July 11, 2005 1:52 PM PDT

Stop reading this headline and get back to work

Traipsing around the Internet is the most popular form of loafing on the job. The insurance industry is particularly rife with goofing off, and Missouri is the top state for time-wasters.

Those are among the conclusions of a study on wasted time at work released Monday by compensation specialist Salary.com and Web portal America Online. Through a Web survey involving more than 10,000 employees, the report found that personal Internet surfing ranked as the top method of cooling one's heels at work. It was cited by 44.7 percent of respondents as their primary time-wasting activity, followed by socializing with co-workers (23.4 percent) and conducting personal business (6.8 percent).

The average worker admits to frittering away 2.09 hours per day, not counting lunch, according to the report. That's far more time than the roughly one hour per day employers expect the average employee to waste, the report said. The extra unproductive time adds up to $759 billion annually in salaries for which companies get no apparent benefit, the report said.

"It's interesting to note that the Internet was cited as the leading time-wasting activity. It goes to show how integrated it has become to the daily functions of our personal and professional lives," Samara Jaffe, a director at America Online, said in a statement. "Today, there are so many useful tools and Web sites on the Internet that have enabled people to become more efficient with accomplishing multiple tasks in a shorter amount of time."

Unproductive hours on the job may have something to do with workdays growing longer. Between 1977 and 2002, average work hours increased, according to the Families and Work Institute. A growing number of workers favor time off rather than a raise, according to a study published earlier this year.

Average hours wasted per person, per day, were highest in the insurance industry, at 2.5 hours per day. The public sector (excluding education) was second at 2.4 hours per day, followed by research & development at 2.3 hours a day. The "Software & Internet" industry ranked fifth, at 2.2 hours a day.

Those in Missouri wasted an average of 3.2 hours per day, per person, according to the report. Indiana ranked second at 2.8 hours per day.

More-than-expected time spent goofing off isn't necessarily a bad thing, argued Bill Coleman, senior vice president at Salary.com. "In some cases this extra wasted time might be considered 'creative waste'--time that may well have a positive impact on the company's culture, work environment, and even business results," Coleman said in a statement. "Personal Internet use and casual office conversations often turn into new business ideas or suggestions for gaining operating efficiencies."

8 comments

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Not trying hard enough..
Obviously the people that were surveyed are just not trying hard enough. Like most network engineers I find that it's possible to go days, even weeks without doing any real work at all.

From playing Football Manager, to browsing tech sites, catching up on my stocks and pension funds to doing a bit of shopping (birthdays, christmas, etc).. it's possible to eat up as much time as you need to, so you can easily avoid the mundane tasks people call work.

If I am interrupted in my busy schedule by something work related, often I can put it off for several hours, or even days, using the old "research" excuse. Just need to research that one a bit, we'll get it sorted, not to worry.

Oh well, eventually I'll get fired ofcourse, but until then it's a free ride and I'll make the most of it while I can. Then apply for a government job, when the gravy train runs out.
Posted by ajbright (447 comments )
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Perspective
Can we put this in perspective. A Web survey found that web surfing was the most popular form of goofing off by people who navigate to salary.com. Uh-duh. This would be one of the most biased surveys ever.
Posted by (1 comment )
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Distractions all around
Company intranet is interesting enough with perks and links to news sites with company related stories.

Then there's the TV. It's a cable company, gotta have a TV in the office. Mostly on CNN or FOX News, the whole lineup is available. Video On Demand is hard to resist, should I mute the conference call or not . . .
Posted by Justice Gustine (23 comments )
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No loss in productivity
with the exception of lowly burger flippers gossiping in the back room, i don't see how there is any real loss in productivity.

for a typical business person, the work they do isn't related to time at all. they are given a project and expected to complete it.

now say person A doesn't want to be seen as a slacker, so he takes all day to finish the task, so he feels like he is being productive all day.

person B, on the other hand, decides to finish the task immediately, likely with the same quality (unless he finishes in 5 minutes...), but with extra time to spare, so he browses the web for a while.

the work they both accomplish is the same, the pay they both earn is the same, and person B ends up with time to relax and be better prepared for any surprise tasks that may come later in the day.

if i were an employer, so long as my workers finished their tasks within the time i want it finished, i wouldn't care if they spent their spare time playing counterstrike. only if they would then be willing to put their game on hold if i needed them for something else. and if it was late in the afternoon and i was sure i wouldn't need them for anything more, i may send them home early.
Posted by Sam Papelbon (242 comments )
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Longer hours lead to wasted time, not vice versa...
Where I used to work, work hours increased at a constant rate because the managers sold more and more projects without hiring enough people to do the work. When you're working 80 hours a week, you have no choice but to take care of personal business at work. In the IT industry, I'd bet it's the longer hours that are increasing the time-wasting. This article was obviously provided to CNet by managers, not independent researchers.
Posted by (1 comment )
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At my highschool computer class...
I dont do anything from monday until thursday, I usually sleep unless there is something important to do (flash based games) then on fridays I may for for 45 minutes to an hour and do all the work from that week. Passed the class. Now back to sleeping through summer...
Posted by wazzledoozle (288 comments )
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Who is at fault???
What these managers don't understand is that they set the tone
is almost every situation. Most people start out wanting to work
and do a good job. But, after seeing managers standing around
and talking, not doing their jobs, and often not even working
their expected 40 hours a week, employees aren't motivated to
do a great job.

Half of the employees out there probably do not even have a
complete understanding of what their jobs are or have complete
instructions on how to do their jobs.

It all starts off with leadership. Of course, employees who have
pointed this out often end up unemployed. One employee even
submitted something found at the yahoo groups site of CSFT
Discussions and now is unemployed. All the item was is an
identification of bad leadership in the workplace.

If a manager cannot lead his people to actually work then the
CEO needs to start actually doing something. Hey, instead of
laying off more people and forcing people to do more to
improve the bottom line, why not just fix the issues and have
real productivity improvements? Just asking.

Until that happens, let's all say it together, 'Bad Employees'.
Posted by (1 comment )
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Actually much higher
Unfortunately, I believe that many people do waste work hours.

I was brought up that it is my responsibility to be working and productive from the time I get to work to the time I leave. But when quitting time comes, its time to quit. Always have, always will. They pay me to work, not to see how much loafing I can get away with. I've always viewed people who purposely look for opportunities to loaf in the same category as shoplifters - stealing money for the time they agreed to work. Always have, always will.

The process of conducting business is actually the biggest time waster. Meetings for those that need the touchy feely kind of work. Each hour meeting actually takes about 80 minutes, and wastes about 40 for each person attending. Waiting for attendees to arrive, blackberries keeping people from concentrating, questions for the sake of hearing yourself talk, no meeting agendas or purpose statements (not my meetings of course) people who come totally unprepared by not reading the agenda/purpose statement&.

Disorganized time tracking systems, I currently use 6 different systems for the same information.

Poor management decisions that need to be changed several times during a project.

Personally, I've always made work a competition with myself. Get it done as fast and as effectively as possible. Automate repetitive tasks using technology. That's what makes it fun for me - accomplishment.

It is so strange to hear someone say that they feel justified in surfing the net once they've completed the work for the day. Why wouldn't you seek out more work or look for ways to make your work better quality?

If you work hard and live right you'll have no regrets and be satisfied with your life.
Posted by wrlang (1 comment )
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