TORONTO -- Working from home has meant greater freedom for employees, and sometimes lower costs for employers, but one Toronto company has learned the dark side of giving employees too much flexibility.

The head contractor believes one of his many employees started working for himself, using company leads, on company time — and an investigation appeared to confirm it.

“We were tipped off that there may be some fraudulent activity, some monkey business with our employees,” said that contractor, Chris. “It’s astonishing to realize what can go on under your nose before it’s too late.”

“We estimate that the loss of sales could range from half a million to a million dollars over the span of a year,” he said.

CTV News Toronto is not using his last name because he doesn’t want it to affect his business any more than it already has.

Chris hired a private investigator, Adrianne Fekete of Star Quality Investigations, whose staff followed the employee — and says she saw him using a company vehicle visiting job sites to work for Chris’s former clients.

Fekete said she has seen that during the pandemic, more employees may be deceiving their employers.

“The increase in fraud is definitely due to the pandemic, and people realizing that businesses are not operating the way they used to. They don’t have the controls. They don’t have the staff in place to monitor employees,” she said.

Fekete said some businesses have laid off middle management in a bid to cut costs during the pandemic — but those were also the people checking on front-line workers.

Experts say it also has to do with losing social connections to your employer, and with that comes a lack of loyalty.

“They’re feeling disconnected from their workplace,” said Nita Chhinzer, an associate professor of human resources with the University of Guelph.

“They’re not feeling that excitement about hanging out with the friends, the informal relationship that bonded us to that work environment. Our sense of loyalty drops when we feel workplace isolation,” she said.

Chhinzer also said that as many as 20 per cent of employees have a side job — and the pandemic has given employees extra time because they aren’t commuting as much. Many are choosing to use that time on other work, she said.

She recommended that employers take more efforts to get together online in social events, or have one-on-one sessions to catch up with employees in an attempt to regain that bond.

Chhinzer also said that remote work has also blurred the boundary between work and home for employees, and that can mean doing work during time off — something that means more work is done for the same pay.