Are you wasting time at work?

The answer is probably a lot

David Quinn: BrightHR Social Media Manager

According to a recent survey, UK employees waste a whopping 759 hours per year because of distractions. That amounts to a typical worker squandering about 60 hours a month. These ‘time thieves’ come in many forms, ranging from social media to chattering colleagues.

With that in mind, we take a look at four of the most common things that eat away at your workers’ time and result in ineffective work.

The issue of emails

Dealing with your work emails can take up a lot of time and for many responding to the barrage of requests can feel like a full-time job in itself. But how much time do we really spend checking and responding to emails whilst in work?

According to Forbes emails take up 12.5 hours per week. And on average, office workers recieve at least 200 messages a day.

This may seem acceptable if emails were useful, however it was found that only 30% were deemed to be important and a survey by CareerBuilder found that 26% saw emails as one of the biggest productivity killers.

Work emails are just the tip of this time wasting iceberg and personal emails, as well as personal text messages, play a big role with 65% of workers using their phone in work to deal with personal messages.

And it isn’t just your time that's affected. The survey from Carleton University found a  ‘strong’ link between email overload, stress and missed work.

With all this evidence you would think our obsession with checking and responding to ineffective messages would be on the decline, however, it has been predicted these will increase from 269 billion in 2017 to 319.6 billion by the end of 2021.


Want to get your team up to speed? There’s a meeting for that. Want to make an announcement? There’s a meeting for that, too. In fact, there seems to be a meeting for most things and the effects on productivity aren’t pretty.

The number of meetings a typical UK worker will attend during his or her life is 6,240. If each meeting lasted an hour, this would translate to:

  • 780 working days, or
  • Three years and four months

YouGov-commissioned research found that, out of the workers surveyed:

  • 6% snoozed in meetings
  • 29% checked personal emails at some point in the meeting
  • 43% attended meetings that started late or didn’t keep to time
  • 31% attended meetings with no formal agenda
  • 36% of meetings had no actions or minutes

But it’s not just employees that question the value of meetings. Managers are also feeling the frustration and 30% of their time is considered to be wasted in meetings.

Getting rid of all meetings isn’t feasible, but as you can see meeting for meeting's sake isn’t helping. If a meeting is absolutely necessary, it pays to keep it focused with set times and outcomes.

Want to find out how much time you could be wasting at work meetings? Find out with our interactive calculator

Other interruptions

Emails and meetings are just a two of the distractions at work. Other things that steal employees’ attention away from work include:

Office environment distractions are also coupled with digital interruptions if employees use smartphones at work. The ping and beep notifications of personal social media are normally hard to ignore. It’s no wonder that workers spend about 1.5 hours per day on social media.

And social media is only part of the digital disruption problem. The internet, in general, is a magnet for time-wasting while at work. CareerBuilder found that 41% of respondents said the internet was the biggest productivity killer.

Forms and manual processes

Adobe carried out a Document Drain survey into how poor office admin tasks, like invoicing and filling out forms (including holiday and absence), are damaging productivity in European workplaces.

They found straightforward office tasks are needlessly complicated, with printing and emailing documents taking up the most time.

For UK workers, the Adobe survey found that:

  • 31% have lost contracts because office admin tasks have gone wrong
  • 6.8 hours per week are spent on office admin tasks
  • 68% work late and 34% work on weekends to catch up with office admin tasks
  • 73% said that raising invoices was the most complicated admin task
  • 45% believed that mobile apps would change their workflows

All departments are affected by outdated manual processes. HR alone spends two days a week dealing with paperwork instead of focusing on tasks that can add real value to the business.

The solution? Work lazy

Working lazy and being lazy are two different things. When you work lazy you start to ask yourself why you find the value in the work you undertake and you make your working life easier.

So when it comes to the distractions above, you limit your time spent dealing with unproductive emails, you start to question the value of the meetings you attend, you focus on the task in hand and you work hard to streamline, or ideally automate, overcomplicated working manual processes.

So stop being a busy fool and start being a lazy genius. Download your copy of the Lazy manifesto today and find out how you can start to work lazy

How BrightHR can help your business

Whilst we can’t do much about your employees checking dating sites at work or the number of meetings you have, we can help your business when comes to HR. Our Brilliant People Management software can help save you time, money and reduce the hassle when it comes to many traditional HR processes.

  • Overcomplicated absence forms become a thing of the past as staff can request holidays through the software, managers can check any conflicts and approve leave in a matter of seconds.
  • Staff rotas can be created in minutes rather than hours and employees are automatically notified via the app when they have been assigned a shift.
  • Store those all-important employee records in the cloud and access them on the move. No more lost documents or overcrowded filing cabinets.
  • Get expert employment law advice from the Bright Advice telephone line, giving you peace of mind and ensuring your business is protected.
  • Support yourself and your employees with BrightHR’s Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) the confidential advice and counselLing service.

Request your free demo today and see how BrightHR can help you free up your time to concentrate on the more important things - growing your business.