Phone Calls, Gossip Top Employee Time-Wasters

June 17, 2014 ( – Personal use of technology is one of the leading time-wasters in the workplace, finds a survey from CareerBuilder.

One in four workers (24%) say that during a typical workday, they will spend at least one hour on personal calls, emails or texts. Twenty-one percent say they spend an hour or more, during a typical workday, searching the Internet for information, photos and other content not related to work.

Behaviors of coworkers, meetings and other factors are also creating obstacles to maximizing performance. When asked what they consider to be the primary time-wasters in the workplace, employers said:

  • Cell phone/texting (50%);
  • Gossip (42%);
  • Internet (39%);
  • Social media (38%);
  • Snack or smoke breaks (27%);
  • Noisy coworkers (24%);
  • Meetings (23%);
  • Email (23%);
  • Coworkers dropping by (23%); and
  • Coworkers putting calls on speaker phone (10%).

The CareerBuilder survey also notes some of the more unusual things that employers have witnessed employees doing when they should have been working such as:

  • Blowing bubbles in sub-zero weather to see if the bubbles would freeze and break;
  • A married employee looking at a dating website, then denying it even though it was still on his screen;
  • Caring for her pet bird that she had smuggled into work;
  • Shaving her legs in the women’s restroom;
  • Lying under boxes to scare people;
  • Employees having a wrestling match;
  • Sleeping but claimed he was praying;
  • Taking selfie photos in the bathroom;
  • Changing clothes in a cubicle;
  • Printing off a book from the Internet; and
  • Warming her bare feet under the bathroom hand dryer.

In response to these and other killers of workplace productivity, 73% of employers have implemented some type of countermeasures. Such tactics include:

  • Blocking certain Internet sites at work (36%);
  • Prohibiting personal calls or personal use of cell phones (25%);
  • Monitoring emails and Internet usage (22%);
  • Scheduling lunch and break times (19%);
  • Allowing people to telecommute (14%);
  • Implementing an open space layout instead of cubicles (13%);
  • Limiting meetings (12%); and
  • Restricting use of speaker phones if not in an office (11%).

For employees, Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder, offers the following tips to avoid wasting time on the job:

  • Organize and prioritize: De-clutter your workspace and clearly lay out your game plan for the week;
  • Limit interruptions: Block off a conference room to work on a project to avoid distractions at your desk. Also, read your email at intervals instead of opening each one as soon as it arrives;
  • Avoid unnecessary meetings: Don’t meet about an issue or initiative that can be addressed with a quick phone call;
  • Get personal on your own time: Do personal tasks during your lunch hour or break time or after work;
  • Communicate wisely: Save time by picking up the phone or walking over to your colleague’s desk instead of sending an email; and
  • Don’t delay the inevitable: Dive in and tackle the task at hand.

The national survey was conducted online by Harris Poll, on behalf of CareerBuilder, from February 10 to March 4. It included a representative sample of 2,138 hiring managers and human resource professionals, and a representative sample of 3,022 full-time, private sector workers across industries and company sizes.