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Ways your employees are stealing time at work!

Introduction Employees can commit time theft whether it be intentionally or unintentionally. Statistic Brain estimates that employees stealing time at work costs businesses $50 billion every year. It is a prevalent factor across all industries that affects companies’ payroll and productivity levels. Time theft comes in many forms depending on the area of work you are in. […]


stealing time at work

Employees can commit time theft whether it be intentionally or unintentionally. Statistic Brain estimates that employees stealing time at work costs businesses $50 billion every year. It is a prevalent factor across all industries that affects companies’ payroll and productivity levels. Time theft comes in many forms depending on the area of work you are in. In this blog, we will look at the various ways employees steal time at work on a daily basis.

How are your employees stealing time at work

1. Unauthorized clocking in and out

Employees typically get a co-worker on their level to clock in or out for them when they’re not in attendance. For example, if they are running late, they will simply get a co-worker to clock in for them. This is called buddy punching and occurs when a co-worker might clock an employee in when they aren’t actually there.

Stealing time at work in this way costs companies in the United States hundreds of millions in payroll expenses each year. Since payroll is one of the highest costs for employers, buddy punching could result in sizable expenses for many businesses.

Time clock with buttons and interface - stealing time at work

Improperly clocking a worker in or out is a deliberate offense that should result in discipline or termination after corrective measures have been taken and ignored. You should choose a time and attendance system that makes it difficult, if not impossible, for employees to clock in or out for one another. With software such as Celayix, you can only clock in on your specific mobile phone. This reduces the occurrence of buddy punching.

2. Disappearing on the job

In some work environments, particularly large offices and outdoor work sites, it can be easy for an employee to stroll off unbeknownst to a busy supervisor. It could take time for this theft of company time to even be noticed; unfortunately, it can seriously impact operational efficiency.

Companies with large offices and even recreational areas for employees are more likely to encounter this issue than other workplaces. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies have been working remotely. Remote work offers many different distractions to employees, from chores and errands to leisure activities.

To identify this problem, you should monitor which employees’ productivity has decreased. If you suspect an employee of stealing time at work, keep closer tabs on that individual. If your employees are remote, random check-ins by video conference could help ensure they are at their workstations.

3. Abusing breaks and personal time

Your employees should be encouraged to take a break. It’s great for their mental health and productivity. In a lot of cases, you’re also legally required to give your employees paid breaks during their shifts.

stealing time at work on coffee break

It’s also okay for employees to occasionally handle personal business from the office. A healthy work environment leaves room for people to balance their life priorities with their work. As long as productivity doesn’t suffer, there’s no harm in employees taking a break during company time. However, problems only arise when employees abuse their breaks and personal time, taking longer breaks and causing issues that cost you thousands.

For example, a team member who makes phone calls from work to make an appointment is probably not stealing time at work. You don’t need them to clock out to make a quick call. On the other hand, an employee who regularly browses social media, does their online shopping, chats with their friends, and drives to the local coffee shop a couple of times every day is.

There are two things you should consider about this type of time theft:

  1.  How much are employees actually working while they’re on-site? You could be paying for hours’ worth of work each day that never gets done.
  2.  What is the cost of workers using work-related equipment for personal purposes? Employers pay for resources like ink and paper, internet access, and utilities. Non-business use of workplace property can result in extra expenses.

4. Distractions from work computers

Millions of jobs consist of employees working on a desktop computer or laptop. If you provide this equipment to your employees, they could be abusing their usage to steal time at work.

The most effective way to restrict computer usage would be to place a companywide block on any external websites that enable misuse of computers. This is extra IT work that may or may not be worth it to you, but it will increase productivity if employees only have access to perform work tasks on their work computers. Choosing an employee monitoring software provider can help stay on top of what employees are doing while they’re on the clock.

5. Employees rounding time up

Different time and attendance software could round time differently. Some systems may round up to the nearest 15 minutes (0.25 hours), while others round time in three-minute increments (0.05 hours). These rounding systems provide employees with another opportunity to steal time at work.

Collect Employee Time - time rounding and stealing time at work

Employees sometimes stall the clock before officially clocking out to round up their time, especially if they feel they may fall short on their daily hour requirements. You can legally make time-rounding adjustments for your employees according to the U.S. Department of Labor. If you can demonstrate that an employee is intentionally stalling to round their time up, you may be able to fix the distorted timesheet.

6. Mobile phone usage

Mobile phones are the ultimate distraction, no matter who you are. Employees may be too preoccupied with their phones on the job, causing a decline in their work performance.

According to a study by Udemy, about one-third of millennial and Gen Z workers spend an average of two hours a day on their phones. Employees might get distracted browsing social media, making long phone calls, texting friends, playing games, or shopping online.

You should have a cell phone policy in place and make sure employees understand your expectations for phone usage. Enforce the policy with write-ups for repeated warnings and potential termination if employees don’t improve their behavior.


Employees can steal time from work in many forms but it is important that you find out which ones are relative to your industry. Once you have identified the issues that affect you, it’s important to find out who is responsible for them and to discipline them accordingly. With the introduction of time and attendance software such as Celayix, this type of theft can be mitigated in a shift-work environment. With the implementation of such software, employers can worry less about employees stealing time and focus on the more important daily matters.

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