The Ramifications of Buddy Punching

Time theft occurs in many ways. One of these is when one employee clocks in or out for another. Essentially, they mark someone else’s attendance on their behalf.

There are several variations of this type of time theft at the workplace. A worker might ask a coworker to buddy-punch them if they need to leave work early or are running late but don’t want it to show up on their time log. It’s common in workplaces where people do not monitor time clocks strictly.

The scenarios

Multiple employees might work together to cover each other’s early departures or late arrivals. An absent employee might have a coworker clock in for them. Finally, someone might be engaging in this practice while their coworkers do nothing about it.

How does it affect businesses?

Employees often consider time theft harmless. Many of them are unaware of its ramifications on the business and the team’s productivity levels. It costs US employers hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Tardy employees cheat coworkers who are working more for the same wage.

This form of time theft can even result in legal issues for a company. It can harm operations and the company’s reputation by skewering productivity levels, incurring financial losses, and compromising attendance policies. It impacts company culture adversely as well.

Impact on productivity

An employee’s productivity is calculated by measuring what he has accomplished at work and dividing that by the number of hours he has worked. Through buddy punching, the productivity is much lower than expected.

An employer would expect productivity to increase in parallel to the number of working hours. If time theft is systematic, this does not happen. In fact, it looks like productivity is dropping, which can incur other indirect costs for the company.

Impact on the bottom line

Time theft incurs financial losses. Employers end up paying for time not actually worked. This results in fraud, among other issues.   

Impact on company culture

Tolerating these acts creates a culture that accepts dishonesty. This can cause engagement to plummet by demoralizing dedicated employees. Decreased engagement can cause and result from time theft. An unmotivated, disengaged employee might be tempted to steal time. Ultimately, extended absenteeism could end up being the bigger problem.

Alternatively, time theft can be just a loophole for workers to make money without putting in the effort. Time theft leads to less time spent with other employees, resulting in lower engagement with the company.

Impact on attendance policy

When time theft becomes standard, it undermines the attendance policy’s effectiveness. This can result in problems with managing employees and scheduling. Employees engage in this and other forms of time theft if they know they can get away with it. Outdated timesheets or ineffective clock-in systems make it easy for workers to clock in for other people. They can share usernames and passwords to cheat the employer.

How to prevent time theft?

A company that wants to prevent time theft must have updated systems with practical features. Ways to reduce the risk include geofencing and biometric systems.  With a geofence, a virtual barrier is created around the workplace. It stops people outside the boundary from clocking in or out. This technology relies on Wi-Fi, GPS, and cellular data. It is one of the most reliable solutions to time theft.

Different mobile apps provide geofencing features. They make it straightforward for employees to clock in and out using their phones and guarantee precise time capturing for the employer’s timesheets.

Biometric systems are used to verify identity. They do not work with a PIN or a passcode. Instead, they require fingerprints, handprints, or retina scans to clock in and out. They are not legal in some jurisdictions, but they are failsafe in those where they are, reducing incidences of time theft by as much as 97%.

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Eden Ellis

Eden Ellis, a Business Strategist with an MBA, specializes in corporate strategy, market analysis, and entrepreneurship. His experience with multinational corporations and startups provides a unique lens through which he examines business dynamics, offering actionable insights for companies navigating the complexities of the modern business environment.
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