Like many business owners, we were frustrated when we realized that some of our employees were buddy punching (punching each other in and out at work).
We were paying for work that wasn’t actually done, and it created a culture of dishonesty. So the question became, how do we stop buddy punching at our business once and for all?
We looked into and tested a variety of software solutions to increase accountability, but they all fell short. And we realized that the best means to solve this problem was to build our own product. So we did. We called it Buddy Punch, and it worked out so well that we decided to offer it up to other business owners, too.
In this article, we’ll explain why we think our own product is the best possible way to prevent buddy punching. But before we get to that, we’ll go over:
- What Is Buddy Punching?
- How Is Buddy Punching Typically Accomplished by Employees?
- What Are the Consequences of Employees Buddy Punching?
- Downsides of the Typical Strategies Companies Use to Prevent Buddy Punching
Note: Learn from our experience! We created Buddy Punch for our own business not only to prevent buddy punching and increase accountability, but also to simplify payroll and scheduling. We realized other companies could benefit as well. Find out more here and sign up for a free trial.
What Is Buddy Punching?
Buddy punching occurs when one employee punches another employee in or out of a shift at work when the person isn’t actually present. Although some employees might view this as a friendly way to help a co-worker log more work hours or avoid the consequences of arriving late or leaving early, cheating on time cards is a form of fraud, and it negatively impacts the bottom line of a business (among other consequences which we’ll get to shortly).
How Is Buddy Punching Typically Accomplished by Employees?
The practice originated with paper timesheets or time cards. An employee could simply grab a co-worker’s time card and clock them in before they actually arrived at the workplace. Similarly, if one employee left before the end of a shift, another employee could clock them out later.
As technology to prevent buddy punching has evolved, so have ways to get around it. Employers who have implemented time tracking systems that use QR codes, usernames, and passwords to “punch in” have found that employees can simply share this information to log each other in and out of the system.
Although the techniques have changed, the consequences are the same.
What Are the Consequences of Employees Buddy Punching?
Time theft has a number of unfortunate effects. The first and the most obvious is its impact on your company’s bottom line.
When your employees buddy punch, you’re paying for work that wasn’t done. Even though 15 minutes here or half an hour there might not seem like a big deal, that time significantly adds up when it’s compounded by multiple employees over months or years.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics determined that buddy punching costs employers $373 million a year – with 16% of U.S. employees and 34% of Canadian employees admitting to doing it.
Another consequence — and we think this is possibly the most dangerous consequence for a business — is that it creates a culture of dishonesty.
Employees who buddy punch know they’re lying, and when they lie for others or ask others to lie for them, they contribute to a company culture where dishonesty is tolerated and even inadvertently rewarded.
It’s a slippery slope: if cheating is allowed at the time clock, employees might wonder if dishonesty could be permissible in other situations, too.
In addition, buddy punching can result in diminished customer experience. For instance, one of our clients first came to us because a customer had called him to complain that one of his stores wasn’t open during posted business hours.
He discovered that the clerk had simply closed the store early and left, without requesting time off or noting the incident in his emailed time sheet. The business owner was frustrated because, in essence, he had paid an employee to disappoint a customer.
That’s often the case when it comes to employee time theft. It can result in a compounding loss: when your employees buddy punch, you’re paying for work that simply didn’t happen. Cheating is rewarded, your customers are frustrated, and your business suffers.
So how can you stop buddy punching and the cascading effects of dishonesty among your team members?
Downsides of the Typical Strategies Companies Use to Prevent Buddy Punching
Buddy punching is a long-standing problem and a variety of preventative strategies have cropped up over the years. However, as we cover below, they’re not without their weaknesses.
1. Biometric Time Clocks
Biometric time trackers like facial recognition software and fingerprint scanners are commonly used by businesses to track employee time, but they present a few problems.
First, employees can simply say they forgot to scan in. Second, specifically with fingerprint scanners, employees can say the system didn’t work or didn’t recognize them, and it would be difficult for an employer to dispute that claim.
(Note: Studies have shown that these systems can be unreliable, with as low as 40% to 60% accuracy.)
2. Install a Camera
A seemingly simple solution is to install a camera to verify employees’ presence at the time and place where they clock in and clock out. As with many things, though, maintaining a visual monitoring system is easier said than done.
We actually tried this system, but we found it had a number of shortfalls. Our main problem was that it was time-consuming to monitor a camera: we wanted to spend our time growing our business, not logging in to camera feeds and trying to figure out who was where at what time. We also found that the camera and other equipment constantly needed to be maintained; the system only worked when everything worked, and we were back to where we started every time one component broke down.
3. Create a Buddy Punching Policy
In an ideal world, a written policy with stern disciplinary actions against buddy punching would eradicate the problem. But while it may add an extra layer of friction and make employees think twice about buddy punching, it’s not a fool-proof way to be sure every actually adheres to expectations.
Why Buddy Punch (Our Employee Time Tracking Software) Is the Best Way to Prevent Buddy Punching
Prior to building Buddy Punch, we tried many strategies to increase accountability in our own business. But we ended up with an inefficient patchwork of different solutions, and it seemed like we were spending more time trying to prevent buddy punching than we had been losing to the practice.
Below, we go over the features specifically meant to increase accountability and prevent buddy punching:
With this feature, employees are required to take a photo of themselves on each punch in and punch out using their Buddy Punch mobile, tablet, or desktop app:
You can then see the time stamped photos of your employees in your dashboard, and verify they were the ones doing the punching (versus a coworker).
Note that this is an optional feature that can be turned off at any time. However, if you’d like to prevent buddy punching, it’s our most effective feature for doing so.
You can ensure that your employees are clocking in and out from a given job location by requiring them to punch in using a specified IP address.
This is useful if your employees typically work at the same physical location.
This option is perfect for businesses like lawn care companies, caterers, construction firms, or caregiving services that have on-site employees who work at different locations throughout any given day. You can create a radius around a physical location, and then your employees can only punch in and out of that assigned location.
This is another useful option for businesses that have employees who work in different locations.
Buddy Punch can record and report on the GPS location every time an employee punches in or out.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Beyond helping you prevent buddy punching and increase staff accountability, Buddy Punch also offers features that help with…
- Streamlining Payroll (learn more here)
- Employee Scheduling (learn more here)
- Overtime Calculations (learn more here)
- PTO Tracking (learn more here)
- Accruals (learn more here)
- Adding, Editing, or Deleting Punches (learn more here)
- Time Card Approvals (learn more here)
- Job Codes / Project Tracking (learn more here)
- Punch Reminders & Overtime Alerts (learn more here)
And the list goes on!
Click here to see a complete list with all of Buddy Punch’s features.
Buddy Punch Online Reviews
At Buddy Punch, we’re proud of the product we’ve built. But don’t just take our word for it! At the time of this writing, Buddy Punch has received a total 605 reviews and 4.8 out of 5 stars on Capterra (a popular software review site).
Here are just a few of the reviews:
Take Buddy Punch for a Test Drive
We created Buddy Punch for our own business not only to prevent buddy punching and increase employee accountability, but to simplify payroll and scheduling. We realized other companies could benefit from this as well.