- The Washington Times - Monday, July 11, 2005

Surfing the Internet has replaced standing around the water cooler as corporate America’s top time-wasting activity.

A survey shows that personal Internet use is the primary time-wasting activity at work, cited by 44.7 percent of respondents. Insurance companies lead in time wasted, and Missouri is the No. 1 state for time wasters.

More than 10,044 employees were asked to indicate how much time they wasted in an average eight-hour workday through a survey on the AOL Find a Job site, sponsored by Salary.com and AOL.

A 21-year-old public relations assistant in Washington says she uses the Internet for personal use about four hours a day on average.

“At work I pretty much stay on Instant Messenger, check my e-mail almost 10 times a day, check the weather online, find places to go,” she said. “I spend time reading the paper and familiarizing myself with the world around me.”

For obvious reasons, she would not give her name or company — nor would any other workers interviewed for this article.

A 24-year-old radio broadcasting station researcher said the main reason she uses the Net so much is because there is not enough work for her to do.

“I’m on the Internet variously all day long,” she said. “Given an eight-hour day, I probably waste three hours at least.”

She says the time she spends on the Net is more like filling time rather than wasting time, she said.

“There’s going to be times when I don’t have anything to do, so I surf the Net,” she said. “I’m not surfing the Internet when I’m supposed to be working.”

“Not enough work to do” was the top excuse for wasting time, with one-third of respondents.

Chatting with co-workers was the second most popular form of wasting time, with 23.4 percent of respondents. Rounding out the top six were conducting personal business, “spacing out,” running errands and making personal calls.

A 22-year-old public relations writer says he wastes time mostly because he doesn’t feel like working, so he takes a cue from his co-workers.

“I see other people wasting time. I’m sure there’s more people wasting more time and wasting less time than me,” he said.

Employees are not expected to work nonstop for eight hours a day, five days a week.

A follow-up survey of corporate human resources managers showed that employers build in a certain amount of slacking off into the salary structure, said Bill Coleman, Salary.com senior vice president.

But workers are wasting even more time than expected: Employees admit wasting an average 2.09 hours a day, while human resources managers assume workers will waste 0.94 hours a day.

That adds up to an additional $759 billion in lost productivity over the course of a year.

The survey also found that the younger the employee, the more time wasted. Respondents born between 1930 and 1949 admitted wasting a half-hour per day, compared with those born between 1980 and 1985, who said they waste 1.95 hours a day.

The younger generations, who are more tech-savvy than their older co-workers, distract themselves with e-mail, Internet surfing or text messaging, said Chris Woolard, consultant for Walker Information, an Indianapolis management-consulting firm.

Mr. Woolard blames the increase in wasted time in general on the erosion of the employer-employee relationship.

“What we found was that employees that aren’t loyal are those that aren’t going to go above and beyond and be motivated,” said Mr. Woolard, who handles Walker’s employee research.

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