Wasting Time at Work or Taking a Mental Break?

Have you checked out YouTube today? Did you do it at work? If so, you’re part of 63% of the workforce who’ll admit to wasting time at work.

Employees waste 20% of their work day (1.7 hours) according to a survey conducted by Salary.com. Look at it a different way. In a five day work week the average employee wastes an entire day, and that doesn’t even count lunch.

Let’s assume that I just spent 15 minutes looking at the weather forecast, paying my bills online and talking with my cubemates about the newest Jason Bourne movie. Then I would be just like most workers. The leading time-wasting activities at work include:

• Personal Internet use
• Socializing with co-workers
• Conducting personal business
• Making personal phone calls
• Taking extended breaks to run errands

Men and women waste time equally, but younger workers are inclined to waste more time than older workers. Employees age 20-29 reported the highest total – 2.1 hours a day. The average for 30-39 year olds falls to 1.9 hours and 1.4 hours for 40-49 year olds.

I’m a little depressed. I turn 40 in five months, which means I’m going to have to convert 30 minutes a day from water cooler talk to work production.

There are some things to consider if you find yourself at work doing Sudoku puzzles, downloading music and checking out eBay listings instead of compiling weekly production reports.

You’re not being challenged. If you have time to waste, maybe you don’t have enough to do. It could be time for a new challenge. Maybe you’ve mastered your current job duties, and you’d like to take on additional responsibilities. Ask your supervisor for more challenging work.

You’re burned out. Take a vacation to recharge your batteries. That’s what your paid time off (PTO) leave is for. Hopefully, you’ll come back rested and ready to work. But then again you might not. So…

Quit. You may beyond repair, so to find challenging work you might need to get another job. Seriously, how many hours of Tetris can you play before you need to pack up your box and hand in your keys?

Most bosses don’t expect their employees to work non-stop eight hours a day. Bosses (OK – good bosses) know what employees are producers and which ones are slackers. Breaks are to be expected and can benefit your company’s culture by strengthening the bond between co-workers.

There’s a difference between taking a nap and having a casual conversation with your peers. Internet research that helps you increase your overall productivity impacts your company’s bottom line more than spending an hour updating your MySpace profile.

That reminds me. I need to look up a recipe for dinner tonight. Where will I find the time?


  1. Greg

    Good post. I spent 9 years working for the Government. I saw more time wasted in a day than most people waste in a month.
    We had an employee who was behind on her bills and bill collectors called her at work, so she hid in the bathroom, in a stall, reading most of the day. Had a smoker who took breaks with another smoker to go outside and smoke, but they took multiple cigarettes with them and would spend 20 minutes smoking, 5 times a day!
    My boss use to get phone calls from her kids, she would tell them not to call her at work, them sit and talk to them for half an hour.
    We had computer people who in the “best interests of their job” would sit and read magazines for hours or cruise the internet most of the day and then have to work overtime to do the backups and other grunt work of computer admin.
    Scientists who spent hours reading reports, that had nothing to do with their discipline, just something to kill time because they didn’t want to work on their project that day.
    And the gossip fest around the coffee pot area was a riot.
    I admit, I wasted time. I mainly wasted time watching the others waste time, so I wasn’t so much a participant as I was an unwilling participant. Hard to work hard, when they are standing 5 feet from your cubicle yakking away about everything under the sun but work.
    have a great day!!!

  2. Pudge Ortiz

    I have to admit that it’s getting more and more difficult to focus especially if you’re working on the internet. Because the internet nowadays is full of distractions that even the most focused employee would be tempted to surf the internet for non-work related stuff. It is better to implement some rules.

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