The most common items stolen by UK employees include pens and stationery. Pexels/Vinta Supply Co. | NYC

A study by Furniture At Work has revealed that over 2.5 million British employees, a significant portion of the workforce, have admitted to stealing from their workplace. The research, based on interviews with 1,000 working Britons, further disclosed that the stolen items ranged from food and electronics to money found within the office premises.

The study was prompted by a surge in demand for secure office storage among office furniture suppliers. The data underscores the ongoing need for secure furniture, with approximately 12 per cent, or one in eight, of employers reporting thefts from their workplace.

The Furniture At Work findings also revealed that while the most common stolen items were pens and stationery, one in ten employees admitted to taking money. Another eight per cent even said that they had stolen a phone.

A quarter of workers said they had only stolen items because their colleagues had stolen something from them first.

According to Gregory Giangrande, who has more than 25 years of experience as a chief human resources executive, in the situation where an employee "regularly and openly stuffs his knapsack" with items before leaving the workplace, "there aren't written policies preventing employees from doing all kinds of crazy things."

However, the human resources chief noted that "it doesn't mean they are entitled to do them."

"On the surface, it's a bad look and not in the spirit of what the employer intends, which is to provide nourishment and sustenance for employers while working in the office," Giangrande added. "That said, before you come down hard on your hoarder, inquire why he takes so much home with him each night. Perhaps he is dropping them off at the homeless shelter or helping to feed a family that is having financial hardship. In which case, perhaps help him do so in a more organised way."

When "he is just helping himself," the human resources chief advised employers to "explain that he can consume as much as he wants while at work and if he wants to grab an apple on the way out the door, no problem. But the intent is not to fill his pantry at home."

The Furniture At Work study listed the professions most likely to steal from their colleagues.

Professional 'Thieves'

Interestingly, the legal profession topped the list, with a staggering 25 percent of lawyers admitting to stealing from their firms. Marketing and PR employees followed closely, with 20 percent, and the Leisure, Sport, and Tourism sector came in third, at 17.6 per cent.

The retail sector was ranked fourth place, with 15.7 per cent of employees stealing workplace products, followed by the accountancy and banking industry workers, 17.5 per cent, and teacher training and education staff, 13.5 per cent.

PhD Professor of Psychology and Marketing Art Markman explained why employees steal from the workplace: "Human behaviour is focused on doing things that feel right in the short term rather than things that feel right in the long term. If you need to eat right now, then available food will feel good, even if it is wrong to take food from someone else."

"People also tend to do what is easy for them to do in a particular environment. If you leave your new noise-cancelling headphones out on your desk in a cubicle farm, you are making it easy for people to give in to the temptation to acquire a new pair of headphones without paying for them," Markman added.