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Employee Productivity in the Internet Age

Workers waste a lot of time these days; we examine how it affects the bottom line



Are your employees stealing your time? Dealing with employee productivity problems can be a tough challenge for managers and small business owners. In an age where technology has helped businesses reach new levels of efficiency, these same innovations have also increased the amount of wasted time: Social media, email and other online activities provide a seemingly endless source of distractions for workers. Remote employees pose an even greater threat to businesses because it's more difficult to keep tabs on their daily activity. Let's take a look at the specific pain points of employee productivity, and how they can be remedied.



So Many Ways to Waste Time

Employees have always found ways to let company time slip away. Personal phone calls, long lunches and water cooler chitchat have provided distractions for decades. The advent of the Internet, however, has practically elevated time wasting to an art form. According to Salary.com's 2014 Wasting Time at Work survey, workers are wasting more time than ever: 89 percent of respondents stated that they wasted at least some company time every day. That's up from 69 percent of respondents in the previous year's survey


Where is all this time being wasted? The temptations of social media are apparent. Facebook emerged as the biggest time-waster in Salary.com's survey with 41 percent of respondents citing it as their top distraction. LinkedIn came in a close second place at 37 percent, with Yahoo, Google and Amazon rounding out the top five. National sports also contribute to workplace slacking. In fact, an MSN survey revealed that over 86 percent of employees will spend at least some time at work following March Madness activities.


Although wasting time at work is a universal problem, some demographics seem to be more easily distracted than others. Younger employees are often accused of wasting the most time, but single men between the ages of 26 and 39 are actually the worst offenders. And according to a survey by Accountemps, Friday afternoon is the least productive time in the workweek.


The High Cost of Distractions

All this wasted time can add up to serious losses for companies. A study by the business liability insurance company BOLT found that workers waste enough time to cost businesses $134 billion per year in decreased employee productivity. Even though social media is usually assumed to be the biggest culprit, it turns out that sports are responsible for a huge amount of wasted work time. Remember that figure about the percentage of employees planning to follow March Madness during work hours? That wasted time will cost businesses over $175 million in just the first two days. BOLT's research also indicates that businesses lose about $1.1 billion each week due to employees tending to their fantasy football teams.

Those are some staggering numbers, but it's tough for a small business owner to look at these figures and understand what lost productivity is costing their company. Here is a look at the cost of wasting time at work in terms of an individual employee: a software developer with a salary of about $72,500. If that single developer spends just three hours a week on non-work activities, he or she will cost your company over $5,000 each year. That's a conservative estimate, because 11 percent of employees report wasting more than five hours of company time each week. Do the math based on the number of people you employ and their respective salaries, and you'll see that lost employee productivity can be a big issue.


Benefits of Using Employee Monitoring Software

Fortunately, employee monitoring software can help your business optimize employee productivity and make sure that your employees are complying with important policies. These easy-to-install systems will let you see exactly what your employees are doing on company time: which websites they're visiting, what they're searching for online and what they're saying on their social networks. You can see every email that's sent and received, and you can view every instant message. These monitoring solutions aren't limited to workplace computers. Mobile monitoring systems allow you to see exactly what your employees are doing on their work-issued mobile devices.

With monitoring systems in place, it's easy to see which employees are slacking off when they should be working. A worker who's spending all day on Facebook and Instagram might deny these activities when confronted; however, they can't argue when they're presented with a day's worth of screenshots.

It's clear that wasted time at work is a costly problem for businesses of all sizes. Your own business could be losing thousands of dollars each week from employees spending company time surfing their social networks and checking on their fantasy football teams. While it may be impossible to eliminate these workplace distractions, you can protect your company and boost your bottom line by using monitoring software to track your employees' productivity levels.