Workplace Distractions Cost Companies Millions Per Year

By Samantha Smith, NewsRadio 830 WCCO

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A recent study shows workplace distractions cost the average large white-collar company more than $10 million per year.

Software company surveyed 515 employees and results show the majority of people waste at least one hour per day at work.

Talking with a handful of downtown Minneapolis employees, they say they’re distracted by a variety of different things including social networking, email, web surfing and conversations with co-workers.

Based on an average salary of $30 per hour, one hour wasted at work a day translates to more than $10,000 of wasted productivity per person, per year.

Most of those Minneapolis employees said they feel that one hour is rather low and the majority of people end up wasting more time than that.

Other survey highlights include:

  • The majority (57 percent) of work interruptions now involve either using collaboration or social tools like email, social networks, text messaging and IM, or switching windows among disparate standalone tools and applications. In fact, 45 percent of employees work only 15 minutes or less without getting interrupted and 53 percent waste at least one hour a day due to all types of distractions.
  • That hour per day translates into $10,375 of wasted productivity per person, per year, assuming an average salary of $30/hour. That is more than the average U.S. driver will spend this year to own and maintain a car, according to the Automobile Association of America (AAA). That means that for businesses with 1,000 employees, the cost of employee interruptions exceeds $10 million per year. The actual cost of distraction is even higher in terms of negative impacts on work output, work quality and relationships with clients and co-workers.
  • The increasingly common addiction to web-based activity — which psychologists call “online compulsive disorder” — is pervasive in the workplace. For example, two out of three people will tune out of face-to-face meetings to communicate digitally with someone else. The addiction is also taking over people’s personal lives. Case in point: the majority of people under the age of 40 stay digitally connected in bed and 44 percent of people under 30 stay connected during a night out at the movies.
  • Two-thirds of companies and technology users are pursuing tools and strategies to minimize digital distractions, reflecting an understanding of the need to restore productivity that is being sapped by misuse of digital applications.
  • Flower child

    Employers increasingly do not care about the workers who make them profitable. Every worker can be let go at will. Why should there be any loyalty, professionalism, or attention to duty? The employers set the tone and the rules when they started downsizing, rightsizing, marginalizing, firing, whatever you want to call it workers for whatever reason. Tit for tat, I say. Everyone is now out just for themselves.

    • Phid

      So basically you are saying that employees have the right to slack off at work and collect payment from their employers. You are wrong. Employees have an obligation to work for the money they are paid. If they do not like their employer, they should find a different one.

      • Yes and no

        Sort of… It makes a whole lot of difference if you know on Monday you will be working Tuesday. It makes a big difference knowing that your employer is not going to treat you as if you are just another replacement that can be quickly replaced at any moment. Yes you have an obligation to work for the money you are getting paid, and to slack off to me is wrong. Yet people are people;if you treat them as if they are nothing to them, I can see and have seen people do what this report says.

  • yep

    Look at it this way, the more you work and the more productive you are the more people they will lay off. You are doing your coworkers a favor.

  • MARK

    I should probably be working right now…

  • Study This

    I do not know about everyone else our there, but I give far more than I get being a white-color worker. White-color workers are generally salaried. So, they are expected to work evening, weekends, etc., if that what it takes with no comp time. Someone should do an analysis sometime about how how much companies get by making their employees salaried vs. hourly. I am sure it would be a wash at the end of the day at the very least, or the workers would be the ones experiencing the loss.

    • obviously upset

      I totally agree with your comment! No one studies this, and they should, because all the media talks about is how the poor companies are getting shafted by the “average” worker who is “stealing” time from them. Ha! Salaried pay = stealing from employee. Stealing their valuable time from family and leisure.

  • Hmmm...

    I have to wonder – do those distractions, like talking with co-workers, have a positive side? Social interactions may make employees happier and build interpersonal relationships. I would think that those employees would call in sick less and be better equipped to collaborate with co-workers to solve problems. I see problem with holding employees accountable for every minute of time at work. It could cause animosity and make everyone up-tight and uncomfortable.

  • gth

    It’s very frustrating. I spend my time on the job actually at my desk in my office doing my job. My coworkers, however wander around, visit, take long lunches, play on the internet, etc. (In case you are wondering, I’m on my lunch break.) Because they are more visible than I am, they get treated better, get raises and I get left out of the fun stuff.

  • Richard in Minneapolis

    This article is based on the fallacy that every hour lost has a monetary cost.

    Elihyahu Goldratt proved this thinking wrong in his classic book on operational management “The Goal”. A lost hour only costs the company if it lays on the critical path of whatever good or service the company sells.

    The math is in this article is easy. Understanding why the basic assumptions are wrong takes a little more consideration

  • jack in the twin cities of Minneapolis

    Shame on WCCO for passing an advertisement for as news. produces “social productivity” software, and their sales pitch is they can reduce wasted employee time (or spin it buy saying they can tap the energies employees use in the time they use social networks). many of the other comments already noticed the flaws in the study such as no accounting for working extra hours, learning new skills, networking, team building, informal information exchange, etc. Plus people with down time are more productive and less error prone.

  • Who Needs a Break?!

    It’s becuase the American worker is over-worked and exhausted. I work for a global company and just this morning I looked at the holiday chart for 2011. The US has FIVE paid holidays while every other country has at least DOUBLE. Plus they all have 4 weeks standard vacation to our 2. AND most of them work a 35 hour week while we work a minimum of 40, usually closer to 50 or 60. It’s no wonder America is caught up in a spiral of obesity, heart disease, depression, ADD, etc!!!!! Everyone is exhausted with no mental or physical break. We sit in windowless cubicals, see our families for a few short hours, get far too little sleep, work through being sick, snowstorms, holidays – we eat fast food because we have no time to cook. We’re too tired to exercise so we just get fatter and sicker. This country needs to wake up and give everyone a break. I know I would be more productive if I had an hour or two more to myself everyday. The days and weeks are too long and it always spills into the evening and weekend. People wouldn’t procrastinate their work if they had time to do these things on their time. Most of these people don’t make the high level salaries to back this up either. The work-week keeps getting longer and the pay keeps getting lower. I know there are trade-offs for a more relaxed work attitude but I don’t think it would be the end of the world if everyone worked a few less hours a week!

  • Vote different next time

    Why don’t we just all start our own businesses and then run it how we want and take all the time off we want? Oh wait.. too many rules, regulations, red tape, and wasteful government spending to do that.

  • Make Yourself Heard

    […] distractions, like e-mail notifications, phone calls, etc, don’t help, as shown by a recent study. And these distractions affect supervisors as much as anyone else. Your boss may seem unable to […]

  • Listen Up!

    […] distractions, like e-mail notifications, phone calls, etc., don’t help, as shown by a recent study. And these distractions affect supervisors as much as anyone else. A manager may seem unable to […]

blog comments powered by Disqus
Thursday Night Football

Listen Live