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Time Theft: What is It And How Can Your Business Avoid It?

By Adam Day

June 21, 2021

These days almost everything is done through computers.

Time punching, administration, data entry…  The list goes on. In fact, in the modern-day, all of these processes would be almost impossible without the use of technology. However, despite all this convenience, in most cases, it hasn’t been able to eliminate time theft at work. 

Easy access to the internet has made it more difficult than ever to ensure staff are actually working during their hours. In fact, it’s estimated that on average employees steal around 4.5 hours a week from employers. However, as time and attendance experts, we’re here to help. 

We’re going to look at the 7 most common time theft practices your business should look out for and how Timerack may be able to help you side step all of them. Let’s take a look:

1. Beating the (Time) Clock

Many businesses use timesheets to track when their employees go on and off from their lunch breaks. However, it’s not unusual for employees to find ways they can ‘trick’ the clock and get billed for the time they actually spent on break.

For manual systems, this usually involves rounding down their time on break when completing a timecard. However, electronic systems are also not impervious to this, as employees can wait until the next quarter-hour before punching out.

2. Buddy Punching

This refers to the practice of having a buddy punch in for you. It’s one of the oldest tricks in the book and can be very hard to catch, especially for a manual time and attendance system.

Fortunately, the use of biometric time and attendance can almost completely eliminate this tactic. Biometric time clocks require staff to punch in using a face or finger scan and, as a result, make buddy punching impossible. 

Want to learn some other ways you can avoid buddy punching? Read our blog What is Buddy Punching? [And How to Avoid It?]

3. Goofing Off

Technology may change, but it still remains a major challenge to keep staff “on the trigger” during work hours.

Goofing off, or even slacking off, comes in many forms:

  • Excessive time spent chatting with work colleagues
  • Spending too much time on personal phone calls
  • Unauthorized or extended breaks
  • Napping

Of course, a small amount of goofing off is good for workplace morale and can help teams bond. However, without sounding like the fun police, a tight lid should be kept on it to ensure it doesn’t disrupt work too much. 

4. Excessive Internet Use

Workplaces that require staff to spend most of their days in front of a computer can make for tempting environments.

Furthermore, even with firewall systems, employees may use their own smartphones to surf the net. The big distractor is social media. However, other unauthorized uses of the internet include online shopping, checking personal emails, playing games, and operating another business on company time.

This not only wastes time, it also increases the danger of a cybersecurity attack. If your business involves staff being online all day, it’s good practice to remind them to use the internet responsibly while in the office.

5. Swipe Card Shenanigans

Swipe cards are a common way to control access points for employees and can also double as time clock cards.

However, while these are meant as a way to track employees, they can also work against this. Common excuses include “I lost/forgot my swipe card” or “so-and-so lost their card and I loaned them mine.”

Even when legit, this can still count as time theft and be a major problem for management to control.

Looking to avoid swipe card mishaps? Check out our time clock hardware and find a solution for your business. 

6. Long Lunches and Unauthorized Breaks

Extended and unauthorized lunch breaks are a major cause of time theft.

Without a system to track employees as they go on and off their breaks, a 30-minute break can easily turn into a 45-minute one.

Of course, the other grey area is smoke breaks. These can be particularly problematic for lost time and productivity. One study by Ohio State University found that an employee who smokes costs an employer an average of $5,816 annually when compared to an employee who doesn’t smoke.

To tackle this issue, it’s a good idea to make sure you have a clear employee break policy – including smoke breaks – and familiarize yourself with employee break laws in your state. 

7. Hide and Seek

When a job requires an employee to be on the move and out of the workplace, it can be difficult to know what they’re actually up to and whether they’re clocking in at the right location.

Without a system of checks or balances, an unethical employee could take advantage of this. This can be very hard to detect and usually only comes out after a customer files a complaint or when it becomes painfully clear that an employee is taking far longer with a task than they should be.

If you have a remote workforce, it’s a good idea to invest in a mobile time and attendance app with geofencing. This way employees can only track in from a fixed location and their location can be monitored during the hours they are clocked in. 

How Timerack Can Help Prevent Workplace Time Theft

As you can see, the consequences of time theft can be severe for a business and should be considered no different from stealing. However, getting on top of it can be made a lot easier by using Timerack’s time and attendance solutions.

Here are just a few features our time and labor solutions offer:

  • Biometric time and attendance clock in and clock out
  • Geofencing time clock apps for remote employee
  • In built HR documentation that can remind employees of their work expectations and requirements

So, whatever industry you’re in and however big your business is, we have a time and solution that suits your needs. Contact us today to learn more.



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