024
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In this fast-paced world, managing time is paramount for any agency. If you keep proper track of time, you’ll most likely be able to meet your client’s deadline and get compensated for your hard work.

One of the essential time-tracking tools that every agency should have is a time card. It provides useful data on the actual time employees spend on a project. Most importantly, it determines whether an agency is productive or not.

Here, this article will get into the details of an agency time card to further your understanding of how it works, its benefits, and more.

What is an agency time card?

Let’s start with a definition. An agency time card is a tool that tracks the time employees clock in and out of their work shift. In some cases, it also records the time the employees take breaks within their working hours. With this information, an agency can get the actual productive time.

Most agencies assume that a time card is for businesses that use exempt and hourly rates for accurate payroll preparation. This assumption can’t be more wrong. Regardless of how your agency operates, you need to know how your team uses time.

With accurate time records, you’ll be able to meet client demands and improve efficiency. You’ll also collect valuable data that can help evaluate a project’s profitability and make better decisions on time allocation.

Some states have a legal requirement for employers to keep track of employees’ working hours for fair wages and overtime compensation. In this case, an agency time card is helpful to remain compliant. Not to mention, it can aid you in controlling costs related to labor, such as overtime expenses.

The best part of agency time cards is that they have evolved from physical to digital. This means that your employees can track time even when working remotely. You can also view employees’ working time in real time.

Contents of an agency time card

Typically, an agency time card contains a thorough breakdown of an employee’s use of time. It has both variable and invariable information about each employee.

The variable data relates to fluctuating aspects of the employee’s work, such as specific shifts, attendance, and pay periods. Here are the particulars typically included in variable data:

  • Work start time and end time
  • Overtime hours
  • The pay period
  • The total hours worked in a pay period
  • Dates worked

On the other hand, the constant data on the time card includes:

  • The employee’s full name
  • Employee number
  • Role or job title
  • Employee time card number

Understanding how an agency time card works

Although it’s the agency’s responsibility to avail time cards, typically, it’s the employees who fill them out. When an employee starts working on a project, they are supposed to record the start time and the end time. Depending on the agency, the employees might also record the start and end times of the breaks they take within their work time.

The data from an agency time card then goes to a timesheet or time clock, which calculates the time an employee has spent on a given job.

Usually, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) prohibits employers from altering the employee’s time card, except under the following circumstances when the employee:

  • Calls in sick or goes on a vacation
  • Forgets to record the time they left or came in from lunch or break
  • Fails to put the start or end time of their shift
  • Doesn’t have access to the time card due to technical issues
  • Leaves before their shift ends
  • Enters the time in or out twice

Given that there are legal consequences attached to changing an employee’s time card, you ought to take extra precautions. After an employee submits their time card, the manager or supervisor should review it. If there are any discrepancies, they should return it to the employee for corrections.

The other crucial step is the approval of the time card. Here, you verify that the time recorded on the time cards is correct and sign off on them. At this point, your agency can use the information in the time card for payroll preparation or any other purpose.

Tips for efficient time card approval

Here are a few tips for making time card filling and approval smooth.

Implement a structure for employees to record time

An established structure for recording time in a time card is crucial for several reasons. One, it ensures consistency and uniformity in the organization. This way, there will be no confusion. Plus, the administrators will find it easier to review agency time cards.

Secondly, it ensures accuracy in the start and end times, breaks, and any other relevant details. This accuracy is essential for payroll processing, project management, and compliance with labor regulations.

Simplify the approval process

The approval process should not include unnecessary steps. It should be clear who has to review the time cards and the process to follow in case of any issues or mistakes. Moreover, using time-tracking software can greatly simplify the process.

For instance, the designated approvers can automate notifications when time cards are ready for review. This eliminates the need for manual reminders and ensures timely approvals. An all-in-one business management tool like Bonsai can be useful in this case.

Improve the communication channels

Open dialogue between managers and employees is crucial. Have clearly defined means of communication, such as email and instant messaging, where the stakeholders can collaborate and resolve issues quickly.

