September 23, 2021
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How to Calculate Hours Worked

Kathryn McCawley
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It would be wonderful if you didn’t have to worry about payroll. If suddenly, right after a job was complete, the skies opened up and a flawless paycheck, stamped with all of your hours worked, including overtime and all, (or your employees’ hours worked), fell upon you. 

But, this is the real world. 

And so, real people work hard to ensure this kind of accuracy all day long. So, whether you’re an employer figuring out how to calculate employee hours worked or a freelancer caught in the midst of how to add up your own work hours, we’re here to help. 

And while this might seem super elementary, how to calculate hours worked is an inevitability of employees and employers alike, and making mistakes due to being on auto-pilot is actually more common than you think. 

So let’s get into it.

How to calculate hours worked

There are several ways and many programs available to help employers learn how to calculate employee hours worked or keep freelancers on track with how to add up work hours. But the most common way to clock hours for payroll is using your start and end time. From there, you can figure out how to calculate hours worked per day and then add them up to your total hours for your upcoming pay cycle.

So here’s a step-by-step run-through of how to count hours, along with an example.

Step 1: Determine start and end time

Simple as that. Record what time you start and what time you end.

Again, whether you’re directing yourself or your employees, emphasize the importance of noting these times. If you're using an entertainment payroll solution, ensure your workers are inputting their correct start times. If your team is using Wrapbook, you can always adjust this if ever inputted incorrectly. 


Record that you started at 9:30 am and ended at 6:45 pm.

Step 2: Convert time to military time

Honestly, the biggest thing that messes people up when they are trying to figure out how to calculate time for work is the whole am/pm distinction. Don’t even try to work out the math from there. You’ll just confuse yourself. Instead, how to work out hours per day is negotiated much more easily through military time.

Because military time measures time within the 24-hour day cycle, it's a much easier subtraction process. Any time before 1:00 pm stays as is, but for 1:00 pm and onward, add 12 hours. So 8:15 am remains 8:00 hours, but 3:35 pm becomes 15:35 hours.


Start: 9:30 am = 9:30 hours

End: 6:45 pm = 18:45 hours

Step 3: Subtract start time from end time

Easy enough! Now, subtract the time you started from the time that you ended to get your hours worked.


18:45 – 9:30 = 9:15

Your work day was 9 hours and 15 minutes in total.

Step 4: Subtract unpaid breaks

When you’re dealing with an hourly pay rate, you’ll also have to factor in breaks when figuring out how to calculate employee hours worked or how to add up the hours you work on your own schedule (like when you took a midday Netflix break).

Let’s say that you took an hour for a break...


9:15 – 1 = 8:15

Now you have a total work day of 8 hours and 15 minutes.

For recording purposes, especially if you’re working with employees, unpaid breaks will often be shown as clocking in and out twice throughout the day. These will then be added to the timetable records. 

For example, say you or your employee takes their break from 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm. 

Sure, it may be easier to note this as a one-hour break, but you will likely have to get more specific than that. Keep in mind, production companies and some freelance positions might require stricter accounting. So, in addition to documenting the amount of time spent on breaks, you or your employer will also need to note when the person took their break.  And, of course, certain states have different laws here. 

Step 5: Convert to decimal format

Once you figure out how to calculate how many hours you work, you’ll then want to convert that to decimal form. That will ensure that it multiplies correctly with your hourly rate.

For the decimal value of the minutes, simply divide the minutes by 60.


15 minutes / 60 = 0.25

8.25 hours

Step 6: Add up total hours for pay period

With hourly positions, your time can vary from day to day; so, knowing how to calculate hours worked per day is a must. 

From there, you can add these days up and figure out how to work out hours worked per week or whatever pay cycle you may be on (weekly, biweekly, monthly, etc.). 

For that pay cycle’s wage, you then multiply your total hours by your hourly rate. 

Tracking hours worked as an employer or freelancer

The truth is, a lot of this is simple math. But real issues arise if you have no way to properly track your start time, end time, break clock-in, break clock-out, or overtime.

You have to ensure you’re paying people accurately and you’re getting paid the right amount. 

Tracking can get complicated, which is why most people rely on a payroll system to ease their tension. If you’re a producer, these calculations should be the last thing you have to worry about.

