Study: Down Economy Sparks Rise in Workplace Theft

SEATTLE, WA (Dec. 11, 2008) – The current economic downturn has led to an upturn in workplace theft – especially in large organizations – according to a recent Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) study. The study found that 27% of respondents in large companies - those with 10,000 or more employees - said crime in the workplace has risen during the current economic crisis, while 15% of all respondents, regardless of company size, reported the same.

From an internal perspective, of those companies that feel today’s economic situation has led to an increase in theft, almost a quarter (24%) of all respondents, and 31% of companies with 10,000 or more workers, said they’ve noticed an increase in the theft of company-owned items such as office supplies, products they produce, electronic equipment and food items since the economic downturn.

Undoubtedly the more troubling type of internal theft, however, is employee-related monetary theft (such as the padding of expense reports, the disappearance of cash and other financially related crimes), which was reported as increasing during the downturn by 18% of overall respondents and by 22% of large companies. More subtle “time theft” issues, such as employees using company property for personal use and “Web surfing” of non-company-related Web sites, was cited as being a growing problem by 24% of all companies in the down economy, but just 13% of large organizations consider it a problem.

From an external perspective, in theft issues involving people who don’t work at the company, the picture is much the same. A quarter of all respondents and 30% of large companies reported a rise in white-collar crimes committed by outsiders, with areas such as theft of identify or breaches of secure employee data cited. In addition, 28% of all companies and 32% of large organizations reported an increase in physical external criminal activity (such as job-site robberies and break-ins) since the economic decline began.

“As economic pressures mount on employees, it’s not surprising that illegal and unethical activities such as workplace theft increase,” said Jay Jamrog, i4cp’s SVP of research. “What’s important for employers to recognize is that this increase is likely, and while much of their attention is probably focused externally on threats to growth in their market, they better also be cognizant that business threats can originate from the inside as well.”

To address criminal activities as a result of the state of the economy, 28% of all companies and 38% of large organizations point to increased communication with employees regarding the issue. Twenty percent are conducting additional audits (25% in large companies), and 19% of companies overall are paying more attention to background checks prior to the hiring of new employees.

The Workplace Theft Pulse survey was conducted by i4cp, in conjunction with, in November 2008. The total number of respondents was 392. The full results of the survey are available exclusively for all i4cp corporate members.

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