Types of agency time cards

Time cards have become a valuable time-tracking component in digital marketing agencies. However, the specific type of time card to use is largely dependent on how you apply the information therein to your agency’s time clock.

Here are the different time cards available for businesses.

Punch cards

Punch cards are old-school, made with paper, and used together with a punch clock or time stamp. Employees manually fill out their work hours, including start and end times, as well as any breaks during the shift.

The information on the time card goes to a timesheet or agency time clock to enable payroll preparation and attendance tracking.

Electronic time cards

Electronic time cards are similar to punch cards, except employees key in their work hours into an electronic system instead of using a punch clock. These cards integrate with payroll systems and also come with extra features such as calculators.

Swipe cards

Swipe cards are physical and electronic, with magnetic stripes that double up as identification cards. Employees slide them through a slit in a machine to record their work hours. The data on the card syncs with the agency time clock and automatically enters the start and end time, as well as mark attendance.

However, proximity cards seem to be overshadowing swipe cards. These cards use radio frequency identification technology to help track attendance and work hours. Employees simply wave them near a reader to capture their details.

Online cards

With the need for remote work constantly on the rise, agencies also use online time cards to track productivity. Employees use an identification number to enter a time-tracking portal to record their clock-in and clock-out times.

Mobile apps

Some businesses have mobile apps that employees use to record attendance and work time. It’s especially relevant for those on fieldwork. These apps also allow managers and supervisors to monitor and approve time cards in real time.

Biometric time cards

Biometric time cards involve the use of biometric identifiers such as eye scans, fingerprints, and facial recognition. Although they are mostly a security feature, they can also accurately record employee work time and attendance.

Why use digital agency time cards over physical agency time cards

Many businesses are shifting from physical time cards to digital time cards because physical time cards have a reputation for inaccuracies and overinflated labor costs. Below are more reasons for using digital agency time cards over physical agency time cards.

Simplicity and convenience

In this tech-heavy environment, most people find using digital cards to track time easier. Employees don’t have to keep their clock-in and break times at the forefront of their minds. Instead, digital cards are responsible for collecting that information in a centralized database.

Managers also enjoy the convenience of not worrying about losing physical time cards or manually calculating billable hours for clients and employees. In addition, digital cards, especially those with a mobile app, help connect field employees with office staff for real-time communication.

Increased accountability

Compared to physical time cards, digital time cards allow for more accountability for employees and businesses. Features such as biometric identifiers assure managers that the work hours recorded are for the actual employees.

Elimination of errors

Physical time cards are at a higher risk of errors, such as double data entries. Digital time cards, on the other hand, are much more accurate since they use automated systems to record information. This way, you can be sure of reliable employee work-hour tracking and task progress updates.

Features to look for in an agency time card tool

As an agency, a time card tool allows you to measure and track employee performance and work hours. However, with the many time-tracking tools available, it can be challenging to select one that perfectly aligns with your needs.

Even so, there are several features that you should look out for when choosing a time card tool, such as those listed below.

Time tracking

A time card tool ought to have time-tracking features that note the amount of time that employees spend on tasks. Other than that, this information must also be available in an easy-to-understand layout, such as graphs. The tool should also be able to display multiple members’ data simultaneously.

Analysis and report

The time card tool you choose should provide you with an analysis and report of work done by all employees. These reports can include:

  • A measure of everyone’s contribution to a specific task or project
  • A description of the activities done, like websites visited or meetings held

Project management

A good time card tool should also include project management features. Nowadays, most time-tracking tools come with all-inclusive project management software. This feature enables you to assign tasks, set deadlines, and track employee progress.

Payroll management

A time card tool should have a payroll management feature to streamline the billing process. Typically, it allows for automating invoices that would otherwise take time to do manually.


Third-party integrations maximize your time card tool’s ability to manage tasks and track employee productivity. They allow you to make adjustments to your workflow to optimize performance and efficiency by enabling you to pair it with other popular platforms.

What are the benefits of a reliable agency time card?

By now, you are probably considering introducing time cards to your agency. To help you make a final decision, let’s detail how this tool will benefit your business.

