Time Fraud in Remote Workers

The way people work changed drastically during the COVID-19 pandemic. This also led to a growing problem – time fraud in remote workers.

With so many people suddenly working from home, it became even more difficult to track whether employees were working as much as they claimed. Uncovering this fraud isn’t always easy, though.

Require Regular Check-ins

A simple way to combat time fraud in remote workers is to require regular check-ins throughout the day. While it’s not fool-proof, it does help hold remote employees more accountable. You can require check-ins every hour or even every half hour. Naturally, this would exclude scheduled breaks and lunches.

Emails, chat apps and even video apps can serve as a check-in option. Employers can also check-in randomly with employees to see how quickly they respond. Long delays could signal the employee is not actually working.

Unexplained Overtime

While some remote workers actually are having to work longer hours due to a lack of employees, companies should always be able to account for the extra hours. If you downsized from 10 people to three, you’ll likely see an increase in hours for those three employees, especially as they adjust to added responsibilities. However, if you haven’t made any changes beyond employees just working remotely, you shouldn’t see sudden surges in overtime.

Contact employees to ask what’s going on. A common form of time fraud in remote workers is logging in to the company software and staying logged in longer than necessary. They then use this as proof that they were working late. In this instance, track the actual activity of employees when they’re using company tools and apps. If they’re logged in, but their mouse never moved, it’s likely fraud.

Assign Tasks

Since remote workers aren’t in the office, it’s easier to goof off versus working. Help spot time fraud and keep employees on task by assigning them tasks each day or week. They’re required to submit proof and check items off the list. You can use project management apps for this.

Employees who can’t keep up may either be having trouble adjusting to working from home or they’re trying to commit time fraud. For instance, they might only work four hours a day, but claim they’re working eight. Struggling to finish everything in half the time is a sign something’s wrong.

Rely On Other Employees

Ask all of your employees to watch for signs of time fraud. While this is harder when everyone’s working remotely, there are a few things to look for, such as:

· Difficulty getting responses in a timely manner

· Asking co-workers to handle tasks for them

· Making constant excuses as to why they’re not available, yet still supposedly working full time

· Conversations about not actually working

· Pictures on social media taken during work hours (such as visiting a museum or going shopping)

Set up an ethics hotline for employees to report suspicious behavior. No one has to even share their own name. Knowing that co-workers could be reporting them helps to reduce time fraud in remote workers.

You can also require an activity tracking app on remote devices, but many employees don’t feel safe using those. Ethics hotlines make a great and efficient compromise.