IT Employment

A guide to wasting time at work


According to a survey on Salary.com, employees admit to "wasting" approximately 2.09 hours of each work day. How do they waste the time? Surfing the Net, chatting with co-workers, making personal phone calls, and running personal errands.

Here's how the time wasting break down:

  1. Surfing the Internet -- 44.7 percent
  2. Socializing with co-workers -- 23.4 percent
  3. Conducting personal business -- 6.8 percent [Bowers' note: I'm not sure if this means calling your hairstylist to schedule an appointment or running a dry-cleaning business out of your cube.]
  4. Spacing out -- 3.9 percent [Bowers' note: How, exactly, would you measure that?]
  5. Running errands off-premise -- 3.1 percent
  6. Making personal phone calls -- 2.3 percent
  7. Applying for other jobs -- 1.3 percent
  8. Planning personal events -- 1.0 percent
  9. Arriving late/leaving early -- 1.0 percent
  10. Other -- 12.5 percent [Bowers' note: Other? What's left, dare I ask?]

Also according to the survey, the way in which time is wasted also varies by age:

  • 58-77 years old: 0.50 hours per day
  • 48-57 years old: 0.68 hours per day
  • 38-47 years old: 1.19 hours per day
  • 28-37 years old: 1.61 hours per day
  • 22-27 years old: 1.95 hours per day

(Wonder how much time is "wasted" in meetings or poor communication between departments?) Do you think these numbers are about right? How do you "waste" time?

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

59 comments
delite_ok
delite_ok

That was quite interesting though.Personally I do waste time too more especially going through some irrelevant things as mention above.I even found myself dozing! when I have lots of things to do.How I wish there is a program to alert you that you have things to do when you are about to put it off... Delite_ok@yahoo.com

jlaurin
jlaurin

what does smoke breaks fall under?

ak_lail
ak_lail

It all depends on Salary Incentive and Bonus Plan of the Company

Htalk
Htalk

I guess with the newfound popularity of the net, that has now eclipsed socializing as the main time waster. A few years ago when I worked at a publishing house, employees chatting with each other was all I heard all day every day. It was by far the number one way in which people wasted time at work.

j-mart
j-mart

1986 was the year a perfect tool for time wasting was introduced to the place I was working at the time. I was employed by a Government Dept., at the time, and the humble IBM PC first appeared in the work place. All the older staff were terrified by these monsters and stayed as far away from them as possible. The younger of us soon found these to be the best time wasting equipment ever placed into the work environment. We could create wondrous pointless spreadsheets and data bases that would analyze great quantities of information that no one in the more senior positions could comprehend or would acknowledge could be of any use, after all a machine like a PC must be using witchcraft or some other dark art. But we did not mind as at least it helped to pass the time of day, a definite improvement on the other option of staring out of the window for hours. Times have now changed and the humble PC has become an "indispensable tool" in the workplace. I find though, in these modern times, we can actually produce some real work once in a while, between a bit of browsing, emailing a few friends, checking out the online auctions etc.

mikedouble5s
mikedouble5s

I sit here all night waiting for one or several thousand customers to call in with a problem, but wait... most normal people would be asleep at this time of day, why aren't I? Well, if I don't have anyone calling me, what better is there to do than kill time listening to music and reading my favorite technical comic strip, or maybe look up some new technology that has just yet been discovered or in the process of development? When I work days I have no time to spare to do this kind of stuff so I think what I don't have to do at night, I make up for during the day. Anybody else out there with me on the whole graveyard thing?

tioedong
tioedong

Ah, but is this really "wasting" time? Talking with co workers (moderately) leads to increased team productivity. And, as a doctor, often I would be accused of surfing when looking up a disease on the internet... and often when I was "playing solitaire", I was allowing my mind to relax..so I would be more relaxed to see the next patient. And the "Blank" mind of solitaire/mindless surfing allows the mind to work at a deeper level... .often I would be able to figure out what was wrong with the patient after a session because when relaxed, my mind could "think" at a deeper level and connect the dots... Men are not machines...we need sleep and refreshment to work efficiently.

