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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Ariella
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Ariella,
User Rank: Author
2/11/2015 | 3:29:53 PM
Breaks
I recently looked up how frequent breaks should be because my teen seems to think she should only have to study or do homework in 15 minute segments. I was advising her to disable her phone for 45 minute stretches when she needs to study. When it's on, she gets distracted by every text, which she insists on answering right away. Then, of course, the other party would respond, and the texts turn into a 5 minute break that she doesn't even register as such.
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Author
2/11/2015 | 3:42:12 PM
Re: Breaks
@Ariella: Yes, the research indicates that while "regular" browsing can make people more energized and productive, things like checking email and other electronic correspondences (such as text messaging) are actually draining because, inter alia, you have less control over the content you are choosing to see/expose yourself to in the context of electronic correspondences than you do with browsing other sites.

So feel free to show your teen that study.  ;)

(On the other hand, if I had high school to do over again, I'd spend WAY less time on homework and WAY more time socializing and getting into trouble...)
Ariella
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Ariella,
User Rank: Author
2/11/2015 | 3:52:19 PM
Re: Breaks
@Joe I'm always happy to have sources on my side, as teens seem to assume parent have no idea what they're talking about. I will, however, admit that the problem with my plan is that she now seems to just not officially set herself up to for a block of time for study and so exempts herself from turning off her phone.
impactnow
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impactnow,
User Rank: Author
2/11/2015 | 5:34:03 PM
Time for productivity

It's a great list for micromanaging bosses who don't appreciate the benefits of non-work activity. I especially love the daydreaming, I read a study that said day dreamers have higher IQs and use day dreaming to stimulate bored brains! So teachers encourage day dreamers in your next class.

Kelly22
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Kelly22,
User Rank: Strategist
2/11/2015 | 5:43:29 PM
Re: Time for productivity
I really like the points about daydreaming and website browsing - I've gotten some great ideas just by clicking through different webpages and seeing all the information that's out there. Internet aside, I find that walking around always generates ideas. Sometimes you just need to get away from your desk and let your mind wander.
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.
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.
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.
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? 
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.
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