Medical office personnel know it is stealing to take home paper, ink cartridges or other supplies from the office. Unfortunately, the employees often do not consider it stealing from the medical practice when they spend work time making personal telephone calls, texting, checking their email, Facebook account or involving themselves in other social media. Surfing the Internet on the office computer while supposedly working is time theft in your medical practice.
Dr. Joseph Eastern, a dermatologist from New Jersey, recently spoke to a medical group about office policies and politics. He stated that in order to avoid the problem of time theft, medical practitioners need to provide their employees with clear policies as to what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior in the workplace.
The policies must be effectively communicated by way of staff meetings and the employee handbook. Consequences of violating the policies must also be clearly defined and made known to the staff.
In addition, the handbook should specify other problems that are also considered time theft problems. Anything that takes away time spent on office business, such as tardiness, leaving early, abusing sick leave and seeking personal medical attention from the office physicians amounts to time theft.
Some practitioners, including Dr. Eastern, claim that offices should have a strict policy of never allowing staff to use a workplace computer for personal business and of banning any and all use of office time for any personal business. A recent study shows that a better policy may be to provide Internet and personal business breaks as well as coffee and cigarette breaks.
Medical practitioners should consult with an employment attorney who is up to date on labor laws to be sure their policies included in their handbooks and presented to their office staff comply with current laws. Having a policy firmly in place that is clearly communicated to the staff will avoid workplace crises as well as future lawsuits.
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