All About Time Theft & How to Prevent It

all about time theft

What is time theft?

Employee time theft comes in many shapes in forms and is a large hidden expense for business. From something unintentional as forgetting to clock out for unpaid breaks to deliberately misrepresenting true hours worked during a shift are all considered time theft. This article covers everything you need to know about employee time theft: what it is, how it is done, why it happens, the financial impact, and prevention.

How do employees steal time?

  • Misrepresenting timesheets – this is sometimes referred to “padding” or “rounding” when an employee exaggerates a timesheet to overcompensate for being late to work or leaving work early.
  • Buddy punching – this is a habit that many bring to the workplace from their college days. This is when one employee asks another co-worker to clock in on their behalf (swipe, punch, scan).
  • Extending breaks – this is when an employee takes a longer break than allotted (I.e., taking a 2-hour lunch break instead of the 1-hour given).
  • Abusing company time for personal errands – This becomes time theft when company time is overused for completing personal tasks. Most employers understand work-life balance and provide latitude for their employees to attend to personal matters. However, some employees take it to whole other level and abuse the system (I.e., on the phone everyday talking with friends, running a side business).
  • Company assets for personal use – this is when employees use the internet, business equipment, and software for non-work-related tasks (I.e., browsing social media, streaming movies, printing flyers, using company software for a side business).
  • Disappearing – This is when employees make an appearance but find a way to sneak out for the rest of the workday. This is common with jobs that are mobile, remote, or require travel as they are more difficult to track.

Why does time theft happen?

There are many reasons why employees may commit time theft because it is convenient for them to do so. A motive can be seemingly innocent as running a few minutes late and not wanting to get in trouble. Maybe stealing time is a form of retaliation for not feeling a part of the team or unappreciated for the work produced. It can also be an accessible way for employees to “multi-task” and catch up with the several personal tasks that need attention. Or possibly it is as silly as the manual timesheet submission process is inconvenient, so it is easier for employees calculate total hours worked by inputting whole numbers vs actual (i.e., 8 hours vs 7.52 hours).

The Financial Impact of Time Theft

The cost of time theft can be detrimental for employers financially. Based on a study conducted by Software Advice of hourly-rate employees, 45% of respondents said recording inaccurate hours worked is the most common method of time theft. Therefore, according to Market Research Future, these recording inaccuracies equate to $7.4 billion lost per workday in the US. Employers need a clear understanding of the ROI on employee productivity to truly recognize financial standing. Therefore, to defeat time theft, systems need to be in place that provide data points and create workforce visibility.

Preventing Time Theft

Prevention starts with understanding the underlying cause of time theft, so you can better adapt to your employees’ needs and put systems in place that support work productivity. Many organizations opt for an automated time & attendance software in combination with employee engagement, and workforce policies for a comprehensive solution time theft.

Time & Attendance Software

A simple solution is using software to automate manual data entry and eliminate the time theft problem. Such software provides each employee with unique login information, which can limit buddy punching. The way the workforce operate is not so cut and dry, but rather requires custom, multi-layer management.

Implementing a time & attendance software like UpGlide Timesheets is a win-win for employers and their employees. It makes it easier for companies to understand resource allocation and for employees to submit their timesheets. With UpGlide Timesheets, employees can log their hours and record expenses from anywhere on any device with UpGlide’s web and mobile-friendly interface. Records are employer-accessible in a uniform format for timely payroll processing. In addition, the tool features a tiered approval function to make sure that no timesheet goes unnoticed.

Check out tips on selecting a time & attendance solution.

Understanding Employee Needs

Take time to build rapport with your employees, so they do not feel the need to sneak/hide. Open the lines of communication. Let your employees know you understand and all you ask is for communication in return. If employees feel safe and a sense of trust, they are more likely to vocalize what is going on. For instance, an employee will communicate the need to leave for an emergency such at his/her child is sick at school knowing the employer understands.

  • Monitor without prying – is important to monitor employees time spent on work in the best interest of the business, but it is just as important to not micromanage. Do not overstep or intrude on everything your employees do because this will cause mistrust and tarnish the employer-employee relationship.
  • Consider flexibility – giving flexibility promotes a positive work culture and deters employees from feeling the need to steal time as you understand their needs. Those with remote or project-based work arrangements may place greater value on flexibility. A compromise is to define core work hours are, whether this be times employees must be online or attend a meeting to establish accountability. Sometimes being present is not a core indicator of productivity.

Establish Policies, Processes & Procedures

Employees may believe that some level of time theft is “normal” or “not a big deal” such as running 10 minutes late here and there. When it comes to doing something excessively, ideas on what this looks like vary from person to person. Therefore, as an employer, it is important to establish policies that make it clear what is an acceptable level of flexibility and what will not be tolerated. Outline all expectations in your employment handbook.

Time is just one metric of productivity. More so, ensuring the work is completed and deadlines are met is what counts. Promote time management to set employees up for success in fulfilling their obligations.

About UpGlide

UpGlide is the cloud-based total talent management platform that allows you to manage candidates, employees, vendors, and independent contractors in a central location. UpGlide software is customizable to meet the role-specific needs of direct employers, staffing agencies, and MSPs in managing their workforce and vendors. Use UpGlide to support any piece of the workforce lifecycle, streamline program administration, and enable data exchange across external management systems.

UpGlide Timesheets

UpGlide Timesheets is a time and expense solution for direct employers and staffing agencies to effectively manage a multi-layered workforce. The application works with any company seeking a straightforward time and expense management tool that conforms with its business model.. The platform is customizable to meet business-specific needs without the restrictions experienced with other timesheet technology platforms.