12 Strategies to Prevent Buddy Punching in 2022

It is always good to see coworkers taking care of each other. However, their collaboration, if applied in a particular manner, can actively harm the company. Once coworker collaboration turns into spreading negative business practices, it’s time to take some corrective actions.

What counts as buddy punching?

Firstly, let’s look at the consequences of buddy punching. This practice has cost US companies 373 million dollars in 2017 alone. It also tends to lower productivity and make other negative business practices more common.

Now for the definition: buddy punching is one of the oldest time theft methods. It is comprised of a coworker clocking in on the behalf of their coworker who hasn’t arrived yet. The other version is clocking out for a colleague who left work earlier. It is very simple and, thus, widespread.

Current buddy punching tactics

The term ‘’buddy punching’’ comes from the time when punch cards were used to signify presence at work. Nowadays, there are other ways to clock in, such as

  • Signing in
  • Entering a password

Which are also easy to falsify.

Buddy-punching is more prominent in larger companies or departments. It can also get more extreme, with employees pretending to work overtime or even taking entire days off thanks to buddy punching.

However, the specific buddy punching methods don’t have to be this extreme to make an impact. A simple theft of five to 10 minutes at the beginning and end of the day, accumulated over a month still adds up to quite a sum if converted into billable hours.

How to know your employees are committing time theft?

Determining whether buddy punching is a common occurrence in your company is the first step to preventing it. Here are some warning signs you should keep your eye on.

1. The Completed Work Doesn’t Match the Logged Time.

This is the most certain way to know time theft is occurring. Simply put – it seems like most employees are there, but your team isn’t achieving its goals. You need to be aware that there are other reasons for this as well, like an increased workload or a complex project.

2. Tardiness and Absenteeism Don’t Exist

Let’s be honest, people who are never late for work are extremely rare. So, a system that tells you everyone always comes in on time and there are few (if not none) people calling in sick or with an emergency situation isn’t a good sign. It is normal to come in late sometimes and to have to take some time away from work for family or health matters. This doesn’t mean you should let everyone clock in and out as they please. Yet, if a list looks too good to be true, it probably isn’t real. Especially so if it is accompanied by the previous point.

3. Time Entries Are Becoming a Little Too Convenient

What we mean by convenience in this case is:

  • Coworkers signing in and out at the same time
  • Similar handwritings in logs
  • Perfect timing on everyone’s part

Of course, these signals don’t have to mean buddy punching is occurring. For example, some employees could be carpooling together. This would make them come and leave at the same time. Yet, if things start looking a little too well, but the results don’t show it, you should conduct an investigation.

Here are our tried and true tricks to prevent buddy punching

1. Find the Reasons for Buddy Punching

Most people don’t want to commit time theft in a company they like, even though there will always be some exceptions. However, if they aren’t happy about their working conditions, resentment and apathy can take over.

Of course, the management has the task of working in the company’s interest. Yet, this doesn’t mean you should cross boundaries. For example, no one likes being micromanaged, and if you try to control what your employees are doing at all times, there will be some resentment, which can lead to being willing to commit time theft.

Additionally, not being fair to your employees (low or irregular salaries) and the lack of benefits like paid time off are also bound to create a negative opinion about your organization.

Solving these problems can lead to a decrease the buddy punching and time theft problems. However, there also may be some dishonest employees who create the problem even when they are being treated fairly. In that case, it’s time to take some more serious action.

2. Create an Anti-Buddy Punching Policy

Even though buddy punching isn’t a crime, you can discourage it by starting new policies. This is a good way to start the conversation about buddy punching. It will clearly signal that the management has noticed this negative business practice, and won’t stand for it.

A zero-tolerance policy is a great first step. The second part is making it widely known to all your employees. You can either send a memo or add a paragraph against this type of fraud to their contracts. Having your attitude toward time theft in writing will also save you time and energy when it comes to onboarding new team members.

3. Install a System that Requires Passwords

This is a simple way to get in the way of buddy-punching. You can make the passwords personal enough for the employees not to want to share them. Some companies, for example, ask for the password to include an employee’s social security number or a part of it. On the other hand, you can use a less serious and intrusive method and make the criteria for a password complicated. Make the passwords contain capital letters, numbers, and special characters, so that they are more difficult to remember.

It is also a good idea to make the clock in passwords match the work computer passwords. Again, employees will be more hesitant to share this information with their coworkers, as they will be exposing business and private information to them.

4. Upgrade Your Systems

The pen-and-paper method for clocking in is becoming obsolete. There are many possibilities to log your time at work. Here are some of them:

  • Digital timecards
  • Time tracking software
  • Geofencing
  • GPS location
  • Biometric identification
  • Security cameras

Relying on old-fashioned methods isn’t going to cut it for much longer. There are good reasons to modernize, especially if your competition is already doing it before you. In other words, you should get a modern solution for an old and persistent problem. The way you do it depends on the scope of the buddy punching problem in your company and the money you can invest into the solution.

