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The time-wasting epidemic: how your employees are killing time at your expense

From meetings to office gossip and irritating colleagues, the list of distractions in the workplace can be long

In an effort to discover what the biggest causes of wasted time in the workplace are, CareerBuilder and Harris Poll recently carried out a survey into exactly how people waste their time at work. The results of the survey are both enlightening and hilarious.

For anyone who has ever worked in an office, it won’t come as a surprise that the survey showed that most people felt that there was a great deal of wasted time in the workplace, with many respondents saying they were affected by multiple time-wasting activities.

Half the respondents claimed that using a mobile phone to make calls or send texts ate into their working day. Office banter and gossip were another key factor. Unsurprisingly, using the internet and posting on social media also figured highly, with almost 40% of respondents admitting to wasting time at work with these activities. Smoking and snack breaks affected almost one-third of those surveyed.

Interestingly, several time-wasting issues identified by the survey related to genuine workplace activities and to co-workers. Meetings and emails were cited by almost one-quarter of respondents, along with noisy colleagues and unscheduled interruptions by co-workers.

While these reasons for wasted time will come as no surprise to many, some of the more unusual survey responses offer an entertaining and quirky insight into what some people get up to during working hours.

From browsing dating websites while at work to feeding and caring for a pet bird that had been sneaked into the office, the variety of unusual workplace activities is intriguing. If co-workers seem to be spending a long time in the restrooms, it may be that they are up to something other than the obvious. Survey respondents admitted to all sorts of time wasting in the restrooms, including shaving their legs, warming their feet under the dryer and taking selfies.

Larking about also figures highly in the list of bizarre time-wasting tactics revealed in the survey. Workers admitted to wrestling matches, hiding from colleagues so that they could jump out and scare them, and even blowing bubbles on icy days to see whether the bubbles would freeze! One respondent simply went to sleep at work but claimed that he was praying!

Time wasting and procrastination are perhaps inevitable in the workplace, at least to some degree, and business owners should take comfort from the fact that their own employees do not partake in the more unusual time-wasting activities identified by the survey – although perhaps ignorance is bliss from the business owner’s perspective!

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