At work but not actually working - Part 1: A tricky problem

Frank Newberryin Editorial

Grounds Training Tutor and Careers Counsellor Frank Newberry reports on how much time is taken by staff doing non-work matters like checking personal emails, social media, taking private phone calls and doing online shopping during working hours. In part II, Frank will look at what can be done about the tricky problem of people being at work but not actually working.

What would you say is the correct time duration that people in work should be permitted to spend doing non-work-related activities like personal emails, social media, private phone calls and online shopping; on full pay?

You might well say 'no time at all', because they should do this personal stuff in their own time - during tea breaks and lunch breaks. You might even think that a case could be made for this being a form of theft. A theft of their wages. Taking their money, but giving nothing in return?

Maybe some people might think that's a bit harsh. Maybe ten minutes per day is okay on average - or twenty? After all, they might not have originated a particular phone call or email, so it is hardly their fault they are in demand. How about one hour for the whole week then?

Brace yourself

If you have now got a figure in mind - well done, and thanks for having a go.

Let us now compare your thoughts to the facts. Brace yourself.

One study (WatchShop in 2014) found that:

The average UK worker spends

- 4 days per year checking personal emails

- 3 days checking social media

- 3 days taking private phone calls

- 3 days doing online shopping

The average UK worker in the age group 18-25 spends:

- 5 days per year checking personal emails

- 6 days checking social media

- 5 days taking private phone calls

- 5 days doing online shopping

Is it just me or is that 13 to 21 days lost per person per year on average?

Double their leave entitlement

So, let's get this right - someone aged 18 to 25, on perhaps 20 days annual leave per year, now gets double their leave entitlement if we count the time they spend at work not actually working?

I am afraid that another study (Quid Co in 2013) found the problem to be even worse. Their study suggested that an hour per day was being lost to these non-work-related activities.

This would mean, if we say there are approximately 21 (8 hour) working days in each month, then we might calculate that the average worker is taking a whole month off work per year (in addition to holidays) just doing personal emails, social media, private phone calls and online shopping - on full pay - in the workplace.

An extra month off per year to do what exactly?

Top twenty personal things UK people do

Well, as you will see from the list that follows, there are quite a lot of things people need to get done these days:

1. Online banking

2. Checking the weather forecast

3. Checking personal emails

4. Reading news sites

5. Researching holidays and searching for best deals

6. Paying bills

7. Browsing clothes online

8. Browsing social network sites

9. Calling friends/relatives

10. Online clothes shopping

11. Booking a holiday online

12. Updating social network sites

13. Arranging nights out with friends

14. Booking dentists/doctors' appointments

15. Looking for discount codes

16. Looking at photos

17. Calling companies and organisations for personal reasons

18. Reading sports updates

19. Shopping or selling on eBay

20. Comparing insurance prices

It is okay to stop working for an hour a day

So, to recap; we know that many people stop working (on average) for an hour per day. We also know, in some detail, the type of non-work-related activities they do - instead of working.

What we may not know is why they think it is okay to stop working for an hour a day, and why they think their line managers think it is okay too.

In Part 2 of this article, we will look at if it is okay to spend an hour per day doing non-work-related activities (or not), and what we might do about it - either way.

© 2017 Frank Newberry

For more on this topic and some great training seminars, why not register for Pitchcare's Supervisory Essentials Workshops this winter?

Frank's proven, popular, highly interactive and entertaining one day seminars are 'stand-alone'. You can take any one, any two, any three or all four seminars. They will all be held at the National Sports Centre, Bisham Abbey, Marlow, Buckinghamshire this winter:

Dates are:

Taking Charge - Thursday 16 November 2017
Getting Better Results - Thursday 7 December 2017
Enhanced Communication Skills - Thursday 15 February 2018
Problem Solving and Decision Making - Thursday 22 March 2017

For more details, including how to book your place on all Pitchcare workshops, visit the website