How to automate your company’s timesheet reminder process

It happened again. Someone forgot to fill in their timesheet, and now their manager is trying to track them down because they’re nowhere to be found — and it’s almost 5 o’clock. Forgetting to turn in timesheets is such a common problem that entire web pages are devoted to timesheet reminder memes that managers use to gently prod their employees.

Though they may seem like a minor irritation, timesheet reminders interrupt otherwise smooth and productive workdays. Even the best employees may procrastinate on tedious timesheet submissions and need several reminders to complete them. The problem can go both ways too — like when a department manager forgets to remind their workers to turn in their timesheets, so only two of them remember.

Taking the time to facilitate proper timesheet submissions — with reminders as a start — saves time and leads to faster client billing, better workplace relationships, and more accountability. The best way to start is to automate the timesheet reminder process.

The timesheet approval workflow

The time-tested timesheet approval process almost always starts with a timesheet reminder and follows these steps:

  1. Managers remind workers to submit their completed timesheets.
  2. Workers submit timesheets to managers for approval.
  3. Managers approve timesheets or work with employees to make corrections.
  4. Managers send timesheets to the human resources department for payment processing.

While the system works, its success is contingent on the human factor — make a mistake at one stage, and the whole system can break down. Automation reduces human error and sets a smooth foundation for the rest of the process.

Automating the timesheet reminder process

If you’re ready to get rid of reminder chaos and miscommunication, follow these steps.

Assess your needs

Question every aspect of your current timesheet approval process. Are most of your workers remote? Do they travel for work? How many temporary or contract workers do you have? Does the kind of work your exempt employees do require you to bill clients per hour? How many hours do paid interns usually work?

Also, consider some of the reasons workers currently ignore or forget reminders — no matter how eye-catching they are. Perhaps they’re losing email notifications in their inboxes and would prefer mobile notifications. Or maybe employees who work on the road need location-based reminders. Ask your staff what causes them to overlook reminders, and try to solve their specific problems as much as you can.

Evaluate roles

Part of the basis for timesheet confusion could be uncertainty about responsibilities. Ask yourself whose job it is to send timesheet reminders and who in human resources should handle approvals. Reaffirming or even reassigning responsibilities will strengthen your team and encourage them to actively participate in optimizing the timesheet process.

Establish rules

Ask your employees if there’s anything about the system that they believe should change. Perhaps your current process isn’t working for employees because the reminder comes too late in the day or too close to the approval deadline. Keep their needs in mind to form new reminder guidelines. The more painless the process is for your workers, the smoother it will run.

Find a program with built-in reminders

Here’s the fun part: looking for a timesheet program. While options such as Clockify, ClockShark, Boomr, QuickBooks, and AttendanceBot come with a variety of features, the right one for your organization will have automatic timesheet reminder functionality.

To further refine your timesheet approval process, look for an application that integrates with your project management tools and human resources programs. Notifications should be easy to set up and highly customizable. 

For example, you may want to send reminders to full-time employees every other Friday and to part-time employees every other Thursday. Keep in mind that some managers need reminders of their own to ensure that they not only receive timesheets but also correct mistakes.

Test the system

Once you find the right program, do a test run with employees. Tell them how long the test will last and give them adequate training on the new program. During the test, pay attention to any problems that come up and stay alert to additional employee feedback. 

Depending on your employees’ needs, you can run a test more than once to make sure you’ve covered all the gaps. Don’t forget to have a post-test meeting to make sure that you’ve heard ideas from all employees and managers.

Commit to continual improvement

Though an automated process will soon become second nature, that doesn’t mean you should stop looking for ways to make it better. Simplification is a process, so set up times to occasionally review your workflow for ways to make it even easier. This is especially important for growing organizations with rapidly changing needs.

Automating reminders with Jotform

Whether you need to make minor modifications to your timesheet reminders or you decide to completely rehaul your timesheet workflow, Jotform can help.

Jotform offers a variety of online forms to collect timesheet information from employees. You can customize these forms with your organization’s colors and logo and keep all employee input in one place.

For the ultimate all-in-one product that encompasses the entire approval process, check out Jotform Approvals. You can create an automated workflow in minutes with automatic email reminders. Streamline your process by adding if-then conditions, expiration dates, parallel paths, and more. Plus, you can view the status of your workflow from any device with complementary tools such as Jotform Inbox and the Jotform Mobile Forms app.

By automating your timesheet workflow with Jotform, you can spend less time looking for a timesheet meme to send employees and more time doing the work that matters.

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This article is originally published on Apr 20, 2021, and updated on Jan 26, 2023.
Aytekin Tank is the founder and CEO of Jotform and the author of Automate Your Busywork. A developer by trade but a storyteller by heart, he writes about his journey as an entrepreneur and shares advice for other startups. He loves to hear from Jotform users. You can reach Aytekin from his official website

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