mad tabby
mad tabby

Seems to me that employers just want an excuse to bring back flogging their employees. What about time wasted trying to explain to management why the cheap old SIMM chips in the basement wont work in the new laptops? Or keeping detailed track of your time to the 1/4 hour, they get really upset when you document an hour of your day as "documenting my time". Or pointless meetings, where you don't know why your there because head office is just going to do whatever they want anyways. Should I continue???

wrlang
wrlang

I think the times are low, but it also depends heavily on the work environment. I think the proportions of time wasted by age are relatively accurate. When I was in my 20s I put in many more hours, now I get the same things done in less time. I would hardly label calling your doctor to make an appointment during work hours wasting company time since the only time you can call your doctor to make an appointment is during work hours. Many personal items also benefit the company. In any case, you have only a third the information you need. How much time do people spend on work items outside of work hours? How much time do people spend waiting for all these web based applications to come back? I remember my 1980s mainframe emails popping up on the screen in under a second. Web based apps make the world move in slow motion. Gives you more time to think while you wait for those pretty little icons though. When you merge the other two thirds of the equation my hypothesis is that no time is actually wasted or that people spend more time working than employers suspect from surveys like these. That's why employees aren't and shouldn't be judged on the time it takes, but the quality of what they produce. Deadlines don't apply as 'time' since they are macro times frames, not micro time frames.

gregg.oliver
gregg.oliver

This isn't limited to IT jobs. At least the header doesn't say so. I suppose reading and surfing is mostly research and learning.

Dr_Zinj
Dr_Zinj

I think there are a few qualifiers for what is considered ???wasting??? time. Internet surfing can be divided into 3 categories: Direct productive ??? this is research to answer a specific job question, or fill a job requirement such as ordering materials, scheduling business flights, making reservations, etc. This one is not wasted time. Indirect productive is browsing the internet doing semi-random searches on useful information that is job-related, but not necessarily applicable or pertinent to the tasks at hand. (Reading of ZDNet articles and blogs by I.T. personnel fall into this category, as does reading all the stuff your company may post on its Intranet.) This isn???t wasted time, but it doesn???t do much to clear your To-Do list. It???s considered an investment, and may or may not pay off later. Non-productive is all the browsing that isn???t job related. It???s reading on-line tabloids, scheduling personal travel, playing games, etc. This IS a time waster and is depriving your company of your labor as well as using up their resources. Socializing with workers falls into similar breakdowns as internet surfing. Although the direct productive category really doesn???t fit under socializing as this sort of meeting is formally scheduled and discusses specific topics that are job related. Definitely not a waste of time, unless the meeting organizer is a complete incompetent, but that???s for a different topic. Indirect productive socialization are informal gatherings were work and the work environment are discussed. Interestingly enough, this sort of socializing may have the greatest impact on the productivity of the work area as the majority of job knowledge is passed in these gatherings, and this serves to ???grease??? the communications lines between workers. Non-productive socialization is the discussion of non-work related topics. This is obviously a time waster. However, socialization rarely stays on-topic. People go with the flow of the conversation and it may move from work, to personal, and back several times during the verbal transactions. You almost need a stealth facilitator to guide conversations back to work related stuff, and to terminate the conversation once the work portion has been covered. Spacing out really isn???t a time waster unless it???s a symptom of boredom due to poorly designed work tasks, or insufficiently challenging work. Most of the time a breif spacing out is a person rebooting their brain to clear their mind for a new task, or conducting a self-brainstorming to solve a task at hand. Most time wasting, from the company???s perspective, is when an employee engages in personal business while on company time. There???s a problem with this attitude though. Many companies either formally, or informally require employees to participate in company-sponsored activities outside of work (You???re going to be on the company team for that Heart Association walk AREN???T you?). Many companies will take adverse employment action against employees for their conduct outside of work, even though it doesn???t affect their performance or availability to work (firing a person for having a single DUI, or being arrested for soliciting a prostitute.) The point is that when companies seek to have an omnipresence in their employee???s lives, then they cease to have a right to dictate that employees NOT engage in personal business while at work. This is even more apropo to employees who are always on-call.

