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A Punch in Time

A Punch in Time

Once we are past the carefree days of childhood, we enter the daunting world of time management as an adult. Many lower and middle-class citizens have punched a clock for work one way or another, whether it was with a physical time card or the stroke of a key from a computer. No matter how advanced technology becomes, the average company will always need their employees to clock in and out.

Is it just me, or did hearing that old-fashioned punch in time clock stamp your time card give you the satisfaction of knowing you would be paid for your day’s work? Somehow punch in time clocks remind me of that old movie The Christmas Story, which portrayed the fathers and mothers of middle-class families working double shifts to get the best affordable gifts for their children.

A time clock is used to help record the clock at places of business to record the hours worked by employees. My imagination seems to drift to the early eighties when I think of punch in time clocks. As I reminisce about this classic invention, I can see the employees from the early eighties having conversations and engaging in small talk with one another just before it’s their turn to punch the clock for a shift or lunch break. They might be sharing the latest office gossip or relaying a funny story.

The saying “if it’s not broke don’t fix it” resonates with me about a punch in time clock. Today’s technology uses a wide range of biometrics as a substitute for logins or clock in capabilities. Although some companies have leaned in this direction, most still gave automated versions of punch clocks or a time recorder. This helps eliminate payroll staff from manually inputting hours.

Punching a clock at work usually presents a demand for your physical presence. Punching time clocks can also help give employees a sense of when their work day begins. They have to be there, in person, to punch in, and by so doing, their employer knows they are there and presumably ready to work.

Sometimes I wonder how comfortable people are with biometric systems identifying who they are today. The feeling of somehow becoming a number in a pool of organized information can be a bit demoralizing at times. The traditional sense of how businesses have been run in America seems to always have been built on trust between human beings. Now, corporate America is asking more than two billion people to trust a computer system. The irony of it all brings up the question, “Why do corporation owners trust these systems so much?”

Most small businesses do very well because of the interpersonal relationships they develop with their employees, and most employees give their full potential at jobs when they personally know the owner. A majority of these types of businesses still commonly use punch in time clocks.

I think people will eventually speak for themselves with regard to the way working hours are tracked. Usually, when a new gadget or technology is implemented into society, some embrace it and some rebel against it. Although neither side is more correct than the other, they both have their ideas of the pros and cons of the matter.

While one side of the population strives to make things more efficient, faster, and more accurate, another side struggles to either keep things the same or adapt to what’s new. I personally embrace both sides of the fence. New clock-in technology may currently discourage interpersonal skills, but the progression of this technology gets better every year.

As technology changes portions of our lives and reconstructs our future with more innovative strategies, I hope many will keep an open mind to the possibilities of new systematic structures. That can help advance our population into being more efficient and accurate.

Punch in time clocks will always be a part of our past, and may still be a part of our future, as many old-fashioned ways of doing things overshadow the new. Personally, I would be honored to punch a clock for old time’s sake just once more.

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by Harvey Carr // Harvey Carr is a contributor to Businessing Magazine.

Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.