What are some things that come to mind when you think of employee theft? For most people the answer is money, merchandise and company supplies. But what about time? Maybe this sounds silly to you. How can something intangible like “time” be stolen? Well it can be and in several different ways. Time is stolen from a business when an employee spends their paid time at work by doing things that are unrelated to their job responsibilities. The result is a lowered amount of productivity, and even worse, lowered profits. Whenever an employee steals time, the effect on your business can be extremely negative. In some ways, it is even worse than having money or merchandise stolen. Since so many people do not consider time as something that can be stolen at work, let’s go over some of the top ways that time slips by.
Time Issue Number 1: Computer Usage
This one is so common that even the best of employees do not view it as stealing from their company. Having access to the internet at work can be a real hazard. Employees check their personal accounts or simply just surf the web to pass some time. This problem cannot be solved by taking away internet access as it is a vital part of most businesses. So what can you do?
Solution: Have a policy in place stating that personal internet usage during work hours is strictly prohibited. You obviously cannot look over your employees shoulders every time they are using the computer, so take measures to ensure that personal use is as limited as possible. Many companies block certain websites such as Facebook to hinder their employee’s ability to use personal sites. Others block all email connections aside from the one used for work purposes. Another problem is that there are many websites that have an emergency work button. For instance, if an employee is on a gaming site, all they have to do is click on the emergency icon and the screen changes to something professional looking. If you are concerned about this happening, make it a habit to check your employee’s computer history to see what they have been up too during work hours.
Time Issue Number 2: Socializing
Having short chats with coworkers is usually not a big deal. However, when the short chats turn into long winded conversations it does become a big deal. We want our employees to get along with each other, but not at the expense of our business. Work hours are for work, not for having a coffee clutch. But what can you do to get your office looking like an office and not a high school cafeteria?
Solution: The best thing you can do here is to encourage socializing to take place on breaks. You do not want the employees to have poor relationships because it has been proven that good camaraderie in the workplace makes for a stronger business. However, if all that happens all day is socializing, nothing ever gets done. If the socializing is taking place during meetings, bring everyone back to the topic at hand by inserting work related topics into the conversation. Most people will take the hint and get back on task.
Time Issue Number 3: Personal Calls
Keeping one’s work life separate from their personal life can sometimes be a challenge. Sometimes it is not even possible for various reasons. However, there is a difference between using the phone for important personal matters (sick children, family hospitalization, etc.) and abusing the phone for personal reasons (chatting up your friends, ordering from that awesome new catalog you just got in the mail, etc.). So what can you do to cut the personal phone chatter out of the work day?
Solution: Let your employees know that personal phone calls can only be made on breaks unless there is an emergency. You can even take it a step further and make the rule that in order to use the phone for calls other than those dealing with business, they must get permission. This goes for receiving personal calls as well. The only ones that should be put through to the employee are those that are emergencies. Do not make any exceptions to these rules or you will lose credibility and make it look like you are showing certain employees favoritism.
In addition to all of that, make sure that time records are accurate as some employees will try to pull a fast one on you by adding even just a few minutes each day. If you have rules about overtime, make them clearly known and enforce them. All of this should help cut down, or better yet eliminate, the stealing of time.