A Brief History of the Timesheet

Posted by Virginia H. on Apr 23, 2014 7:00:00 AM

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If you're one of the millions of workers who track their time on timesheets, you know how tedious it can be to account for every minute of your workday. Tracking your time may be monotonous, but timesheets are an essential business tool. Since the invention of the clock, virtually every industry and profession has measured the value of labor in shifts, hours and minutes. Timesheets make these measurements possible.

Ancient wages

The modern timesheet has its roots in ancient history. The Code of Hamurabbi, a Babylonian treatise written in 1772 BC, set a typical worker's daily worker's wage at 6 grains of silver. That's about $0.25 per day, without adjusting for 3,786 years of inflation. Some trades earned less than a laborer. A tailor earned 5 grains of silver per day. A carpenter, 4 grains.

The Time Clock

Willard BundyAs timekeeping technology developed, the hourly wage replaced the daily wage. In the 1880s, a New Yorker named Willard Bundy invented and patented a mechanical time clock. To this day, many manufacturing plants and business office employees use a time card and "black box" system similar to Bundy's invention to track their attendance and payroll. Automation provided an objective record of a worker's hours during the industrial revolution. Not everyone watched the clock, however. Professionals such as engineers, architects and attorneys still charged by the job, not by the hour.

The Billable Hour

During the 1950s, the same efficiency experts who had squeezed extra production units out of factories brought their skills to the professions. A new unit of measure was created: the billable hour. Around the same time, modern project management disciplines married management principles to engineering models. Billable and non-billable hours became a significant part of every project forecast. Workers tracked their tasks by the hour on a paper timesheet, creating an enormous repository of information about how long it takes to do a particular task. 

The Modern Timesheet

Many industries have adopted automated time tracking systems. The most progressive companies use web- and cloud-based timesheet applications that offer sophisticated timekeeping, asset tracking and time-off management functions. Increasingly, supervisors and employees in the field are using mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets to capture time and other entries. Automating these functions frees employees up to do more important work than writing down their time. Late adopters of advanced employee timesheet and job tracking technology are often pleasantly surprised by the changes to their bottom line when they move from paper timesheets to high tech time card solutions.

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Topics: timesheet, Timesheet Software, time tracking

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