Is there a way to stamp out employee malingering? The answer
Employee malingering is becoming a problem for some employers. As some states move forward with plans to open their states back up during the global COVID-19 pandemic, many are looking forward to life returning to some semblance of normalcy. While businesses make plans to reopen their doors, there are others that will keep the bulk of their operations remote with employees working from home in order to mitigate the spread of the disease. While many employers feel this precaution is still prudent, there is the additional layer of anxiety about whether employees are keeping their noses to the grindstone, or malingering.
Obviously, these are strange times. A majority of businesses
in the United States were forced to shut down direct business to customer
operations in order to prevent the spread of the disease. Employees who were
not furloughed or laid off due to COVID-19 have been forced to adjust to a new
working life devoid of work-life balance—their work is literally in the home—complete
with the distraction of children, family, pets, spouses, and other household
distractions. It is a stressful time, and it can be difficult to maintain focus.
Corporations and organizations should always prioritize their employee’s mental
health for the sake of their corporate culture. These predictable challenges
with suddenly working from home should not be considered employee malingering. However,
willful malingering can lay huge blows to daily productivity and ultimately
profits. Employers must have a way to verify whether or not their employees are
Under more normal, stable circumstances, employers have the
benefit of face to face interaction for determining how engaged and productive
their employees are. In addition to output, supervisors can note how many
breaks they take, the quality of the work, and the level of communication from the
employee, both on and offline. However, remote working has made detecting
employee malingering almost impossible.
Telecommunication technology has played a vital role in facilitating
the continuation of the economy despite the quarantine. Meetings are held over Zoom,
employee time is tracked through invoices or through an online time clock of
sorts that allows employees to log their time worked and have their timesheets
stored on a cloud server. Short of a live camera feed that documents the
employee in front of the computer or on the phone, is there truly a way to
verify if they are actually working?
The idea of hiring a private investigator to surveil your
employees may sound strange or even wrong, but it’s a highly common business
practice that legally exposes the drain an individual employee might be having
on your company. Private investigators can track an employee’s movements during
the time they have invoiced or logged, ensuring that any errands outside the
home are work-related and have some value to the corporation. Private
investigators can document these movements with GPS trackers placed under their
car, photographing their activities in public to either prove or disprove
employee malingering. Private investigators are trained to blend in with their
surroundings, and conduct surveillance discretely to prevent their cover from
being blown, so in the event that no employee malingering is found, no one is
If you suspect your employee is malingering on your dime, reach out to Lauth Investigations International today for a free quote on our surveillance services. Call us at 317-951-1100, or visit our website at lauthinveststg.wpengine.com
Essential Employees See Decline in Corporate Culture
In the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak, many states are currently living under lockdown, with Indiana in particular abiding by Governor Holcomb’s ‘stay-at-home order’. Residents are ordered to stay at home unless making essential trips for things like groceries, medical supplies, or reporting to essential jobs for essential tasks—all in the pursuit of reducing the spread of the coronavirus outbreak. However, working persons across the nation are finding themselves in conflict with their employers regarding their compliance level with their state’s level of travel restrictions during the pandemic—landing some companies in hot water with their employees who have come forward citing a toxic corporate culture that some describe as choosing “profits over people.”
While the world watched China and Italy deal with devastating consequences of COVID-19, other countries like the United States struggled with how to respond. The Trump administration is currently facing criticism for the general handling of the pandemic with the consequences being felt across the nation. The homogenized body of information flowing from various sources, the compliance climate surrounding lockdowns has some businesses demonstrating their lack of understanding of what constitutes an “essential” job or business.
Media outlets of all shapes and kinds are publishing lists of essential jobs and services during the COVID-19 pandemic. The list is much longer than many may think, with 35 different businesses and organizations deemed essential, from exterminators to funeral homes. One of the business types not on that list is recreational retail—businesses like GameStop, which sells video games, electronics, and gaming merchandise. Even after many states started initiating lockdowns, GameStop stores remained open, exposing employees and consumers alike to one another in reckless disregard for COVID-19 precautions. At the end of March, a former employee wrote an op-ed for Vice, detailing their declining relationship with the company over seven years, culminating with their departure after GameStop made the choice to keep stores open during the pandemic. Under the pseudonym “CT Collins”, the former employee described a corporate culture that was slowly deteriorating, “As corporate continued to increase expectations, associates began to lose motivation altogether. Since holidays alone, my store saw increased expectations in every metric we were tracked on, despite January and February being extraordinarily slow months…This despite the fact that our store had struggled to meet the previous targets, and our new game sales were nearly halved from the previous year.” Ahead of the highly-anticipated release of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, GameStop certainly had an opportunity to recoup lost profits by remaining open during the launch of the popular life-simulator.
GameStop’s difficulty with the definition of “essential” has unflattering optics that demonstrate a level of indifference to their employees with regards to whether or not their contact with customers and each other can contribute to the rising epidemic of COVID-19. The op-ed by CT Collins already documented a declining corporate culture in which employees were trapped in a cycle of disengagement and apathy as a direct result of corporate expectations. Following the outcry from the employees, the decision was finally made to close GameStop stores in compliance with what has become known as “flattening the curve.” We can only hope that other businesses begin to revaluate how much of their daily operations can be conducted in the cloud—allowing employees to work from home and telecommute with the use of technology and business-to-business platforms.
