HUMAN RESOURCES

What Your Employees Are Doing When You Think They're Working

It's Friday afternoon. Are your employees actually working? Should you care?
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Sixty-nine percent of employees report wasting at least a half hour of time per workday. Another 21 percent report wasting at least some time each week. The other valiant, hard working 10 percent who report that they never waste time? They're lying through their teeth.

Okay, I made that last part up. But I fully believe it. I've worked in everything from fast food to pharma and I've never met a person who wastes absolutely no time at work. Yes, there are occasional days where you are heads down all day, or in retail where the line of customers never, ever slows down. But to report that you never waste time? I don't buy it.

When are they wasting time? Fridays, of course. And when? In the afternoon. No one is shocked by this.

And just what are these employees doing when they are wasting time? The Internet, is, of course, the top time waster with 80 percent of employees spending at least some of their day browsing the web. The biggest draw? The news, with 37 percent of employees saying that is what they read the most. Sixteen percent say social media is their top time wasting priority.

However, when asked what site they visit the most, Facebook is the winner, with 15 percent of employees saying it is their most visited site. Yahoo is close behind at 14 percent, followed by 10 percent of networking focused employees who spend time on LinkedIn. (Inc.com is not mentioned because this is a survey on wasting time, and this website is never considered a time waster.)

But, while the focus is on online time wasters, people report that the biggest time sink is chatting with coworkers, with 43 percent. Web surfing comes in a distant second with only 28 percent.

So, does this mean you should be in a panic? Lock down your Internet? Grill people you see standing together in the hallway about their subject matter? Absolutely not.

While every second spent "not working" seems like lost money for the business, the reality is, being on, constantly, for eight hours can be draining. You need time to recharge. Your employees need time to recharge. If taking a look at Facebook or asking a coworker about her newest grandchild is what it takes, then let it go. And it turns out, 60 percent of those surveyed feel that spending 15 minutes on the internet improves their productivity.

What you, as an employer, should be looking at is end results. If your employees aren't getting their (reasonable) workloads done, then you start with the crackdowns--on an individual basis. Don't make the rookie mistake of implementing a blanket policy when you notice a problem with one person.

And think about how much your exempt staff works when they are not at the office. While they may text during the work day, it's quite possible that they are checking their work email while at the grocery store. If you demand 100 percent attention during the work day, you may get it, but they may rebel by giving the business no consideration during the evening and weekend.

This survey was conducted by Salary.com and the 1082 respondents are all recipients of the Salary.com newsletter.

IMAGE: AFP/Getty Images
Last updated: Mar 29, 2013

SUZANNE LUCAS | Columnist

Suzanne Lucas spent 10 years in corporate human resources, where she hired, fired, managed the numbers, and double-checked with the lawyers.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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