HR Excellence Awards 2023 Singapore
The top ways staff waste time at work

The top ways staff waste time at work

Technology at work might be key to foster productivity today, but it clearly does come with its own set of challenges.

According to a new survey by CareerBuilder, smartphones, for instance, are causing quite a bit of distraction at the workplace.

More than 8 in 10 workers (83%) have smartphones, and 82% of those with smartphones keep them within eye contact at work.

And while only 10% of those with smartphones say it’s decreasing their productivity at work, 66% say they use it (at least) several times a day while working.

“While we need to be connected to devices for work, we’re also a click away from alluring distractions from our personal lives like social media and various other apps,” said Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer at CareerBuilder.

“The connectivity conundrum isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it needs to be managed. Have an open dialogue with employees about tech distractions. Acknowledge their existence and discuss challenges/solutions to keeping productivity up.”

Wasting time at work

When asked to name the biggest productivity killers in the workplace, employers cited cell phones/texting, followed by the Internet and workplace gossip:

  • Cell phone/texting: 55%
  • The Internet: 41%
  • Gossip: 39%
  • Social media: 37%
  • Co-workers dropping by: 27%
  • Smoke breaks or snack breaks: 2 %
  • Email: 26%
  • Meetings: 24%
  • Noisy co-workers: 2 %
  • Sitting in a cubicle: 9%

wasting time

Interestingly, the majority of workers with smartphones (65%) do not have their work emails on their smartphones.

Of those who do access their smartphone during work for non-work use, they spend their time on these non-work related sites during work:

  • Personal messaging: 65%
  • Weather: 51%
  • News: 44%
  • Games: 24%
  • Shopping: 24%
  • Traffic: 12%
  • Gossip: 7%
  • Sales: 6%
  • Adult: 4%
  • Dating: 3%

The high costs of low productivity

As a result of all these distactions, Three in four employers (75%) say two or more hours a day are lost in productivity because employees are distracted. 43% say at least three hours a day are lost. Productivity killers can lead to negative consequences for the organisation, including:

  • Compromised quality of work: 4%
  • Lower morale because other workers have to pick up the slack: 38%
  • Negative impact on boss/employee relationship: 28%
  • Missed deadlines: 27%
  • Loss in revenue: 26%
  • Negative impact on client relationships: 20%

More than three in four employers (76%) have taken at least one step to mitigate productivity killers, such as blocking certain Internet sites (32%) and banning personal calls/cell phone use (26%). Other efforts to mitigate productivity killers included:

  • Schedule lunch and break times: 24%
  • Monitor emails and Internet usage: 19%
  • Limit meetings: 17%
  • Allow people to telecommute: 14%
  • Have an open space layout instead of cubicles: 14%
  • Restrict use of speakerphones if not in an office: 13%
  • Increase height of cubicle walls to make it easier to concentrate: 8%

ALSO READ: Your staff’s 10 biggest workplace distractions

The craziest non-work activities workers have done on the job

Employers were also asked to reveal the most unusual or most memorable things they have caught an employee doing when they should have been working. Some examples included:

  1. Employee was working on a scrapbook.
  2. Employee was decorating a cubicle with chains of paper clips.
  3. Employee brought her equipment for her embroidery business from home and was making items for a craft show to sell.
  4. Employee was doing doughnuts in the parking lot in the snow.
  5. Employee brought in a kitten she found outside and tried to keep it quiet within a large purse.
  6. Employee was working on her child's school project that included uncooked macaroni noodles.
  7. Employee was laying on a patient’s bed talking to the patient while the patient sat in her wheelchair
  8. Employee was watching YouTube videos of people shoving marshmallows in their mouth.
  9. Employee was doing some personal grooming in the break room.
  10. Employee was searching for dates.


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