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Study shows employees wasting time online while at work

By Daryl Person | December 14, 2012 | Blog Posts | Employee Recognition White Papers | Engage Employees

According to research released by Salary.com, employees are wasting time on the Internet while at work, lack of motivation and job dissatisfaction being noted as two of the primary reasons for doing so. To complete this research, Salary.com surveyed more than 3,200 employees from Feb. to March 2012 and subsequently evaluated the results.

Of those surveyed, 64 percent said they visit non-work related websites every day during work hours. However, that number has dropped nearly 10 percent from the last time Salary.com conducted the survey in 2008. The research states, “With so many jobs lost in the last four years, it’s likely employees have less time to waste because they’re spending more time on their added job responsibilities.” According to the research, 41 percent of employees wasting time use Facebook to do so, followed by LinkedIn (37 percent), Yahoo (31 percent), and Google+ (28 percent).

The data shows the two most common reasons for wasting time online are not being challenged (35 percent) and long hours (34 percent). Respondents also cited a lack of workplace incentives (32 percent) and job dissatisfaction (30 percent) as reasons for spending time on the Internet instead of working.

A large number of employees are reporting idle hours spent online during the workday. In order to promote workplace productivity and harness wasted hours on the Internet, employers might want to consider Salary.com’s findings and brainstorm ways to keep employees engaged in their work.

Although the findings suggest that these behaviors are leading indicators of unmotivated and dissatisfied employees, it is important to note that these activities are symptoms, not the causes. I appreciate that the author of the findings at Salary.com does make a point to question whether it is fair to call it a “waste” of time, instead proffering the idea that perhaps it presents an opportunity for employees to refuel.

 Tony Schwartz, bestselling author and the CEO of The Energy Project, argues that the traditional way we’ve been working is not working, and he stresses the importance of managing our energy rather than our time. According to Schwartz, we are not designed to operate like a computer – constantly performing at optimal levels with endless supplies of energy – yet we act as if we do and in many cases it becomes expected of us. We cannot maintain long periods of intense focus without actually becoming less productive and effective at our work. In other words, investing additional hours has the opposite effect on performance.

 However, personal energy (made up of four dimensions: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual) is renewable, says Schwartz. He recommends that the optimal interval of intense work should be no longer than 90-120 minutes and then we should step away and refuel. And that break does not mean switching over to another project… but rather engaging in a physical activity (such as walking or other forms of exercise) that allows us to disengage from the work for a period of time before turning our full focus on the next project interval. Research has shown that people who refuel their personal energy throughout the day become more productive and produce better work.

 So, rather than looking at these findings with concern and with a natural urge to halt those activities (which could easily backfire), perhaps there is opportunity to be found?  What if this behavior was actually encouraged and promoted during designated times of the day?  What effect do you think that would have on employee engagement, enrichment, and productivity?

 As managers, we need to help team members find value in the work they are doing and create environments that all them to focus intensely on that work in intervals, while systematically rejuvenating their energy levels throughout the day.

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