A Lifetime of Waste

By | Posted January 8th, 2013

Everybody needs time away from their desks; it’s unavoidable. But the cost, in terms of both time and money, can be shocking if you’ve never stopped to do the math. In an attempt to stem time-sucking online activities, many employers have turned to a Big Brother solution; monitoring all activities on the company server, restricting access to non-work-related sites, and even reading employee emails. None of these measures are truly effective, given the ubiquitous presence of personal devices, and the real time-wasting culprits.


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It’s not what you’re thinking… in fact, it’s so low-tech that there’s no app for that. One of the biggest time wasting activities is interacting with co-workers. Don’t lock up the watercooler just yet, though. There are many ways people interact at the office, and some are productive activities. Others, not so much. Personal time spent chatting creates a friendly, team-oriented atmosphere that can result in increased productivity with workers more willing to help each other. Too much time talking about last night’s episode of CSI, and it becomes counterproductive.

The solution: Frequent breaks. They don’t have to be on a set schedule, but employees should be aware of away-from-desk time constraints set by the company.


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If time is money, then managers rushing from meeting to meeting amounts to an avalanche of cash. Do the math. If you have eight account managers in an hour-long meeting every day, with a median salary of $52,900, that breaks down to $0.42 per minute, per person… $201.60 in company cost for one meeting; $1008.00 for a week’s worth of meetings. One hour a day is a very conservative figure. Some estimate that highly paid executives spend an average of two full days a week in meetings. What’s more alarming is that 41% of workers attending in-person meetings are checking emails and surfing the web on their personal devices during the meeting, and a whopping 70% are doing the same while attending virtual meetings.

The solution: Keep meetings short, engaging, and tightly focused. Invite only people who need to be there, and ban PDAs.


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Early in 2012, an ugly trend hit the news. Employers were demanding job applicants’ and workers’ Facebook passwords to monitor their private lives and activity during work hours. As you can imagine, this resulted in outrage within the general public, and lawmakers in several states initiated action to prevent this new invasion of privacy.

Still, 64% of respondents in a survey conducted by Salary.com confessed to surfing websites unrelated to work, and the most common destination was—you guessed it—Facebook. Another site that ranked high on the list was LinkedIn, and even more alarmingly, 46% of workers surveyed admitted to using work computers to find a new job.

The solutions: This one is tricky. Workers surf the Web or look for new jobs for a variety of reasons, including boredom or lack of challenge on the job, lack of incentive to work harder, and overall job dissatisfaction. The keys to employee satisfaction are trust, values, and a purpose-driven mission, and that really boils down to good management along with viable career paths, as opposed to dead-end jobs.


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If your office hasn’t gone paperless, you may want to consider it. Aside from the staggering cost of paper, printers, and ink, keeping documents in paper form is a tremendous waste of employee time. Fifteen percent of all paper used in businesses is lost, and the cost of finding or replacing each lost document is $120. In fact, it’s estimated that employees spend 30% of their workday searching for documents. That’s 12 hours a week and 15 weeks a year. Over a 40-year career, that adds up to nearly twelve years of shuffling paper.

The solution: Eliminate paper. Scanning programs can turn documents into searchable text, and you can store a ton of documents anywhere, on a computer, a flash drive, a server, or in the cloud. Documents can be protected, shared, and above all, found.