How Companies Can Use SMS Messaging for Time Keeping and Payroll

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Years ago I worked for a non-profit company in the U.S. that provided engineering support to the government. They were sticklers for time keeping, and they had to be. The government held them accountable and audited them constantly to make sure they weren’t wasting money. So accurate time cards weren’t just for making sure you were paid on time, they actually were critical to the company staying in business.

When I started working there, I had to fill out a paper form with my hours on it, give it to my manager at the end of each week, they signed it, then sent it off to payroll. By the time I left the company, the process had been automated. I filled out my timecard daily on a website run by the HR department. And if I didn’t fill out the time, I’d get an email letting me know I hadn’t done it yet. I’d also get an email letting me know I hadn’t worked enough hours yet that week according to my schedule. Thankfully, employees had some ability to customise the frequency and time these messages were sent. But they were sent just the same.

But even with email reminders, it was possible to be so busy that you might forget to enter your time for a few days (this made HR very unhappy, which made your manager unhappy, which in turn made you unhappy). But still, it’s hard to yell at or punish people for doing a great job and working hard, but forgetting to enter their time. The truth is that many people worked in labs away from their company computers and didn’t even get their emails each day. Often people travelled too, and didn’t always have access to their computer. And since it required customized security software to get to the HR website (or any of the company’s network) the people who had mobiles couldn’t access the website. This was before most of the big mobile revolution so the company hadn’t invested any time in secure mobile networking solutions for employees.

Filling Time Sheet with hours

But there is one thing that would have worked through all of my time at the company: SMS messaging. This simple form of communication is so versatile, it can be used for just about anything. For businesses needing to keep track of employee time and payroll, it’s a perfect fit.

This is what a couple of typical interactions might look like

Example 1: Time card entry

Company: Roger, remember to submit the hours you worked today before 6 p.m.

Roger: 11123 8.5

Company: Thank you Roger! We’ve entered 8.5 hours on your timecard for today. You’ve worked 34 of your scheduled 40 hours this week.

In this example, the company sends a reminder SMS message to their employee Roger. He replies at the end of his workday with his identification number (11123 in this example – but it could be anything), and the hours he worked.  The company then confirms the hours he’s entered and provides and update on his total hours for the week. This is a very simple example. There could be more steps with more verification. For example before sending the final confirmation, the company could have asked Roger to reply YES if 8.5 hours was correct. There are many options and messages you can use.


Example 2: Employee enquiry

Roger: 11123 balance

Company: Roger, you have 12 days and 22 hours of PTOB and 2 sick days of leave remaining. You’ve worked 26 out of a scheduled 40 hours.

In this example Roger sends a text to the company with the keyword “balance” along with his unique id code. The company sends an autoreply with the amount of holiday and sick leave he has, as well as his total hours to date for the current time period.


SMS messaging is simple, flexible, and convenient. For both employees and businesses these are important – particularly convenience. Everyone has a mobile today (ok, over 92% of the population does), and every one of them can send and receive text messages. So even if you don’t issue company mobiles, employees can still use an SMS payroll/time system with their own mobiles.

So how else can businesses use SMS messaging for payroll and time card management?


Employees can send messages to:

  • Provide hours worked to company
  • Clock in and clock out (instead of sending in hours worked)
  • Request balances for leave time and hours worked


Companies can send:

  • Reminders to send time or hours worked
  • Updates on leave time
  • Payment notices when deposits or cheques have been made/mailed


When dealing with payroll, there’s a fine line to walk with this type of information. While SMS is secure, it isn’t highly secure. Bad guys with bad intent can get to the information and read it. So you shouldn’t include important personal details that are identifying. In the examples above, the employee used a code to authenticate himself to the company without providing personal information. And the company restricts the information it provides to include only details that can’t be used to identify the employee. In the examples here I included the employee name. You can even eliminate that and just use the employee ID.

Businesses can add these sorts of features by integrating an SMS service into their payroll software. But companies offering payroll services to other businesses can do the same, and expand the types of features offered to clients.

SMS messaging for payroll is a simple idea, but it can have tremendous benefits for both businesses and employees. If you want more information on how it can work for you, click on our live chat to speak with one of our representatives. You can also email or call us too.

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