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Wasting Time at Work: How to Handle It

Thomas Simon

Everyone has experienced wasting time at work – whether it’s scrolling through social media, unnecessary meetings, chatting with colleagues, or just staring at a blank screen. While it may seem harmless to take a break here and there, too much unproductive time can start to affect work performance, causing employees to lose focus and even impacting their mental well-being. In this guide, we’ll help you discover your biggest time waster with some strategies for handling wasted time at work. Stay tuned to make the most out of your workday!

Time Wasters Activities at Work Statistics

Wasted time at work can be a major problem for both employees and employers.  A comprehensive understanding of time wasting activities at work begins with an insightful look at work statistics. This data reveals the prevalence of these activities and their impact on productivity.

Why Do Employees Waste Time at Work?

Most employees aren’t wasting their work time just because they are lazy or unproductive. In fact, there are various reasons why we tend to waste time at work, such as:

Many employees tend to procrastinate when they are faced with a task that seems overwhelming or unpleasant. Instead of tackling important tasks head-on, they find themselves surfing the internet or checking social media accounts to avoid the task.
Employees who feel overworked and stressed out may often find themselves wasting time at work as a way to cope with their overwhelming workload. This could manifest in various ways, such as spending hours on non work related tasks, engaging in frequent distractions, or simply feeling mentally exhausted and unable to stay focused.
Lack of Priorities and Focus:
Without clear priorities and goals, workers waste time by jumping from one task to another without making real progress, ignoring the big picture. This can lead to a sense of disorganization and time wasted on low value work instead of focusing on the most meaningful tasks.
Poor Time Management:
Many employees may struggle with managing their time effectively, leading to decreased job satisfaction and poor work life balance. This can be due to not having a clear plan or schedule, trying to multitask too much, or not setting realistic goals and deadlines.
Some employees may find themselves wasting time at work simply because they think it’s not a big deal and are bored with their repetitive tasks. This can lead to a lack of motivation, engagement, and ultimately, wasted working hours. The silver lining in facing these challenges is that they can be identified, addressed, and effectively managed, leading to a reduction in major time waster activities and increased productivity in the workplace.

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9 Biggest Workplace Time Wasters & How to Deal With It

