Very few employees can honestly say they spend the entirety of their workday actually working. Whether it’s the 15 minutes spent making coffee in the morning or the 10 minutes catching up on Facebook after lunch, the occasional work break is inevitable.
A study by Salary.com found that "39% percent of respondents said they spend a mere 1 hour a week or less on non-work related items. That’s followed by 29% who spend up to 2 hours a week wasting time on the computer at work, and 21% who waste up to 5 hours a week. Only 3% of respondents spend 10 hours or more on personal tasks in a given week."
While concluding the exact amount of time workers waste during their workday might be challenging, (because no one wants to admit they are looking for deals on patio furniture rather than writing that “time-wasting” blog they were assigned), we can all say we have been guilty of frittering away some precious time during our workdays.
Here are the top four ways employees are wasting their time at work and a few ideas on how to support more productivity during the workday.
TIME WASTER #1: EMAILS
Emailing has become the top form of communication in the workplace. What’s the first thing most of us do when we come into work? Check our emails.
Technological advances in the way we communicate have brought about the notion of having to be connected at all times. Our clients, and even our colleagues, tend to expect instant responses to each and every message, even when we are sick or on vacation.
While email can be extremely beneficial, a lot of our workday is spent reading and answering emails. Many professionals have actually found they can get much more done during their workday if they don't respond immediately to every single email.
Solution: Try not to check your email first thing in the mornings. Instead, spend anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour working on something more important first thing in the morning. This allows you to fully concentrate on what you have to do without any of those unread emails distracting or stressing you.
Another solution is to give yourself designated email checking and responding blocks. Depending on how much email you receive, you may set aside one or two 15-30 minute chunks per day that you spend strictly on managing your emails. If you're worried you may miss something important this way, you can set auto-replies in your email client that let people contacting you know about your policy and how to get a hold of you faster in an emergency.
You can also increase productivity by simply turning off your email notifications for short periods of time during the course of your day. It could be 15 minutes, or it could be 60 minutes, but you’ll realize that during that distraction-less time you’ll be able to blast through your to-do list.
TIME WASTER #2: ONLINE DISTRACTIONS
The internet is known for luring employees deeper and deeper into its web (no pun intended) with each and every click.
It is said that 60% of online purchases are made during regular work hours and 65% of YouTube viewers watch between 9am – 5pm on weekdays while (presumably) at work.
Social media outlets such as YouTube and Facebook can be a great platform for brand awareness and business growth, but let’s be honest – how many times are you actually on these sites marketing for your company? You’re not. You’re wishing your uncle Brad a happy birthday.
Some professionals have even admitted to spending time job hunting during work hours on the company computer...
Solution: If you just absolutely can’t keep yourself from refreshing your Facebook feed every 10 minutes, simply block it.
StayFocusd is an extension Google Chrome offers that allows you to set a certain amount of time you’re allowed to visit any website of your choice. Once that time is up, it denies further access to these sites.
Company-wide, you can have your IT company adjust your firewall settings to block certain sites entirely for certain periods of time, or for certain people. If that seems too harsh, you can always better manage your lunch time. Take the first half of your lunch break to feed yourself and use the second half to completely indulge and get your daily fix of online distractions without feeling guilty.
If you still can’t get away from these Internet sites, well, you’ve got a bigger problem, buddy.
TIME WASTER #3: COLLEAGUES
Nobody enjoys spending their entire workday in silence. Humans are social creatures by nature. We all appreciate a little chat here and there during our workday. For that reason, co-workers can be awesome, but they can also be a major time suck.
What amazing thing did you do this weekend? Are we supposed to send this email this week or next? Where should I upload the document? Can you review this really quick?
We have all had those colleagues who would rather talk than work. While it can be very flattering to be the expert/most interesting one in your group, the fact that you are constantly engaged in conversation can quickly become irritating. Not to mention, it can take up a huge part of your workday.
Solution: Headphones! Wear headphones while you work, at least while you’re concentrating on a project. Even if you aren’t listening to anything, having both of your headphones in will signal to your colleagues that you’re focused and in the zone.
I understand some of us have very persistent co-workers who may still decide to come on over to your desk and give you a quick tap on the shoulder. At that point, simply tell them you are glad they came by because you need help with [insert irrelevant work assignment here]. If they leave your desk with some work to do, they’ll think twice next time they come on over for a chat.
TIME WASTER #4: MEETINGS
Meetings are a necessary evil in most companies. 47% of professionals say their biggest time waster is having to attend too many meetings. On average, 33 minutes a day are spent just trying to schedule these meetings.
You don’t always need to have a meeting. Nothing makes an employee more frustrated than having their schedule filled with unnecessary meetings. We have all been to those meetings where literally nothing pertained to you and absolutely zero words came out of your mouth.
While communication in the workplace is extremely important, there are better ways of communicating information that doesn’t involve attending meetings every other hour.
Solution: Next time you’re invited to a meeting that you believe might be irrelevant for you, ask the host why they think your presence is needed. You can then set up some sort of system where your supervisor can go in your place and simply cascade down pertinent information to the rest of the team. If your supervisor is too busy to attend, then you could ask to meet with the host a couple minutes before to share your insight because you will not be able to stay the entire time.
You can also make the suggestion that a meeting be handled via email or through your project management software. Using this strategy can at least start a project in the right direction without bogging down everyone’s time.
There are many other time wasters that we could discuss, but we’ll have to save that for another time – I have a meeting.