COVID-19 has forever changed the office environment. There are more remote positions than ever before, staffing shortages are creating stress for employees and employers alike, and with a sluggish economy some have found themselves facing financial stress.
Remote work means less supervision, which potentially means a greater opportunity for employees to commit fraud… right? Not necessarily. Remote work can lead to skepticism in employers, which may prompt a company to review work product and work hours more often than if employees were working on-site. Technological advances have created opportunity and an infinite number of ways for dishonest employees to steal from their employers. For on-site employees, committing employee theft can be as easy as swiping a “smart watch” in front of the card scanner at a register. In the blink of an eye an employee can deposit monies into their own bank account fraudulently.
Low staffing is a surprising effect we are seeing post COVID-19. Low staffing can cause increased pressures for employers and employees. Employers will attempt to fill open vacancies, in turn having to set aside funding for those positions in the event they are filled, while current employees continue to take on a greater workload. When vacancies exist employees take on longer work hours, additional work tasks per employee, and more responsibilities. This could lead to employees rationalizing and/or feeling justified to commit fraud in the workplace. Higher workloads and stress can cause an employee to feel as if they deserve more, even if it means taking it fraudulently.
The sluggish economy we are currently seeing may lead some individuals to feel more financial stress than usual. This along with opportunity, a feeling of being justified, and little to no internal controls, may causes a “perfect storm” scenario for fraud. The U.S. Department of Commerce reported that employee theft is responsible for one-third of all business bankruptcies. To prepare for and counter these threats you should consider background checks and clear policies to serve as your armor, and internal controls your defense in the battle against employee theft.