7 Strategies to Prevent and Manage Buddy Punching

When you want nothing more than to have a workforce where employees are thriving and engaged, buddy punching can negatively impact those plans. This form of time theft affects the finances and culture of an organization. Learn more about what buddy punching is and how you can prevent and address its occurrence.

 

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What is buddy punching?

Buddy punching is when one employee asks another to clock in to work for them, making it seem as if they are actively working when they aren’t. This typically happens when an employee is running late for work at the beginning of their shift, but it can also happen if they take an extended lunch or want to leave work early. Ultimately, buddy punching is theft from the company because an employee is getting paid while they are on the clock, yet is not at work for it.

Read more: Cultivating Positive Workplace Behavior

 

How buddy punching can impact businesses and employees

Just like other employee actions in the workplace, buddy punching can impact your business in these ways:

 

Skewed productivity levels

Many industries measure employee productivity by the hours they spend at work compared to the work they generate. With buddy punching, you won’t have an accurate depiction of how productive an employee or an entire team is because the numbers show more time on the clock than may be true. This can also negatively impact employees, as you will expect them to have higher production numbers given their timesheet history. 

 

Increased payroll cost

Based on data reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, buddy punching costs employers across the U.S. an estimated total of $373 million per year in payroll costs.

The employees performing buddy punching are committing company fraud, and you are paying an employee for more time than they are working causing unnecessary increases in payroll costs. 

 

Low employee engagement

If there’s buddy punching happening in your workplace, you’re likely dealing with employees who have low engagement. Low — or a complete lack of — employee engagement can negatively impact your business because it’s associated with poor work performance, an inability to focus and decreased efficiency and productivity in the workplace. If employees aren’t engaged, the quality of their work also suffers.

 

How to prevent buddy punching

The good news is that there are ways to prevent buddy punching. Follow these steps to decrease or eradicate buddy punching in your company:

 

Use software and tools for clocking in and out

Depending on your budget, you can find alternative methods for clocking in and out of work that make it difficult or impossible to buddy punch. Some options include:

  • Geofencing: A geofencing app detects when your employee is in a defined geographical boundary, and only allows them to clock into work once their device is within that boundary.
  • Biometric: Biometric software with time-tracking capabilities uses a defining characteristic of an individual for entrance into a program. For example, a biometric tool for clocking in and out of work can include a fingerprint scan or facial recognition.
  • GPS-based: Similar to geofencing, GPA-based apps track where an employee is located when they clock into work. With this technology, you’ll also be able to see where a virtual employee is when they clock into work. 

 

Create formal policies

Creating formal policies lets employees know that your company has zero tolerance for buddy punching. In these policies, describe what the course of action is for buddy punch offenses. 

Let employees know that their actions have consequences and you’re prepared to reinforce the policies through disciplinary actions. Include these policies in your employee handbook and store in human resources files.  

 

Require a sensitive password

Require employees to clock in using a password that includes sensitive numbers. If an employee can only access their timesheet by inputting part of their social security number, for instance, then they’ll be less likely to share that password with a coworker.

 

Use an employee’s IP address

For any employee that works on a computer — whether onsite or remotely — tie the time clock to their device’s IP address. This way, employees would need to log in to their computer first, then clock in using an online system. If the time clock relies on an IP address, an employee clocking in would need to clock in using their designated computer, which could minimize the likelihood of buddy punching.

 

Create or improve company culture

Company culture plays a large role in employee engagement and performance, including how apt employees are to follow the rules of the workplace. Create a culture that emphasizes accountability and employees will resist buddy punching. They will also keep peers accountable by discouraging this kind of behavior. 

 

A positive culture also makes a direct impact on the practices of employees. Not only are they more engaged, able to work better in groups, complete projects on time and stay loyal to the business, but they are less likely to commit company fraud, including time theft through buddy punching.

Read more: How to Motivate Your Employees

 

How to address buddy punching

It’s important to address buddy punching to continue to uphold the workplace culture and succeed financially as a small business. Try addressing buddy punching by following these tips:

 

Issue warning notices

Addressing buddy punching starts with letting your workforce know it’s an unacceptable action that you will not tolerate. Consider sending out a company-wide email or hosting an all-hands meeting where you emphasize your policy on buddy punching and other forms of company theft, and let that serve as your employees’ first warning. Emphasize this point by requiring that all employees sign a form to acknowledge they understand how serious buddy punching is and that company policy does not allow for this type of behavior.

Read more: Employee Warning Notice: A Template for Issuing a Warning

 

Find out why buddy punching is happening

There is usually an underlying reason that employees are engaging in buddy punching or other unacceptable behavior in the workplace. If an employee is disengaged, speak to them about it and find out what it is about the company they would like to see improve. When asked, employees are more likely to share how they feel about the workplace and what you can improve.

 

Employees could become disengaged enough to take this kind of action, and this disengagement or unhappiness in the workplace can be caused by reasons like not having enough time off, feeling overloaded with projects and responsibilities or disrespect from their teammates or superior.

 

Buddy punching is a serious workplace offense and you should treat it as such. Not only will it save you money in payroll expenses, but it will let your employees know that you value having an honest and engaged workplace for everyone.

 

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