Killing Time: 10 Things That Office People Waste Time On

It’s estimated that time wasting at work costs business around £40bn a year, but with most of us spending over 99,000 days earning a crust in our lifetime, where does all the time go?

A recent survey of employees by Forbes magazine (probably conducted during company time) has revealed how 34% of workers admitted to wasting around half an hour a day when they should be working. Not much admittedly, but when added up, the figure becomes significant.

But do endless meetings and long phone conversations actually constitute “time wasting,” or is this just part of modern day working life?

Here’s a look at what some workers spend their time at work doing.


Making phone calls and answering emails from co-workers accounts for 36% of the day in an average workplace – that’s the third of the day trying to communicate with people you are already working with (and are probably sitting less than 10 feet away from).


Probably the biggest bugbear of any worker is the many meetings that they are required to attend. It’s believed that on average 33 minutes a day are spent in meetings; many of which appear to be completely pointless to most workers with 47% claiming that meetings were their biggest time waster.

IT Problems

Yes, larger companies will have an IT department who look after issues such as broadband failures and system lock-ups. Even so, the failure of computers to work properly, not to mention the age old problem of paper being jammed in the printer, help to make IT difficulties a huge source of lost time.

Chatting with Friends

Almost 24% of workers have said that chatting with colleagues is the biggest source of lost time during the working day. Again, this depends on the type of job you are in and your working conditions, but short of banning all talk in the workplace; this is a difficult one to eradicate.

Making drinks

The old favourite when it comes to a well-earned screen break or just an excuse for a natter in the kitchen. The tea or coffee break can amount to an extra lunch hour if workers stop for a 15 minute drinks break four times in a day.

Surfing the net

Whether it’s looking for a new job (46% of workers claim to have searched for new jobs during work time) or just general browsing, there is no doubt that the internet is probably the biggest culprit when it comes to hours lost at work.

Dealing with customers

On average up to 74 minutes a day are used up trying to resolve problems and issues with customers, that’s over 6 hours of valuable time a week. Obviously some jobs entail more customer interaction than others, but this is still a large chunk of time.

Sorting out mistakes

37% of workers asked claim that their biggest time waster is sorting out other people’s mistakes. But with over a third of the workplace blaming someone else for issues that take time to fix; it’s pretty hard to work out just who is causing the problem.

Using the toilet

It’s not possible to estimate just how many minutes people “waste” using company facilities, mostly due to the fact that not many employees are willing to disclose such information. But each member of staff visiting the bathroom just once a day soon adds up to a considerable amount (of time that is).


In the last 10 years or so companies have begun to frown on cigarette breaks. Initially, it was seen that there was no harm (apart from the obvious health risks) in employees having a quick smoke during the day; until managers realised this could easily add up to a total of an hour a day of down time at the very least.

This blog post is produced in association with CTL Digital by journalist and blogger Matthew Crist, who only had three cups of tea, two smoke breaks and went to the toilet once while writing this.
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