We all do it from time to time. We get bogged down by busy work in the office, open up a private browser and check up on local sports news. Or we’re called into a meeting that is seemingly of no concern to us, and we pull out our phones and check our buddies’ social media pages. This type of time-wasting is inevitable, but just how much of it occurs in the office on a daily basis?
Salary.com sought to find the answer to that question and many others in a recent study, and their findings just might surprise you.
Wasting Away at the Office
Of the survey’s 1,000-plus respondents, a whopping 69% admit to wasting time at work on a daily basis in 2013, up from 64% in 2012. Just over one-fifth of respondents admit to wasting time a couple of days a week, while a righteous (or perhaps downright dishonest) 10% claim they “never waste time on the job.”
Broken down by demographics, Salary.com found that men and younger workers admit to wasting more time at work than their counterparts. Just under three-quarters (73%) of men admit to wasting time at work on a daily basis, compared to just two-thirds (66%) of women. The three age ranges that rank highest in daily time wasted are:
- Workers aged 26-32: 82% admit to wasting time on a daily basis
- Workers aged 33-45: 76% waste time on a daily basis
- Workers aged 18-25: 75% waste time on a daily basis
While it may not be too surprising that these age groups are easily distracted at work, what is surprising is that those with higher amounts of education waste more time than those with lower degrees: 76% of workers with doctorates waste time daily, whereas only 59% of those with a high school diploma admit to doing the same.
Ready for another shocker? The study found that one industry wastes more time than others, with a full 25% of respondents from the industry admitting to wasting a few hours at work every day. That industry? The Government.
Admittedly, there are many factors that make fully eliminating time-wasters an impossibility. But by understanding when and where these workers flock to waste time, we can hopefully implement office changes that can somewhat alleviate the problem.
The study asked its respondents to list the main reason why they waste time at work. The top four reasons were:
- Lack of incentives: 11%
- Unsatisfied with jobs: 10%
- Boredom: 9%
- Low pay: 3%
While they’re all worded differently, the first reason seems to sum up the remaining three: lack of incentives. Whether those incentives are rewarding projects, fun assignments or higher pay, employees need a reason to stay engaged with their work. If they’re thinking about how overqualified or underpaid they are for a certain job, their work will suffer, and the loss you incur in slower or lower-quality production can hurt your business more than the increased pay or time lost trying to motivate an unsatisfied worker.
The survey also asked respondents to list the biggest distraction in the office that leads to time wasted. The top responses include:
- Meetings: 19%
- Inefficient team members: 17%
- Co-workers: 17%
- Office politics: 13%
- Busywork: 13%
These reasons all fall back on the employer. It’s easy to blame a worker for slacking off in the office, but there are many factors to consider that might be causing a dip in your employee’s production. Constantly review, evaluate and alter (when necessary) your business operations. If you see promise in an employee who’s getting bogged down with busy work, consider placing him or her in another department or letting them take ownership of a project. If you notice tension between a certain employee and his or her manager, pair them up with someone else to see how the change affects the two. Employees can sometimes get into a rut and are often too hesitant (because they fear repercussion or are simply used to a habit) to speak up and ask for change. Encourage transparency with your workers, and try to alleviate their concerns with a change in scenery or tasks.
Personal Distractions at Work
While the aforementioned factors are mainly brought on by your office environment, the study also found that workers’ personal activities also siphon their time on the clock. While 43% say they waste the most time at work interacting with co-workers, the study found that 28% use internet sites to waste time, while 4% say they waste time texting, making personal calls or using social media.
When asked their most-visited type of time-wasting website, the respondents answered:
- News sites: 37%
- Social media: 14%
- Online shopping: 12%
- Entertainment/lifestyle sites: 8%
- Sports: 3%
More specifically, their most-visited sites are:
- Facebook: 15%
- Yahoo!: 14%
- LinkedIn: 10%
- Google+: 8%
- Amazon: 6%
Alleviating these personal distractions will be a bit tougher than dealing with those in the office. Salary.com asked employers if they implement any policies concerning personal use of computers, and 30% of respondents say they already block the use of at least some personal sites between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. However, more than half (52%) of employees say they would use their personal computers, tablets and phones to access non-work-related sites if their work computers blocked them, and a whole 60% believe spending time on personal tasks during work hours is a form of work-life balance that actually improves their productivity.
Some industries are stricter than others when it comes to personal use of company time. Before implementing any policies, research your industry leaders to see the office environments and culture they fostered. While a strict policy that controls access to non-work sites may increase production, it may also deter top candidates that are attracted to a more lax environment. Find a balance that keeps your workers working but also keeps them happy.