New Study Indicates A Spike In Underproductive Workers

Originally Published in ForbesAshley Stahl

Employee sleeping

Ever find yourself at work, mindlessly surfing the web, perusing the latest line of handbags, or checking on your fantasy football league rankings?

Be honest.

Well, turns out you’re not alone. Wasting time during the workday happens more often than most of us would like to admit. A recent survey conducted by Paychex.com asked 2,000 employees across a variety of industries about their tendencies to waste time at work. The survey revealed that Millennials waste more time than older generations; only 40% of Millennials reported wasting less than an hour per day, compared to 46% of Generation X, and 68% of Baby Boomers.

Industry made a major difference when it came to wasting work time, too. Of the survey respondents who reported wasting less than an hour of their workday, the top percentages were in construction (61%), hospitality (59.4%), publishing (57.1%), and retail (53.2%). The biggest slackers—those who admitted to wasting 3 or more hours per day—came from utilities (17.4%), telecommunications (15.5%), and government (14.4%).

Those in different roles wasted time at different rates as well. Administrative staff were far more likely to report wasting 3 or more hours per day (16.1% reported doing so) compared to just 7.5% of upper management. Education level made a difference, too. Individuals with a high school education or less were more likely to report wasting less than an hour per day than individuals with an associate degree or higher.

What’s causing employees to be so distracted at work? A Careerbuilder.com survey indicates that cell phones are the most common distraction—52% of the 2,000+ respondents reported this as the top distraction. Cell phones were followed by the internet (44%), gossip (37%), and social media (36%). Numerous studies—including this one from Oxford Economics—reveal that noisy work environments are major distractions in the workplace. Not good news, considering cubicle farms are the norm in offices nationwide.

Chief Executives should be particularly concerned about wasted time at the office for obvious reasons. Not only does it significantly decrease employee productivity, but workplace distractions can also result in reduced quality of work, decline in employee morale, bad employee/manager relations, missed deadlines, and loss of revenue.

There are, however, effective ways to combat employees wasting time in the workplace. The Paychex.com study shows that offering employees flex scheduling or additional time off increases workplace productivity, as does greater managerial presence.

The least effective methods? Website blockers and implementing Internet policies. So employees don’t like being treated like children… Shocking!

There’s nothing wrong with checking in on your fantasy football league for a few minutes during your lunch break, but spending hours at your desk researching player stats to beef up your team? Not cool. Employees and employers both can do a better job to stay focused and on track. Giving employees a little flexibility in their schedules enables them to structure their days to maximize focus and reduce wasted time. Letting an employee work short breaks into their day so they can indulge themselves during that time means they’re much less likely to stray away from their work for hours on end.

So give yourself a quick break, check out the fall handbag line, and then get back to work!

 

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