Exasperated business owners are reporting that workers stealing office supplies is on the rise – with toilet paper and printer ink the most commonly swiped items.
Health and Safety software company Protecting.co.uk, has seen reports that in some places, furious office managers have resorted to locking supplies – even essentials like loo roll – away from light-fingered employees to reduce the problem.
But how bad can it be? Let’s take a look at workplace theft in numbers:
Workplace theft costs businesses in the UK £190 million per year
Average of £12.50 worth of items per person – that’s the equivalent of almost 30 rolls of toilet paper each!
A survey from protecting (1300 took part)
11% of people have stolen a biscuit or pen from a colleague
81% said they didn’t see a problem in borrowing a pen..long term
16% said they had eaten someone else food
9% said they had stolen toilet paper
93% said they’ve never been caught
“It’s every week now,” a bemused Steve, 39, an office manager from Wakefield, said. “We turn a blind eye to the odd pen and people using the office equipment to print their holiday boarding passes – I’m not a monster! But when an entire case of cleaning supplies has gone missing from the store cupboard, you start to wonder how people think they’ll get away with it.”
Pens, paper and other stationery items are most commonly stolen from offices – but when it comes to workplaces as a whole, the humble loo roll takes centre stage. Thrifty employees are nabbing them in their droves, with almost a tenth of people admitting to doing so – and many workplaces are beginning to see this as part of a bigger problem.
Stacey, a beauty spa manager from Newcastle, is one such manager who has taken to locking all supplies away – even cheap items like toilet paper.
“I used to laugh it off, but it’s actually starting to be worrying,” she said. “If someone is willing to take the cheap bits and pieces, who’s to say they won’t move onto the expensive equipment, or the cash in the till? It’s the lack of respect and the breaking of trust which is really upsetting, and I’d rather have to unlock a cupboard every time someone needs something than feel like the staff are trying to get one over on me.”
A rising trend amongst workplace pilferers does seem to support that employees are more comfortable with bigger acts of theft – that of printer ink, specifically. Printer ink is notoriously expensive compared to the relatively cheap price of printers themselves, which is leading some crafty scroungers to snap up old printers on Facebook Marketplace, eBay and other second-hand sites for mere pounds. Crucially, they’re buying identical models to their workplace printers – before sneakily switching the full (and expensive) ink cartridges in the office for their own empty, used ones.
Mark Hall, spokesperson for Protecting.co.uk, says that this type of theft was a continual concern in workplaces.
“You can vet people are carefully as possible, but before they actually start work for you, you have no idea what they are capable of,” he said.
“It seems far-fetched, but people are absolutely willing to pull scams like switching the printer ink in order to save a few pounds – and some have been known to sell items nabbed from a workplace on.
“So while a few pens and a stapler might seem little to worry about, many managers are waking up to the fact that this is actually the thin end of the wedge – and that cracking down on workplace theft, increasing security, and ensuring all employees are aware of the disciplinary or legal procedures in place are crucial. Not only does this ensure you don’t lose thousands of pounds in lost equipment, it also saves the hassle of having to replace dishonest staff members and ultimately leads to a more secure, smoothly-run business.”