Poor use of IT enables
time wasting at work

22 May 2006

As much as we like to believe that technology enables us to do everything at a quicker rate and with more ease, the misuse of technology can in fact reduce productivity.

Misuse of office technology adds more than two hours to the average working day, according to a UK study. The study by ntl:Telewest Business shows that email and telephone habits can reduce productivity rather than increase it.

Reliance on messaging systems such as voicemail and email was found to increase time wastage as people had to wait for others to respond to their voicemail or email before getting the answer they require to continue on in their work.

Stephen Beynon, managing director of ntl:Telewest Business, commented that communications tools that once contributed significantly to productivity have started to become a drain on it. “That means employees can be faced with working longer hours unnecessarily. Many bad habits, such as ‘voicemail tag’, are inevitable but using more appropriate communications tools can cure much of the time wasting.”

“Often the root of reduced productivity is that you don’t know where people are, be it in a meeting, at another location or away off site.”

According to the survey findings people waste an average of two hours and 10 minutes at work each day, of which one hour and 38 minutes was due to communication technologies not being used to good effect. Out of 1,468 people questioned, the average time spent each day waiting for or chasing responses to urgent emails and on unnecessary emails was 42 minutes. An average of 27 minutes was wasted responding to voicemails or managing phone calls and 12 minutes was lost trying to locate colleagues.

Furthermore, the findings reveal that men are the biggest time wasters at work. Almost two in five said they were emailing with friends, 39pc compared to 36 pc of women. One in five men (19pc) compared to one in 25 women (4pc) were actually following sport online instead of working. Men were also most likely to be found arranging their social life while at work; this was the norm for 29pc of men survey compared to 21pc of women. While shopping has traditionally been the domain of women, online and at work more men reach for the credit card to do some online shopping: 21pc of men compared to 14 pc of women.

According to the study other average times wasted each day were: travel not including to and from work: 14 minutes; chasing responses to urgent emails: 42 minutes; responding to voicemails or managing phone calls: 27 minutes; trying to locate colleagues: 12 minutes; meetings that are unnecessarily long: 12 minutes; asking others for files or documents: nine minutes; scheduling and rescheduling meetings: eight minutes; conference calls that could be far shorter: six minutes.

By Elaine Larkin