When interviewing a candidate for Construction, it is typically a bad sign if he asks about work hours.  We are typically a “whatever it takes” industry, and the hours to meet deadlines can vary from day to day and week to week, depending on the deliverables and stakeholders of the projects.

There is such a thing as stealing time in the workplace, irrespective of whether it is occurring in the main office or on the job-site.

Time theft occurs when an employee is paid for work he has not actually done, or for time he is not actually at work.  Time theft costs employers billions of dollars annually and costs many employees their jobs (even if they aren’t always told this).  Slackers are not looked upon fondly, especially in our industry where the labor burden is what drives the bottom line and keeps us in business.

Most people think of time theft as pertaining primarily to hourly employees and those required to punch a time clock or fill out a time sheet.  However, salaried employees can also and often do commit time theft, by taking more than their allotted time for lunch, running personal errands during work, or even by distracting other employees with idle discussion.  When employees do not perform to the extent to which they are paid (either in hours or work), the pendulum is swung illegitimately in favor of employees.  Time served does not necessarily add up to time well spent.

If an employer has an employee earning $20/hour ($41,600.00/yr), but who steals 30 minutes an average of five times per work week, the annual amount stolen is $2500.00 (based on a 50-week work year).  If there are 10 employees doing this, $25,000 a year will have been stolen, which is more than half of one $20/hr full-time employee’s annual salary.

What are some of the workplace behaviors that might be stealing time?

Career Builder assisted us with a survey:

CareerBuilder Survey Reveals Top Productivity Killers (PRNewsFoto/CareerBuilder)

Does working forty hours really matter as long as the person is getting their job done?  How does one define “getting the job done”?  Unless someone is piecework and finishes a project, and is waiting to be paid piecework to do the next, their job is most likely not done.  Most full-time employees can and should find something to do in their downtime, or they may find their responsibilities divvied up amongst their co-workers and their job eliminated.

Earlier this year, a city in Canada discovered after contractors were complaining that the inspectors were not inspecting their projects that the city inspectors were stealing time. They were caught in the video linked below.

Not only did their time theft cost the taxpayers and the city, but it also cost contractors and owners with delay costs from delayed inspections.

Stealing time is equivalent to stealing materials.  It is theft and costs all the honest workers money, as profit sharing and most bonus plans are contingent in part upon company profit.

How can you help eliminate time theft?

Suzanne Breistol


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