Employee time theft can present huge problems for employers in any industry. However, unlike other types of theft, time theft can be nearly impossible to detect without constant vigilance. If employers want to protect their profits and reduce payroll expenses, they must be willing to invest in measures that will identify and prevent time theft. The following are a few strategies businesses can adopt to discourage and prevent employee time theft and other counterproductive activities.

Communicate and Enforce Expectations

Employees should know, from their first day at work onward, that spending time engaged in non-work-related activities while they’re on the clock is off limits. This should be reinforced regularly via memos and company-wide communications. There should be a policy in place that describes the consequences of wasting or misusing company time. This policy should be enforced consistently, with every employee at every level being held accountable to the standards outlined therein. Consistent enforcement of this policy will not only save money in wasted time but will keep morale high as well. Employees are far more likely to suffer from low morale when you unevenly enforce rules than they are when you apply them calmly and consistently.

Guard Against Triggers

There are several things that may trigger employees to engage in off-task activities, even when they are otherwise inclined to follow rules. These include cultural holidays like March Madness, Cyber Monday, and other times when being online and off-task is more attractive than working. Avoiding discussion of these and other distractions while on the job may help to keep your employees on track.

Similarly, employees should never engage in personal business while at their workspace, as this can lead to dangerous overlap between employees’ private lives and work lives. Personal calls, emails, and discussions should be handled away from the workplace—ideally on an employee’s break time in a designated space. This will keep workers from getting into the habit of misusing valuable work time.

Use Technology Wherever Possible

There are numerous technologies that can help employers defend their business from employee time theft. Some of these were designed for employees who spend most of the workday off-site, but they also can be used in the office. GPS vehicle tracking devices, for example, let you know whether employees who are on the road are staying on task and performing their assigned duties. Online punch clocks also can be useful for employees who work from computers, whether in a physical office space or from home.

Employee time theft does not have to be a problem for your company if you take the right steps to prevent it. With consistent policies and tech-based time tracking, you can stop time theft once and for all.