Workplace Issues

Not Working at Work: The $130 Billion Drain

That’s the value of lost productivity from the three in five U.S. workers who perform nonwork activities for just a couple of hours per week, accor...
David McCannDecember 4, 2012

How would you feel if you knew that 61% of your employees were spending at least an hour per week on nonwork activities? Maybe you wouldn’t feel too badly. Everybody’s got to have a little time to attend to personal business, right?

Just don’t delude yourself into thinking that the lost productivity doesn’t count. According to information gleaned from a survey and other sources, the annual cost to U.S. employers from those who spend at least an hour at work each week doing something other than work is at least $130 billion.

Here is how the $130 billion figure was arrived at. In the survey, in which 3,200 employees participated, 39% of workers said they spend less than an hour a week not working, which was regarded as an acceptable level. Among the other 61%, the average nonworking time was about two hours. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) pegs the median national hourly wage at $16.57, so two hours’ worth would be $33.14. There are 128 million employed people in the country; 61% of that number is 78 million, and that figure times $33.14 times 50 (weeks per year, subtracting two for vacations) is approximately $130 billion.

That calculation was done by Bolt Insurance Agency, which mostly insures small and midsize businesses. Bolt put together this infographic on the state of workforce productivity, using data from the survey as well as the BLS and placement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

One notable data point: the survey participants identified meetings as the biggest time-waster in the office.

(For more on this topic, click here.)