The reality of the workplace is simple; employees waste time while at work. There are numerous causes, ranging from web surfing and socializing with co-workers to dealing with personal business. The truth is not all of these non-work related activities are necessarily bad – some activities allow employees to recharge, but others simply decrease productivity.
How Much Time is Lost?
It is estimated that 69 percent of employees waste time every work day, according to a 2013 Salary.com survey. The survey revealed that 11 percent of employees waste one to two hours per day; 24 percent spend 30 to 60 minutes on non-work tasks; 34 percent wasted 30 minutes or less; 21 percent said they only slack off occasionally; and a mere 10 percent claimed to never waste time at work. It is also widely believed that employees generally underestimate how much time they truly waste, so these numbers are likely conservative. For the top time wasters, though, their one to two hours wasted per day can add up to more than 500 hours per year or 25 percent of their total time in the office.
Who Wastes the Most Time and Why?
Employees cite the following as their main motivations for wasting time at work: they feel they are not challenged, they work long hours, there is no incentive to work harder, low wages or they are bored. Beyond this, time wasting at work can be examined at a generational level. Generational differences in habits, attitudes and technological life integration show strong trends in the amount of time wasted.
Surveys show that Baby Boomers (1946-1964) waste the least amount of time, followed by Generation X (1965–1981) in the middle and finally with Millennials (1982-2004) wasting the most time. Overall, Millennials waste almost twice as much time as Baby Boomers – and most of this is related to technology. They also spend far more time on mobile devices than other generations both in and out of work and have less of a sense of separation between work and personal life. As a result, they spend more time on personal business while at work; however, they also tend to be the most accessible outside the office when it comes to dealing with work.
What You Can Do
There are a number of steps you can take to reduce the amount of time employees waste and increase productivity.
- Implement website blockers and develop an Internet policy. Use software to block access to certain Internet sites. You can also develop an Internet policy so workers know what is allowed and what is not. Clarity is the key in making sure they adhere to those guidelines. Also, remember that given the prevalence of mobile devices this will not eliminate the problem.
- Challenge employees. Boredom is frequently cited as the top reason by employees for wasting time at work. Remember that creating a challenge does not mean throwing more and more work at employees. It does mean you should give them more responsibility and decision making authority when they prove they can handle it.
- Rethink meetings. Reduce the frequency or eliminate unnecessary meetings. For the meetings you do hold, only invite those who truly need to attend, stay on track by following an agenda and stick to a schedule.
It is impossible for employees to be 100 percent productive all of the time. People will always waste some time. Wasted time at work is a major problem for companies of all sizes and can translate into a significant impact on the bottom line. Remember however, that there are a number of things you can do to reduce the amount of time your employees waste, thereby improving productivity.