Wasting Time At Work Statistics [2022]: How Much Of The Average Workday Is Wasted?

By Abby McCain - May. 23, 2022

Research Summary. Employees wasting time at work is nothing new, but it’s still a challenge many companies are facing. Here are some statistics on wasting time at work.

  • 89% of workers admit to wasting time every day at work.

  • U.S. employees spend an average of 2.9 hours per 8-hour workday doing non-work activities.

  • The average employee spends 21.5 hours in meetings every week and attends 62 meetings every month.

  • 64% of employees admit to visiting non-work-related websites at work every day.

U.S. workers spend an average of 2.9 hours per 8-hour workday doing non-work-related activities
Wasting Time At Work Stats by: Meetings | Employee Reports | Distractions | Work-Related Task

Wasting Time At Work Statistics by Wasted Time at Meetings

  • 47% of employees said that meetings are the biggest time-waster at work.

    Some employees (73%) try to redeem their time spent in meetings by doing other work while they’re there, but the number they have to attend is still overwhelming to 45% of employees.

  • U.S. businesses waste an average of $37 billion a year on unnecessary meetings.

    This money comes from salaries that companies pay employees to sit in meetings that are wastes of time – it doesn’t even touch the money wasted on snacks and facilities by these unnecessary get-togethers.

  • The average employee spends 21.5 hours of their week in meetings.

    This is for an average professional: An especially busy one spends almost 33 hours in meetings every week. That’s by far the majority of a 40-hour workweek, although these busy professionals are usually working closer to 45-50 hours a week.

  • The average employee attends 62 meetings a month.

    Usually, these are about an hour-long, and if you combine that with the fact that about half of meetings are considered wasted time, that’s 31 hours of time spent in unproductive meetings a month.

Wasting Time At Work Statistics by Employee Reports

  • 89% of employees say they waste at least thirty minutes of time during every workday.

  • 31% of employees waste at least one hour per workday.

  • 16% of employees say they waste about two hours every day at work.

  • 6% of workers waste about three hours of every workday.

  • 4% of employees say they waste at least four hours of every day they’re at work.

  • 53% of employees say they do non-work-related activities as short breaks in order to increase productivity.

  • 20% of workers say they waste time because they’re bored or aren’t interested in their jobs.

  • Employees say that 80% of the interruptions they experience at work are trivial.

  • Often less than 60% of the workday is spent being productive.

Wasting Time At Work Statistics by the Biggest Distractions

  • The average employee is interrupted 56 times a day while at work.

    The amount of time wasted on interruptions isn’t limited to the interruptions themselves either: It takes time to refocus after being interrupted, and the average employee spends two hours doing this every day.

  • The average employee receives 304 business emails each week.

    Many of these aren’t necessary, are spam, or are simply poorly written, costing companies time and money as employees try to sift through them all and work to figure out what’s being said.

    In fact, spam emails cost companies an average of $1250 per employee in productivity losses, unnecessary emails cost $1800 per employee, and poorly written communications cost $2100 to $4100 per employee.

  • The average employee checks their email 36 times in an hour.

    This is a lot of time eaten up by the emails in and of themselves, but it also takes an average of 16 minutes for someone to refocus after reading and/or responding to an incoming email, cutting into productive time even more.

    In addition to this, managing a constant stream of emails makes employees less effective when they are able to work distraction-free, as studies have found that employees lose about ten IQ points from having to handle this constant email stream all day – the same as missing a whole night of sleep.

  • Some of the biggest distractions for employees include surfing the internet and checking social media.

    Here are the top ten distractions that employees encounter during work hours and the percentage of employees who admit to being distracted by them.

    Distracting Activity Percentage of Employees Who Participate
    Surf the internet 47%
    Social media 45%
    Texting 44%
    Bathroom breaks 39%
    Socializing with coworkers 27%
    Snack breaks 25%
    Other coworkers’/office noise 25%
    Coffee breaks 19%
    Reading/drawing 16%
    Household activities 14%
  • On average, employees waste more than 21 days a year doing menial or repetitive tasks at work.

    These are tasks that could easily be automated, saving companies hundreds of thousands of dollars.

  • The average office worker spends about three and a half hours checking their work email every day.

    That doesn’t even include the time they spend checking their personal email, which can take up about two hours and 23 minutes of their workday. That’s almost six hours of checking email every day.

  • U.S. companies lose an average of $1.7 million per year for every 100 employees because of wasted time.

    That means that a company with 300 employees loses about $5.1 million every year due to those employees wasting time. This may be time wasted on personal matters or socializing, but it may also be time wasted by the company by requiring an excessive number of meetings or through ineffective email communication.

Wasting Time At Work Statistics FAQ

  1. How much time do American workers waste each day at work?

    Americans waste an average of 2.9 hours each day at work. This time is often spent doing non-work activities such as surfing the internet, checking social media, and texting.

    However, this time also includes activities that are synonymous with and necessary for working in an office, such as bathroom and coffee breaks, socializing with coworkers, and managing the distracting noises and activities that come from working in the same vicinity as other people.

    Other time-wasters include reading and responding to emails (the average employee receives 304 work-related emails a week) and sitting in meetings (employees spend an average of 21.5 hours a week in meetings).

    All of these distractions and time-wasters cost American companies an average of $1.7 million a year for every 100 employees they have, thanks to decreases in productivity while salaries stay the same.

  2. How much time at work is actually spent working?

    Less than 60% of the time at work is actually spent working. Depending on the employee, though, much of this other 40% of the time is often still spent on work-related tasks that aren’t furthering their productivity.

    Work emails, for example, take up about three and a half hours of the average employee’s workday, and many of these are either spam or so poorly written that it takes more effort to decipher them than it should.

