5 Workplace 'Time-Wasters': Worth The Time? - InformationWeek
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2/11/2015
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5 Workplace 'Time-Wasters': Worth The Time?

Studies show that activities long considered by managers to be time-wasters at work may actually boost your productivity. How many of these are part of your workday?
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(Image Source: Pixabay.)

(Image Source: Pixabay.)

Salary.com's 2014 Wasting Time at Work survey paints a dismal caricature of the contemporary worker. More than 60% of the 750 workers responding to the survey admitted that they waste from 30 to 60 minutes on the job every day. More than 25% of workers surveyed acknowledged that they squander more than an hour each day.

But isn't this just human nature? Our animal instincts bind us with evolutionary traits kicking in each workday (especially right after lunch), compelling idle chitchat with coworkers, furtive Internet activities, and other HR department bête noires. Office gossip, for instance, is "part of the fabric of our communication. It's absolutely impossible not to gossip," according to career coach Julie Jansen in a Fox Business News article.

There's also the issue of employee health -- to which frequent workplace breaks are vital. Ergonomic experts recommend that office workers look away from their screens every 15 minutes, and take breaks every 30 to 60 minutes to stand up and walk around.

So, what does "wasting time" at work actually mean? More to the point, do the activities considered by Salary.com and its survey respondents to be time-wasters actually harm productivity? Or do such activities preserve your health and enhance your workplace productivity?

Here's a look at five activities traditionally considered time-wasters that can actually benefit your performance at work. Once you've reviewed our top five, tell us if you've ever engaged in any of these activities at work, and how doing so affected your productivity. What other activities that may not look like "working" actually help you accomplish your workday tasks? Tell us all about it in the comments section below.

Joe Stanganelli is founder and principal of Beacon Hill Law, a Boston-based general practice law firm. His expertise on legal topics has been sought for several major publications, including US News and World Report and Personal Real Estate Investor Magazine. Joe is also ... View Full Bio

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mejiac
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mejiac,
User Rank: Ninja
4/4/2015 | 9:44:20 AM
Re: Time for productivity
@glenbren,

To add to your comment, when taking small breaks, one very important aspect to consider is ethics and culture.

I personally consider drinking during work hours very unethical, but in some countries is seen as normal.

And regarding your question...yes, people do actually gather around the water cooler (I didn't belive it myself until I was actually in one :)
mejiac
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mejiac,
User Rank: Ninja
4/4/2015 | 9:41:59 AM
Re: goof off time gets us ready for the next challenge
@Angelfuego,

I think the way we manage our time is very much in tune with the way we're wired. Some folks can be very strict at managing there time and not need breaks in-between.  Other's don't need any type of readjustment to focus on tasks, and others (like me) do need an eventual small break (5 - 10 min at the most) every once and a while.
mejiac
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mejiac,
User Rank: Ninja
4/4/2015 | 9:38:55 AM
Re: Know your self
@Kelly22,

I agree... I have a rule of thumb that for every 50 min of straight non-stop work to take a 5 - 10 min breather regarding the task at hands. The break is simple things, like simply getting up and fetching some water/coffee, or doing a drive by at a co-workers desk for a quick follow up conversation.

What this allows is to avoid fatigue, since I strongly consider that a mistake made that goes unnoticed is far more detremental than simply trying to crank out as much work as possible.

There are many tasks that require our full attention, so avoiding fatigue is essential to assure a quality deliverable.
Angelfuego
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Angelfuego,
User Rank: Ninja
3/14/2015 | 12:03:08 PM
Re: goof off time gets us ready for the next challenge
I am not guilty of the "time wasters." Maybe I am too much of a square. I think I should pick up at least 1 or 2 of these time wasters, in which it will make my work day more enjoyable.
kstaron
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kstaron,
User Rank: Ninja
2/25/2015 | 12:51:15 PM
goof off time gets us ready for the next challenge
I always believed in a bit of goof off time at work. I knew I thrived at places that didn't make a big deal of me oohing and ahhing over the latest baby pics or talking a post lunch walk or checking a couple of websites. AAnd I knew I felt about as valued as a 3 cent widgit when a manager barked at me for taking more than ten seconds out of my workday to talk to cubicle mates that I wasn't working with at the time. Allowing both networking time and personal time while at the office help us reboot internally and get ready for next office challenge.
Kelly22
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Kelly22,
User Rank: Strategist
2/17/2015 | 10:10:44 AM
Re: Know your self
I've also found that getting away from a screen boosts productivity. After reading for awhile, a break is much needed! You're right, people just aren't meant to sit for that long.
glenbren
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glenbren,
User Rank: Ninja
2/16/2015 | 4:54:23 PM
Re: Time for productivity
I agree with website browsing, or playing games, or how about reading a book or newspaper? I don't know about drinking though. Any time I ever went out for lunch and had a few, I was pretty useless for the rest of the day! Do people actually gather around the water cooler? 
Broadway0474
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Broadway0474,
User Rank: Ninja
2/15/2015 | 10:24:14 PM
Re: Time for productivity
I like how personal email checking is the one form of web surfing that is counterproductive --- and that's probably the one that people do the most. I would put checking anything personal --- Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, whatever --- in the same category.
PedroGonzales
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PedroGonzales,
User Rank: Ninja
2/13/2015 | 10:02:53 AM
Re: Know your self
For me taking a break from looking at the screen and standing up once is a while is the best activity.  People haven't been made to sit for hours looking at a screen.   At my previous employment, I would a 10 minute walk or catch up with a friend.  Afterwards, i will feel refresh and ready to go to work.
Whoopty
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Whoopty,
User Rank: Ninja
2/12/2015 | 11:58:34 AM
Know your self
I'm pretty guilty of procrastinating. If there's something I can be doing other than the big project I'm working on, I find it very easy to do that instead. 

Still, the best way to combat it I've found is to know your weaknesses. Check Facebook too much? Add a browser extension that limits the time you can spend on it. Find yourself playing games too often? Block those sites until after work is done. 

While I don't think I'll ever become the work machine I'm sure I could be, by being honest with myself about how much time I actually waste, I've become a lot more productive. Hopefully I can keep it up.
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