Below, we’ll go over some ways to track all of these things so you’re compliant and your employees are happy.

Hour tracking options:

1. Handwritten timecards

The old-fashioned way! Nothing wrong with handwritten timecards. Written timecards are still a perfectly acceptable method for many people and companies. Just be sure to check your math with a timecard calculator (or any calculator)! 

2. Time clocks

Some businesses prefer figuring out how to calculate employee hours worked through time clocks. Time clocks are a device where an employee can have their clocking in and clock out recorded, either physically or digitally. A physical version would be the example of a punch clock that marks a card with your clock-in and clock-out time.

More frequently, you see time clocks come in the form of software. Employees will log into an app and clock in and out accordingly.

3. Spreadsheets

Many people, especially freelancers, enjoy the autonomy of controlling how they record their hours. For individuals or smaller teams, excel spreadsheets are a fantastic option for figuring it out. You can design the sheets to use the formulas mentioned and personalize them to your needs.

4. Payroll companies

As just one person, manual calculations can get painful fast. But once overtime creeps its way in, or you are responsible for paying several employees, it gets a lot more complicated. 

In the film and TV production world, there will be many hires holding various positions, all with different rates. Sometimes, the same person may even have two different rates on a single project. Not to mention, union rates and guidelines must be followed, along with keeping up with overtime laws. 

This is why more and more businesses are turning to payroll solutions. Honestly, it's just so much easier. As a payroll company, Wrapbook figures out how to calculate hours, including overtime. We act as an employer of record and administer paychecks, and we keep track of payroll taxes.

Digital timecards allow payroll to get done faster with transparency between the producer and crew member. 

But regardless of the payroll company you choose, choosing one is what matters. A good payroll solution will do all of these calculations for you, so you can focus on all of the other things it takes to run a business. 

What about tracking overtime?

In addition to keeping track of your daily work hours and making sure they are correct for your upcoming work cycle, you need to keep close track of your employees’ weekly hours. 

For hourly workers, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) ensures overtime pay for workers who exceed over 40 hours per week. For the hours beyond those first 40, employees will be entitled to time and a half pay. 


Your employee works 52 hours in a particularly busy production week. Their hourly rate is $22 per hour. 

Pay for the first 40 hours: 

22 x 40 = $880

Pay for overtime 

52 - 40 = 12 hours overtime

22 x 1.5 = $33 per hour overtime pay

12 x 33 = $396 of overtime pay

Weekly pay: 

$880 + $396 = $1276

Figuring out how to workout hours worked per week and how to stay on top of it is particularly important, especially if you’re an employer. If you aren’t paying overtime, you can get into significant trouble with the US Department of Labor. 

As an employer, your responsibilities expand significantly. You aren’t just working out how to calculate your work hours, you’re figuring out how to calculate employee hours worked for multiple people.

Staying on track for your hours is incredibly important as you can face legal action if you’re not fairly remunerating your employees. 

As an independent worker, there are a lot of responsibilities that fall on your shoulders in addition to the daily work you do in your field. 

Figuring out how to calculate your work hours is one of those painful additions to the day that is actually incredibly important to ensure that you’re appropriately compensated. 

As gig work expands, you’ll likely work with companies who are using tools to make this process easier and mutually beneficial for you and them. 

Wrapping up

How to calculate time for film and TV work is one of those seemingly mundane tasks, but it can be a source of significant anxiety when factors like blended pay rates and overtime come into play. Just remember, it comes down to good bookkeeping. So, whether you want to give an Excel timecard calculator a try or have a payroll company handle the calculations for you, you have plenty of options. 

Don't hesitate to reach out to a team member if you have any questions about calculations or for general payroll insight.

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Last Updated 
September 23, 2021


At Wrapbook, we pride ourselves on providing outstanding free resources to producers and their crews, but this post is for informational purposes only as of the date above. The content on our website is not intended to provide and should not be relied on for legal, accounting, or tax advice.  You should consult with your own legal, accounting, or tax advisors to determine how this general information may apply to your specific circumstances.

About the author
Kathryn McCawley

Kathryn is a Los Angeles-based artist-designer passionate about everything entertainment. As both an illustrator and writer, she is interested in how the two worlds meet through animation. You can frequently find her either at your local plant shop or zipping around on roller skates.

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