There’s more than pens and paper that employees steal from their workplace. Time theft is an expensive issue- and it can cost you around $100 billion every year. 

By clocking in a little late, working a little less, taking a little longer break, and drifting off the work a little bit every day- your employees may pile up work over a year. Needless to say, a flexible routine and deadlines do speed up the process- but are your employees actually working to their full potential? 

You cannot avoid time theft unless you understand the gruesome impact of it. Think of it as a leaked, dripping tap that gradually fills up a bucket. By the time it transforms into a gushing leak and an overflowing bucket, the expenses of fixing it would be high!! 

And that is exactly what we will discuss in this article. We will talk about: 

1. What is time theft;

2. How do employees steal time;

3. The methods to detect it;

4. And (most importantly) how to avoid time theft.

Before we get into it, be mindful that fixing this issue is no hard nut to crack. And it has nothing to do with micromanaging and being strict like a tight-fisted sheriff. 

With that said, make sure you create a transparent, collaborative, and communicative work environment where employees feel cherished and appreciated for their work to avoid time theft in the very first place. Create an environment that saves more time and assesses the effort fairly. 



What Is Time Theft

Time theft occurs when an employee receives pay for the work that they never did. It is also known as goldbricking. And although there are multiple ways in which an employee manipulates the system, time theft all-in-all boils down to a person claiming wages they don’t deserve. 

When continued for long, it encourages lower productivity. And be mindful that one employee can cause a ripple effect on all of their co-workers. Meaning, prolonged time theft makes lower productivity the new normal for any team. 

As the team morale goes down, everyone becomes less responsible with their assigned tasks- ultimately leading to delayed deadlines, poor work-quality, and financial losses. The longer you don’t avoid time theft, the worse it gets. 


Types of Time Theft 

How Do Employees Steal Time? 

A person who may be hesitant with their irresponsible behavior may not feel sorry for their actions if they face no repercussions. Now that you know the answer to what is time theft, the next step to avoid it is knowing how it might linger on your premises. 

Here are a few ways in which your peers might steal time: 

1. Buddy Punching: It’s like a fake proxy attendance- only with colleagues. It happens when one friend punches the swipe card on behalf of the other even if they don’t arrive at the office door.

2. Extended Breaks: Despite a rigid schedule and strict vigilance, an employee might run out of their clock during lunch and miscellaneous breaks- ultimately working for lesser hours.

3. Personal Activities At Work: Social media is not the sole culprit for distraction- your staff may drift off to playing games, browsing cute dog names, and even online shopping.

4. Goofing Around: Not every chatty employee is a goldbricker- but excessive socializing, frequent calls, naps, and unauthorized breaks always lead to depriving productivity.

5. Unauthorized Overtime: An early login and late log out might not always indicate hard-work. It is, sometimes, synonymous with pending deadlines and piled-up tasks.

6. Getting Things Done: Some people are smart enough to take credits for the tasks that their peers finish on their behalf. And we totally understand the pain.

7. Rounding Timesheets: It’s common for employers to update the wrong punching times to complete working hours without actually covering the shifts honestly.


There are many more ways for people to sneak a couple of hours off their working schedule. But how do you identify such behavior on the premises? Let’s talk about it. 


How To Detect Time Theft? 

Resolving The Productivity Paradigm 

Before you think about how to avoid time theft in workplace- learn to identify the silly, little hints. A lot of questions pop up in mind in such cases like: 

How do you know if your colleague is reading an article or petting their kitty?

How do you identify who clocked in and then snuggled back into bed?

How do you know if a person is watching educational YouTube videos or the recent movie trailer? 

It’s never fair to assess your team based on who works for long hours. If your staff is clever enough to manipulate the system, they are equally capable of shaping your biases as well. Never let the existing notions in your mind interfere with your decisions. 



Keeping the human biases apart, here are a few things that indicate the possibility of your employee stealing time: 

1. Unavailability 

Some of us may struggle to catch up with all of our colleagues, thanks to the workload and poor time management skills. But frequent unavailability is something you should check-in, especially with employees who have lesser responsibilities. Late responses could be a sign of a person drifting off, goofing around, and wasting their time. 

2. Irresponsibility 

It is okay to refrain away from responsibilities once in a while. But people running away from taking the lead every time could indicate a lack of will to work. As obvious as it sounds, goldbrickers also avoid responsibilities to avoid being answerable to the authorities for incomplete projects. 

3. Low Work Quality 

This point is as obvious as the noonday sun. Frequent distraction leads to poor quality of work. An employee who doesn’t produce satisfactory results even after working for longer hours than others may not be pleased with their assigned tasks and may drift off pretty often. 

4. Declining Productivity 

Low quality of work eventually leads to a declining productivity graph. If some of your employees don’t seem to pick up their pace even after frequent vigilance and continual training, chances are, they are not very attentive towards their work! 