amehmedagic
amehmedagic

How about loud co-workers? I admit that I waste time just waiting for the guy in next cubicle to finish his loud phone conversation or even worse his chatting with others about what dinner he had last night.

john
john

I'm happy (no, really, I am) to see that my age group (I'm 55) is almost the lowest 'wasters'. I think that speaks highly of our work ethic! Go Boomers! Oops, gotta get back to work.....

djt34175
djt34175

How do you get an average of 2.09 hrs out of 58-77 years old: 0.50 hours per day 48-57 years old: 0.68 hours per day 38-47 years old: 1.19 hours per day 28-37 years old: 1.61 hours per day 22-27 years old: 1.95 hours per day

mark_vg
mark_vg

Perhaps 'updating my Blog" should be separate to general Internet stuff as this is really a mix between Internet activity and socializing.

Old Man on the Mountain
Old Man on the Mountain

that in the blogs for the productivity article by John McKee there were comments about the increased hiring of college grads who have fewer family concerns to deal with (hence no need for employer concern), and here it says they are the ones wasting the most time. Employers may not be getting their money's worth from that demographic. There is much to be said for maturity (age?) and always will be in my opinion. A "seasoned" worker often brings values to a company that inexperienced workers may not. Hard work, integrity, etc. are important factors in the success of any organization.

hypnotistb
hypnotistb

* 58-77 years old: 0.50 hours per day * 48-57 years old: 0.68 hours per day * 38-47 years old: 1.19 hours per day * 28-37 years old: 1.61 hours per day * 22-27 years old: 1.95 hours per day average that and you get 1.186 where does the 2.09 come in?

Chaz Chance#
Chaz Chance#

"10 Other ??? 12.5 percent [Bowers??? note: Other? What???s left, dare I ask?] " Well, if you haven't spent half an hour in a store room with a colleague doing things you wouldn't want your mother to read about, you have been very productive Toni, and professional, but wasted your life! :-)

ttocsmij
ttocsmij

It is bitterly amusing that most of the local employers have subtly made it a point to tell me that they are not interested in hiring me at 53 ... when the average kid-genius is going to spend upwards of 2 hours a day "playing" at work whilst I spend all 8 hours on the job (I make it a point NOT to surf or do personal business on company time). I guess 35+ years of experience in 8-hour chunks isn't as valuable as 0 years of experience in 6-hour chunks. I wonder if that is why we're about to discover what happens when one country (America) loses it's middle class while another country (China) gains a middle class.

unhappyuser
unhappyuser

I do most of the above to differing amounts of time BUT: I get into the office between 6:45 AM and 7:15 AM. I never take the morning or afternoon coffee/butt break. We have a 45 minute lunch break but TRY and take the full amount when you're in IT! I leave between 4 PM and 4:15 PM. I try not to bring work home BUT that's just about impossible in the IT world. Overtime is a no-no. I am a multi-tasking addict. I cannot do one thing as I find it VERY uncomfortable. I HAVE to multitask. So if I check up on the news, play a game or call and set up an appointment while I have a laptop loading software and log scripts running I don't feel too bad. The web is a lifeline for me when I'm trying to write code, figure out a firewall issue or get an answer to a weird MS Office problem. Talking to users is important as they develop a personal connection with you and understand when you don???t drop everything when they have an issue (they see you as human and not a machine). EMD

jdclyde
jdclyde

:D Ok, so I don't, but it DID sound good. B-) It is a hard thing to gage when you don't get set coffee break times like many occupations do, you just do it during the day as time allows. How many people waste time in the evening by doing research or projects for work after you get home? ;\

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Is it part of the "Surfing the Internet" category, "Socializing with co-workers, "Conducting Personal Business", "Applying for other jobs", or "Planning personal events"?

sfroman
sfroman

I'd like to say I'm an over achiever. I'll take categories 1-4, 6, 8 and 9 for about 5.5 hours on an average day. I was done with lunch about 30mins ago and I still don't have my after lunch surfing done yet.

shardeth-15902278
shardeth-15902278

Perhaps it isn't all necessarily unproductive. For some this may be the equivalent of spacing-out; A chance to remove direct focus from a problem, and allow the subconscious to work on it for awhile.

