employee time attendance

Time Theft: Big Deal or Overhyped?

Let’s start by stating the obvious: no-one wants to think of their trusted employees as thieves. It’s a serious, loaded word that definitely shouldn’t be bandied around willy-nilly. And even when we do think of workers stealing from their company, most people would imagine we were talking about something physical, which, depending on the nature of the business, could be anything from jewellery to food, trainers or computer software.

However, there is a particular kind of theft that seems ubiquitous these days, regardless of company size, sector or location: time theft. But what is it, is it really such a big deal and, more importantly, what can you do about it?

Firstly, what is it? In simple terms, time theft is when staff members get paid for time they didn’t work. And as company time equals company money, when they steal hours, they’re actually stealing pounds (dollars, euro…etc.). There are several ways employees can do this, but some of the most common types of time theft are:

  • Internet use Employees guilty of time theft, cite distraction as the number one reason why. And what’s more distracting than surfing random pages on the web? One leads to another, and before long they’re checking out novelty dog beds, even though they don’t own a pet. We all know how easy it is to be sucked into the internet vortex, but you really want to avoid your employees getting sucked in.
  • Taking longer breaks Going on a break ahead of time, returning late, taking more short breaks than correspond to the shift length… any one of these can happen to even the most dedicated of employees from time to time, even unwittingly. But when they happen deliberately and repeatedly, it becomes a problem that needs solving, before it leads to other employees following suit.
  • Working a second job Unfortunately, more and more people are finding themselves needing to take on another job to cover the increased living costs we are experiencing. Depending on your business’ policies, this is often not an issue, provided, of course, the second job is not carried out whilst your employee is supposed to be working for you…
  • Personal activities such as emails, social media, etc. At the end of the day, employees are just people, and people sometimes have personal issues that need their attention, we all do. But if the amount of personal phone calls, Facebook scrolling, WhatsApp messages or Christmas present ordering creeps up, you need to do something about it, not least because if you don’t, other employees will start doing the same.
  • Employee Time Attendance – Buddy Clocking Another way your employees can steal company time is by enlisting the help of a co-worker, and getting her/him to clock in or out on their behalf. This practice, known as buddy clocking, is used far more frequently than you may think, and covers everything from getting a colleague to clock you in if you’re running late, to leaving way ahead of schedule and getting someone else to clock you out later on, or to not even showing up at a job at all.
  • Modifying Time Cards If your business is still using paper timesheets or even spreadsheets to record your employees’ hours, beware: as well as innocent mistakes, which are simply a result of human error, it’s all too easy for workers to exaggerate their hours, cover up late arrivals and leave ahead of schedule.

Is it such a big deal?

In a word, yes. Say, for example, an employee of yours wastes a total of half an hour a day on things that they shouldn’t be doing. If they earn £15 an hour, and waste just 30 minutes a day, that equates to around £2,000 a year. And that’s just one employee. Now imagine you have 100 workers, who all do the same…

And here’s a number to make your eyes water: according to a study, stolen time cost UK businesses £116.6bn a year. According to research carried out by the British Heart Foundation, smoking breaks alone can cost businesses a staggering £8.4bn a year.*

So yes, without a doubt, time theft can become a very big deal indeed.

What can you do about it?

Here’s the good news: there is a wide range of things you can do that should have a very significant impact on the amount of time lost within your business. Not least, understanding why employees may get easily distracted and feel very demotivated in their job. Happy, engaged workers are far less likely to procrastinate in the first place, and that is really worth bearing in mind.

Aside from that, there are all sorts of procedural policies you can implement and enforce. But a great place to start if you really want to reduce – and hopefully eliminate altogether – time theft, is to firstly switch to a cloud-based clocking in system such as uAttend, to monitor employee time attendance. This will actively do the job of preventing time theft on your behalf, as it obliges workers to physically clock in and out, recording their exact hours and clock-in location.

For more information or to see how easily you could switch to a employee time attendance system, contact us for an informal chat and/or a free no-obligation demo.

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