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Employee Time Theft: How to Uncover and Prevent It

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🚨 Time theft alert! 🚨

Are your employees taking a little too much “me time” on the clock? You know, browsing social media, taking extended breaks, or maybe even sneaking in a quick nap (we’ve all been there, no judgment).

If this sounds familiar, it’s time to take employee time theft seriously.  After all, every minute (or hour) that’s wasted is one less minute (or hour) of productivity for your business. Reports claim that 20 percent of every dollar earned by a business is lost to employee time theft.

But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered!

In this article, we’ll explore the different forms of time theft, why it’s important to prevent it, and how to put systems in place to protect your business.

So, buckle up and get ready to say goodbye to time theft for good.

Let’s get started!

What Is Employee Time Theft?

Employee time theft is when an employee takes more time off or works less than they are paid for. It’s when an employee shirks their responsibilities and spends company time on personal activities instead of working or clocks in for a coworker who isn’t actually there.

There are a few different ways that employees can engage in time theft:

1. Extended breaks 🍴

This is when an employee takes longer breaks, either by stretching out their lunch break or taking multiple coffee breaks throughout the day. Even a few minutes here and there can add up over the course of a week or month.

2. Clock punching fraud 🕑

This is when an employee punches in or out for someone else (buddy punching) or punches in before they actually arrive at work. It can be as simple as an employee arriving late to work or leaving early.

3. Personal phone calls and emails 📱📧

It’s all too common for employees to make personal calls or check their personal emails or even check their social media accounts during work hours. While a few minutes here and there might not seem like a big deal, excessive cyberloafing can quickly add up to a whole lot of lost productivity.

4. Excessive socializing with coworkers 🗣️

While it’s important for employees to have a good working relationship with their coworkers, excessive socializing can be a form of time theft if their conversations disrupt the flow of work.

5. Extensive smoke breaks 🚬

When an employee takes excessive smoke breaks, it can cost your company a pretty penny, since they abandon their workstations for long periods of time. Not only does this ruin their own productivity, but can also impact their peers, as they are forced to pick up the slack.

6. Excessive sick leave or vacation time 🤒🏖

Some employees might take more sick leave or vacation time than they’re entitled to, either by calling in sick when they’re not actually sick or by taking longer vacations than they’ve been approved for.

7. A little game of hide and seek 🔍

When you’ve got folks on the go–like landscapers, electricians, and cleaners–it’s tough to know if they’re really where they’re supposed to be. Without proper time-tracking tools, it’s like they just vanish into thin air.

Why Does Employee Time Theft Happen?

There could be a few reasons why employees might be tempted to engage in time theft:

1. Lax timekeeping policies

If it’s easy for employees to get away with clocking in late or taking long breaks, they might be tempted to take advantage of the system.

2. Personal circumstances

Financial problems or childcare issues can be major stressors, and sometimes employees might feel like they have no other choice but to fudge their timesheets in order to make ends meet.

3. Job dissatisfaction

If an employee is unhappy at work, they might start to resent putting in extra effort, leading them to cut corners when it comes to their time.

Regardless of the reason, employee time theft is always a big NO.

It hurts the company’s bottom line, and it’s not fair to all the other hardworking folks on the team. Time to nip this behavior in the bud!

How to Uncover Employee Time Theft

The first step in preventing employee time theft is to identify any potential problems in the workplace. Ask yourselves these questions:

  •  Are your employees constantly checking their phones?
  •  Do they have a tendency to stretch out their work hours for no apparent reason?
  •  Do they request too many days off or call in sick frequently?
  •  Do they seem disinterested or unproductive while on the clock?
  •  Do they take on personal tasks during work hours?
  •  Do they engage in activities that aren’t related to their job duties?
  • Do some of your employees take excessive smoke breaks?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, it’s possible that employee time theft is occurring in your workplace. But don’t worry, once you’ve identified the problem areas, you can take steps to prevent it from happening again.

