Most people agree that it’s unethical to steal goods, equipment, funds, or information from an employer. Most also agree that it’s unethical blame others for our mistakes, to lie, or to belittle or bully others. These are ethical “givens” that are part of the deal anyone makes when agreeing to work for an employer.
However, employee time is often a gray area. Many employees use work time to do things other than their work. But is that the right thing to do? To begin, consider carefully what it means when an organization agrees to employ you. Your employer pays you a specified salary or hourly wage and perhaps some benefits for your work. In exchange, the assumption is that you’re working the hours you’re scheduled to work. The overarching agreement between you and your employer is therefore that work time is work time. That means that the time you’re scheduled for work is under the control of your employer. It’s not time for you to use for other activities.
I believe that the misuse of work time is a pervasive and subtle form of theft that shortchanges an employer and chips away at an employee’s integrity. To help, I recommend that employees ensure that they’re working the hours they’re supposed to and have agreed work and giving their employers an honest day’s work by following by these four basic rules:
1. Be prompt. Arrive on time, be ready to work, and work all of the hours you’re scheduled to work. Sounds simple, right? However, many employees steal time at the beginning and end of the workday. Imagine that your regularly-scheduled work hours are between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Now imagine that you clock in at 8:15 a.m. every morning and leave at 4:35 p.m. Missing these 40 minutes of work time each day for a month adds up to a total of 13 hours of lost work time. Over the course of a year, that 40 minutes per day adds up to 156 hours of missed work – the equivalent of nearly four weeks! So, an employee who misses 40 minutes of work each day is essentially taking an extra one-month paid vacation each year. Don’t let this happen to you. Come to work early or on time and don’t ask to leave early or try to slip out unnoticed. Then, if circumstances occur so that you don’t work all of your scheduled hours, don’t exaggerate or lie about your work hours on your time sheet. Fill in only the hours you’ve been present and working. Offer to make up the missed time or take less pay – that’s what’s fair and right.
2. Don’t take unsanctioned breaks. Your employer may allow you to take a 15-minute break mid-morning and mid-afternoon and a 30- or 60-minute lunch break. Don’t stretch these times or take more breaks than you’ve agreed to take. If you do, you’ll be shortchanging your employer of the hours you’ve agreed to work.
3. Conduct your personal business outside of your work hours. Employees are stealing time when they use work time to make personal phone calls, check personal emails, tweet, text their friends, go on their personal Facebook pages, shop online, play games, run errands, socialize, or engage in study, a side business, or other activities that aren’t within the scope of their jobs. Unless clearly specified as exceptions, your employer expects your time and your attention to work matters during work hours.
4. Be industrious. Your employer shouldn’t expect you to kill yourself working but does expect you to work at a reasonable pace to complete your work. An employee with integrity doesn’t goof off and isn’t lazy at work. — Dr. Laura Hills, President, Blue Pencil Institute, www.bluepencilinstitute.com
Author’s Note: This blog post is written for employees. Business owners and managers may want to share this post with their employees or make this post the topic of a staff meeting or one-on-one meetings with their employees.
Readers interested in learning more about managing their time may enjoy Blue Pencil Institute’s 25 Top Time Management Tips. On Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/drlaurahills/25-time-management-tips/