Personal Calls and Chats
Frequently, employees unknowingly waste time on personal email, unaware of the time and money wasted. Although employees should be focused on their work, distractions such as phone calls or notifications can interrupt their concentration. These distractions can be messages from friends, news updates, or other topics of personal interest.
Solution: Setting clear boundaries between personal and professional time can be beneficial. Mute notifications during work hours, designating specific times for personal phone calls. Managers can implement strict policies for personal tasks during work hours.
Short Breaks and Snacking
Breaks are not only essential but also crucial in the workplace to prevent burnout and maintain optimal productivity levels. However, they can become top time wasters in the workplace. Excessive grazing on snacks throughout the day can quickly accumulate and result in a significant loss of valuable work hours.
Solution: Taking proper breaks throughout the day is essential. Set time limits for breaks and schedule snacks for specific times, avoiding mindless eating. Encourage employees to take walks or stretch during these breaks for increased productivity.
Lack of Concentration and Focus
As we mentioned earlier, employees face a lot of interruptions throughout the workday including online distractions with the advent of remote work. One study found that it takes an average person approximately 23 minutes to completely refocus after being distracted. This can add up to a significant amount of wasted time, especially if interruptions occur frequently.
Solution: Avoid doing multiple tasks at the same time. Employees can create a focused work environment. This could include finding a quiet area to work or using noise-canceling headphones. Employers can also consider implementing designated “quiet time” during the eight hours of work to allow employees to focus without interruptions.
Poor Administrative Skills
Sometimes, simple administrative tasks such as organizing emails, scheduling meetings, or filling out paperwork can take up a significant amount of time. Without efficient organizational skills, these tasks on to do lists can quickly become time wasters at work.
Solution: Learn to delegate tasks. Invest in training employees on effective organization and time management skills. Utilizing tools such as time tracking software, avoiding unnecessary emails, digital calendars, and task management systems can also help streamline administrative tasks and reduce the time spent working on them.
Unclear Job Descriptions and Roles
When employees are unsure of their responsibilities and roles within a company, they may end up wasting time trying to figure out what tasks they should be focusing on. This lack of clarity can also lead to inefficiency and overlap in work, resulting in wasted resources and company time.
Solution: Employers should ensure that job descriptions and roles are clearly defined for each employee. Regular check-ins and communication between managers and employees can also help clarify roles and responsibilities increasing efficiency and productivity.
Lack of Tools and the Right Equipment
Not having the necessary tools or equipment can become time wasters at work. This could include outdated software, slow computers, or even just a lack of office supplies. As well, it is equally important for employees to know how to effectively utilize the necessary tools and equipment to accomplish their work.
Solution: Employers should regularly assess and update their company’s tools and equipment. Implement project management software and time tracking tools like Monitask to create templates for work schedules to streamline tasks, increase productivity, and save time.
Unclear Communication and Misunderstandings
Communication is the core of efficiency. Ineffective communication among team members can cause confusion, misunderstandings, and wasted time. This could include unclear instructions, a lack of direction, or poor communication between departments.
Solution: Employers should encourage clear and open communication among employees to avoid misunderstandings and confusion. Establishing effective channels for communication, such as regular meetings with the entire team or utilizing project management tools for collaboration, can also help improve communication and reduce time wasters.
Surfing the Web
Surfing the web is a common time-wasting activity at the workplace, often leading to a good chunk of lost productivity. Employees spend their work hours on non work related websites, such as online shopping, checking social media accounts, or watching videos online. According to a survey by Salary.com, approximately 64% of employees visit non work related websites every day during work hours. Furthermore, a study by Forbes revealed that the average employee spends 1.5 hours of a typical 8.5-hour working day on social media alone. That’s approximately 20% of their work time wasted.
Solution: Limiting or blocking access to certain websites during work hours can reduce time wasting activities on the web. Setting clear expectations about internet use at work and providing ongoing feedback about employee performance can also deter excessive internet use.
Unproductive Meetings
Meetings can be valuable for communication and collaboration, but they can also become a significant time waster if not managed effectively. According to Harvard Business Review, the average worker spends approximately 23 hours per week in meetings, with at least half of that time being deemed unproductive.
Solution: Employers should evaluate the necessity and purpose of each meeting before scheduling it, and ensure that all necessary stakeholders are involved. Setting agendas, keeping meetings concise, and following up with actionable tasks can also help make meetings efficient and productive time.

Identify Your Time Wasting Activities

With this list of common time wasters in mind, it’s essential to assess your own work habits and identify any areas where you may be losing valuable time.  This could include logging your daily tasks and tracking how much time you spend on each one or using a time management app to monitor your performance. Some helpful questions for productive employees include:

  • How many hours do important tasks take me?
  • Do I get easily distracted by notifications or interruptions?
  • Am I prioritizing my tasks effectively?
  • Do I have clear job responsibilities and goals?
  • Is there anything that could improve the tools or equipment I use for my work?
  • Am I utilizing effective communication methods with my team?
  • Am I spending an excessive amount of time on non work related activities during work hours?

Bottom Line

By identifying and addressing your biggest time wasters at work, you can become more efficient and productive at work, leading to better job performance and overall satisfaction. So don’t let these common workplace time wasters hinder your productivity– with the right solutions and habits, you can make the most out of your work time. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “Lost time is never found again.” So let’s all strive to use our work time wisely and efficiently. Don’t waste it!
-The Monitask Team

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What is Wasting Time at Work?

Wasting time at work refers to time spent on non work related activities or inefficient tasks that do not contribute to productivity. This includes excessive internet usage, unproductive meetings, unclear roles, poor administrative skills, and lack of necessary tools, among others.

Why Am I Wasting Time at Work?

Employees wasting time at work can result from various factors such as lack of motivation, unclear goals, distractions like unnecessary meetings, excessive internet usage, or even personal issues. Understanding the root cause can help in creating effective solutions.

How Do You Measure Wasted Time at Work?

Measuring wasted time at work can be achieved through time tracking tools or software, which record the time spent on different tasks. Regular self-audits and supervisor evaluations can also provide insights into how time is being spent during work hours.

How Do You Stop Employees from Wasting Time?

To stop employees wasting time, establish clear expectations, provide necessary resources, and encourage open communication. Use performance metrics for evaluation, also consider implementing time tracking tools. Regular feedback and recognition for efficiency can also promote productivity.


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