How to Prevent Employee Time Theft

An essential part of running any successful business is maintaining a level of accountability when it comes to employees’ time management. Time theft can be a tricky concept to understand, however, there are numerous ways companies can help prevent it.

Preventing employee time theft is all about having clear policies, strong enforcement, and a culture of good time management. Listed below are four ways using which you can say goodbye to employee time theft for good!

1. Create clear, specific time and attendance policies

Make sure your employees know exactly what is expected of them in terms of punctuality, breaks, and overtime. When your policies are clear and specific, there’s less room for misunderstanding or confusion. This can help prevent employees from accidentally (or intentionally) violating your policies.

Having your policies clearly laid out in an employee handbook ensures that all employees have access to the information they need to understand and follow your policies. Make sure to communicate your policies to your employees regularly. This could include regular reminders or providing additional training or resources.

2. Making good time and attendance part of your culture

Making good time and attendance part of your company culture is all about setting the right tone and expectations for your employees. When your employees see that punctuality and respect for time are valued by the company, they’ll be more likely to adopt these values themselves.

Here’s how you can create a positive, productive environment that helps prevent employee time theft:

  • Lead by example: As a leader, you have the power to set the tone for your team. By consistently showing up on time and being respectful of your own time on the clock, you can set a good example for your employees to follow.
  • Reward good time management: When you recognize employees who demonstrate good time management skills, you encourage others to follow suit. This could be as simple as praising them in front of their colleagues or offering small perks or bonuses.
  • Hold people accountable: It’s important to hold employees accountable for their time management, both when they’re doing well and when they’re not meeting expectations. This sends a message that good time and attendance is a priority for the company.

3. Identify and address employee disengagement

One bad apple can spoil the whole bunch – when it comes to time theft, that means one disengaged employee could be a costly problem.

Take early action and curb any chances of skimming off the top: Start by recognizing signs of possible unhappiness among your team, then find out what’s going on behind closed doors without delay.

  • Could they need extra support?
  • Are expectations unclear?
  • Is there just an overall lack of recognition making them feel undervalued?

Get to grips with root causes and watch as productivity (and morale) skyrocket!

4. Invest in automated time tracking tools

Automated time tracking tools can be a powerful ally in your quest to prevent employee time theft. These tools can help you keep track of your employees’ hours, ensuring that they’re being paid accurately and that your business is running smoothly.

Implementing an automated time and attendance system like Zuper can go a long way in this area – with features like punch-in/punch-out times, you’ll have a better idea of where and how your staff is spending their work hours. Here are a few ways that Zuper can help you stay clear of employee time theft:

a. Accuracy

Using Zuper Mobile App, field workforce and back-office staff can track their working hours accurately, eliminating the need for manual time tracking and reducing the risk of errors or discrepancies.

b. Geofencing

Zuper enables you to keep an eye on your field technicians’ productivity with smart geofencing. Track shift-based punch-ins and outs to see if they’re spending too much time on a job or underperforming.

c. Privacy

Zuper helps you find the delicate balance between privacy and productivity by only allowing access to employee locations when they’re on the clock.

d. Facial recognition

Keep your time tracking ultra-secure with Zuper’s AI-powered facial authentication. Capture a snapshot of your technician’s face and authenticate it with your employee database to ensure that only authorized technicians are clocking in and out.

e. Reporting

Zuper’s built-in reporting and analytics module allows you to create timesheet reports in a matter of minutes. You can either choose a pre-defined template or create a report from scratch to identify any potential issues.


Time theft is a serious business risk right now, but it’s not hopeless. But with the right approach, you can discourage your employees from engaging in time theft and improve your business’s bottom line at the same time.

By taking steps like creating clear policies, making good attendance a part of your culture, identifying and addressing signs of disengagement, and using powerful workforce management technology, you can stop time theft in its tracks.

So, keep employee time theft from bringing your business down. Be vigilant, take measures, invest in time-tracking software, and watch your profits soar! ✈

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