Thieves Lurking in the Workplace

A survey from CareerBuilder reveals smartphones, chatty co-workers and social media distract employees from doing actual work.

When asked to name the biggest productivity thieves in the workplace, employers cited the following:

  • Cell phones/texting – 52%;
  • The Internet – 44%;
  • Gossip – 37%;
  • Social media -36%;
  • Email – 31%;
  • Co-workers dropping by – 27%;
  • Meetings – 26%;
  • Smoke breaks/snack breaks – 27%;
  • Noisy co-workers – 17%; and
  • Sitting in a cubicle – 10%.

Employers said productivity thieves can lead to negative consequences for their organizations, including:

  • Compromised quality of work – 45%;
  • Lower morale because other workers have to pick up the slack – 30%;
  • Negative impact of boss/employee relationship – 25%;
  • Missed deadlines – 24%; and
  • Loss in revenue – 21%.

Nearly three in four employers (74%) have taken at least one step to mitigate productivity thieves, such as blocking certain Internet sites (33%) and banning personal calls/cell phone use (23%).

Other efforts to mitigate productivity thieves include:

  • Scheduled lunch and break times – 21%;
  • Monitor emails and Internet use – 21%;
  • Limit meetings – 16%;
  • Allow people to telecommute – 13%; and
  • Have an open space layout instead of cubicles – 12%.
NEXT: Bizarre things workers were caught doing.

Employers were also asked to reveal the most unusual or most memorable things they have found an employee doing when they should have been working. Answers included:

  • Employee was taking a sponge bath in the bathroom sink.
  • Employee was trying to hypnotize other employees to stop their smoking habits.
  • Employee was visiting a tanning bed in lieu of making deliveries.
  • Employee was looking for a mail order bride.
  • Employee was playing a video game on their cell phone while sitting in a bathroom stall.
  • Employee was drinking vodka while watching Netflix.
  • Employee was sabotaging another employee’s car tires.
  • Employee was sleeping on the CEO’s couch.
  • Employee was writing negative posts about the company on social media.
  • Employee was sending inappropriate pictures to other employees.
  • Employee was searching Google images for "cute kittens."
  • Employee was making a model plane.
  • Employee was flying drones around the office.
  • Employee was printing pictures of animals, naming them after employees and hanging them in the work area.


The survey was conducted online within the U.S. by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder among 2,175 hiring and human resource managers ages 18 and older (employed full-time, not self-employed, non-government) between February 11 and March 6, 2015.