Own Your Time: Powerful Time Tracking & Productivity Hacks

Learn to expand your success and impact through TimeBee’s weekly articles


      “Time is money, and I’ll say it again… If someone is wasting your time, they are stealing from you,” says an Entrepreneur and journalist, Kris Degioia. 

      You should not have a place in your company for someone who is stealing your time and money. But how do you know if someone is stealing time?

      If an employee is working full time, checking in on time, and everything is going well, but they are still unable to meet the deadlines and the work keeps getting delayed, something might not be right.

      Here are 7 cunning tactics of employees who commit time theft. We will also discuss how it affects your business and what preventative measures you can take to stop this hysteria. 

      What is Time-Theft?

      Time theft is when employees use their paid work hours for personal or non-work-related activities. This can include browsing social media during work hours, leaving the workplace for a personal errand, and counting the spent time as billable hours. 

      It might seem a minor issue, but it has dire consequences. It negatively impacts the company’s profitability and productivity, lowers employee morale, and disrupts operations. 

      Therefore, a manager’s foremost duty is to identify and prevent time-theft tactics. So, let’s discover the most common tactics of employees who are stealing your company’s hours.

      7 Cunning Ways of Time Theft at the Workplace 

      We have gathered the 7 most common ways of time theft, proven by various studies. Some are being practiced right under your nose, and you aren’t even aware. So, let’s start with the most common one.

      Extended Breaks

      Taking extended breaks is one of the most common time-theft practices. For example, if your company’s official break is 60 minutes, but a few employees take a break of more than 60 minutes, every minute after that 1-hour timeframe is time theft. 

      Taking an extra 5 to 10 minutes may not seem much, but if you do the math, it’ll turn into; 

      10 x 22 = 220 minutes/ 3.6 hours. So by the end of the 22 working days (weekend excluded), an employee is getting extra payment for 3.6 hours. 

      The American Payroll Association estimates a total annual loss of $400 billion due to time theft. Therefore, employers and managers must monitor extended breaks and minimize them as soon as possible to optimize business operations. 

      Buddy Punching

      Another cheeky tactic that many employees use is buddy punching. It is a group of employees colluding with each other to punch in on time for the late employee. For example, if Employee A is late, he’ll call Employee B to punch his attendance, so no one knows that Employee A was late. 

      It may sound insignificant, but when your employees engage in buddy punching, it increases your project costs, reduces your ROI, and forces you to pay extra dollars to someone who has caused you losses. 

      A Software Advice survey found that out of 43% of employees who admitted time theft, 25 % were engaged in buddy punching. This practice causes a significant loss to the company. According to various studies, this practice alone costs businesses 5% of their payroll. 

      So, preventing buddy punching and keeping track of employees’ attendance is utmost. Important. 

      Ghost Employees

      Ghost employees don’t work for the company, but they are still getting paid by the company. Well, you might wonder, how is this possible, getting paid without working? Well, this practice has taken an upward curve since remote work has become common. 

      Many employees add a non-existent employee or an employee who has already left to the company’s payroll system. This allows them to collect salaries for that employee without doing any work. 

      According to the survey by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, ghost employees are responsible for 5% of payroll fraud cases. Not only does it cause a major financial loss,  but it also affects the credibility of the payroll system. 

      To prevent it, employers must conduct regular audits of the payroll system and cross-check employee data with HR records. 

      Personal Internet Use

      A Salary.com study suggests that 64% of employees visit non-work-related sites during their 8-hour shift, and 39% spend more than an hour on non-work-related activities each week. Using the company’s internet for browsing social media, watching videos, online shopping, or doing any personal work is considered time theft. 

      An hour of personal internet use in the 8-hour shift may seem like nothing, but when you add these hours, they become more than a whole working day. So you are paying extra pay for the entire day. 

      Other than affecting employees’ productivity, personal internet use slows down the company’s network and puts it at risk. Personal web and app usage exposes the company’s system to breaches, malware, viruses, etc. Therefore, implementing strict policies regarding internet use is essential for all employers. 

      Falsifying Timesheets

      Adding extra hours that you didn’t work to your timesheet is referred to as falsifying timesheets. An American Payroll Association survey suggests that 43% of employees admitted to falsifying their timesheets. 

      This practice not only leads to financial losses and inaccuracy of attendance records, but it also disrupts a company’s operations.

       For example, if an employee who worked 30 hours a week claims an extra 10 hours, the company will not just be paying extra because of the falsified timesheet. Still, the company’s operation will also be disrupted as, in reality, those 10 hours were not spent on work-related activity. This increases the time for a particular project to be completed, eventually disturbing the whole cycle. 

      Employers must be aware of these employees and crosscheck before taking any action. 

      Unproductive Meetings

      Unproductive meetings not only kill productivity but are also a tactic for time theft. According to an Atlassian survey, employees spend almost 31 hours in unproductive meetings, which adds up to 4 full working days per month.

      These unproductive meetings may not be a conscious fault of your employees. Instead, it could be due to unclear goals, losing focus, inviting the wrong people, large groups, etc. 

      Unproductive meetings can result in significant time, productivity, and financial losses. Employers and managers should closely monitor and discourage long meetings to improve productivity and time management. 

      Excessive Socializing

      Working as an in-house employee requires you to socialize and have good relationships with colleagues and other team members. However, when it crosses the threshold, it can become unproductive, time-thieving, and disruptive at the workplace. 

      For example, if an employee socializes for an hour every day, that translates to 5 hours a week and 23 hours a month (excluding the weekends). This makes around 3.5 work days that could have been spent completing tasks and meeting deadlines. 

      According to Salary.com, 20% of employees have reported spending more than 5 hours weekly on non-billable work, including socializing. This translates to a loss of approximately $15 billion annually in America alone. 

