Keeping people focused and working hard is a challenge at any business. Distraction can undermine progress, add hours to a work week, and make being at work demoralizing and trying.

Back in October I spoke with a number of entrepreneurs who made 40-weeks a priority. A good work-life balance was important to them to keep employees refreshed and contributing. One of the trade-offs, however, was a hefty work ethic while at work. Employees were expected to get things done during the day and then head home.

That can be a challenge. There are so many distractions like ... social media. One of the remarks that a number of CEOs made to me was that their employees couldn't go on Facebook or Twitter during the day. That was for personal time.

However, some research sponsored by human resource software BambooPR (which also happened to be one of the companies that on principle believe in a 40-hour week) showed that the distraction you expect may not be the one that causes the most problems. Personal use of social media is on the list of the top eight distraction problems they found, is far from the only one. Here are the top eight ways they found that employees waste time, in order of the most time spent:

  1. Breaks to hit the kitchen, water cooler, or break room when not at lunch.
  2. Bathroom trips (maybe because of all those excursions to the water cooler).
  3. Taking part in small talk or gossiping.
  4. Corresponding with family via phone calls, emails, text, or social media messages.
  5. Surfing the web or doing personal online errands.
  6. Corresponding with non-work friends via phone calls, emails, text, or social media messages.
  7. Social media for non-work purposes.
  8. Watching TV, whether on mobile devices or a computer.

According to the study, a fifth of employees think such activities hurt their performance and efficiency. Eighteen percent claim that the activities improve their performance. (We can presume they mean in whatever time is left.) Almost half (48 percent) of the people responding said that they only wasted less than 30 minutes a week. Uh huh. And 56 percent said they try to make the time up.

The convergence of work and personal time has caused some problematic changes to the nature of work. Maybe it's time to ask people to do something out of the ordinary at work -- like work.

Published on: Dec 11, 2015
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