The best time-tracking tools for your small business



As a small business owner, how well are you keeping track of your employees’ hours? Whether you have hourly or salaried workers, it’s important to keep time records, especially if you do business in New York City, where the new New York City Paid Sick Leave Law is now in effect.

According to the new law, employers with five or more employees must provide paid sick leave. Where the law gets tricky is in implementation—NYC states that for every 30 hours of work, an employee earns one hour of sick leave, up to 40 hours per calendar year. Companies are now required to report these sick leave accruals now on their business tax returns. 

Even if you’re an employer that already offers sick leave or paid time off (PTO), keep in mind that the New York State Department of Labor still requires all companies to keep time sheets and payroll records for all workers (both hourly and salaried employees) for up to six years. And according to new law clarification, these records must be ongoing—no going back and figuring it out after the fact. 

Payroll companies and other business service providers can help your business to keep track of these hours, but for those without existing systems in place, here are some easy time-tracking tools that you can implement within your own company: 

Time tracking for creatives (design, technology, software, advertising, marketing)

Creative teams, who often work with multiple clients on multiple projects, each of which has its own subtasks and team members, benefit from time-tracking tools that can easily sort and report on each of these elements. Bonus points to those apps that have beautiful, intuitive user interfaces.

  • Toggl is one of the easiest-to-use time tracking programs available, offering a simple stopwatch button that records tasks by the second. You can color-code by client or project and generate reports by time range, client, or task.

  • Timely combines the process of scheduling your week and tracking your time all into one app, allowing you to integrate time tracking with your existing work calendar. Plus, it’s got a complementary iPhone and Apple Watch app. Fancy.

  • Harvest, although less flashy than the first two, offers more detailed reporting options and direct online invoicing. Another bonus: the ability to send personalized estimates to clients and track expenses for projects.

Time tracking for professional service firms (lawyers, consultants, accountants)

For industries where billable hours are the norm, time-tracking tools need to be able to sort through billable and non-billable time, as well as account for onsite and offsite work.

  • Bill4Time, with its built in ABA task codes and LEDES compliance, is definitely built for legal firms, but its detailed productivity reporting, project management dashboard, and security features make it great for a number of professional service industries.

  • Chrometa advertises “passive” time-tracking by linking directly to your computer and phone—it track automatically how much time you spend reading articles, sending emails, and even how much time you spend on the phone. For lawyers or consultants who jump from task to task without having to remember to hit a “Start” or “Stop” button, it’s ideal.

Time tracking for industries with hourly employees (retail, restaurants, wellness, construction, etc.)

For small businesses to large corporations managing a number of hourly wage-based employees, find time-tracking tools that are also integrated with a full HR portal that also allows manager to track PTO, expenses, and more. Businesses that are already using payroll services such as ADP can also take advantage of free time-tracking tools within their software. 

  • TSheets offers great tools for employees, including mobile time tracking with GPS, but also has ideal HR features for managers, including overtime alerts, and PTO accrual tracking. Plus a bonus for government contractors—it’s DCAA and DOL compliant.

  • is a full HR suite, offering time tracking for hourly and salaried employees, supervisor approvals, mileage and expense reporting, vacation and time-off tracking, bonus and commission tracking, employee training guides, and even standardized performance reviews.

  • Boomr is a good option for smaller businesses, particularly those with multiple employees that work offsite, including construction workers, truck drivers, caterers and delivery personnel. Employees can clock in via their mobile phones, while the GPS tracking ensures that employees are at their designated locations.