Top Ten Productivity Killers

HR & Safety

And the strangest things employees have been caught doing at work

What causes workers to waste the most time at the office? Texting? Surfing the Web? Chatting with coworkers around the water cooler? New research from CareerBuilder identifies behaviors that employers say are the biggest productivity killers in the workplace. The study also highlights some of the strangest things employers have caught employees doing while on the clock.

The national survey was conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder from Feb. 10 to March 4, 2014, and included a representative sample of 2,138 hiring managers and human resource professionals, and a representative sample of 3,022 full-time, private-sector workers across industries and company sizes.

Not surprisingly, personal use of technology is one of the leading culprits behind unproductive activity at work. One in four workers (24%) admitted that, during a typical workday, they will spend at least one hour a day on personal calls, emails, or texts. Twenty-one percent estimate that they spend one hour or more during a typical workday searching the Internet for non-work-related information, photos, etc.

Behaviors of coworkers, meetings, and other factors are also creating obstacles to maximizing performance. When asked what they consider to be the primary productivity stoppers in the workplace, employers pointed to:

1. Cell phone/texting: 50%

2. Gossip: 42%

3. The Internet: 39%

4. Social media: 38%

5. Snack breaks or smoke breaks: 27%

6. Noisy coworkers: 24%

7. Meetings: 23%

8. Email: 23%

9. Coworkers dropping by: 23%

10. Coworkers putting calls on speaker phone: 10%

You Can’t Make This Up

Employers also shared real-life examples of some of the more unusual things they’ve seen employees doing when they should have been busy working:

Employee was blowing bubbles in sub-zero weather to see if the bubbles would freeze and break

A married employee was looking at a dating web site and then denied it while it was still up on his computer screen

Employee was caring for her pet bird that she smuggled into work

Employee was shaving her legs in the women’s restroom

Employee was laying under boxes to scare people

Employees were having a wrestling match

Employee was sleeping, but claimed he was praying

Employee was taking selfies in the bathroom

Employee was changing clothes in a cubicle

Employee was printing off a book from the Internet

Employee was warming her bare feet under the bathroom hand dryer

“While many managers feel their teams perform at a desirable level, they also warn that little distractions can add up to bigger gaps in productivity,” said Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder. “It’s important to be organized and designate times to work on different deliverables. Minimize interruptions and save personal communications for your lunch hour or break. It can help put more time and momentum back into your workday.”

Nearly three in four employers (73%) have implemented some measures to mitigate productivity killers at work. Tactics include:

Blocking certain Internet sites at work: 36%

Prohibiting personal calls or personal use of cell phones: 25%

Monitoring emails and Internet usage: 22%

Scheduling lunch and break times: 19%

Allowing people to telecommute: 14%

Implementing an open space layout instead of cubicles: 13%

Limiting meetings: 12%

Restricting use of speaker phones if not in an office: 11%

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