SURVEY SAYS: Work Time-Wasters

March 17, 2014 ( – Last week, I asked NewsDash readers what wastes their time at work.

The number one time-waster, selected by 37.9% of responding readers, is interruptions by coworkers. This was followed by meetings (34.8%), Internet down time or slow work applications (31.8%) and interruptions by other employees (30.3%). “Waiting for others to do their work so I can do mine” and “my own ability to get distracted” were each selected by 27.3% of respondents.

Other choices ranked as follows:

  • work-related e-mails – 18.2%
  • calls from home – 9.1%
  • traffic during my commute – 9.1%
  • interruptions by the boss(es) – 7.6%
  • all of these – 6.1%
  • work-related calls – 6.1%
  • the bathroom, printer, supply room, mail, etc. is too far from my office – 4.5%
  • calls from friends – 3.0%
  • none of these – 1.5%


“Other” responses listed by readers included:

  • Retirees telling me their life stories
  • Responding to surveys
  • Posting things to facebook
  • The internet.
  • A quiet environment. I need noise to block out so I can work. coming from a famy of 6 children and two adults I got use to noise. Cannot work when the office is quiet. With Telework, it is a lot quieter than before. Thank goodness for MP3 players.
  • we’re on a campus; we have to plan for travel time between buildings to attend meetings
  • company e-mails sent to me which have nothing to do with my job, people just copied all instead of selecting the people who the subject applied to
  • copier/scanner not working properly; co-workers singing to the music that is playing
  • Complaints, complaints, complaints
  • listening to others complain about how all of the above wastes their time


In verbatim comments, there were lots of complaints about excessive emails, meetings and distractions by others, and some folks confessed their own part played in wasting time. Some things considered time-wasters by some are considered welcome breaks by others. Editor’s Choice goes to the reader who said: “We need to have a meeting on why we accomplish nothing at meetings.”


Getting nearly 200 emails a day can really burn up the work day.


Having to listen to loud people and that makes it hard to concentrate


If a person is distracted from getting things done, and is not meeting their deliverables, it's a problem. But if employees take breaks - but always deliver and their work meets standards, then it isn't a waste of time. Appropriate breaks can recharge you and give you the energy you need to attack your work.


Meetings!! In the immortal words of Charlie Brown..."Arghhhhhhhhh!"


Having access to the world wide web on my work laptop all day, not to mention on my smart phone and personal tablet, is by far the largest distraction. It is so tempting for those of us with at least mild ADD & OCD. What starts as a quick look often turns into a substantial waste of time. And then the need to work longer hours, or from home, to make up for it.


The job itself interferes. The software we use is flacky at time. IN the pension field as an auditor of retirement plans, reading the contracts for large DB plans can put one asleep very easily. The fact some idiot decided white noise was important and they set it up over my desk vent means it lulls me to sleep. those should be outlawed. I can work in a noisy environment, I cannot work in a quiet one.


knuckleheads that use work as an outlet for personal discussions...perhaps they get ignored at home or spend too much time w/ kids?


Time wasters are those who could be considered "Less Driven". They are the people who escalate unnecessarily to others, or push their work on others because they are afraid to ask someone to teach them. They are the people who need to have someone explain to them their role in a monthly task 12 times a year. I could go on and on, but you will find them engaged in every event that will take them away from their work. (The chili cook off, the Halloween pumpkin decorating contest and so on)


Although they may be considered time wasters, I think interruptions by others are an actual nice break from the mundane of the office work. You need to be able to connect with people throughout the day, it is healthy for you.


If employees were just left alone to do their work instead of attending meeting after meeting about how to improve yourself they could get a lot more done.


I was nearly ready to indicate that what wastes my time at work is waiting for the NewsDash survey or other various links in NewsDash to "open", but then this survey finally did open.


It is a shame that employees are so worried about covering their ... at work by cc'ing their supervisors on every little thing. I try to keep my email inbox up to date with no more than 15-20 items in it which is quite a challenge. It is only 10:30 in the morning and I already have 241 emails! I don't need to know all of this stuff! Give me a summary email instead of cc'ing me on every comment. I've told my staff not to copy me on everything but others seem to copy me. We're working on changing the culture, but it is slow in coming. End of rant...

Verbatim (cont.)

I think my own lack of self-discipline. I would be far more productive if I set aside time for emails and phone messages, rather than getting distracted by new calls or emails.


Depending on the work I'm doing and deadline, some days I welcome the work time-wasters!


We need to have a meeting on why we accomplish nothing at meetings.


I would love to work in a room by myself with no noise or interruptions by other people & just do my work I plan to do at the beginning of the day.


In all honesty, all of these at various times during the day, week, year will be a distraction. Mostly meetings of little importance, where nothing gets accomplished are the biggest time sucker in my work.


A lot of the interruptions by co-workers and other employees is due to inadequate training which supervisors do not seem to address. Personally, I need to get better about only looking at new emails periodically, unless it is something I'm expecting and have been waiting for.


Sometimes distraction simply results from "the same old thing..."




Gosh, no wonder it takes coming in early, staying late and nearly every-other-weekend to get anything done. Whew, I thought it was me.


I am most productive when I have many things going on and typically have at least 8 windows/apps open on my PC at the same time. If I'm not distracted, I will go looking for a distraction to get me back on track. It's much too boring to work uninterrupted.


So many e-mails that are work related are a waste of time. I get hundreds of e-mails per day but so many are people covering themselves versus having actual communication.


I'm wondering how "work-related" emails and calls qualify as time wasters at work. Not that I don't get some of those from time-to-time, but whereas I might view them that way, I'm pretty sure that the person(s) on the other end have a pretty different perspective. There should also be a category for the work you have to do/cover because you have coworkers who think that the "bathroom, printer, supply room, mail" is too far from THEIR office. I do find myself wishing that people had to spend budgets dollars on having meetings - seems to me that you'd cut down a lot on those if the person calling them was presented with a physical bill (I realize some organizations do that (effectively) with cross-billing time, but that's not nearly as effective. I'm surprised there's no specific category for things like sports pools (March Madness is fast upon us, after all)... and maybe even (time wasting) surveys on time wasters at work? ;-}



NOTE: Responses reflect the opinions of individual readers and not necessarily the stance of Asset International or its affiliates.
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