How to waste time at work

The biggest work timewasters aren't employees' fault.

OK, I admit it - I can be guilty of time wasting.

Like so many millions of others over the summer I whiled away many a wistful hour trying and spectacularly failing to get tickets from the Olympic website and cursing the useless thing. Thank goodness Team GB were more successful than me or the website.

But this got me thinking about top time wasters at work.

Salary.com (which is not afraid to waste time on a 'Wasting Time at Work' study) found that about 64% of respondents said they visit non-work related websites every day during work hours. About a fifth of respondents admitted to wasting up to 5 hours a week, with social networks being the main culprits.

This obviously prompted me to trawl the internet to find out other favourite time-wasting activities (the irony is not lost on me).

Among the other most common time wasters cited is socialising with other workers - which is a bit of an odd one as you would have thought the average office would be an even stranger place if nobody actually talked to each other.

Carrying out ‘personal business’ is another popular timewaster - shopping, errands, nipping to the bank are all seen by a lot of us as natural part of the working day.

But to a certain extent these issues pale into insignificance compared to the biggest work timewasters of all - and they are not all employees' fault.  Here are my top office timewasting pet hates.

Useless meetings

Where do I start? A meeting for the sake of a meeting can be soul destroying for everybody concerned.  Poorly directed meetings without a meaningful agenda - that mean attendants ramble on with their own agendas. Or everybody just waiting around for people to arrive…and waiting and waiting.

Various research has suggested that around 50% of time in meetings is wasted. From my experience that could be a gross understatement.

I have seen various solutions - such as everybody being forced to stand up in the hope that they will get itchy feet and actually get to the point. But in reality, there is one golden rule. Cut down the number of meetings, only do the must-haves and plan them carefully.

Office politics

Yes, the whisper at the water cooler, hot gossip over a coffee, bartering at the bar - office politics has to be the most annoying thing about work. Clear communication, fair rewards and transparent management are the only remedies, but,let's face it, work does its best to bring out our Machiavellian sides.

Email addiction

Emails should be a great time saver, but so many businesses have become so addicted to them that they become a big timewaster.

Overwhelming your inbox, interrupting your flow, increasing your anxiety that you might actually miss something important because somebody has emailed it to you rather than actually talked to you.

Emails have their place, but if businesses are not careful, that place is in the spam folder.

Dealing with colleagues


Fixing other people’s mistakes, picking up the pieces if they have only done half the job, having to do their dirty work. This can take up a huge amount of time for employees and is a quickfire way to breed resentment and low productivity.

This goes back to the basics that so many businesses forget - proper training and regular progress reviews.

Right, I am glad I got that off my chest and I hope I haven’t wasted your time. But that brings me to my most important point. The real question businesses need to ask about timewasting is - why are employees doing it in the first place?

Unchallenging work, poor management and motivation are all common problems. Just think how much more any business could get done with a productive workforce. The answer doesn’t just rely on banning Facebook - it relies on good old fashioned management skills.

Right, must dash. No time to waste...

Andy Yates is an experienced entrepreneur, business mentor, advisor and angel investor and helps a portfolio of exciting growth businesses reach their potential including Huddlebuy, Europe’s largest business money saving website. Follow Andy on Twitter: @smallbizhelp Follow Huddlebuy on Twitter: @huddlebuy