GameStop is not the only retail giant getting bad press. Amazon has come under fire as a documented history of corporate culture issues, including an infamous incident in late 2019 in which an Amazon fulfillment associate died of cardiac arrest while on the warehouse floor and their fellow employees were told to “go back to work.” Now, an Amazon worker, Chris Smalls, has been fired for protesting the unsafe working conditions in the Staten Island warehouse where he works—one of the busiest in the nation. Given that millions now depend on delivery to get essential items, it’s not a surprise that Amazon is struggling, but employees are making their voices heard during these uncertain times, articulating their perceived lack of value to the corporation as many distribution centers fail to protect their employees from the spread of COVID-19.
Amazon is arguably essential as a distribution service that can put much-needed supplies in the hands of people who need them, but if the employees feel as if their employers have flagrant disregard for their health and safety, it should be no surprise that employees disengage and become vocal about their discomfort with the working environment. CEO Jeff Bezos has made repeated promises in the past to address the claims of toxic corporate culture within Amazon, but it seems that extraneous circumstances continue to bring out the very worst of capitalism within its distribution centers. As an “essential” business, Amazon has a responsibility to its employees to ensure they have a safe working environment by respecting social distancing protocol and providing safety equipment to protect them during the outbreak.
Disregarding restrictions set by the Center for Disease Control and other federal agencies during a pandemic as a non-essential business is a perfect storm for rapid deterioration of corporate culture. Even if the corporate culture was previously healthy within a company or organization, such blatant disregard for health and safety become a malignancy within the workforce, where employees do not feel valued, and disengage from their jobs, leading to further drop in productivity. To prevent this from happening to your company, the steps are really very simple:
If you’re not one of the designated “essential” business types, it’s imperative to allow your employees to do as much work as possible from home, and close all brick-and-mortar locations that would allow the continued spread of COVID-19.
If you are an “essential business,” carefully evaluate within the context of your business model constitutes an essential job or task. If it can be done over the phone, over email, or over video-conference, it should be.
Take advantage of any opportunity to limit human contact. Keep all on-site workers a strict 6 feet apart, encourage heavy hand-washing and commitment to maintaining excellent sanitary conditions in the workspace.
The bottom line is that taking care of your essential employees in this uncertain time can only positively impact your workforce. When physical risk is not a part of the job description, it is easy for employees to feel inherently undervalued when they’re asked to risk their health in the interest of their job. Disregarding the limits put in place for the betterment of public health can only incite decline in your corporate culture.
Corporate Investigations Move to Telecommunications
During COVID-19 Outbreak
COVID-19, or “the corona virus” has already had an
unprecedented effect on the world’s economy in the 21st century.
Millions across the globe are currently practicing self-quarantine or
“social-distancing”, while many workplaces are shutting down in order to
prevent the spread of the virus. While many struggle during this time of social
isolation, internal investigations in corporations and organizations are
experiencing major disruption as well. Corporate investigators can continue to
expect unique challenges with internal investigations, and will have to rely on
telecommunications in order to continue their due-diligence.
Any seasoned investigator will tell you that one of the
greatest challenges with internal investigations is developing rapport with the
human sources in the case. This is usually achieved by face-to-face
interaction, bringing down the witness’ guard, and evaluating everything from
their facial expressions to their body language. With everyone working from
home (or not at all), internal investigators have lost access to face-to-face contact
with those human sources and witnesses. Investigators have transitioned to
conducting crucial interviews over the phone, which may not have as many
drawbacks as you think.
Internal investigations can already by tricky without the benefit of seeing the other person’s face or actions. We’re often told that a person’s actions—not their words—are a good indicator of honest or dishonest accounts of any type of incident. Are they blinking too much, or not enough? Are they touching their face? Are they inexplicably breaking out in sweat or becoming flushed? These are all clues private investigators and corporate investigators consider when determining the veracity of a witness’ story. But can you find the truth from only hearing a person’s voice?
Studies indicate that human beings actually can tell a lot more from a person’s voice than their body language when it comes to gauging their level of honesty. Michael Johnson, a former U.S. Department of Justice attorney and CEO of Clear Law Institute, stated “While there are some non-verbal cues to lying, most people don’t know what those are, and sometimes they are the opposite of what you think.” Conducting corporate investigations over the phone doesn’t mean investigators still can’t garner helpful information. Without the distraction of visual stimuli, investigators are able to take detailed notes about a person’s story—the timeline, the verbiage, the tone. Investigators are able to detect inconsistencies in the witness’ story and ask follow-up questions for further context that can benefit the investigation. An interview over the phone also removes any personal biases that an investigator can potentially develop from seeing someone in person with regards to their physical appearance, such as sex, race, and class. The investigator is forced to rely on the information, and is less vulnerable to deception on the part of the witness.
In uncertain times, it feels as though COVID-19 has brought
the entire world to a halt. That’s why investigators must lean into one of
their greatest skills, which is flexibility. Quarantine doesn’t mean that
investigators have to stop their investigations, but they must instead adapt
their existing skillset to ensure that the wheels of progress will continue to
turn—even in crisis.