2014 Wasting Time at Work Survey

by Salary.com Staff - Original publish date: March 19, 2014

Welcome Back for Another Round of Wasting Time at Work

Do you waste time at work? Are you reading this in the office right now while you’re supposed to be working? Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

Our annual “Wasting Time at Work” survey is back and better (or worse if you’re an employer) than ever. We asked people about their work habits, whether or not they take breaks during the day, what they do in that time, and much more. More than 750 of you answered us to provide some great insight into the habits of American workers.

So, before you start filling out March Madness brackets, take some time to find out how much time workers are wasting during the workday.

Wasted Time at Work is WAY Up

Last year, 69% of all respondents said they waste at least some time at work on a daily basis. But between now and then, it appears boredom has set in because that number jumped considerably.

The number of people in this year’s survey who reported wasting time at work every day is up to a whopping 89% -- a 20% increase compared to last year. The increases came in people spending longer periods “wasting time.” Here’s the breakdown:

  • 31% waste roughly 30 minutes daily
  • 31% waste roughly 1 hour daily
  • 16% waste roughly 2 hours daily
  • 6% waste roughly 3 hours daily
  • 2% waste roughly 4 hours daily
  • 2% waste 5 or more hours daily

Which means 4% of people surveyed waste at least half the average workday on non work-related tasks.

Where's the Waste?

Naturally, the question is "where are people going when they waste time online?"

Last year the answer was Facebook, as 15% named the social networking site as the biggest online distraction. However, in 2014, Mark Zuckerberg’s creation is playing second fiddle to some competition.

Twenty-four percent of survey respondents said Google is the biggest online time-waster, with Facebook nipping at the search giant’s heels garnering 23%. LinkedIn came in third with 14%, followed by Yahoo (7%), Amazon (2%), YouTube (2%), ESPN (2%), and Pinterest, Twitter, and Craigslist each receiving 1%.

Who Wastes the Most Time?

If you’re wondering who wastes the most time at work, the answer is single men in their 20s and 30s without higher education.

Men waste slightly more time than women at work (91% to 87%), although more women (27%) prefer using Facebook to men (17%). When it comes to marital status, 91% of single people waste time compared to 88% of married folks, and 85% of those who are divorced.

Although the youngest workers are often believed to waste the most time, it’s actually people between the ages of 26 to 39 who are the biggest offenders.

  • 91% of people 18-25 waste time daily
  • 95% of people 26-32 waste time daily
  • 92% of people 33-39 waste time daily
  • 90% of people 40-50 waste time daily
  • 85% of people 51-60 waste time daily
  • 78% of people 60+ waste time daily

Why Do People Waste Time?

Why do people waste time? Would you believe it’s because they think it’s proactive?

More than half (53%) of all those surveyed say they waste time because they believe short breaks actually increase productivity. Boredom came in a distant second as 20% of people said they simply aren’t interested enough in their jobs to pay full attention. Lack of incentive (8%), being unsatisfied with their jobs (7%), and not being paid enough (2%) also made the list.

Wasted Time: Online vs. Real Life

Time-wasters exist both virtually and in your face.

Although 26% said the biggest overall time-wasting activity was browsing the Internet during work, the old standbys were right behind. Having too many meetings/conference calls and dealing with annoying coworkers tied for second place with 24% each. Returning emails garnered 12%, dealing with an annoying boss had 7%, social media was at 4%, and personal phone calls saw 2% of respondents.

What Are the Most Wasteful Days & Times?

Tuesday mornings remain the most productive days of the week.

On the flip side, it should come as no surprise that Friday afternoons are still the prime time to waste time. Forty-four percent said they waste the most time on Fridays, and 22% said the hours they waste the most time are between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.

The other most wasteful time is Monday afternoon, with 18% choosing Mondays and 18% saying 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. is the second most wasteful time while at work.

The most productive time of day is between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m.

Which Industry Wastes the Most Time?

Last year, workers in government wasted the most time at work. But there’s a new champion this year.

All of the people working in finance and banking who took this year’s survey – that’s a full 100% -- admitted to wasting at least a little time at work each day. Coming in second were people working in the arts, media, and entertainment business with 95% of employees wasting time daily, and then the engineering, design, and construction industry with 94%.

"Only" 90% of government workers said they waste time this year. Hey, it’s progress.

Social Media for Work & Fun

As the use of social media for businesses increases at a quick pace, so too will the number of people who need to use it during the workday.

In fact, 27% of the people we surveyed said they use social media for business on a daily basis. We asked how much total time people spend on social media on a daily basis (for work and pleasure), and 34% said they spend 30 minutes a day or less on the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc. Twelve percent spend 1 hour a day and 3% spend 2 hours a day.

Only 1% spend five hours a day or more on social media.

Employer Attitudes Regarding Wasted Time

When it comes to allowing some downtime at work, employer attitudes differ widely. While some companies realize distractions are inevitable, others take a harder line and ban certain sites like Facebook from company computers.

Of those who took the survey, 27% said their employers block many non work-related websites. That number is down 3% from last year. However, since 56% of people said they would simply use personal devices like smartphones and tablets in those scenarios, it’s unclear what benefit there is for employers who implement this practice.

It’s also worth considering such Draconian policies regarding the blocking of websites could lead to qualified candidates not accepting offers. Eight percent said they would consider leaving a job if such a policy was enacted, and 14% said it might cause them to reject a job offer.

Is March Madness a Huge Distraction?

It’s been said productivity takes a billion dollar dip when the epic NCAA basketball tournament begins later this month. In fact, 13% of people surveyed said they fully intend to waste time at work on their brackets and/or watching the games that take place during work hours.

Negotiating Salary is Never a Waste of Time

Instead of going on Facebook, how about preparing for your next salary negotiation. Salary.com can help you get paid fairly what you do.

The first thing you should do is research, so you're able to come to the table armed with the knowledge of what your job is worth. Use our free Salary Wizard below to find out what's a fair salary for your position. You can enter your location, education level, years of experience and more to find out an appropriate salary range before you negotiate.

Good luck.