    Meetings also eat up a significant amount of time (about 21.5 hours a week), many of which are unnecessary as well. In addition, workplace distractions play a big role in decreasing productivity, as the average employee is interrupted 56 times a day while they’re at work.

    That’s not to say that all time not spent working is due to work-related distractions, though, as 47% of employees say they surf the internet at work, 45% say they check social media, and 44% say they text with their personal phones while at work.

  3. What are the biggest time-wasters at work?

    The biggest time-wasters at work are unnecessary meetings, emails, and surfing the internet or on social media.

    47% of employees say that meetings are the biggest time-wasters at work, which isn’t an unreasonable opinion since the average employee attends 62 meetings a month, and about half of those are considered wastes of time.

    Emails aren’t far behind as far as time-wasting activities go since the average employee receives 304 business emails a week, many of which are unnecessary, spam, or create more confusion than they resolve.

    Despite these legitimate work-related activities being significant time-wasters, many employees’ wasted work hours still go to surfing the internet or checking social media: 47% of employees admit that surfing the internet at work is a distraction they participate in, and 45% say the same of social media.

  4. Why do employees waste time at work?

    Employees waste time at work because they believe taking short breaks will increase their productivity or because they’re bored with their work.

    53% of employees say that they do non-work-related activities at work as a way of taking a short break. These breaks then allow them to be more focused when they are working, improving their productivity overall.

    However, 20% of workers say that they waste time at work because they’re bored or uninterested in their jobs. If someone isn’t invested in the work they’re supposed to be doing, it’s going to be difficult for them to resist the urge to waste time – just watch a few episodes of The Office to see this in action.

    Smaller percentages of employees say that they waste time at work because of a lack of incentives (8%), because they’re unsatisfied with their jobs (7%), and because they feel they don’t get paid enough (2%).

  5. What percentage of employees waste time at work?

    89% of employees waste time at work. These employees say they waste 30 minutes or more of every workday doing non-work-related activities.

    31% admit to wasting at least one hour a day, and 16% say they waste about two hours of every workday. These are the most common lengths of time that employees said they waste during each workday, but 6% of employees say they waste three or more hours of time on the clock every day, and 4% say they waste at least four hours.

    However, it’s safe to say that all employees spend some amount of the workday being unproductive. The average employee is interrupted 56 times a day at work, and each one spends an average of two hours a day getting back on track from these interruptions.

  6. How do you stop employees from wasting time at work?

    You can stop employees from wasting time at work by rewarding productivity, setting clear goals and deadlines, and creating distraction-free work environments.

    Many managers may initially think that tracking employees’ time or internet usage is the best way to stop them from wasting time, but that’s not always a good idea. Employees who feel they are being micromanaged aren’t going to perform any better, and you still haven’t solved the root problem that’s causing them to waste time.

    Instead, start by rewarding productivity. It doesn’t have to be much, but recognizing employees for being productive with an incentive that they actually want can go a long way toward minimizing wasted time.

    Setting clear goals and deadlines can also help. If your employees don’t know what they need to be doing or feel that they have all the time in the world to meet their next deadline that’s a month away, they’re going to be bored and more likely to waste time.

    Instead, set monthly, weekly, and even daily goals for them to hit so that they know what they need to be working on and feel that they have enough to do. Project management software is a great way to do this since you can often break larger projects up into tasks with individual due dates.

    Finally, you may be able to reduce time-wasting by providing spaces for your employees to work distraction-free. This might be allowing them to work from home or in another out-of-office environment, or it may be designating a workspace that will have no phones, emails, or casual passers-by to interrupt.

    This can be highly effective because it not only cuts down on distractions but it also, by extension, cuts down the amount of time it takes to recover from those distractions. It can take about 20 minutes to refocus on something after getting distracted from it, which adds up quickly the more interruptions there are.

    Having a place to work undisturbed makes it easier for workers to stay in their workflow instead of being derailed for 30 minutes every time someone walks by their desk.

Conclusion

It’s nearly impossible to find an employee who is fully productive for all eight hours of their workday. In fact, 89% of workers admit to wasting at least 30 minutes at work every day, and 4% say they regularly waste four hours or more.

Those employees are talking about wasting time by scrolling social media, surfing the web, or texting family and friends, but many employees waste time at work through work-related activities as well.

For example, 47% of employees see meetings as the biggest time-waster at work. They may not be far off either, since the average employee spends 21.5 hours of their week in meetings – half of which are considered wasted time – and U.S. businesses lose $37 billion a year on unnecessary meetings.

References

  1. Business Chief. “How Much Time (and Money) Are We Wasting at Work?” Accessed on May 4, 2022.

  2. Salary.com. “2014 Wasting Time at Work Survey.” Accessed on May 4, 2022.

  3. Atlassian. “You Waste a Lot of Time at Work.” Accessed on May 4, 2022.

  4. Reclaim.ai. “Productivity Trends Report: One-on-One Meeting Statistics.” Accessed on May 4, 2022.

  5. Zippia. “Here’s How Many Hours Workers Are Actually Productive (And What They’re Doing Instead).” Accessed on May 4, 2022.

  6. CIO Insight. “How Repetitive Tasks Waste $1.8 Trillion.” Accessed on May 4, 2022.

  7. CNBC. “Here’s How Many Hours American Workers Spend on Email Each Day.” Accessed on May 4, 2022.

  8. Titan Technologies. “What is the True Cost of Wasted Time?” Accessed on May 4, 2022.

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Author

Abby McCain

Abby is a writer who is passionate about the power of story. Whether it’s communicating complicated topics in a clear way or helping readers connect with another person or place from the comfort of their couch. Abby attended Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she earned a degree in writing with concentrations in journalism and business.

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