Spending a few minutes on social media at the office or leaving a bit early might not seem like a big deal.
But U.S. employers lose $400 billion annually to time theft in part because nearly half of shift workers steal at least a little time from their employers, according to a study by Software Advice.
“Time theft is obviously a huge problem at some of these companies, especially companies that rely heavily on shift workers,” Software Advice Market Research Associate Brian Westfall said.
Software Advice provides research to software buyers. The company did a 7-day online survey with randomly sampled employees throughout North America.
Time theft could be anything from checking out Facebook while on the clock to taking an extended lunch break.
Time theft is “any time they are expected to work, and they are not,” Westfall said.
Westfall said he was surprised to see how many people participated in time theft.
According to the study, 43 percent of shift workers take part in time theft. Of those that steal time, 25 percent of participants recorded inaccurate shift hours at least 76 percent of the time.
“While they might think it’s innocent enough — I’m just checking my Facebook account during the day for a minute or two here or there — over all of those employees over weeks, months, a year it really adds up and ends up costing the company money in terms of productivity,” Westfall said.
The increase of jobs that involve using a computer have made it easier for employees to waste time at work, Westfall said.
“That’s something that you really didn’t have to think about 5-10 years ago, but the proliferation of the web and how technology has become a huge part of everyone’s job also opens up a lot of distraction,” he said.
Employers are starting to use software to disable an employee’s ability to go on certain sites. Some companies also have moved to biometric systems to determine when an employee is at the office, Westfall said.
Those systems have resulted in fewer people clocking in when they are not in the office, according to the study.
“Only 3 percent of staff workers at places with biometric clocks said they committed any time theft and that certainly makes sense,” he said. “Once you have your unique fingerprint tied to you, you can’t have your buddy come in and clock in for you.”