Prevention Strategies for Time Theft in the Workplace

Time theft refers to the misappropriation or misuse of time during work hours. Prevention Strategies for Time Employees might take longer breaks than allowed or extend their lunch breaks beyond the allocated time. They use work hours to make personal calls, browse social media, shop online, or stream videos.

Altering timecards or timesheets to reflect more hours worked than actually done is a form of time theft, as is taking sick leave when not actually ill or using sick leave for personal activities instead of rest and recovery.

Voluntarily staying late at work without a valid reason or purpose, gossiping with coworkers or playing games instead of focusing on tasks, and taking time off without prior approval from supervisors or managers are common types of time theft in the workplace. However, the most common type of time theft is buddy punching, when someone clocks in or out for a coworker who is late or absent.

Below, we share some time theft prevention strategies that businesses find useful. 

1. Using automated time tracking 

The corporate world is increasingly adopting automation. 73% of businesses are highly satisfied with the returns they gain from automating processes and tools. Moreover, there is significant potential for increased productivity. A survey found that by automating time tracking, companies have reduced daily productivity losses and recovered wages worth $666,400.00.

Time tracking systems prevent time theft by tracking work hours automatically, thereby encouraging employees to be accountable. They alert employers to early clock-outs and excessive breaks. Some tools track keystrokes and mouse movement to determine how productive employees are during work hours.

Time and attendance tracking tools eliminate the risk of buddy punching. They make it impossible for employees to attend to personal matters during work hours and prevent prolonged socializing. 

2. Setting clear attendance policies

The risk of time theft is lower for companies with clear attendance and timekeeping policies. If your company doesn’t already have a policy, one should be developed as soon as possible. Time and attendance policies should include procedures for clocking in and out, break times, and rules for overtime and using the Internet. 

Again, you may find automating attendance pays off. Companies using attendance tracking tools have seen a 20% decline in absenteeism.  

3. Watching for lack of engagement

According to the 2024 State of the Global Workplace Report, a staggering 85% of employees are unengaged at work. An experienced manager will notice when employees struggle with work or commit time theft. Signs of lack of engagement include:

  • Not answering calls.
  • Not responding to work emails.
  • Being less available than coworkers.
  • Sending assessments in late.

None of these are hard evidence of time theft, and mistakes can happen, but if you observe a consistent tendency, you should start looking into the matter. 

Managers who are concerned about time theft should remind employees of the company’s mission and overall goals. This is especially true for remote workers.  


How should a manager talk to employees about time theft?

Managers should communicate time theft policies and explain to the staff what the consequences of not following them are. For first offenses, they should speak to the employee directly. If the manager observes a shift worker committing time theft, they could assign them fewer shifts for a set period of time. Repeat offenses warrant a formal, documented write-up.

How do you write up someone for stealing time formally?

Accurate documentation of the process is critical when issuing a written warning for time theft in the workplace. The document should include the employee’s name, the date and a description of the incident, the type of disciplinary measure taken, and the consequences of future incidents.

What are the effects of time theft in the workplace?

Time theft can have severe consequences for employers and employees. It can harm a business’s finances and productivity and lead to declining trust among coworkers. Employees face reputational damage, disciplinary actions, and a poor work-life balance.

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