Legislation Timesheets

20 time stealing techniques (part1)

20 not so obvious ways employees steal working time (Part 1)

The relationship between the employer and employee must be built on mutual trust and loyalty. It is, in fact, a legal requirement in many countries, including Baltics. Theft is a clear and unpleasant breach of this trust. In many cases it doesn’t even matter, how big or small it is. The mere fact of an employee stealing is often enough for contract termination.

However, it’s not always easy to catch the thief red-handed. Especially, when looking at the theft of nearly invisible resource – time. According to our internal statistics, approximately 13 of companies reaching out to us do so because they become aware of “employees stealing time”. This goes up to 23 when talking about construction companies.

The only way to combat this problem is by being aware of possible signs, tracking time spent and creating a strong and honest work environment.

Theft of time due to lack of discipline

1 Starting later

One of the most common types of theft can incidentally be unintentional. Especially in relaxed office environments, people tend to show up at work within the frame of an hour or so. However, they also tend to leave exactly at 5 pm (or 6 pm). This means that systematically coming later does not automatically get balanced out by staying later.

2 Finishing earlier

Not as common as the first one but still potentially quite innocent. Someone might have to leave earlier to pick up a child, to get ahead of evening traffic etc. However, if systematically leaving earlier is not balanced by earlier start, then these minutes can quickly mount up.

3 Longer lunch

Depending on the contract, the employee may have a lunch counted into working time or outside of it. It may be 30 minutes or a full hour. But this resting period can easily go over. Especially, if employees leave work to go for the lunch. The danger of such extended lunch is in its potentially broader scope, e.g. a group of employees may be going out for lunch and all of them being late.

4 Smoking breaks

These are a horrible waste of time in many industries. Heavy smokers can easily take a break each hour and be absent for 10-15 minutes at a time. This effectively takes out over an hour from every single working day. What’s worse, smokers like to socialize and will routinely invite others, including non-smokers with them to “have a cigarette break”.

The 4 abovementioned types of time theft may be quite innocent, and employees might not even be aware of these. They are rooted in lack of discipline and, potentially, low level of employee engagement and motivation.

The best way to combat these is by bringing employees attention to the fact that attendance rules are kind of important. It is also important to figure out exactly how much time is being stolen (or lost) in this manner by installing a simple clock-in/clock-out system.

Stealing time by manipulating reality

5 Doing other things

Sometimes, employees want to or have to deal with other things. Side projects, hobbies, checking news… the list goes on. To an extent, these distractions may be o.k. Most wouldn’t object to employees spending a few minutes here and there on checking Facebook feed or just wondering around to clear their head. In fact, it might be quite a good thing. It can become a problem though if an employee spends half of the working day playing on their phone or writing their school paper. This is also bad for the morale of other employees, as they observe their colleague slacking off without consequence.

6 Fake meetings

Quite common in office environments, fake meetings bring together a group of friendly employees to just chat and relax. Rather than hanging around the water cooler, they book a formal meeting for a project which gives absolutely no value what so ever. It’s important to make sure that all meetings have a purpose and are necessary. This mindset will also help spot and eliminate fake meeting practices.

7 Fake family emergencies

This is a very tough one, as family emergencies to happen and some people have more of these than others. You don’t want to be cruel or too inquisitive when these happen. Many however do take advantage of such a considerate approach, using it as an excuse for all kinds of absences. This can accumulate into a considerable number of hours.

8 Fake sickness

Today, it is quite common to just send a sick employee home to make sure that if there is some disease, then it doesn’t spread to other employees. Also, we recognize that there are many conditions, which are “invisible” and tend to be kind towards employees by sending them home. While someone might genuinely be suffering from regular migraines it’s not, in itself, a reason or them to work 10% fewer hours each month.

9 Fake helping

Helping colleagues with work and non-work related tasks is a great way to build company culture and team spirit. This mechanism can also be easily abused when an employee starts “helping others” rather than doing their own work. This might start quite innocently but escalate into people spending a significant portion of their work hanging around others instead of working.

In many of these cases, it may be difficult to distinguish between “real” and “fake” reasons for absence. There are 2 tactics, which you should use to handle these:

1.      Have managers leave comments (or mark types) of unplanned absences. This will help you identify a problem and then propose a solution, like a different schedule or even health treatment support.

2.      Compare absence metrics with performance metrics. E.g. if an employee is routinely not meeting their deadlines and/or underperforms there might be a connection to the many unplanned absences.

Next week in Part 2

Today’s list was quite innocent, but there are far more devious techniques, using technology, colleagues and management.

We will get to that next week. Meanwhile, if you want to see, how a modern worktime management solution can help you fight worktime theft CLICK HERE and try Begin for free.

Vladimir Jelov
11.10.2018

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