spreadsheet time tracking

Spreadsheet Time Tracking: How To Do It More Easily

The Fair Labor Standards Act’s (FLSA) lax rules on timesheet formatting seem helpful at first glance. That is until you find yourself sifting through scraps of paper, manual punch cards, and spreadsheets in various formats.

A universal spreadsheet time tracking system ensures that the working hours from employees, contractors, freelancers, and anyone else on your payroll stay organized. The less time you spend reformatting time tracking data, the more time you can spend on job-related tasks that help you make money.

Of course, this method only works with a base-level knowledge of spreadsheet time tracking.

How to track time in a spreadsheet

Tracking time in an Excel time tracking sheet is easy, but getting things set up can be a lot harder. Every business has its own unique challenges they need to consider.

How many pay periods do you have each year? Do you outsource work to freelancers or contractors? If so, will they track time differently than internal teams?

These are all questions to keep in mind when tracking employee time. You can start by focusing on these five steps:

Step 1: Open a new sheet and enter column and row headings

Step 2: Choose a pay period format (bi-weekly, monthly, etc.)

Step 3: Enter any vacation or PTO fields

Step 4: Enter formula for hours worked per day like this:

Input = Add the working hours and any overtime hours into the cell that you want to show the total hours worked on day 1.

work hours formula

Then, drag the corner of that cell down to complete this formula for other days of the workweek.

Step 5: Enter formula to calculate hours worked per week like this:

Input =SUM of Cell from day 1 + Cell from day 2 + Cell from day 3 + Cell from day 4 + Cell from day 5, etc.

Or, click and drag:

track time in a spreadsheet

Step 6: Save your changes and move the file to the corresponding folder for record-keeping purposes.

To enter time, you’ll need a spreadsheet time tracking template. If you’re not sure how to create a template in Google or Excel time tracking spreadsheet, start with one of ours.

Spreadsheet templates to use

Before you create your own Google or Excel spreadsheets, you’ll have to consider how you pay your employees, how many pay periods you have each year, and what project management system your company has in place.

This seems like a lot to consider, but a free time tracking template is a great starting point. That's why we have created Google and Excel time tracking templates you can customize to calculate vacation time, sick leave, and total hours worked.

Daily timesheet

Daily timesheets are helpful for freelancers, independent contractors, and other workers that switch seamlessly between multiple tasks throughout the course of a day. Our daily hourly timesheet template will help you break down your team’s work and track time spent on each of the assigned tasks.

Weekly time tracking template

Not all pay periods are biweekly. For teams that get paid once a week, this template helps you keep track of overtime, regular hours, PTO, and the rest of your work time for weekly payroll.

Bi-weekly time tracking template

A bi-weekly timesheet is the best option for businesses that pay employees every other week. If you’re paying teams on a bi-weekly basis, you’ll have roughly 26 pay periods a year — but it’s not the same as a bi-monthly timesheet. If you pay your teams on the 15th and 30th of each month, you’ll have to make some slight adjustments.

Monthly timesheet

Not all full-time employees are paid twice a month. If you only do payroll on a monthly basis, this timesheet gives you a detailed view of how your teams spend their time. With this information, you can manage tasks better in the future.

Project timesheet template

A project timesheet takes timekeeping a step further. Use this template to cross-reference tasks from your preferred project management tool. You’ll have an itemized list of projects, clients, and bill rates.

spreadsheet time tracking benefits

Pros and cons of spreadsheet time tracking

Even with the right template, spreadsheet time tracking often leads to mixed results. Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of using this method to track time.


Easy to use

Most people in the professional service space have decades of Excel experience. Whether you learned on the job or as a student, you probably know your way around Excel or Google Sheets well enough to fill in a timesheet.

Spreadsheet time tracking is a popular solution for teams that don’t have the time, money, or resources to train their employees on time tracking software.


These days, you can get Excel by purchasing the entire Microsoft Office Suite for under $100. That’s not so bad if you need to create complicated pivot tables and use other tools for process documentation and training.

To make a simple time tracker, it won’t cost you a cent.

Google Sheets gives you more than enough flexibility to design your own spreadsheet time tracking system. You can then create a filing system in Google Drive to keep track of all of your team’s tasks, hours, and paid time off. It can serve as your cloud-based record-keeper.

Easily stored

Office management involves a lot more than just time tracking. The nice thing about a spreadsheet time tracker is that all company hours can be kept alongside process documentation, offer letters, benefits information, pay stubs, and more.

Since the FLSA requires you to keep payroll info for up to two years after an employee’s departure, it’s nice to know that this information is easily accessible in the long term.



Manually filling out an Excel timesheet template takes considerable time compared to other time tracking methods. The real pain is the setup, though.

Hours, wages, and employees fluctuate constantly. You might think that setting up a time tracking template in a spreadsheet is a one-time setup, but a lot can change as your business continues to grow.

You won’t need to reinvent the wheel every time one of these issues arises, but the flexibility of a spreadsheet isn’t what it seems.

Storage issues

Spreadsheets don’t take up much space at first, but that can quickly change as your business begins to grow. New employees, timesheet corrections, and other issues can lead to storage issues.

Growing pains are a natural part of a company’s development, but they should be temporary. That’s why many businesses consider an automated time tracking tool that can help them store hours, PTO, and other payroll information without storage concerns.

Mistakes and time theft

Whenever you ask someone to resort to manual data entry, the room for error increases significantly. Whether it's an incorrect formula, a typo, or just bad memory, timesheets created in a spreadsheet tend to be less accurate.

Some employees (and even managers) prey on these inconsistencies. Since human error is so believable, manual timesheets make it really easy for employees to change or fabricate hours. If they get caught, they can just blame the system.

Switching to a time tracking app with track-as-you-go functionality makes it easy to turn tracked time into timesheets. Timesheet freezing helps increase security and reduce mistakes. With these features, you and your employees will never have to worry about time tracking and PTO inconsistencies again.

Not as flexible as it looks

If you’re a spreadsheet pro, tools like Excel and Google Sheets are incredibly flexible. It’s important to remember that the average person isn’t as well-versed in Excel, though.

You might have to step in and make changes yourself. You’ll also have to train employees on timesheet etiquette every time you make changes.

Then, you’ll lose out on billable time as you work to correct mistakes, change policies, or abide by new laws and regulations.

Time tracking software can help you keep this same flexibility with less hassle.

time tracking software

Upgrade your time tracking with Hubstaff

As you can see, spreadsheet time tracking does have its pitfalls.

With a time tracking tool like Hubstaff, each of your employees can track time with a simple start-and-stop timer. Tracked time becomes automated timesheets that you can review and approve with just a few simple clicks.

You’ll be able to see projects worked on, website and app usage, and even activity scores (a metric that tracks keyboard and mouse activity) for each member of your team.

You can export timesheets as Excel or CSV files for your record keeping. Then, configure an integration with a popular payroll tool to pay teams seamlessly.

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