Eliminating time theft

For large and small businesses alike, operating without a well-established time-tracking system leaves you open to time theft. Unless you’re always looking over your employees’ shoulders, they are likely to:

  • Use their productive time on work that’s not related to your business
  • Come in late
  • Exaggerate working hours for overtime pay
  • Take long and unnecessary breaks

Consequently, you might end up paying for the time employees are not working. In fact, a survey by the American Payroll Association found that 75% of businesses lose money through buddy punching. This practice involves an employee asking another to clock them in or out of work.

A reliable agency time card seals all the loopholes where employees can steal time while improving accountability.

Improving employee productivity

Keeping an eye on each employee to ensure productivity can be a lot of work. Not to mention that most employees might not appreciate it. An agency time card can be a solution in this situation. By monitoring employees’ working hours and work output, you can tell who is the most productive and who isn’t pulling their weight.

When employees know you’ll hold them accountable, they will be motivated to use their time more efficiently. Moreover, that accountability typically results in them taking ownership of their workload and getting more organized.

Enhancing invoice transparency

Every business wants to get value out of its agency service expenses. When sending an invoice to a client, a time card can be tangible evidence of the hours that your employees have completed. It prevents overbilling or underbilling your clients. This invoicing transparency also minimizes disputes and queries from clients regarding billed amounts.

Most importantly, it builds trust and confidence. Clients can trust your business with more work.

You’ll also receive payments on time because there will be no reason for the client to delay your hard-earned money.

Making informed labor planning decisions

Nowadays, data has become integral in making informed decisions. When it comes to labor planning, having access to accurate data such as that collected through a time card is a plus. When you analyze this data, you can get useful insights into the optimal number of staff you need to finish your workload efficiently.

When planning the scope of work of a new project, historical time card data also comes in handy. It helps you make more accurate projections of the project’s length and how many hours it’ll take.

Improving project management

Efficient project management is key to the success of any project your agency takes. One of the key elements that require attention is the team working on the project. You want to assign tasks to the person who can finish them efficiently in the shortest time possible. With an agency time card, you can pull performance-tracking data and decide who will work on specific parts of the project.

Implementing an agency time card in your business

Changes in a business are always uncomfortable, and most employees don’t like it. In fact, research by Gartner reveals that 73% of employees are affected by changes in business and suffer from moderate to high-stress levels. So, when incorporating an agency time card into your business activities, you must be mindful of how the changes can affect performance.

Here are a few tips to guide you:

Don’t leave any stakeholder out

Nothing makes stakeholders feel more valued than being included in major decision-making. When you start planning time card changes, invite all your managers, supervisors, and employees. Allow them to give their input on the subject. Doing so will give you an idea of their attitude towards the change and will also start mentally preparing them to adapt. When it finally comes to implementation, your team will know ahead of time.

Training is a must

Though it sounds obvious, training the employees on using a time card should be a priority before rolling it out. The training session will give them a better understanding of why a time card is important and how to fill it out. This will also be the right place to clarify the working hours, break times in between, and other rules. Such training boosts employee efficiency, reducing errors and nurturing confidence and job satisfaction.

Don’t compromise on features

Your chosen time card tool shouldn’t be complicated. It should have all the features your business needs yet easy to use. Finding the right tool that ticks all the right boxes might take time, but it will pay off.

First and foremost, conduct ample research. Take advantage of the free trials developers offer to see if the tool you want will be a match. You can also consult with other businesses or look for online reviews to see which time card tools have the best recommendations.

Compatibility is everything

No matter how good an agency time card tool is, it’s useless if it lacks compatibility with the rest of the software and hardware. To mitigate potential incompatibilities, focus on choosing a system that ensures smooth data exchange and functionality across different systems. This way, you can transfer and process data with little to no manual data entry that can introduce errors.

Take control of your employee’s productivity

Whether you pay your team using an hourly rate or not, you need to use time cards. Though your employees might not like the idea at first, it benefits everyone in the long run. Employees will get fair pay, clients will receive reasonable bills, and you will have useful data for making informed labor decisions. It’s a win-win situation all around! You just need a reliable digital time-tracking tool like Hello Bonsai agency software to reap all the benefits.

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