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6 Alarming Office Theft Realities You Need to Be Aware Of
Don't let office theft ruin morale and drag your team down.
We like to believe we can trust the people we work with. They say hello to us every morning. We have coffee with them in the break room. We share pictures of our kids and vacations.
They all seem so sweet, but it's also true that office theft has been on the rise. A survey from security company ADT found that 31% of office workers have had their favorite mug stolen and 29% have had their lunch stolen. That's a lot of under caffeinated and hungry people walking around the office.
When you add up the lunches, the mugs, the computer cords, the reams of paper, and anything else small enough to fit in a bag, office theft adds up—fast.
The Startling Truth of Office Theft and How You Can Prevent It
1. Anyone could be an office thief
We often think of thieves as nefarious back-alley dwellers who need a shave and a clean set of clothes. The fact is, anyone can be an office thief.
In Canton, Ohio, Police Chief Paul Stanley stole more than $23,000 from a police department trust fund. And Enron founder Kenneth Lay and CEO Jeffry Skilling were convicted of conspiracy and fraud in the first big corporate crime case of the 21st century.
2. Office theft is expensive
The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners found that an average business "loses 5% of its revenues to fraud each year." Furthermore, approximately half of those businesses never recover the lost revenue.
3. There are warning signs
Office theft isn't without some telltale warnings—especially when petty theft turns into major embezzlement. What are those signs? Investigative attorney Marc Weber Tobias writes in Forbes that the top indicators are:
- 36% live beyond their means
- 27% have financial problems
- 19% have "unusually close association with vendors or customers"
- 18% don't want to share job duties
Other indicators include:
- Generally bad attitude
4. Office theft includes intellectual property
The intellectual property of your business is a valuable resource. It may include anything from a list of clients to code to product development blueprints to trade secrets. And in case you don't think it's worth all that much, human capital and intellectual property accounts for 87% of the total value of the S&P 500 companies.
5. Office theft impacts everyone
Understandably, when a business begins to lose significant capital due to theft, stricter policies go into effect. The problem is that everyone feels the pinch of this. Your perfectly happy team suddenly feels like they're micromanaged and continually watched. It's not a pleasant situation for anyone.
6. Office theft breaks the social code
Going back to your coworker's favorite mug or the 29% of workers with missing lunches, the simple fact is that office theft breaks the social code. There's an unspoken code, based on trust and respect, that we follow in society to help civilization work. When you're at the coffee shop and you ask someone at another table to watch your computer while you go to the bathroom, you're both embracing the code. You're trusting them to watch your valuable item, and they're trusting that you won't be gone for long.
That same code is in place in the office. You and your coworkers put your lunch in the break room refrigerator and trust that it will be there when you are ready to eat. We like to believe we can trust those around us because we share a commonality (sitting in the same shop or working in the same company).
When someone steals your lunch, they break that code, interrupt the understood norms of society, and inject suspicion and frustration into the workplace.
What You Can Do About Office Theft
Every circumstance is different, so there isn't a one-size-fits-all answer to theft prevention. There are some steps you can take to reduce or limit office theft without installing surveillance cameras in every cubicle.
- Put a theft policy into place if you don't already have one.
- Pay attention to the warning signs above.
- Don't leave valuable items, like wallets, visible.
- Know your employees. People are less likely to steal from someone they like.
- Be a good boss. Create a positive work environment.
- Ensure proprietary information is secure, and require individual login accounts for each employee.
Did you know Pekin Insurance's business insurance may cover losses due to employee theft? Get in touch with Heitmann Insurance Services today to get the business coverage you need.