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Who Wastes the Most Time at Work?

Topics: Data & Research

What if you kept track of how you spent every minute of your workday? You might be amazed by the amount of time you spend checking email, chatting with coworker friends, or looking at social media. And, how about meetings — do you feel meetings are worth your investment, or do you wonder if they’re a big waste of time like a lot of workers do? In fact, if you paid attention, you might be surprised at how little time you spend really working.

wastes time at work
Image Credit: Veri Ivanova/Unsplash

Sure, breaks are important; in fact, they are vital for our productivity and our creativity. However, it’s also true that many waste a significant amount of time at work beyond what they need to feel rested and replenished in between tasks, and there is no doubt that some people do it much more than others. In an effort to get to the bottom of this matter, Paychex recently surveyed 2,000 U.S. workers from various industries to learn a little more about wasted workday time. Here are some of the highlights from their findings.

  1. Some generations waste less time than others.

Baby Boomers reported wasting far less time at work than folks from other generations. Sixty-eight percent of them said they waste less than one hour a day at work. And, only 34 percent said they waste time surfing the internet. Generation Xers, on the other hand, reported surfing the internet to kill time 45 percent of the time, and only 46 percent reported wasting less than an hour per day. Millennials were fooling around on the internet at about the same rate as Gen Xers, 46 percent, but only 40 percent of them said they waste less than an hour per day overall.

  1. Some regions work harder than others.

The survey results revealed that workers from some regions put in more hours than workers in other areas. Perhaps this impacts how much time is wasted as well, although data on that wasn’t specifically revealed as a part of this study. What was shown though is that folks who live in Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, and the Dakotas are the most likely to put in more than eight hours a day. And, workers from New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania were the least likely to put in an eight-hour-plus day.

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  1. The length of a typical workday varies significantly across generations.

Baby Boomers, who are arguably the most accustomed to working a traditional 9-to-5, out-of-the-house gig, definitely seemed to put in the longest days. They were by far the most likely to work more than eight hours a day — 52.6 percent of them were anyway. As for Generation X, only 43.5 percent reported working more than eight hours in a typical day. And Millennials said they worked that much only 33.6 percent of the time.

  1. Hourly versus salaried employment didn’t seem to make much of difference.

Whether folks were being paid a salary, or by the hour, the amount of time they wasted at work stayed about the same. Of hourly employees, 8.7 percent said they wasted more than three hours per day, while 8.3 percent of salaried employees said the same. Of salaried employees, 41.3 percent said they wasted less than an hour a day, and 46.3 percent of hourly workers concurred.

  1. Wasted time at work varied considerably by industry.

Some industries see a lot more wasted time than others. According to this research, the three industries where time was wasted the most were utilities, telecommunications, and government and public administration. More than 14 percent of these professionals said they waste more than three hours a day typically. The folks that wasted the least amount of time (most than 57 percent said less than an hour) were from the construction, hotel/food service and other hospitality, and publishing industries.

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