If you’re reading this article at the office you’re probably a lot like the average American employee — who wastes almost two hours of every workday, according to a report that came out Wednesday.
The annual survey by Salary.com — which polled 2,000 people in the U.S. across geographical, age, job level and industry lines — found that employees waste about 1.7 hours of a typical 8.5-hour day at work.
The top time busters are using the Internet, socializing with coworkers and conducting personal business.
The numbers have declined slightly since 2005, when Salary.com began doing the survey. The average time wasted per day then was more than 2 hours.
“I suspect that’s related to the general economy as well as the recruiting market,” said Bill Coleman, chief compensation officer and senior vice president at Salary.com. “As the economy gets better, people are able to leave jobs they’re unhappy with … or become more productive” at the jobs they have.
Still, the amount of time workers procrastinate hasn’t dipped dramatically. Employers should realize it’s often a management issue, a sign that the staff is dissatisfied — or both, according to Coleman.
“When employees are long in the tooth in their jobs, they’re grumpy, disgruntled. They spend a little more time complaining about work than actually doing it,” he said. “People who want to work are happy to work. (If) they feel they’re contributing, they’ll do less trick-or-treating around the office to find other people who are unhappy.”
Among those who participated in the Salary.com survey, some executives said they wasted time because they didn’t have enough hours to themselves on nights and weekends, and some entry-level workers said they didn’t have enough work to do.
Companies would be wise to understand that though employees might use part of the workday for personal matters, most spend some of their personal time doing work. In that vein, cracking down by limiting Internet access and monitoring e-mails and phone calls, for instance, won’t necessarily be effective and could lead to more unhappiness and more wasted time.
Coleman said it’s not likely that employers are going to pounce on the survey results as an excuse to cut salaries.
And, he added, idling isn’t always a negative. Socializing with colleagues can create bonds that make them work better together, and keeping up with current events by reading the news can be valuable in certain on-the-job situations, according to Coleman.
Companies should look on wasted time as comparable to a recess for adults, which can make them more productive in the long run, he said.
“There is always room for wasting time during the day,” he said. “At some point, you have to step off the treadmill and recharge the batteries. … Not all wasted time is a net loss.”