team working on a laptop and mobile device

What Is a Timesheet?

By The GoCanvas Team on April 17, 2021

team working on a laptop and mobile device


A timesheet is a data table that allows you to report the time worked on a job. Instead of using a simple punch card to clock in and clock out, companies will use timesheets for tracking time and related information about the job. Paper or excel spreadsheets are simple methods for time tracking, but many companies prefer to instead use digital technology like mobile apps and software for timesheets.

Much of what’s included on a timesheet is up to the company’s unique needs, so the ability for customization is important when choosing a tool. For example, some organizations may need their employees to fill out timesheets at a determined frequency — like a monthly timesheet, a bi-weekly or weekly timesheet, or a daily timesheet. Companies may also need more detail than a simple time-in/time-out line, so the digital timesheet can be customized to include more detailed information about the particular job site or client information.


Pros and Cons of Different Types of Timesheets

There are definitely some pros and cons when it comes to choosing a tool for timesheets.

Paper timesheets and excel files are basic tools that are simple and not very expensive upfront. The downside with these options is that there tend to be costs in the long-term due to inaccuracies with work hours and inefficiencies for processing the data. 

Inaccuracies can happen when an excel file or document is modified or changed by mistake, due to a human error. It’s possible that employees can delete or corrupt data that creates additional work later on trying to reconcile these issues. For processing the information, paper sheets or excel sheets can create additional work that is often manual and time-consuming. For example, an accounting team may be required to spend additional work processing payroll because the data lives in a spreadsheet on someone’s computer or on a paper sheet that needs to be digitized manually.

To avoid these issues, companies have found that mobile apps and software for timesheets are a better alternative. Timesheet software and apps allow employees to fill in their time and any additional information into a digital form.

Digital timesheets are very useful when employees need to use a timesheet in the field. Simply using a mobile application on a phone, employees can digitize the information and set the company up for success. While there may be a small cost involved with mobile apps and software, companies have found that the efficiency, accuracy, and insights gained are able to offset any of the upfront investment. No matter the size of your organization, there are many great reasons to move your business over from paper or excel sheets, into a more reliable business application that is specifically designed to improve the timesheet processes for your operations.


Why are timesheets necessary?

Timesheets are necessary because they create a record of the time that team members or employees spent working. 

Companies can also use timesheets for more advanced purposes. For example, project managers may want to use timesheets to understand if projects are progressing on time and budget. Another example is lawyers or professional services teams that need to record their billable hours and detailed information about services rendered to the client. Timesheets are necessary for keeping an accurate record of this information, both for invoicing purposes and documentation. 

Many companies also find that timesheets give them greater insight into the work being performed. By understanding how employees, freelancers, and contractors use their time, companies can execute business processes and personnel changes to improve efficiency and revenue. Having this information stored digitally helps to enable companies to easily report on the information that is collected. 


Should exempt employees fill out timesheets?

A question that comes up regularly is whether or not exempt employees who are salaried need to fill out timesheets. 

For employees who do not get paid on an hourly basis, timesheets can still be valuable tools. A daily timesheet can help these types of employees understand how they are using their time and help determine an effective hourly rate. Knowing the effort required to perform work can help determine fair salaries, award additional time off, and determine appropriate pricing for any services those employees provide.

Another benefit to exempt, salaried employees filling out timesheets is for human resources and record-keeping purposes. A timesheet creates a valuable record for noting when a worker is present and when they are using PTO or sick leave. 


How do timesheet apps improve time tracking?

Timesheet software and timesheet mobile apps can help organizations of all sizes and with multiple employees or worker types. Here are some of the key benefits of these technologies:

  • Real-time tracking: An advanced feature with apps is that they can utilize GPS data, worker activity, and more to automatically maintain a record of time. 
  • Field data-collection: Timesheet apps are available on iOS or Android devices, so employees can submit information in the field with ease. 
  • Consistent and trusted information: Apps are designed to standardize how the data is collected, helping to avoid human error and mistakes that are common with paper sheets or excel.
  • Streamlined business processes: Staff members save valuable time when the information is digitized and the data can be used to automate other related tasks or workflows. For example, apps can be integrated with payroll software or HR software to streamline how your teams work.


Timesheet apps and software are simple but very effective for tracking time and any related information to the job. Paper forms and spreadsheets may be a simple option to start, but ultimately these tools will lead to data issues later on that are not ideal for your business. Consider switching to a mobile app for time tracking to eliminate these issues and to gain the operational efficiencies that help your business work smarter.