Wasting Time at Work

Social Media can eat into a Productive Workday; Now Some Companies are Taking Drastic Action to Put a Stop to it

By Angus Gillespie

While there’s no doubt we are still very much in the infancy of the technological revolution that is sweeping the way enterprises conduct business, despite enormous benefits, there are also certain pitfalls that have reared their ugly head and it’s having a direct impact on productivity. We are of course primarily referring to the amount of time being wasted by employees who are increasingly engaged in activities not in any way associated with their daily job descriptions.

At the very pinnacle of the employer complaints list centres on the amount of time some employees are spending in dealing with personal matters – and more often than not, it involves some form of social media.  Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Skype or just old-fashioned texting and emailing, the number of man hours lost has been going up as the technological gadgetry becomes more sophisticated, while at the same time easier to use.

Of course the traditional time wasters still register as they always have, but lengthy bathroom/smoking breaks and banter around the water cooler have largely been overtaken by the social media phenomenon.  There’s no question some of the more savvy veterans are still able to waste time the old-fashioned ways, such as by needlessly extending meetings, excessive co-worker interaction or taking more than their share of sick days.  But the one thing that each survey finds is that the biggest culprit of wasting time in 2014 is surfing the Internet.

Employers expect staff to utilize the vast resources of the Internet to complement their work efforts, but an every increasing number of workers are spending more and more time on websites unrelated to their task.  While this crisis is not likely going to bother the average person sitting in a cubicle, from an employer’s perspective every hour wasted has a direct negative impact on the company’s bottom line.

A recent survey of 3,200 people by Salary.com found that 64% of employees visited non-work related websites every day at work. Believe it or not, that figure is actually down nearly 10 percentage points from 2008.  The reasoning for the decline can likely be attributed to the remaining employees now having to pick up the responsibilities of their downsized co-workers. Of those website wanderers, 39% spend one hour or less per week wasting time, while 29% spend two hours per week.  Five per cent waste five hours per week, while 3% are guilty of spending more than 10 hours per week surfing the Net for matters completed unrelated to their job.  That’s a full one-quarter of their paid work week.  And, it likely wouldn’t be too hard to find a number of company owners/presidents who would fast proclaim that these figures are in fact far too low.

Facebook remains the favourite go-to spot for those who feel they’ve got some extra time to kill.  About 41% say it is their site of choice, followed by LinkedIn at 37%, while about 25% have the nerve to sit and fill their online shopping cart at Amazon.ca and Amazon.com.  Yahoo!, Google, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Snapchat and Pinterest are other URLs that are becoming increasingly popular.  One could try, albeit a tad ineffectively, in taking a positive spin that the employee might be seeking out other professionals to help coordinate a co-operative project effort or provide leads to others who could be of assistance.  But naysayers would quickly respond that the employee is just as likely wasting time seeing which of their friends were recently promoted, or worse yet, they may be checking the Jobs for You section, pondering a change of scenery, while on the clock.

Stereotyping aside, it should really come as no surprise that the biggest culprits when it comes to wasting time on the work computer  is predominantly the younger 18-35 crowd, whom it can easily be argued are more tech-savvy and likely to go on an exploration jaunt. Of employees within this age range, a whopping 73% admit to inappropriate usage of time at work on a daily basis.  Those who responded to the survey say the main reason for slacking off is they don’t feel challenged enough in their job.  Long work hours and a lack of corporate incentives are also factors, and they inevitably all lead to the same thing – boredom.  Somewhat shocking is that the better-educated workers seem to waste the most time.  While 59% of high school grads admit to wasting time, that number climbs to 67% for people with PhDs, 66% for workers with bachelor’s and 65% for those with Master’s degrees.

Economic Stress

All of us can still vividly remember the stress of the global economic downturn that began to take hold in 2008, and some would argue still hasn’t completely relinquished its grip.  Certainly Canada came through it as well as could be hoped, thanks primarily to a sound financial banking system. But wasting time carries a direct impact on a company’s success rate – and in some instances may be the difference between continuing on or closing down operations.   
Various private-sector statistics on this topic also indicate that about 70% of employees do in fact visit non-work related websites each day, which according to those stats would represent a 6% increase from a year ago.

