How Much Time Your Employees are Wasting at Work and What You Can Do

Julie Checknita, Employer Services | January-04-12
Wasting Time


A recent infographic revealed that the average employee wastes about 3 hours out of the 8 hour work day – not including scheduled breaks. Add that hour lunch break and 15 minute coffee break, and that leaves a mere 3 hours and 45 minutes of work time. This wasted 3 hours is much higher than the 1.6 hours that HR and management suspect to be wasted each day.

Whether people are surfing the web or updating their social media, (44%), daydreaming (3.9%), socializing with officemates (23.4%), or even updating their resumes/applying for jobs (1.3%), the infographic confirmed that the majority of employees spend a significant amount of time of their workday working on non-work related things

Just how much does this affect the bottom line? A survey conducted by America Online and determined that employers spend nearly $760 billion a year paying employees to goof off on the Web.

While it is quite normal to take small breaks throughout the day to recharge, surf the web or chat with co-workers, taking 3 hours or more may be an indication of a bigger issue. According to the infographic the number one reason employees waste this much time is due to a lack of work (33.2%).  Not enough work was followed by employees feeling that they are underpaid (23.4%) followed by employees being distracted by co-workers (14.7%).

So what can you do? A recent blog posting discussed 5 ways to stop employees from wasting so much time. Here they are:

1) Give them more assignments: Quite frankly, if you notice that you are practically paying your employees to gossip and relax, then it’s on you to up the level of work. If you are in a service-oriented industry and business is slow, send out a few of your workers to do some aggressive on-the-street marketing. If the customers aren’t coming to you, then go out and get the customers. No matter what kind of company you own, there are things you can do to keep your employees busy.

2) Create internet blocks: Did you walk in one day and meet your secretary looking for a team of movers, and ordering new furniture for her new apartment? If so, maybe you need to make some changes. Surfing the internet is arguably the easiest way to pass time and look as though you are busy. That’s why you should stun your employees by putting limits on the Websites that can be accessed at the office. If you prohibit everything except the work-related email, you will be surprised at how much more productive your staff can be.

3) Add cameras to the room: This is one of the oldest tricks in the book. Although nobody likes to work with a boss looking at their every move, sometimes it’s necessary to get positive results. Install a couple cameras in your office and people are bound to change their behavior. It doesn’t even matter if the cameras are working or not honestly. Just having them there will be enough to make the slackers straighten up.

4) Give weekly awards: If you need to find a way to motivate your employees more, give some extra incentive. Offers such as free movie tickets, gift cards to top local restaurants and even an employee of the week parking space can be enough to steer up some friendly office competition.

5) Be a better boss: Yeah, we know that you don’t really want to hear this one, but maybe you need to. If you are the kind of manager that doesn’t treat employees with respect or try to make changes to keep them happy, you may have lost the ability to get the best out of them. If you feel like this might be the case, have a heart-to-heart and turn things around.

While extreme measures such as adding cameras to the room, blocking all external web-sites or monitoring internet usage may work for some, in many circumstances it may further harm the morale of employees by communicating a sense of distrust and failing to really address the root of the problem.

Instead, I would suggest developing and publishing a web participation guideline or policy that sets some general guidelines on internet usage and most importantly, keeping a constant line of communication open with your employees.

Creating a relationship where employees feel comfortable discussing concerns such as not enough work, pay or whatever it may be keeping them from working up to their full potential may help alleviate the problem. Ask employees what they are working on, if they have enough work, what concerns they may have or what resources or tools they need in order to fulfill their job requirements. Being more engaged with your employees and the projects they are working on is a great was to help increase both accountability and productivity.


How much time do you spend on non-work activities a day? How much time do you believe is acceptable?  What do you think managers can do to decrease the amount of time spent wasted at work? We would love to hear from you!