5 Ways Employees Steal Time At Work

5 Ways Employees Steal Time At Work 400 267 Balance Point Team

5 ways employees steal time at work

Are you aware of how productive your employees are?

A quick glance at their phone might seem harmless but every time that employees check their social media accounts, they’re actually stealing from you.

They’re stealing time.

Participating in personal activities while at work is an example of time theft. It is when an employee accepts pay from their employer for work that they have not actually done, or for time they have not actually put into their work.

Employee time theft can hurt your business by decreasing employee productivity and costing you money.

It’s important to address situations when employees are habitually late to work, not clocking in properly, and/or participating in time-wasting activities. 

Check out these top 5 ways employees steal time and work and ways you can prevent it.

Abusing Flexible Schedules

Remote work is becoming more and more popular.  This makes tracking an employee’s efficiency and productivity very difficult. You might not notice at first, but employees have gotten more creative in knowing how to get paid for work they didn’t actually do.

Remote workers have a more flexible schedule. Typically they don’t need to drive anywhere and can easily roll out of bed and jump onto their computers to start working. Using the whole “I got caught in traffic” when being late for work, a conference call, or an important meeting is no excuse.

Time theft can easily occur when dealing with remote workers. There’s no one there to break up a water cooler break, a trip to the kitchen, or to monitor a lunch hour. It’s important to keep track of the hours logged by your remote employers. If the employee forgets to log hours or if your company doesn’t have it’s own time tracking system, it’s easy for time to added to the amount of hours you’re being billed for.

Even if your remote employee is on salary and that person is logging 40 hours of work per week, is the work reflecting the time put in? It’s important to have sufficient time tracking systems in place along with proper communication to make sure you’re on top of the amount of hours your remote employee is working.

Buddy Punching

Companies who use traditional time clocks can easily have a situation where one employee clocks in for another employee, even though they aren’t at work yet. Usually this situation arises for hourly paid workers who are running late to work. Nobody wants to jeopardize a part of their paycheck if they are running late, but should companies keep forking out the cash if employees aren’t acting responsibly?

With all the technology available, it’s a good idea to make the upgrade. Biometric time clocks allow employees to have their finger scanned to verify attendance. This solution can eliminate “buddy punching” entirely.

Using Technology For Personal Use

using technology for personal useTechnology is everywhere and it’s hard to escape it even if we want to. It’s not uncommon for employees to check Facebook or their email, maybe make a quick phone call if they are on break, but how much of that is spilled over into their work time?

It may even stem from having slow systems or processes in place that very small windows of downtime. They click over to log into the system, the loading screen pops up, so they open their phone “real quick” to kill the 50 seconds the computer is taking, which turns into a 10 minute long Instagram scroll.

We consume so much technology throughout the day that it’s natural for us react without thinking to a simple text, email, or news update on our phone. However, employees can often turn to their phone on days they are feeling lazy, tired, and trying to avoid work.

Extended Break Times

It’s important that employees get a mental break at some point during the day, but it’s not ok for employees to take advantage of that time. If your business doesn’t require employees to clock out before breaks, a simple 30 minute lunch break can quickly extend.

Managers can use some of these tips to help assess the situation.

If employees aren’t required to punch in and out for break times, it’s ideal to have a window of time employees can take lunch. This way you can see which employees leave during the designated time and how long they’re gone for.

If an employee seems to be taking advantage of the time given for breaks, try addressing the situation before it escalates. Outline the expectations your business has for employee attendance. Managers can even review the employee handbook to cover those topics.

However, it is important that your employees know that you do care about their health. Encouraging your employees to take a break to recharge can actually help productivity and decrease the amount of work distractions that pop up during the day.

Smokers also cost employers large amounts of money. The number is more impressive too:

Per an Ohio State University study, workers who smoke each cost their employers $5,800 a year.

This amount is due primarily to lost productivity and more breaks.

Employers aren’t legally obligated to allow employees to take smoke breaks. However, if your company does allow employees to step out for a smoke, you might want to ask them to make up the hours at the end of the day to make up for lost time. This could be a way to keep both parties happy.


socializingA friendly work environment is healthy for employees. It’s a great thing when co-workers can form friendships and feel comfortable in the workplace.

Sometimes this can be a disadvantage to managers. Socializing in the workplace can be a huge time-wasting activity. Coworkers can easily get off track by having non work-related conversations.

It’s important that managers keep an eye on the situation and get employees back on track. If you have one or two “chatty Cathy’s or Colin’s” in the workplace, be sure to approach them in private. Don’t make a scene in front of other employees.

Be transparent with them and be sure they know the policy on work deadlines. Someone who has hard deadlines and intense projects to work on, doesn’t have time to spend a half hour socializing. Maybe it’s time that employee had a performance review.

If you find you have a group of employees who are socializing frequently and seem to be distracted, take a deeper look at the situation. Maybe they need to problem solve an issue or as a group relieve stress during a busy time. Set up a time to speak to the group together to discuss what can be done.

How HR Managers Can Make A Difference

You don’t want employees to feel isolated, but they need to know the limitations of their working environment. Consider blocking certain sites from work computers, such as, social media websites and personal email.

If you’re aware of an employee that’s wasting too much time at work and ultimately costing the company money, it’s important to have a conversation about it to make them aware. If workplace rules about time and attendance and/or productivity are in the employee handbook, find time to review it with them. It’s important for a company to have happy and healthy employees who are also productive at their jobs.

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