Whether workers are busy searching for dates online, making macaroni art, or texting, a recent survey found two or more hours a day of productivity are lost because employees are distracted.
Asked to reveal the most unusual or most memorable things they have caught an employee doing instead of working, employers said they have discovered employees:
- Working on a scrapbook.
- Decorating a cubicle with chains of paper clips.
- Using equipment for her embroidery business from home to make items for a craft show to sell.
- Doing doughnuts in the parking lot in the snow.
- Hiding a kitten she found outside and trying to keep it quiet within a large purse.
- Working on her child’s school project that included uncooked macaroni noodles.
- Laying on a patient’s bed talking to the patient while the patient sat in her wheelchair.
- Watching YouTube videos of people shoving marshmallows in their mouth.
- Doing some personal grooming in the break room.
- Searching on craigslist for dates.
While those scenarios are (hopefully) unusual, lack of productivity is surprisingly common: A new study from CareerBuilder reveals that 1 in 5 employers (19%) think workers are productive less than five hours a day.
So what’s the top workplace productivity killer? Technology.
Asked to name the biggest distractions in the workplace, employers cited cell phones/texting, followed by the Internet and workplace gossip. Obviously, most technology is a huge asset in the office. But while smartphones can help workers stay connected while away from the office, in many cases technology is causing them to disconnect while in the office, creating a negative impact on productivity.
When looking for a culprit, more than half of employers (55%) say that workers’ mobile phones/texting are to blame. More than 8 in 10 workers (83%) have smartphones, and 82 percent of those with smartphones keep them within eye contact at work. And while only 10 percent of those with smartphones say it’s decreasing their productivity at work, 2 in 3 (66%) admit they use it (at least) several times a day while working.
“While we need to be connected to devices for work, we’re also a click away from alluring distractions from our personal lives like social media and various other apps,” said Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer at CareerBuilder. “The connectivity conundrum isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it needs to be managed. Have an open dialogue with employees about tech distractions. Acknowledge their existence and discuss challenges/solutions to keeping productivity up.”
If an employee claims he’s looking at his smartphone for work purposes, odds are he’s lying: The majority of workers with smartphones (65%) don’t have their work emails on their smartphones. Those who access their smartphone during work for non-work purposes spend their time on personal messaging (65%), weather (51%), news (44%), games (24%), shopping (24%), traffic (12%), gossip (7%), sales (6%), adult (4%), and dating (3%).
The High Costs of Low Productivity
Three in four employers (75%) say two or more hours a day are lost in productivity because employees are distracted, according to the study. Forty-three percent say at least three hours a day are lost. Productivity killers can lead to negative consequences for the organization, including compromised quality of work (48%), lower morale because other workers have to pick up the slack (38%), negative impact on boss/employee relationship (28%), missed deadlines (27%), loss in revenue (26%), and negative impact on client relationships (20%).
More than 3 in 4 employers (76%) have taken at least one step to mitigate productivity killers, such as blocking certain Internet sites (32%) and banning personal calls/cell phone use (26%). Other efforts to mitigate productivity killers include scheduling lunch and break times (24%), monitoring emails and Internet usage (19%), limiting meetings (17%), allowing people to telecommute (14%), having an open space layout instead of cubicles (14%), restricting use of speakerphones if not in an office (13%), and increasing height of cubicle walls to make it easier to concentrate (8%).