Imagine if you paid an employee $20 an hour and that person wasted 30 minutes a day. That’s $10 a day or $50 a week. Now, calculate that for an entire year. You’re up to $2,600. What if five employees did this? Now, you’re over $10,000 a year.
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“You can see how time theft can affect a practice’s bottom line and your ability to give raises or pay bonuses,” says Diane Amundson, CSP, owner of The Thriving Workplace with Diane Amundson—a firm focused on improving workplace productivity—in Winona, Minn. “You can also see that $10,000 is a significant amount of money, and if it was stolen as cash or property, it would be considered a crime.”
Employees steal time in a variety of ways: by forgetting to clock in or out; arriving late and leaving early; arriving on time, but frittering away time before getting started; taking longer than allotted breaks; excessively socializing with co-workers; tending to personal tasks on the clock; and surfing the Internet.
Staff members engage in time theft for many reasons. “Employees could be bored because they don’t have enough to do, or conversely, they could be so overloaded that they need to let off steam,” says Syed Hussain, vice president of Robert Half Finance & Accounting, a specialized financial recruitment firm based in Menlo Park, Calif. “Furthermore, job-related frustrations—from long hours to dissatisfaction with a position or the practice, to inadequate compensation—may cause some employees to not focus completely. Employees can also become disengaged when they don’t feel involved in a project or see that their work contributes toward a greater cause.”
When employees operate at suboptimal performance, it hurts the entire organization. “Each employee has key tasks to fulfill, and any delay will affect the next co-worker who receives their work and, ultimately, the patient and their family,” Ms. Amundson says.
If an employee isn’t fulfilling their job requirements, others will have to do more work or employers will have to hire more staff. “When other staff can identify one employee who is not fully contributing, this can lead to inefficiencies and bad office morale,” says Erin L. Arnold, MD, a partner at Orthopaedics and Rheumatology of the North Shore in Skokie, Ill.
Further, an employee stealing time sets a bad example for other employees—who may also start to feel justified in stealing time.