5. Digital Timecards

The old clock-in systems relied on paper timecards you could move from one slot to another, or punch holes into. However, as technology progressed, there are many more options now. For example, you can obtain a system where a person can’t come to your offices unless they check in with their digital timecard. This way they will have to be truthful about their check-in and out times. Many companies also use timecards to allow their employees to access different parts of the company’s offices.

6. Time Tracking Software

There are many time management software solutions available that enable users to track their time from their computers or mobile devices. There are many ways to track time, from using Excel templates or automated timesheet software, over automatic timers to more intrusive solutions, like tracking mouse and keyboard activity, taking screenshots of user computer screens, and monitoring the app and website use. The way these systems prevent buddy punching is by providing the time when an action occurred.

7. Geofencing

This model of buddy punching prevention is great for companies with remote workforces or field teams. Geofencing represents a virtual boundary that is formed by GPS, cellular data, and WiFi.  In other words, users will only be able to clock in from a defined space. Some field service management software solutions automatically clock the employees in as they enter their virtual barriers and clock them out once they leave.

Even though this method is created mostly to manage remote and field teams, you can use it even if you conduct your work from an office, your parking lot or office doors can be the limits of the perimeter. Geofencing solutions are connected to users’ mobile devices through apps, which means that they cannot clock in unless they’re actually within the perimeter. This prevents buddy punching very well since most people aren’t willing to give their phones to their coworkers.

8. GPS Location

This is another tracking method that prevents buddy punching which relies on mobile phones. The difference between a geofencing and a GPS-based solution is that geofencing ties the employee to a single position, while GPS apps monitor the employees’ movement wherever they are. In other words, a GPS solution is a great way to monitor your field teams or employees who travel a lot. This way you will also prevent time theft based on too long breaks, resolving personal matters on company time, and absenteeism.

9. Biometric Identification

This is one of the most secure ways to prevent buddy punching. Biometric identification is comprised of facial identification, hand or fingerprints, as well as retina scans. Of course, this type of control is extremely intrusive, as well as expensive. However, it is also extremely secure. Thus, it is a good solution for companies or even just departments with high-security priorities.

You should know that biometric ID-based solutions usually come with a level of employee security concerns. For example, some states have passed laws that protect employee biometric information. The reception and implementation of these systems are bound to be difficult, especially if you decide to add them to your daily practice suddenly and without warning.

10. Security Cameras

This is another highly controversial, albeit less intense, way to track employee attendance. Installing cameras that track the time your employees show up for work is a sure way to prevent buddy punching, as you will be able to identify the perpetrators when reviewing the footage.

Again, deciding to use this system is not going to be popular among your staff. Simply put – people do not like to be monitored so closely. Even though you are doing it to reduce time theft and reduce company losses, installing cameras also signals an extremely low trust level on the company’s part. This is bound to create resentment and lower overall morale. It can also increase employee turnover, which will create new costs.

11. IP Address Locking

This is a solution meant for employees whose positions demand a lot of interaction with computers. Some solutions enable you to connect timers to the IP address of their device. These solutions usually work through multiple steps. Firstly, the user needs to log in to their computer. Then they will log into an online system that will start their timer. In other words, an employee’s time would start counting from the moment they start using their device, which lowers the chances of buddy punching

12. Accountability Culture

No matter which buddy punching preventing system you decide to use, its successful implementation will not be your final step. You will have to make sure the systems are used properly. And trust us, the people who want to commit time theft will try to fool even the most sophisticated and accurate systems. That is why you will need to additionally raise overall accountability. You can do this by assigning employees to verify the arrival and leaving times.

As managers and team leaders usually have a lot on their plates, you should assign this responsibility to someone with a smaller workload. Also, don’t forget to compensate them for their efforts.

What to Do When You Discover Buddy Punching in Your Company?

It is up to you to define the penalties you will uphold once buddy punchers are uncovered. We suggest going gradually. It is also helpful to address the problem before implementing the solution. For example, you can schedule a meeting with all your employees (or meetings with managers or team leaders if you are running a larger operation).

Address the fact that buddy punching is still happening in your company to make the employees aware that their behavior has been noticed. Then, if the time theft continues, have one-on-one meetings or issue warning notices. You can try to find out why buddy punching occurs, and work on it from your side if the reasons are valid. Unfortunately, you will need to hear some criticism if you are aiming to improve.

There may be some employees who have to be somewhere else before work – single parents dropping off their children for school, people who need medication at a certain time, etc. If you are willing to allow them to come in later or leave earlier, you will definitely win some points with the whole collective.

What to Do When the Employee Won’t Cooperate?

However, as we have previously mentioned, there are simply some people who don’t want to invest the effort into their work. If that is the case, and the employees in question aren’t showing signs of improvement, it is probably time to take some more serious measures. These can be

  • One-time pay reduction
  • Demotion
  • Firing the employee

You know these practices aren’t going to be popular. However, if you have made the policies public and gone through the software implementation, not taking action makes all that effort an unnecessary loss of energy and resources. Finally, your employees will be encouraged to continue breaking company policies further on.

 

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