The average British worker spends 36 days a year reading or replying to emails. That seems like a lot, especially when there are far more interesting things to do like checking out a friend’s holiday snaps on Facebook or streaming the latest as-yet-unreleased movies. It might be a given that people waste time at work, but with over a third of UK employees now working on personal computers and with access to the internet – how many of us can say we are productive for their whole working day?

From surfing the web to searching for a new job, the internet is so much more than a tool that makes our working day easier. Every year carries out a Wasting Time at Work Survey to find out what people actually do at work, whether or not they take breaks and much more besides. In the most recent survey from 2014, 89% of respondents reported wasting time at work every day — up 20% on the previous year.

Perhaps more worrying for employers is that 2% of those surveyed admitted to wasting a staggering 5 hours or more every day, while 31% claim to only waste 30 minutes. With so many websites to choose from (951 million at time of writing), what are people doing when they’re supposed to be working?

One of the most addictive sites that keeps people coming back is Facebook. In 2013 15% of those surveyed said it was their biggest online distraction, rising to 23% in the 2014 survey. Despite the increase, Facebook is only the second most popular time-wasting site, languishing behind the ever-popular, boredom-busting Google. Unsurprisingly, other big hitters include YouTube, Twitter and Pinterest.

So who wastes the most time every day? In reality we all do but single men in their 20s and 30s are apparently the most distracted at work. The least wasteful are over 60s (78%) whilst 26-32 year olds (95%) and 33-39 year olds (92%) could certainly go a long way to improve their productivity.

The survey may be called wasting time at work but over half of the respondents claimed that by taking short breaks to search the net this would actually increase their productivity. Another slightly less legitimate excuse that was given was not being paid enough, with 2% clearly feeling that they aren’t financially recompensed enough to concentrate for a full day.

Computers are clearly used for things other than work, but do employers accept distractions or do all they can to prevent them? Over a quarter of employers block many work-related websites like Facebook in an attempt to remove the distraction altogether. However, with over 35 million smartphones in the UK alone, people will find a way to stay connected.

In summary, the rise of personal computers and the internet have definitely made it easier to waste time at work, but we mustn’t kid ourselves that this is a new thing. The people that now play the six degrees of Kevin Bacon on Wikipedia are the same ones that used to walk around a warehouse with a clipboard twenty years ago.

However you do it, wasting time is wasting time. For those always looking for new ways to slack off, the upcoming results of the 2015 Wasting Time at Work Survey will surely throw up some new and interesting ways to get out of doing work.

Vladimir: That passed the time.

Estragon:  It would have passed in any case.

Vladimir: Yes, but not so rapidly.

From Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett

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