Time’s A-Wastin’: Workplace Diversions

Kathy Gurchiek By Kathy Gurchiek September 17, 2021
dad playing with kids

​What do you do when you don't feel like making that work-related phone call? How about when you don't want to start that dreaded job assignment?

Many of us spend time doing something other than the job at hand, whether it's watching a video, hopping on social media or looking for another job on company time, according to a survey of 980 U.S. workers by Resume Now.

At most, workers spend anywhere from less than one hour to as many as two hours per day doing something other than their work tasks, the survey found, with 30 percent whiling away one to two hours in a given day.

Sometimes the distraction is hard to avoid, like your child demanding your attention when you're working from home. Nearly half of all respondents said their kids were a major distraction, a sentiment more commonly held by fully remote workers (19 percent) than those working hybrid schedules (9 percent). Men, more so than women, agreed their tykes were a major distraction (46 percent versus 39 percent).

Managers have had to recognize that remote employees are working in an environment with many distractions that they can usually avoid at the workplace, SHRM Online reported. Some remote workers are home-schooling their children, sharing workspaces with spouses and dealing with their pets while trying to meet workplace demands.

Aimlessly scrolling on a personal device during work is the second most frequent workplace diversion, Resume Now found. Slightly more men than women admitted doing this (14 percent versus 11 percent). Millennials and members of Generation Z also are more apt to fall into this rabbit hole than members of Generation X and older workers (also 14 percent versus 11 percent).

Chatting on a messaging app, playing video games and looking for another job tied for third place as respondents' goofing off go-to.

More women than men gravitate toward Facebook as their top social media time waster (42 percent versus 30 percent), while men are more likely than women to feel the gravitational pull of YouTube (15 percent versus 9 percent), the survey found.

Workers who do not have a college degree were more likely than those with a secondary education to watch videos while on the clock (11 percent versus 6 percent who have undergraduate degrees and 4 percent who have master's or doctorate degrees).

While only 8 percent of respondents said they looked for a job on company time, men were more likely than women to spend three or more hours per week doing so (20 percent versus 14 percent).

However they fritter away their time on the clock, the main reason workers gave was this: They know they can do their work at the last minute. There also appeared to be a generational difference—Millennials and members of older generations said they procrastinated to avoid tasks they don't know how to perform. Members of Generation Z and younger workers cited sickness as a top reason for finding something to do other than their work tasks.

Do you spend time on the clock engaged in nonwork-related activities? Take our SHRM Online survey to share your top time-waster activities.




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