Research indicates that it costs the Unites States as much as $400 billion per year and small businesses bear the brunt of it. Luckily, there are a few easy solutions to encourage employee productivity and limit time theft.

Time theft falls into four different categories – inappropriate use of sick time, excessive personal time, extra breaks, and time clock theft.

time theft
photo credit: Tom Lin

Sick Time

Unfortunately, some employees choose to use paid sick leave in the event that they desire a personal day. Most of the time, this is difficult to prove or even notice. To prevent this type of time theft, create a workplace that is welcoming, understanding, and offers the option for personal days. Make sure your employees understand why your business frowns upon this, and practice what you preach – if you require a personal day, take one.

Personal Time

While taking an occasional phone call at work won’t likely offend anyone, multiple phone calls every day cut into company time. Encourage employees to make or take phone calls during breaks or at lunch, and encourage them to use the internet for work purposes only.

A workplace functions best when employees are allowed breaks – let employees know that this is the appropriate time to check social media, call home, etc. Approach employees individually if you find them violating this rule and work together to find solutions for problems on the individual level.

Long Breaks

Sometimes, usually accidentally, employees extend their break(s) by a few minutes. Leaving early and/or returning late results in a loss of company time. This is best dealt with individually, though time software can help encourage employees to monitor their own hours.

Something as simple as an easy-to-read clock in the break room can also cut down on extensive breaks. Some companies have even invested in buzzers (like you see in restaurants with extensive waits) to help remind employees that breaks are over.

Time Clock

Referred to as “buddy punching”, time clock theft occurs when an employee has someone else clock in or out for them. This method of time theft is generally the easiest to prevent – investing in biometric time and attendance software ensures that the individual completing the work is the only one able to clock in. Fingerprints don’t lie.

This type of time clock also ensures that employee time is accounted for because it often allows for the selection of specific tasks and measures how long is required to complete them.

Most importantly, prevent time theft by creating a workplace of mutual trust and respect. Hold employees and yourself accountable – and watch as your efficiency and profit increase exponentially.

About the Author: Linda Wu is the Director of Marketing of Actual iD, a biometric time and attendance company where managing the true identity of people matters. When she’s not bragging about the cool factor of fingerprint time clocks, you can find her writing about business trends, operations, and process.