Time Theft: How to Monitor Employees Without Being a Micromanager

You can’t see it, you can’t touch it, and you can’t get it back - but you can have it stolen. Time is a precious commodity in the workplace as employers try to strike a balance between maintaining productivity and letting their employees take the breaks they need without abusing the system. 

The average employee steals around 4.5 hours every week from their employer, according to one study, costing businesses billions. Known as ‘time theft,’ employees bill their employers for hours they haven’t worked. And it comes in many forms, which is one of the reasons it’s so difficult to identify, control and stop.

Fudging the numbers on a timesheet is one fairly obvious way to commit time theft, but it’s often not that simple. That employee who routinely comes in late and clocks out early. The staff member in Sales who takes extra-long breaks. Debbie from Accounting who’s always surfing the internet instead of doing her work. These are all instances of time theft, and, added up, they aren’t just costly; they can also kill productivity and erode your company culture.

How Can You Stop Employee Time Theft?

Any time your employees are taking extended periods out of their work day to do personal activities, they’re effectively stealing company time. Within reason, of course. You can’t expect your employees to be chained to their desks constantly. Breaks are an important part of building good employee relationships, and there’s substantial evidence that regular timeouts actually improve productivity by relieving stress and improving focus.

The last thing you want is a team of workaholics headed for burnout, so leaders have to be careful not to micromanage in the effort to stamp out time theft.

Focus on Company Culture

Rather than spending your time looking over your employee’s shoulders, create an environment in which they aren’t tempted to claw back time. 

Creating a fair, transparent and honest working environment stops time theft before it starts. Especially given that time theft is contagious - once one employee starts slacking off, others get the message that its standard procedure.

Instead, encourage your employees to communicate their needs and listen to their concerns. Your team might be grabbing personal time because they feel overwhelmed or want a more flexible schedule. Build an atmosphere where they feel heard and supported so they come to you and share their concerns before taking matters into their own hands.

Outline Expectations

Some time theft is unintentional - employees might round up a timesheet thinking that’s acceptable, or they may not even be aware that they’re turning up late and taking long breaks.

Make sure you have a clear and consistent company policy that sets out how you define time theft and the consequences of not respecting that policy. Everyone on your team needs to know what’s expected of them, so make sure there’s no confusion over what the policy entails.

Identify Repeat Offenders

A few late arrivals or early departures isn’t a big deal, but when employees make it a habit, you have a potential time thief on your hands. 

Seeing this trend in a team member’s behavior indicates not only that they’re ‘stealing’ time but that there may be something more sinister going on. With the rise of remote working and increasing economic pressures, many employees are doubling up - working multiple jobs at once. 

It could also be a symptom of ‘quiet quitting’, where employees withdraw from work because they’re focusing on other opportunities elsewhere. Identify trends, and, where possible, what’s behind those trends, before taking action regarding your time-stealing employee.

Stopping Time Theft

Given that millions of US employees now work remotely, time theft has become even harder to spot and track. It’s much easier (and more tempting) for remote employees to sneak away from their desk when their desk is at home, leaving managers none the wiser until a deadline is missed or they can’t reach them.

While creating a culture of trust and transparency is vital to managing remote teams, employee productivity tracker Prodoscore gives managers an extra layer of protection and control with complete visibility into how their workers are interacting with company tools.

By monitoring your employee’s use of core business applications, Prodoscore keeps track of how they work - instantly spotting if there are prolonged gaps in their daily activity. In this way, managers can separate the employees who are just taking a break to recharge from those who constantly fail to put in the hours. 

Every member of your team benefits when you can spot the slackers who rely on others to carry their workload. Managers can use this invaluable data to boost employee engagement, prevent burnout, increase productivity, and reward their star performers. Get in touch today to find out more or schedule a demonstration of Prodoscore in action.

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