Get To Work! How Much Does Your Time-Wasting Cost Your Company?

It’s a rare employee who isn’t guilty of a little slacking off every now and then. A Facebook status update here, a little discussion of last night’s 30 Rock there. And then there’s the time spent shopping online for a gift for your mother’s birthday, and the time spent on the phone dealing with personal issues.

October 26th is “Least Productive Day” at work. We’ve done some sleuthing to find out how much time is really being wasted at work and tallied up how much money its costing companies in lost productivity.


Why is so much time is spent slacking?

Conflicts. Vivian Scott, author of Conflict Resolution at Work for Dummies, says that employees spend about three hours per week dealing with conflicts. Employees are engaged in gossip, ignoring work, and even sabotaging as a means of resolving everyday conflicts. “These all lead to a hefty loss for companies,” Scott says.

Technology. Gadgets and social networks play a new starring role in blowing off steam. Scott notes that frustrations with coworkers can be shared instantly through Facebook, email, Twitter accounts, etc.  “What previously may have been a problem between two or three is now quickly spread to entire teams or organizations by a simple click,” Scott says.

Money woes. Kate Dahl Folan, marketing manager at Emerge Workplace Solutions, says that many employees are too preoccupied with their own financial issues to worry about what their lack of productivity is costing their company. “Especially in today’s economy, I think it is important to consider the personal financial stressors that people bring with them to the workplace, resulting in significantly higher levels of distraction and ‘presenteesim’ (when workers work on something else instead of the job while ‘on the clock’).

People are at work but they are more likely to be focused on dealing with their financial problems, which can add up to more than 20 hours a month employee, according to a recent PFEEF (The Personal Finance Employee Education Foundation, Inc.) study,” Dahl Folan says.

Favorite Ways to Slack

Ironically, the overabundance of electronic devices for collaboration, social networking, and communication tools designed to make it easy to complete work-related tasks is leading to rudeness at the office and at home. “Consider that during face-to-face meetings, 41 percent of workers remain glued to their communication devices, sending instant messages, responding to texts, listening to voicemails, or checking their emails,” says David Lavenda, VP of Product Strategy for

“This figure rises to a staggering 70 percent during virtual meetings and webcasts. Thirty-one percent even admit to disrupting face-to-face meetings to answer their mobile phones. Paradoxically, four out of 10 of these individuals agree it is rude to do so,” say Lavenda.

Time is also being wasted on inefficiency. “Industry research shows that employees waste at least 30 minutes a day searching for information, primarily in email,” Lavenda says. “They also change windows or check email or other programs nearly 37 times an hour; spend on average nearly 10 minutes on switches caused by alerts; and another 10 to 15 minutes before returning to focused activity on the disrupted task.”

Some of the top time-wasters at work include:

  • Web surfing
  • Personal phone calls
  • Gossiping
  • Shopping online
  • Facebook/social media
  • Water cooler chat
  • Long lunches/breaks
  • Being late/leaving early
  • Searching for a new job
  • Unproductive meetings
  • Reading email jokes/forwards
  • Constant interruptions (e.g. phone calls, emails, coworkers, requests)
  • Checking personal email
  • Video games/online games
  • Smoking breaks
  • March Madness and other office activities (e.g. potlucks, fundraising campaigns)

Time Is Money

How much does a conservative estimate of three hours per week of time-wasting cost companies per month and year based on different positions and their average median salaries? The amount adds up; and the higher your base salary, the more you’re costing your employer. Compare these 10 job positions below with salary data provided by online salary database


Job Title

Median Pay

Median Pay/Minute

Minutes Wasted a Week

Pay Lost per Week

Minutes Wasted a Month

Pay Lost per Month

Pay Lost per Year

Software Developer








Financial Advisor








Mechanical Engineer








Market Research Analyst








Systems Administrator








Tax Accountant








Account Manager








Human Resources (HR) Generalist








Graphic Designer








Administrative Assistant


















Based on a 40 hour week and a 4 week month




Denene Brox is a Kansas City-based freelance writer who regularly covers career topics.

Source: All salary data provided by online salary database Salaries listed are for full-time employee with 5-8 years of experience and include any bonuses, commissions or profit sharing.

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