American Employees at Work Waste 2 Hrs & $153 a Day

Unproductive Activity at Work

Employee Productivity at Work is a Employer Cause for Concern 

Every year during March madness, the news turns to the discussion of workplace productivity.  Because basketball games are played at least in the early rounds during the workday, time is spent by employees discussing the game or watching during working hours.  Technology whether its via our personal mobile devices or company computers that stream the internet, employees find a way.  A recent study by American Online and finds that workers aren’t so productive at work.  Shocking, I know.  Americans are spending over 2 hours a day being unproductive at work.  Some findings from this study and inforgraphic included in this post below:

  • Older workers are more productive than their younger counter parts.
  • Missouri is the most unproductive state with an average of  3.2 hours of unproductive work time costing $28.1 billion.
  • Personal Internet use at work is the most unproductive work activity.
  • Younger workers born between 1980 and 1985 were the least productive wasting 1.96 hours per day.  These are also in most cases the lowest paid workers, and I believe there is likely some correlation to this.
  • Job surfing at work accounted for the 10th most unproductive activity.
Tony Schwartz calls the belief that employees will maintain productivity at work throughout their work day, the Myth of Productivity.  He believes the best way for employees to be productive at work is through working in 90 minute blocks with scheduled rest happening in between.  This allows workers and those completing a task to truly focus making them more productive and less likely to stray surfing the net or gossiping with co-workers.

Should We Increase Employee Productivity or Find a Different POV?

I’ve often challenged the idea of what work productivity really means managing my teams in favor of programs like ROWE where work productivity isn’t an issue under the model of a results oriented work environment.  What’s your idea of a productive work environment and how to combat the issue of unproductivity at your workplace?

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Learn more about Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource, and the host of the Workology Podcast. More of her blogs can be found here.

Reader Interactions


  1. Mike H says

    The problem with these productivity “at work” surveys is that they never account for the productivity of the employee away from work. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t take a fair amount of work home with them (and spare me the “if they hadn’t wasted time at work they wouldn’t need to take it home” argument.) I plan my “work” week every Sunday night. I’ve had some of my best (most productive) ideas in the shower or working in my garage. I can’t count the number of work calls, texts or emails I get on my mobile phone after work – that I always respond too. Solutions to problems I’m having at work often come to me when I’m at home and not focusing so hard on them. And whose definition of productivity are we using? I could go on, but I’m at work – hate to have anyone think I wasn’t being productive.

    • Jessica Miller-Merrell says


      I agree with you. People are increasingly working from home before and after work. And if I do this I deserve a little flexibility to surf the net or talk with colleagues. I just find these type of infographics fascinating. The workforce really is no longer built this way for those that are salaried workers or people who own their own business.

      Thank you for your comment.


  2. Joyce Maroney says

    I’m not surprised by these results. In our research at the Workforce Institute at Kronos, we’ve seen a steady drop off in employee engagement for several years. This has been partly due to the economy – if there are fewer opportunities in the market, I’ll stay where I am whether I’m engaged or not. I think there are other phenomena contributing as well – more remote workers (less workplace camaraderie), the “always available” downside of mobile technology, and the increasing scope and workload of managers with projects of their own and less coaching time for employees.

    We explored these topics in a book we published last year – “Elements of Successful Organizations”.

    • Jessica Miller-Merrell says

      Thanks for the comment, Joyce. I think you are right about those folks that are always available. It makes me visiting a website or taking a personal phone call more likely because I know that I work after hours answering questions and taking calls if the moment arises where I am needed. Your book sounds interesting. Love to check it out.




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