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Buddy Punching

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What is buddy punching?

Buddy punching is when an employee asks a co-worker to clock in on their behalf. For example, if an employee is running late, they may ask a co-worker to clock in for them, so they can get paid for the entire shift.

Why should you pay attention to buddy punching?

Buddy punching is a source of time theft in which employees get paid for more time than they have worked. To avoid this, consider using a digital time clock or an employee scheduling software that requires ID when clocking in.

Who does buddy punching help?

Buddy punching may appear to help a team member who is late get paid for time when they are not at work. However, buddy punching is harmful to workplace culture as it does not promote good behaviour or equality. Team members that arrive on time are not noted for their behaviour, while team members who are late get away with time theft. Eliminating buddy-punching sets a higher standard for workplace behaviour and promotes fairness for employees that arrive on time.

How does Buddy Punching Affect Your Workplace?

Teams need both positive and negative feedback to enhance their performance. It is unfair for employees to get away with buddy punching while others arrive on time. Of course, life happens, but if employee absenteeism is common it needs to be addressed. Here are additional problems buddy punching correlates within the workplace:

  • Lack of communication
    Perhaps there is a reason employees feel they cannot tell you when they are running late. Ask yourself if your workplace culture allows for open communication and vulnerability. For example, if the schedule a manager creates is extremely inconvenient for an employee, can they voice this concern? If there is a fear of management, employees facing genuine problems may refrain from sharing it, even if addressing it would improve their performance and team culture.
  • Buddy punching culture
    New team members may see seasoned workers participating in buddy punching, and think it is acceptable behavior. When there is no feedback around time theft, team members will continue buddy punching. When managers are not clear about their expectations, this can result in poor performance around other areas of their role. To avoid this, ensure your managers are giving feedback around tardiness.
  • Low morale for high performing staff
    Buddy punching is a form of employee absenteeism, which is the repeated absence of an employee while they are clocked in. When employees are not present during their shift, their co-workers need to carry out their responsibilities and do extra work. This is unfair for employees with stronger performance, especially when they are compensated the same amount. Lack of equal treatment and fairness in the workplace is a cause for employee turnover.

  • Extra Business Cost
    The cost for businesses dealing with buddy punching is not limited to time theft, but employee satisfaction. When other employees are expected to carry the burden of those absent, this unfairness decreases employee satisfaction and increases the turnover of good employees. Recruiting and hiring new team members to replace those workers is expensive. You can calculate the cost of your turnover rate here and learn more about why tracking the employee turnover rate is important.

How can you prevent Buddy Punching?

There is a hard way and an easy way to prevent buddy punching. Traditionally, companies may require managers to physically monitor team members clocking in, which is time-consuming and not always feasible. Managers can also create a clear company policy and remind team members regularly but this is not a foolproof way to prevent buddy punching. The easiest method to stop buddy punching in the workplace is through technology. Using a digital time clock eliminates the need to monitor team members for accurate time tracking. They can use their phones to sign in and no one can buddy punch for them. Watch your team’s performance improve, and keep track of your team’s reliability.

Example of a Buddy Punching Scenario

Selena just started working at Shifty Showhouse as a greeter. Her shift starts at 5 pm, which is 30 minutes before doors open for guests. She notices senior co-workers only show up 10 to 15 minutes before doors open to set up. Her manager is rarely there on time either, and everyone just signs their clock-in time as 5 pm. After a few weeks, Selena begins showing up to work at 5:15 pm. Nobody seems to notice or care.

How might buddy punching be addressed in this scenario?

If it is common for co-workers to buddy punch and there is no feedback for their behavior. This causes new workers to think it is acceptable behavior. The manager needs to set a better example by showing up on time and communicate company policy. Alternatively, the business owner can incorporate a digital time clock to avoid any attendance fraud.

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