But I get you if you struggle with being productive even if you love your job.

Here are 07 Productivity Tips For People Who Hate Productivity Tips 


5. Unawareness 

Absent-mindedness is no new quality for the GenXers and GenZees. But if you keep correcting the same mistakes in their tasks, they are probably not paying attention to the required parameters. Or worse- they are not even listening to you because they are distracted in themselves. 

6. Excessive Socializing 

A chatty employee is no harm to their colleagues- in fact, they help them out in case of emergencies. But keep a close eye. If an employee seems to be distracting and slowing down the work of the people around them, they are causing the ripple effect of goldbricking! 

7. Low Reliability 

A reliable employee does not necessarily stay available whenever and wherever required- but communicates well to keep things in the loop. A person who doesn’t really care about their tasks would not bother doing so. Being unreliable and depending on others for completing tasks is, thus, one hell of a symptom of the very contagious time theft. 

8. Detailed Work Updates 

If you ask your staff for their work updates, you might notice that a few of them have a habit of NOT keeping it short and sweet. And while that might just be a habit, make sure you cross-check the tasks they mention in their updates. You may be surprised! 

9. Unattentive Meetings 

Team meetings are dope (just kidding). It is natural for people to drop their energy level to a significant minimum by the end. But a couple of employees staring at the oblivion when something important gets discussed is a sign of them doing it often during the working hours. 

But all of it might also be a sign of simmering unrest or conflict among your peers.

You can Identify and Resolve Workplace Conflict With These 05 Steps! 




Now that you are aware of the sinister ways in which your employees may snitch upon you, what are you going to do next? Let’s get into the final question now. 

How To Avoid Time Theft? 

I’ll get straight into it without any jibber jabber. There are two ways in which you can resolve this issue: 

1. The organic way

2. The easy way 


The Organic Way- Create A Better Work Environment 

How could we miss the fact that an office environment is one big reason behind their employees yawning and dozing off? Your workplace fuels your creativity, imagination, ignites a fire in your belly, steers motivation like a morning coffee. 

Couldn’t relate? A lot of us couldn’t. 

A happy, healthy work environment is a rare stock. And here’s a secret recipe to it: 

1. Promote collaboration on your premises. Encourage people to take up responsibilities and let them engage in mindful activities. Cheer everyone up. Work hard, play hard! 

2. Improve communication among all despite the differences in cultures, generation, job roles, and everything else. Make sure no one feels left out.

Also Read, Intercultural Communication Barriers & 09 Best Solutions To It


3. Reduce work pressure among your staff. Your frontal cortex is responsible for creativity and imagination, which gets shut down under pressure in any work environment.

4. Be open to constructive criticism from your peers. Be communicative and not combative with their inputs. Always appreciate a third person’s perspective.

5. Improve the ambiance of your workplace. The color and setup of your place contribute a lot to the way your employees behave and perform their work.

6. Be open and transparent with your employees. Be a friend. Know what works for them and what doesn’t. You might as well come across something useful! 


The Easy Way- Use Monitoring Software! 

The ever-evolving trends in modern workplaces already make it very critical for employers to keep a tab on their staff’s activities. And with most of them working from home, measuring and increasing productivity has become a tricky task to accomplish. Nevertheless, using a monitoring tool is now a prerequisite to building a safe and transparent workplace supporting fair play. 

Here’s what a good employee monitoring tool must have: 

Intuitive Dashboard & Easy Setup for employers who might use such tools for the first time; 

Automated Screenshots to capture regular activities of staff in real-time without breaching their privacy; 

Productivity Graphs to analyze the workflow and team activities over a week and month; 

Idle & Working Hours Tracking to know the actual time invested by employees during working hours; 

App & Website Tracking for assessing the sources of distraction & identifying potential malware; 

Automated Email Reports for designated staff to save time in sharing individual employee details; 

And many more. 

Luckily, EmpMonitor does all these- and more. Know your employees’ whereabouts in real-time and understand the progress of their work with our clever features. We have designed EmpMonitor for every corporate, healthcare, finance, legal, and every other service. 



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Wrapping It Up!

Time theft is no joke. Over the years, many employers witnessed a surge in employee productivity and creativity- only by managing the time and dedication their employees had for their work. And there is no single answer to the question as to how to avoid time theft in workplace. 

Keeping all of this in mind, I have compiled everything you need to create a better workplace. Do you have any questions in mind? Would you like to add something? Drop your thoughts in the comments. I’d love to give it a read!

EmpMonitor lets you track, record, and display reports of your staff in real-time. Manage your teams with regular screenshots, automated user graphs, alerts, email reports, and many more. Increase productivity exponentially without any hassle.