One of the unintended consequences of the rise of the Internet is that people have more distractions than ever they can turn to for wasting time.
And whether most workers admit it or not, much of this time wasting occurs at work. From an employer’s perspective, if workers are being paid wages and doing things that are unrelated to their job – such as streaming video or checking their social media accounts – that’s the same as stealing.
Whether you view it as stealing time or simply killing time, it all adds up to real labor dollars that are getting nothing in return.
Most Workers Waste a Lot of Time
In its annual workplace productivity report, entitled “Wasting Time at Work Survey”, Salary.com reported that 89% of workers admitted to spending, at least, part of their workday doing things completely unrelated to their jobs.
How much time? A small percentage of people said they waste at least half of their on the clock hours doing other unproductive things like looking at Facebook or texting with friends and family.
More than half – 61% to be exact – said they wasted at least 30 to 60 minute per day. While that may not seem like a lot, when you consider that for small businesses every dollar spent can make the difference between profitability and insolvency, 2.5 hour per week per employee adds up to 130 hours per year. Can any company truly afford to pay their workers three weeks’ salary per year to do nothing?
Where Workers Waste Time
Not surprisingly, given the fact that practically everybody has unlimited access to the Internet via the smartphone in their pocket all the time, going online is the top time-waster at work.
And the place people go to the most is Google. Searching online for information is an important part of many jobs today. But the majority of workers aren’t searching for work-related topics. Instead, they are simply doing some online shopping, reading articles unrelated to their jobs, or looking for what other people are saying about their favorite TV shows.
Facebook is another popular place to waste time. While it has fallen to second place on this year’s survey, it remains the most important social media site, along with Twitter, where people can find out what their friends, family, neighbors and others are up to.
Social Media Time Stealers
For many businesses, social media is both a blessing and a curse. Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Linkedin and all the other interconnected platforms online make it easy to reach out to customers directly and promote their products and services without having to rely on a middleman.
But the downside is that many workers will spend hours per day with their eyes glued to their smartphones or tablets, checking for updates, posting their status, and even complaining about their jobs!
One way some companies like Advance Systems are preventing this lost social media vacuum from taking hold in the workplace is by prohibiting employees from using personal devices while in the office. When workers are forced to use office laptops, tablets and other access devices that can be monitored by supervisors, they are more likely to stay off social media until they are off the clock.
But not always. Many workers are bold enough to use company owned equipment to do the same type of online activity that they would do on their own time. And usually company IT departments, supervisors and managers are too busy worrying about their own job duties to monitor every computer all the time.
Yet this may be changing. There are now computerized programs that not only can track where workers are going online while using company-owned devices and compile customized reports so that managers can have a better understanding of who are the worst offenders.
This allows companies to take action, making examples of the most negligent employees in order to bring the rest into line.
There also is employee attendance tracking software that can be used effectively to see what workers are doing.
Off-Line Time Wasters
There are plenty of ways for workers to squander company resources outside of the Internet. One of the most common – and most costly – are unproductive meetings.
According to a recent study by the Harvard Business Review, a survey of the Outlook calendars of workers at a Fortune 500 company found that a single weekly executive meeting consumed 300,000 hours of time among support staff and underlings. This included meetings between unit managers to prepare and the meetings those unit managers had with their line-level staffs.
Emails are another huge time-waster. One recent study found that workers spend an estimated 25% of their workday simply reading and responding to emails. And that’s not even considering the rise of texting.
The bottom line is that all of this wasted time is costing companies money. And those companies that can find innovative ways to make workers more productive – such as employee attendance tracking — will be able to boost their productivity and, ultimately, their profitability.