Managing shift workers? Your ultimate time-tracking comparison (2021)

Table of Contents

Time tracking tool, time management system, timeclock, time attendance system – whatever it is, business managing shift workers have one. Whether your choice was the most suitable for you: check out this ultimate comparison on the pros, cons and pricing differences of punch cards, biometrics & mobile apps. 

P.S. If you haven’t yet, check out the 7 things you Must know before choosing a time & attendance tool. We cover all the grounds there so read that first, then come back to this 🙂

, Managing shift workers? Your ultimate time-tracking comparison (2021)
Frame 1 (2)

1. Punch Cards 

When starting a business, it makes sense to focus on a few things: a great product, good customer experience and smooth operations. You care about: 

  • The traffic
  • If the customers liked your stuff
  • If operations and processes are running well

Everyone should know how awesome you are! 

Moreover, after a huge capital investment, punch cards seem affordable and convenient. It’s like the default “starter-pack” for businesses managing shift workers. 

However, when businesses evolve without upgrading operational tools, that keeps them stuck in low productivity and poor efficiency. 

Once operations are stabilized: the priority is optimizing costs, enlarging profit margins and increasing efficiency. HR then realizes that transferring punch card records to Excel every single month is taking up an annoyingly big amount of time (not to mention the calculations one by one!).

That’s frustrating because manual work keeps you from spending time on important stuff (like hiring, right HR?)  


  • Punch card machine: $100 on average
  • Punch card: ~$10 for 100 pieces
  • Total damage per location: <$200


  • Pretty no brainer: slot your card into the machine!
  • Clock-in can only happens when at least 1 person is at work 


  • Machine failure – at times
  • Kind of old fashioned 
  • Buddy punching – punch in for your friend and celebrate with extra cash: earlier clock-ins, later clock-outs
  • Manual work – HR still has to transfer those numbers manually every month end to process payroll, which can take 2-3 days per month. 

Suitable for:

  • Businesses who prefer starting out with the traditional way of doing things 
  • Businesses that don’t find the monthly extra admin work a hassle, yet

Punch cards are okay, but just… okay. Check out how Jasmine from The Royals now gets her timesheets done in a few hours after ditching punch cards!

2. Biometrics System

You’re probably a little bit more tech savvy if you’re a biometrics user. A clear level-up from punch cards, you get an extra layer of accuracy because now, nobody can clock-in for a friend. Accurate clock-in timings means paying your employees accurately; you’re not shortchanging them, or yourselves (smart!) 

Again though, system issues sometimes only happen down the road. Complaints about biometrics often involve machine breakdown affecting timesheet data, as well as some machines being unable to recognize faded thumbprints of older workers. 

As a stand-alone tool to track attendance, biometrics aren’t too bad. However, when the team realizes the inefficiency in

  1. Having to match shift timings to clock-in data, and
  2. Still having to manually do timesheet calculations 

The question is now: must we do it this way? Is there a better way to link time tracking from scheduled shifts, clock-in clock-out records, and calculated timesheets? Price:

  • Biometric hardware cost: $600-$1000
  • Biometric repair cost: $500
  • Total damage per location: $600-$1000


  • Secure clock-in (nobody can clock-in for you; it’s fingerprint based!) 


  • Still doesn’t solve admin work of neatening timesheets every month end
  • Elderly shift workers may have difficulties clocking-in

Suitable for:

  • Businesses who prioritize accurate time records 
  • Businesses who purely want to track time but still can tolerate the monthly extra admin work
  • Businesses who don’t consider it beneficial yet to integrate time & attendance with other processes like scheduling, leave & timesheets

Overall Rating: 

Feel the inertia as you think of your biometric machine? Yes, it’s painful doing away with an expensive hardware investment. But check out how Tea Tree Cafe reduced cost equivalent to 50% of manager’s salary when they switched out of biometrics.

3. Integrated Mobile App

And saving the best for the last – a tool like StaffAny that integrates them all: scheduling, time tracking & timesheets! Clearing out inefficiency in basic processes helps your team to work on actually growing the business, rather than: 

  • Matching time records across Excel
  • Calculating OT line by line 
  • Spending time “wondering” if the records are accurate
  • Losing costs to time theft and hardware repair 

With a proper secure record, HR, Ops and your team is all looking at a single system for the information. Transparency means a much smoother payroll for you 🙂 


  • Cost: depending on your team’s needs, can range from $49 to $99/month
  • Total damage per location: maybe… none?! Check out why:


  • Potentially save 50% of your manager’s salary like Tea Tree Cafe
  • Save on sneaky time theft that could hold you back up to 90k/year
  • Save up to 70% of your manager’s time spent planning & coordinating schedules 
  • Ease of communication with staff 
  • Reduced staff lateness.. 
  • And many more 🙂


  • You might take awhile to get used to the extra time you never had! 
  • Based on cost price comparison alone, more expensive than punch cards & potentially biometrics

Suitable for:

  • Businesses that wish to do away with manual work and free up time to grow their business
  • Businesses that wish to digitalise & reap the benefits of reduced labor costs 

In sum

With that, considering your business stage and needs, choose the best one and don’t forget that your entire business (manpower, strategy, structure, tools and equipment) should evolve with you 🙂 

If you’re dealing with shift workers, a solution made to suit the shift work industry is what would really benefit you.
Ready to make a change? 

We’re opening a free consultation session this week for businesses currently using punch cards & biometrics. Share your concerns and needs with us – based on the businesses big and small we’ve worked with, our experts may be able to share a tip or 2 with you too! 😉

Like this article?

Share on Facebook
Share on LinkedIn

related article

Leave a comment