Further to that, it also seems as if some employees are getting bolder as time goes by, with an increased number of porn sites being accessed through business computers than ever before.

These troublesome statistics are definitely causes for concern.  It’s tough enough to survive in a competitive marketplace and a shaky economy without having to deal with the added conundrum that your employees may be wasting precious time.  While it’s difficult, if not impossible, to put a true dollar figure on the waste, it’s a safe bet that it amounts to billions in lost productivity each year.

So, if intelligent Canadians understand that time is money, why do so many continue to work so inefficiently?  It’s quite simple, really. The justifiable defense, whether outwardly admitted or not, is based on alliances and loyalties generated by years of working together on a product line or craft. It’s a way of safeguarding positions.  If it became obvious that a certain work project could be done as efficiently and effectively with less labour involved, then that would essentially be a direct invitation for senior management and/or ownership to eliminate jobs.  In other words, it’s human nature and self preservation, working in unison.

Possible Solutions

A greater number of employers are realizing that the Internet can be both a saviour and a curse.  Because of that, some have begun to take drastic action, feeling that they’ve come to their wits end trying to deal with certain employees in an effort to improve their productivity.  Some companies have begun to use services such as Mobile Spy on the corporate cellphones and Sniper Spy on company PCs to monitor employee activities – and it’s all well within their right to do so, as hard as that may be for some to fathom.  It’s the company’s computer, company’s time, and company’s money that pays the employee.  One side will be screaming “Big Brother is Watching!” while the other side will be screaming “Little Brother is Wasting Time!” 

Ryan Klamot, President of a company called CanadaSecure, hopes that his software will come to the aid of frustrated employers and help them to save their businesses by managing employee productivity, and identifying and eliminating “toxic”employees, as he calls them.

“This is an epidemic in Canada and something must be done about it,” Klamot says.  CanadaSecure.ca distributes the powerful Interguard Employee Monitor in Canada – a product which has been shown to have yielded very positive results in the United States and won numerous awards over many years.

CanadaSecure Interguard Employee Monitor has proven to be cost-effective software that provides many powerful functions.  First and foremost, it enables employers to monitor websites and all computer programs and applications employees visit.  It also records all emails and Instant Messages that are sent and received. Employers can block access to computer programs and websites- all from an award-winning cloud console that they can access anywhere in the world. Real-time reports present all of the analytics that the program painstakingly records in a variety of formats.

There is no doubt there are those who would argue that privacy rights are being infringed upon, and that’s certainly a hot topic for debate, but when an employer has lost faith in an employee, or employees, when there is proof that an inordinate amount of time is being wasted each and every day, a strong case could be made that the employer is within their rights to conduct such monitoring, despite the cries of Big Brother that will echo from some corners.

“Whether an employee is visiting Facebook on company time, or doing something more serious like embezzling money, they will be caught,”Klamot confidently states. “By setting alerts for specific keywords, employees have even been caught badmouthing their bosses in their MSN chats. Of course, everything is recorded in screenshots by our Smart Camera which comes in the console. There is no way that employees will be able to get away with antics like this anymore. Our message to frustrated Canadian business owners who are at the end of their rope is- “You don’t have to worry anymore. There are solutions available and we can help you.”

CanadaSecure.ca offers an instructional video on their homepage which enables viewers to get acquainted with all of the functions it performs. The site also features a demo control panel, to show prospective clients exactly what they will be getting with their service plans.

“I have helped numerous companies turn themselves around by identifying and eliminating toxic employees who were doing nothing but hurting their organizations,” Klamot remarks. “Now, all I hear back from clients is that they are loving the new standard of employee productivity that exists in their workplaces today. This software has even caught insiders who were stealing crucial inside information and even money in some cases. The long-term benefits that this offers to businesses of virtually any size are limitless.”

Social Media, and the Internet as a whole, of course is most often an extremely useful resource tool for both personal and corporate reasons.  It just comes down to common sense about when and where to be using it.