By Kim Harris
Unless you have an identical twin, you’ve probably never been able to pull off a successful identity-swap.
But posing as someone else isn’t always so dramatic. In fact, one of the most common examples of this type of deception is among employees. It’s called “buddy punching,” and businesses are subject to lose a lot of money as a result. New research has found that buddy punching costs US employers more than $373 million each year.
Buddy punching, the most common form of time theft
Buddy punching occurs when colleagues clock in for each other, when one is running late or is absent from the workplace entirely. Even employees with the best intentions can sneak a few minutes here and there on time cards with buddy punching.
It can be tempting for any employee to cut corners, especially those who’d rather not be noticed running late, or for hourly employees who want to add a few extra minutes to their time sheet. But at the end of the day, buddy punching is time theft. As a business owner, that’s time you’re paying for.
As expensive as buddy punching can be for employers, it doesn’t have to become the norm. Here are a few signs to look for if you suspect your team is buddy punching and engaging in time theft.
1. Where there is tardiness, there is time theft.
Have you noticed employees are frequently running late? If your company has seen a spike in employee tardiness, you should take a look at employee engagement and other factors that might contribute to their lateness, especially if it’s having a negative impact on productivity. But this is also a good time to think about buddy punching. Often, where there is tardiness there is time theft, and sneaking under the radar will become more common as running late becomes a habit.
2. You’re using an outdated punch clock system.
If you are using a punch clock system that requires a simple pin or password, it can be easy for colleagues to manipulate one another’s time cards. Moving to a more sophisticated system will help cut down on these issues, as even a complicated pin is easy to replicate.
3. Buddy punching hasn’t been addressed.
If your team hasn’t heard that buddy punching is actually time theft, they may be unaware of the impact they’re having. Having a quick chat with your team about buddy punching will let them know that you are concerned about the accuracy of their time sheets and that you take the issue seriously.
Now that you know how it’s being done, here are a couple things you can do to prevent buddy punching.
Use cloud-based time tracking to review and approve employee hours
You might ask yourself: Can’t employees still buddy punch, even if they have a unique PIN or password? Yes. It’s just a matter of employees sharing their login information with their buddy. That’s why a modern cloud-based punch clock that works on any tablet or computer and includes a biometric photo capture feature is a much better solution.
Enabling photo capture on your tablet automatically requires each employee to smile for the camera before clocking in and out each day, and employee photos are kept on their time sheets for later review. Unless you have employees who happen to be identical twins, you’ll be able to review photos and spot when someone isn’t clocking in as themselves.
Enable GPS and geofencing to track employee locations
Buddy punching is more difficult if your employees use a mobile app to clock in and out each day. A mobile time clock enables GPS to ping each employee’s location on the map while they’re on the clock. This feature is great for crews and mobile workers because it pulls GPS points every 10 minutes, so you always know who’s working where or if they’re at work at all.
Without a doubt, buddy punching can be frustrating for business owners, especially when they’re budgeting for hourly employees. But the tricky — and expensive — employee practice of buddy punching is on its way out. Thanks to technology, there’s a more accurate and honest way to track time that eliminates the risk of time theft.
About the Author
Kim Harris is a copywriter and blogger based in Boise, Idaho, who has been putting her journalism background to good use telling true stories and helping businesses grow since 2008. When she’s not writing for TSheets, you’ll find her queuing up entertainment and plotting her next escape.