      How Does Time Theft Impact Your Business?

      If you’ve been ignoring any of your employees’ time-theft behaviors, you have to stop. Instead, take strict action to prevent it from happening. You may not see it as a significant threat in the short term, but in the long run, you’ll experience great losses. 

      Following are the impacts of time theft on your business. If you’re late, you’ll never be able to contain this decay. 

      • Financial loss

      When employees spend their billable hours doing non-billable work, they waste time that could have been spent on completing the task and meeting the deadline. Not only are you paying them extra, but they are also increasing your project budgets and making it impossible for you to increase your profits. 

      • Productivity loss: 

      Distractions keep an employee from focusing on the work, which delays the deadline. So if, as a company, you have a team of 10 members to take care of multiple tasks, they’ll have to prioritize and set clear goals to finish one thing and move to the next. However, because of time theft, your team is left with less time, and they rush the process, resulting in inefficient and ineffective work quality.

      • Low morale: 

      Time theft can create guilt and anxiety in employees as they know they aren’t fulfilling their responsibilities to the best of their abilities. Moreover, it can create a sense of unfairness and resentment in other employees towards their time-thieving coworkers.

      How to Prevent Time Theft at the Workplace?

      If you don’t want your business to become a victim of time theft, you’ll need to prevent it through strict actions. Here are some tips to contain the problem and stop it from spreading. 

      Clear Policies

      Before you take any step, you need a policy audit. You don’t have to change your policies. Define what constitutes time theft and the consequences if caught engaging in such behaviors. 

      For example, Include a policy: “ Extended breaks would be considered time thieving, and disciplinary action would be taken if someone is caught. Plus, one has to compensate for the time, or there will be a deduction from the salary. “

      Additionally, outline the procedures for reporting and investigating suspected time theft. It is essential that you communicate these policies with your employees clearly and ensure they understand them. 

      Employee Training

      After creating strict policies for time theft, your next step should be to train your employees. Organize meetings or sessions to discuss the importance of time management and how they can implement it to create a better work-life balance. 

      For example, you can invite a speaker to discuss time management techniques and implementation or cover topics like the negative impacts of poor time management and the importance of meeting deadlines.

      These training are equally crucial as skill training. If an employee is highly skilled but is thieving your company’s time, their skill won’t benefit you much. Keep providing training like this so your employees stay motivated and can work with better focus. 

      Flexibility in Schedules

      Studies suggest that when people feel they are not in control of their time, they are less likely to be productive and waste more hours. So, to counter your employees’ time theft issues, give them some control of their time. 

      Encourage them by offering remote work, flexible hours, or hybrid work. Let them decide their schedule and do the work at their own pace. This is more likely to motivate them, and they’ll enjoy their work rather than despise it. 

      However, if you offer different types of shifts, then be mindful to create policies for them and communicate them with your team to ensure implementation. 

      Recognizing and Rewarding Productivity

      Demotivated employees are more likely to become time thieves. When employees have to do uninteresting tasks or are too burnt out, they will only pass the time rather than work productively. 

      Recognize and introduce productivity rewards to ensure your company doesn’t face this challenge. For example, announce an employee of the month with some cash prize or offer a week’s vacation to employees with the highest productivity score by the end of the quarter, etc.

      This will keep the competition healthy, eradicate your time theft issues, and improve the work quality. 

      Use Employee Monitoring & Time Tracking Tools

      Last but not least, this tip will counter all the seven time theft techniques that we discussed above. The Employee monitoring tool will enable you to monitor employees, and the time tracking feature will help you better understand your employees’ hours to plan a workable time management strategy. 

      For example, TimeBee, a team monitoring app with time, project, and budget management features, helps managers manage users easily, eliminating ghost employee problems. It also keeps track of time, which can help cap meetings and avoid unproductive discussions and excessive socializing.  

      Moreover, it’s distraction alert pop-up that stops the timer when the screen is idle helps contain extra breaks. And its digital timesheets don’t let employees falsify them. 

      Apart from this, it also has web and app usage report features, which provide internet usage details for every user. Plus, managers can rate the apps and sites that contain personal internet use. Furthermore, since it is an app downloaded on every employee’s computer, there is no chance of buddy punching. 

      However, before introducing the app in your company, ensure proper training so your employees don’t feel attacked. 


      In conclusion, time theft in the workplace is a growing concern and significantly impacts businesses, as discussed above. Therefore, employers must implement strict policies and procedures, conduct regular audits of payroll systems, and use employee monitoring tools to contain the problem. 

      To take necessary steps to prevent time theft, identify the problem, and implement measures like introducing TimeBee to ensure proper time, project, budget, and workforce management. Doing so can protect your company and create a more productive and ethical workplace culture. 


      1. What is time theft in the workplace?

      Time Theft in the workplace refers to employees running personal errands during work hours. It occurs when an employee is paid for the hours he or she has not worked. With today’s growing remote teams and easy access to the internet, the practice has become more common and taken new forms.

      1. What is a common way that employees engage in time theft?

      Misrepresenting work hours is the most common employee theft practice. It also refers to falsifying timesheets. It occurs when employees give false work reports or clock in early and clock out late through buddy punching or other tactics. 

      1. What is time theft at work from home?

      Time theft at work from home can mean an employee is super active on emails and messages but is not doing the work. Another way is when employees clock in during work hours but are actually not working. It is hard to find out since you cannot go to the desk of a remote employee and check what one is working on. 

      However, the problem can be solved by implementing employee monitoring tools. 

      1. How do you solve workplace theft?

      The most common way to solve time theft at the workplace in this modern era is by implementing employee monitoring tools and time trackers. However, other ways include:

      • Clear Policies
      • Employee Training
      • Flexibility in Schedules
      •  Recognizing and Rewarding Productivity