Tell It Like I See It
Tell It Like I See It

If your company has a company newsletter, get them to run a "filler" article regarding co-worker etiquette. Maybe even write the article yourself, being sure to mention that loud conversations should be taken to a conference room so as not to disturb neighbors. Submit it anonymously, if you are able and desire. Granted, it's an indirect way of dealing with the issue, but I've seen it work before. Or you could ask to be moved to a new cubicle location for someplace "quieter". Be sure to point out that the server room with all those running fans and airflow noises along with the hum of electrical converters would be quieter than where you are now. That might get the point across (maybe).

wrlang
wrlang

Think if it this way. That's not me wasting company time, that's the company wasting its own time by creating a distracting environment. I have absolutely no guilt in sitting at my desk waiting for the distraction to go away and not making up the time. I don't think anyone should waste their personal time because of company shortsightedness. However I do tend to go to the bathroom whenever a group gathers outside my cube doorway to chat. I figure by walking through them they get the idea and then also getting some 'business' done away from the distraction is going above and beyond.

m@rcel
m@rcel

This one got me thinking too. But 'There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.'!

sbatdorf
sbatdorf

Until I read your post I didn't even think about the numbers they gave. If those break out percentages are correct, the average would be 1.19 hours, no?

sonicbee777
sonicbee777

I watch younger staff move at breathtaking speed. And they move almost as fast when they come back to do it over.

dorner
dorner

Although I'm don't quite have 35 years experience. Being I wear multiple hats, (I am the IT Department) I wouldn't know what to do if I had time to waste.

lauren.malhoit.ctr
lauren.malhoit.ctr

Of course, it is possible that younger people just get things done faster. It has been written time and time again that youngest generation of working professionals are much better at multi-tasking. Maybe they just run out of things to do...leaving more time for surfing.

duckboxxer
duckboxxer

IMHO, I think that your age isn't as much an issue as your cost. I have no idea what you are asking for obviously, but with that much experience, a candidate with 5 years would be much more economical. (of course as I am looking at this myself) I work with a man who wanted to be in a lower category so that he wouldn't price himself out of contracts. Upper categories mean more money - but few positions.

toni.bowers_b
toni.bowers_b

Its "research." That's our opinion and we're sticking to it. ; )

Shellbot
Shellbot

I like to think that TR is research and personal development. Oh I may waste the odd minute here and there on TR..but generally I can justify my purpose..I always have a white paper open..if i happen to accidently post in a discussion well...its this dang Dell mouse and keyboard..just has a mind of its own!

Fregeus
Fregeus

....I'd say, all of the above!!! ;-)

Tig2
Tig2

It is time spent ducking. But we love you for it. I'll send you a new hard hat. :x

deathscythe0
deathscythe0

Haha, same here, 4 hours a day is more like it!

Chaz Chance#
Chaz Chance#

Many of us turn up at work despite a hangover, because you can sit at your computer and get paid for feeling miserable. The work you do that morning will be of such low quality that the time is as good as wasted. I wonder if anybody bothers to survey for this old-fashioned, but still existing, time-waster? And what age group has the most hangovers?

keeleyt83
keeleyt83

Is this considered wasting time? Mebbe I should get back to work then lol :)

Dr Dij
Dr Dij

I knew that young-uns were unproductive time wasters. Ha to Google for hiring only young people. I guess the money they save on salary pays for an extra hour time wasting, or maybe if the time wasting is something 'cool' like IM or wikis or mashups or blogs it is OK?

Derek Schauland
Derek Schauland

Most web surfing (games, gambling, and porn aside) can be fit into the research category cant they? Especially when in IT

j-mart
j-mart

After having regular arguments re: quality of some of the work that comes to me from down the chain that I have been fixing up before I can pass it on to the next part of the production process, I gave up and followed his instruction to process whatever is put in front of me. He is starting to think differently when some jobs rushed through in a blind panic to get them completed quickly have been processed 3 times and I am not sure they are correct yet. Sometimes the mad rush of youth to complete a task is not as effective as a more measured approach with the job being correct, often ends up as the quickest solution.

