Wasting Time at Work

Conducted by Salary.com, the 2007 Wasting Time Survey polled 2,000 employees across all job levels about how they spend their working hours.

The top time-wasting activities included using the Internet for non-work-related purposes, socializing with co-workers and conducting personal business.

The average time wasted represents a decrease from the previous year’s survey, when workers reported wasting an average of 1.89 hours a day.

In the survey, 20- to 29-year-olds admitted they waste an average of 2.1 hours a day, with the wasted time dropping with age: Those aged 30 to 39 reported wasting 1.9 hours a day while those 40 to 49 wasted 1.4 hours. But some of the differences may be a question of semantics.

Older employees tend to have a very strong work ethic who understand that some humdrum office tasks, like all-day meetings, have value that may not be apparent.

The under-30 crowd is so used to instant feedback that that kind of thing to them seems to be wasting time. Younger workers may well have a higher standard for what efficient or effective use of time is.

Younger workers often require time to learn what’s expected of them. While wasted time certainly includes Web surfing and non-work-related instant messaging, some of that behavior may be due to “inefficient processes,” such as waiting for computers to retrieve information or waiting for a return phone call.

Employees generally rate their companies’ efficiency of work processes very low. Most people do tend to feel that there could be process improvement and the younger employees are even more impatient about those improvements being made.

According to the survey, 14 percent of those who slack off said they did so because their hours are too long, 18 percent said they don’t have enough work to do and 11 percent said their work isn’t challenging enough.

The whole HR community needs to realize that kids these days have grown up in a different environment, rife with distractions, and they are used to multi-tasking. When younger workers don’t achieve instantaneous results on work-related duties, they often get bored and turn to other tasks.

It’s very important for HR to target under-30s through mentoring programs. Younger people particularly have a great interest in being developed. Fostering employee engagement, showing them what it takes to get ahead in the company and showing interest in them will help to motivate them and build commitment to the company.

HR professionals should solicit feedback from workers on how to improve processes and reduce idle time. Employees usually have some very good ideas.

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