Employer Advice on Managing Time Theft in the Remote Workplace

  • Labour Standards
Andrew Caldwell

Andrew Caldwell, HR Advisory Manager

(Last updated )

The pandemic made working from home essential for many businesses. Most have found it to be a productive option, with 40% of employers in Canada planning to include remote work into their normal practices.

However, remote work is not without its challenges. It can be isolating and managing a remote team can be difficult at first. Another concern some employers also have is that of time theft by remote employees.

What is time theft?

Time theft is when an employee gets paid for time that is not spent doing office work. For instance, an employee working from home could be taking longer lunch breaks without informing their manager. Or they could be using work hours for personal activities.

What can I do to prevent time theft in my remote workplace?

Given that remote work is one of the practices many businesses plan to continue in the post-pandemic workplace, it is safe to say that it has been largely successful. Time theft may not be as common or as big an issue as some fear it may be.

Here are some best practices we recommend for preventing time theft in your remote office:

Set clear expectations

Your expectations regarding your team’s output should depend on how you measured efficiency in the pre-pandemic physical office. You can use the same parameters in the remote workplace as well. Make your expectations regarding goals and deadlines clear. Give your employees ownership of their tasks and hold them accountable to it.

Create a remote work policy

Setting down a policy will make company expectations clear regarding attendance, breaks, provision of equipment, cybersecurity, team meetings, and so on. You may also want to define time theft in your remote work policy, how it adversely affects the company, and the consequences of stealing company time.

When you update your employee handbook with your remote work policy, make sure to share it with your remote staff through your company intraweb or a cloud-based HR management software like BrightHR.

Customize your management style

Don’t agonize over whether you need to be monitoring your staff through the day. Your remote employees are not strangers. They are people you have worked with, perhaps for years. As a manager you are already familiar with their strengths, weaknesses, and work ethic. Still, different departments in your company may transition differently to remote work depending on the nature of their job. Your parameters for evaluating performance should take those challenges into account.

Some employees may prefer detailed instructions and frequent one-on-one video meetings. Others may just need clarity on goals and deadlines. You need to tailor your management style accordingly. This approach will help you get the best work out of your team. It will also save you time and energy.

Use cloud-based HR software to track staff hours

You could use a cloud-based HR management software, such as BrightHR, to log attendance, track staff hours, location and breaks taken. This will create accountability and discipline in your remote workplace. However, you should allow for flexibility in work timings where needed. If you have employees with children or ailing parents who’d prefer a flexible schedule, be open to it. Doing so will improve their well-being and productivity. It will also create a sense of loyalty towards the company that takes their needs into account.

Support employee well being

Your employees may be juggling caregiving responsibilities with work. They may be stressed about finances or the health and safety of their family during the pandemic. They may be struggling to separate home and work and putting themselves at the risk of a burnout. It is important that you provide mental health support and access to wellness programs to help your staff. If you offer an Employee Assistance Program, remind your employees of its benefits and how to access it.

Know the signs of slacking

When a remote employee is shirking work, there will be tell-tale signs. For instance, if the worker is frequently unavailable and/or repeatedly misses deadlines. Or if the quality of their work has suffered and/or colleagues have complaints regarding the worker’s input or attention.

If you see several such instances, you may want to have a chat with your employee and discuss their performance. For most employees, a warning, and a reminder of the consequences of time theft as set down in your remote work policy would be enough to correct their behaviour. You may want to consider a more drastic step, such as termination, if the problematic behaviour continues.

Do you need help with staff management during the pandemic?

For advice on HR and health and safety in the workplace, call an expert today at 1 (833) 247-3652

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