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Even casual buddy clocking can cost you thousands. Here’s what you can do to ensure it doesn’t happen.

Even if you haven’t heard of buddy clocking, you know what it is. An employee clocks a coworker in or out when they aren’t there. Someone on the team is running late? No problem. A coworker clocks them in. Left early and forgot to clock out? No problem. A coworker clocks them out. 

Of course, there are other versions of buddy clocking that aren’t so innocent. Someone takes the entire day off, but has a friend clock them in and out. From a payroll perspective, it looks like they were there working all day. In reality, however, you (and your client) are paying for work that’s not getting done. 

Accidental or purposeful, though, buddy clocking can add up and cost you thousands of dollars over the course of a year. Even the most innocent, well-meaning employees may be part of this.

Let’s look at why and how this happens, as well as several ways to eliminate the issue. 


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Buddy Clocking

The good, the bad, and the ugly about buddy punching

First, you’re probably getting stressed thinking about how much buddy punching is costing you. And you may be a bit angry that people could take advantage of you like that. 

Take a deep breath. There are often very innocent reasons for your employees to clock each other in or out. The biggest reason is that they are likely trying to do a favor for a coworker running late. They don’t run payroll, so they don’t realize that 15 minutes here or 30 minutes there adds up so quickly. In fact, they might even see it as an efficient way to keep things moving. 

Unfortunately, there are some not-so-innocent reasons for employees to clock each other in and out, as well. Some employees will clock coworkers in and out knowing that they won’t be at work. And usually that “favor” goes both ways. So for every person getting paid while they aren’t at work, there’s usually at least one more person in the same situation. 

That’s the good and bad version of the story. Here’s the ugly. Even as little as a couple of hours per week in total, multiplied by $15 per hour and then multiplied by 52 weeks in a year, will cost you over $1500. Two full days each month of buddy clocking and you’re closing in on $3,000 per year.

And that’s just the hourly wage. It doesn’t count the other payroll expenses like unemployment insurance, workers comp, taxes, or the cost of running payroll. 

Further, these situations can drag down the morale of your team. It’s frustrating for people not involved in buddy punching to pick up the slack. It seeds discontent, leaves your team working inefficiently, and gives the impression of an absentee boss who doesn’t care about working conditions

That’s the problem. Now, how do you fix it?

Getting your time clock in order

There’s a fine line between running your company efficiently and making a profit, and hovering over everyone, expecting they are out to get what they can from you. At some point, you have to trust that the people you hire are honest, hard-working people. So let’s start there. 

Assume the best. As stressful as it is to find discrepancies in your payroll, you have to assume the best. If you start accusing people of time theft, even your most dedicated employees will start to sour. No one wants to be accused of wrongdoing – especially if they really didn’t do anything wrong. Until you have proof that someone is deliberately buddy clocking, assume the problem is a mistake, miscommunication, or misunderstanding of some type. 

Clarify the issue. Looking back at our first situation, it’s easy to understand that many employees might not grasp how much of a problem clocking other people in or out may be. So, talk to your team. Explain the situation to them. Let them know it’s okay if they are a few minutes late, and they can clock in on-site. 

Explore employee morale. We know that low morale can lead people to take liberties they might not otherwise consider. And we know that happy employees will do their best to do right by their supervisors and cleaning business owners. Is there something going on that’s preventing your team from feeling appreciated and respected? 

Use janitorial software. Software like Janitorial Manager has numerous features to help prevent buddy clocking. From geo-fencing to facial recognition capabilities, Janitorial Manager is designed to help you run a tight ship. 

Offer paid time off. There are numerous reasons for a commercial cleaning company to offer paid time off. It encourages employee loyalty, which itself is a benefit to your company. Additionally, many people who get paid by the hour can’t afford to take a day off work. And yet, we all need days off. Is this just a different name for people getting paid even when they aren’t at work? Not really. Because when you offer this as a benefit, you build employee appreciation, encourage honesty, and attract better candidates when you hire.

Take these steps and you may find that buddy clocking goes away quickly. And if it doesn’t go away on its own, you can bet most of your employees won’t let it continue.


Take care of your employees and they’ll take care of you. Learn more today with a discovery call and find out how to make your cleaning operation more efficient and cost effective, just by prioritizing employee relationships.