Wasted time at work costing companies billions

Personal use of Internet biggest time killer as average worker wastes more than two hours every day

The average American worker is wasting more than two hours a day on the job, according to a survey by America Online and Salary.com. That adds up to more than three-quarters of a trillion dollars in lost time per year.

Time spent surfing the Internet for personal use topped the list of workplace distractions, with 44.7 per cent of respondents admitting doing so on company time.

Other time wasting activities included:

•socializing with co-workers (23.4 per cent);

•conducting personal business (6.8 per cent);

•spacing out (3.9 per cent);

•running errands off-premises (3.1 per cent);

•making personal phone calls (2.3 per cent);

•applying for other jobs (1.3 per cent);

•planning personal events (one per cent); and

•arriving late and leaving early (one per cent.)

Employees point finger at employers

Employees said they’re not always to blame for this wasted time. A third (33.2 per cent) of respondents said lack of work is their biggest reason for wasting time while 23.4 per cent said they wasted time at work because they feel as if they’re underpaid.

Excuses for wasting time include:

•don’t have enough work to do (33.2 per cent);

•underpaid for amount of work (23.4 per cent);

•co-workers distract me (14.7 per cent); and

•not enough after-work time (12 per cent).

Employers expect some goofing off

According to follow-up survey of human resource managers, companies assume employees will waste 0.94 hours per day and they take this into account when they do there compensation planning.

But managers privately suspect employees waste more time — 1.6 hours per day. The reality is that employees admit to wasting even more time, a total of 2.09 hours per day.

Who wastes the most time?

Men and women were equally guilty of wasting time at work, with neither gender significantly worse than the other.

But there was an assumption on the part of HR managers that women wasted more time than men on the job.

Older workers, however, tend to waste less time on the job. Workers born between 1930 and 1949 wasted an average of 30 minutes each day, while those born between 1980 and 1985 wasted 1.95 hours.

Insurance industry leads the way in wasted time

Insurance workers reported wasting about 2.5 hours per day. Public-sector (2.4 hours), research and development (2.3 hours), education (2.2 hours) and software and Internet (2.2 hours) workers rounded out the top five.

On the flip side, shipping and receiving workers wasted the least amount of time with 1.7 hours. Other industries that fared better than the average included manufacturing (1.8 hours); health care (1.8 hours); finance and banking (1.8 hours) and marketing and communications (two hours.)

Hitting the bottom line

According to the survey authors, the average American salary is $39,795 per year, or $19.13 per hour (all figures US).

If the average worker wastes 1.15 hours more than the employer expects, per eight-hour work day, that adds up to $5,720 per year per worker in wasted salary.

So with the American workforce 132 million employees strong, the total in lost salary adds up to $759 billion per year.


America Online and Salary.com conducted research relating to time wasted at work among 10,044 respondents during May and June 2005.

Populations surveyed included AOL users, Salary.com visitors and corporate HR professionals.

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