The cost of stolen office supplies on your bottom line

It’s not a surprise to any employer that, sometimes, office supplies go missing. It’s not uncommon for employees to take pens, paper, and other supplies home for personal uses. Even use of company printers for non-work related print jobs can eat into a business’ facility supplies budget.  

So how much does this all-too-common behavior impact your business’ bottom line? In this article, we take a look.  

How common is the theft of facility supplies? 

We call this kind of behavior ‘petty theft,’ but that doesn’t mean it’s not a big problem. In fact, it’s probably happening more than you’re even aware. Research has found: 

  • 100% of office workers have stolen a pen at work. 
  • 75% of employees admit to stealing office supplies in the past year. 
  • 24% of employees steal just because they can. 
  • 2% of employees steal larger items, such as chairs and IT equipment.  

What is stolen the most? 

According to office asset tracking expert GoCodes, the most commonly stolen office supplies are: 

  1. Writing utensils, like pencils, pens, and highlighters.  
  2. Notebooks and sticky notes. 
  3. Paperclips and binder clips. 
  4. Staplers. 
  5. Scissors.  
  6. Tape dispensers. 
  7. Printer/copier ink. 

What does it cost a business? 

Some estimates say this kind of workplace theft “may be responsible for roughly 35% of an organisation’s inventory shrinkage annually, and an average of 1.4% of its total revenues.” 

This is just in normal cases, too. There are extreme examples of employees stealing facility supplies that are enough to make any business owner feel faint. Such as, the Austin Library lost $1.3 million in toner cartridges that an employee stole and resold online. 

The rising cost of living might play a part in supply theft.  

In the past few years, everyone has felt the consequences of inflation. The rising cost of living associated with inflation might be a culprit in a rise of office supply theft.  

A recent study in the UK found that employee theft, including the theft of office supplies, has risen by an average of 19% over the course of the ongoing inflation crisis. In some communities, that number is as high as 44%.  

Rising costs especially play a part in office supply theft around this time of year, when back to school shopping for similar materials can put households over budget.  

Why else do employees steal office supplies? 

An employee might take a pen home here and there, thinking it’s harmless, not realizing their actions are a part of a larger problem. Others might ‘getting even’ for a perceived wrong they feel has been done to them, or promise they feel their employer has broken. As mentioned above, others steal simply because they can.  

What can you do?  

As an employer, you can expect this behavior to happen, to some degree, no matter what you do. However, there are steps you can take to minimize it. Some strategies include: 

  • Focus on employee satisfaction. 
  • Keep better track of your inventory – that way you can notice when something goes missing.  
  • Consider a check-in/check-out system with more valuable or long-lasting equipment and supplies.  
  • Lock the area where office supplies are stored and have a select few trusted people with access.  
  • Include clear anti-theft policies in your employee manual.  

Of course, if you find employee theft to be a serious issue for your business, there are more serious monitoring measures you can take, as well. 

In conclusion… 

Employee theft of facility supplies is a rampant problem, and it’s only getting worse as the cost of living increases. While the occasional missing pen or pack of sticky notes might not sound like a big deal, over time, this behavior can have significant costs to your business.