Few things cripple productivity and make businesses lose money like workplace theft. Employers in the U.S. are losing billions of dollars every year to workplace malpractices perpetuated by their workers. Time theft is perhaps the most subtle of these money leaking activities.
Here’s why: a good chunk of employers pay their workers based on the number of hours an employee spends on work. When some of these employees steal time, it means employers have to pay for services they didn’t get. It’s a loss for the company.
Employee Time theft often goes under the radar for two main reasons:
- There are no systems in place to vet that employees are honest when filling out their time sheets.
- Some forms of time theft are so subtle they are overlooked. For example, if an employee spends extra 5 minutes for a lunch break, returns to the office, and uses some work time to attend to personal needs like being on the phone with family members, inexperienced managers tend to overlook it. And again, in some office settings, there is no way to know if your worker is spending time scrolling social media when they should be working.
No matter how subtle it seems, time theft rids the company of productive time and makes the employer spend money that he’s not accountable for. Businesses that understand how time theft affects their finances tend to set up systems to prevent employees from stealing time. Yet, the American Payroll Association reports that 75% of businesses in the U.S. lose money annually due to time theft. If you’re reading this and wondering how to identify time theft in your organization, this piece will show you!
What is employee time theft?
Time theft occurs when employees get paid for hours they didn’t work that gets documented in their time sheets. Since most workers are paid by the hours as against payments per project, businesses require their workers to fill out manual or digital time sheets for every hour they work. They use this information to roll out payments on payday. But it becomes theft when an employee documents time they didn’t work and are being paid for it.
How employees are stealing time?
The most common ways employees steal time include:
1. Round-ups and down:
If work starts by 8 am, and an employee comes in by 8:05 am, they might just round the time to 8 am since it’s “just” 5 minutes late. Similarly, an employee can leave the office by 5:50 pm and round it up to 6 pm. These little round-ups and downs will eventually sum up to long hours and weeks over a stretch of time. Round-ups also happen when employees are working remotely, and they have to document the number of hours they work daily.
2. Buddy punching:
This is more common among office buddies (hence the name). Buddy punching is when an employee runs late but asks their buddies to fill in time sheets for them. It’s a habit most people learn in college.
3. Spending more time than necessary on essential breaks:
It’s impossible to require your employee to work eight straight hours without breaking for lunch or having personal time. Ideally, businesses have a lunch break between work hours, but it becomes time theft when employees spend more time than the actual lunch break time, or on any other break, the business affords its workers.
Industries prone to employee time theft!
Time is indeed money, and nobody wants to make a compromise on that. A multinational company, say, IT-based giant, financial companies, or NBFCs (Non- Banking Financial Companies), healthcare, and advertising industries are key players in the market. These industries have a larger workforce and multiple offices across nations. To track thousands of remote workers operating in these industries becomes challenging, leading to increased employee time theft.
Here are two tips on how to know if your employee is stealing your time:
- Check if they are meeting deadlines
- Assign project supervisors in every department to observe employee behavior and report directly to you
How to prevent employee time theft?
Let’s start with something you must avoid. Don’t micromanage your workers! This management style has proven to be counterproductive, and you may end up losing your top performers. Micromanagement makes workers feel distrusted and undervalued. The work environment would feel unsafe for them, and they would want out.
What to do instead?
1. Set up a workers’ meeting
This could be a department meeting headed by managers or an entire workers meeting; it all depends on the size of your business. The most important goal of this meeting should be to educate your employees. Many workers don’t know how time theft affects the company. Most people don’t even know it’s a crime. Educate them. Define what time theft means in your organization, and set up disciplinary measures to take if anyone defaults. These measures will help keep your employees from stealing time. And oh! Try not to forget to take action when an employee is a defaulter.
2. Use time management software
More than 1 in 3 U.S. employees are still using outdated time tracking techniques like paper time sheets and punch cards. Upgrading from manual to software time sheets will help you to track employee productivity easily. It also makes recording easier for employees.
RemoteDesk: Helps calculate employee time theft in no time!
RemoteDesk, a proven software for identifying time theft, is transforming the business sector by the day. COVID-19 has taken a toll on remote teams, and as a result, subsequent employee burnout is spiking up daily. Each industry has swerved into remote working, and thus, fails to observe challenges like time theft.
RemoteDesk’s URL tracking ability and time tracking tool help detect and flag the number of hours a remote agent spends on restricted apps and websites. It further evaluates billable and non-billable hours of an employee, making the entire employee monitoring process hassle-free.
3. Assign tasks properly
Sometimes, you can’t blame employees for being idle. When an employee completes his work assigned to him, and there is still some time left, normal office policy doesn’t allow him to go home, so he passes the time engaging in personal activities. Such an employee is underemployed. If you want all the work hours to be productive, you need to ensure your employees have meaningful work to fill the idle gaps in their shift. In situations where the employee only works when a customer shows up — a bartender, you need to show them other stuff they can cover before customers start flocking in. And don’t make those activities look like one-time side activities. Tell them it’s a part of their job.
The Bottom line :
Time theft is a serious issue because it makes you lose lots of money. The more employees are stealing your time, the more money you lose. The tips in this guide will help you identify time theft and deal with it promptly. But remember not to go overboard when taking action. Be sure to make your employees understand how time theft is affecting organizational productivity. Most of them will stop when they see the severe effects of their actions.