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The case for shutting up -- how we waste time at work

Technology may be revolutionizing the workplace, but old-fashioned distractions like meetings and chatting with co-workers are still considered the biggest office time-wasters.That, at least, is the conclusion of a survey of office workers, released Thursday by TrackVia, a Denver-based software company.Office chit-chat ranked as the No. 1 work distraction, the top choice of 14 percent of those sur
Web surfing? Facebook? Online shopping? No. The water cooler, or its equivalent, kills the most time.
Web surfing? Facebook? Online shopping? No. The water cooler, or its equivalent, kills the most time.Bruce Ayres / Getty Images / Today

Technology may be revolutionizing the workplace, but old-fashioned distractions like meetings and chatting with co-workers are still considered the biggest office time-wasters.

That, at least, is the conclusion of a survey of office workers, released Thursday by TrackVia, a Denver-based software company.

Office chit-chat ranked as the No. 1 work distraction, the top choice of 14 percent of those surveyed, while meetings and computer problems followed close behind at 11 percent each.

Other time wasters mentioned by survey respondents:

  • Surfing the web
  • Dealing with office politics
  • Addressing misunderstandings with co-workers
  • Using social media
  • Checking email
  • Following company rules and procedures

It’s no surprise employees see going to meetings as a major obstacle to accomplishing their work-day goals, says productivity expert Laura Stack.

“A lot of people feel like they spend their entire day in meetings,” says Stack, a Denver-based speaker and author who leads 80 to 100 productivity training sessions a year.

In her experience with clients, however, employees waste far more time checking email, instant messages and social media like Facebook -- what she calls “tech time” -- than dealing with computer problems or on other non-critical tasks. “You could sit in your inbox all day and at the end of the day say, ‘Where’d all my time go?’” Stack says.

Holly Witt, a Portland, Ore., insurance account executive, says social media is her biggest time waster, especially Facebook.

“I keep telling myself to deactivate the account and I am almost there,” she says.

Slightly more than half of employees surveyed (51 percent) say they waste up to two hours a week on tasks that aren’t work related or don’t help them “get real work done.” Approximately 11 percent say they waste 6 to 9 hours on nonessential tasks, and close to 4 percent said they waste 10 to 19 hours during the work week, according to the survey.

The survey of 300 workers, conducted this month by Amplitude Research, has a margin of error of about 6 percent.

 

Michelle V. Rafter is a Portland, Ore., reporter who wastes time at work on Twitter and Pinterest.

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