Tell It Like I See It
Tell It Like I See It

It could also be "networking" which is a term the business-types seem to understand. :)

DanLM
DanLM

Waiste time at work? What are you talking about? Actually, my problem is. They can't keep me busy. If I have work, thats exactly what I do. Work. If I don't have enough work, I just do what ever. dan

Shellbot
Shellbot

Are you going to customise it? You know..TR logo and the like.. we could all send you our signatures and get them pasted onto it as well..you know..make it a special hard hat..one he could wear Proudly

cgarciasantacruz
cgarciasantacruz

Maybe google's youngsters waste 3-4 hours. On the other hand, they don't mind working 12 hours plus free time... I wonder if Google minds at all.

66bowtiegal
66bowtiegal

When researching solutions to problems, finding answers, options or affirmations on the web, one must keep in mind that it is EVERYTHING you learn during your search that should be considered as one of the more important accomplishment of your day.

Tell It Like I See It
Tell It Like I See It

I had a teacher in college who told me that in his opinion, anyone in IT should spend at least an hour or two a day reading magazines. His main reasoning was that by reading these magazines the IT people are staying up to date with the latest technology which ultimately pays dividends back to the employer. This was pre-Internet days, so I assume that this would also apply to the web in modern times.

sfroman
sfroman

That's my thinking. If you're working in IT it is your job to know everything or at least that's what your boss expects. So I spend a lot of time staying up-to-date on everything that's going on in the tech industry.

NaughtyMonkey
NaughtyMonkey

but then again conversations would not be as lively without you.

Steffi28
Steffi28

While I was on my placement I kept on being given too long to complete different things, so naturally I had to spend the remainder of my time entertaining myself somehow, and that happened to be by posting on TR!

Tig2
Tig2

I have the graphics- don't even need that many- still lots of pink ribbons out there. Now to find the hat...

shardeth-15902278
shardeth-15902278

The people I know who work there average 40 hours a week, and have never felt any pressure to work more than that. In Googles case, since they provide pool tables, game consoles, etc... Can you really classify it as wasting time?

Tell It Like I See It
Tell It Like I See It

The previous post brings up a question of sorts. If the company demands you work 12 hour days and you are "wasting" 2 hours, doesn't the company still get an additional 2 hours extra out of you??

jayhormel
jayhormel

Bravo to you guys. "after all we're only human". - It is all to easy for modern man with his twisted fetishising of "Efficiency" to create faceless Soul-Eating Corporations where oppression and antagonism rule. The day I work 7.5 measured, productive hours is the day after I've had my corporate-sponsored Robocop cyber-implant operation. Tip: always take a dump on company time.

Chaz Chance#
Chaz Chance#

Seguia said "...when the employee wants to, they allways find another smart way to waste time." . IT is a profession that attracts people who enjoy figuring things out, so we are likely to be better at wasting time than others. . Here in the UK we the "Office, Shops and Railway Premises Act", (equivalent to an Amendment in the States) which guarantees a ten minute break for every hour worked. In some organisations this is taken as a 30 minute break morning and afternoon. In many offices however, this is quietly forgotten, and we are encouraged to have as much coffee as we like at our desks instead. . When the boss spots you posting to TR, it's always useful to know the law.

seguia
seguia

In my opinion, work should be about objectives, not so much about fixed work hours (of course workhours count because thats the way they pay you, but i've seen cases when bosses give you work only to keep you busy when there's no real assignment, why wouldn't they allow you to use that time in favor of research and keeping up-to-date/self-learning?). And we are humans after all!, i think people cant work 8 hours without a 5-10 min break every 2 hours aprox, at least to ease back, legs and eyes .. That makes already 30-40 min per day I'm also speaking about "8 hours" day.. but, at least in the companies i've worked,thats rarely the case (10-12 hours is the norm) It's funny how companies think they can solve the waste-time problem by blocking internet, IMs, games, phonecalls, etc, because when the employee wants to, they allways find another smart way to waste time . If your employee is motivated enough and enjoys its work, he will do his best.