Most all of us, at some point or another, avoid doing the things we actually need to do by doing things we prefer to do in the present moment: It’s a classic case of procrastination. And while some people gravitate toward virtual activities of tending a farm or crushing on candy to feed procrastinating urges, others waste time on Facebook or other social networks, take a million bathroom breaks, incessantly check their phone for updates, daydream, or find something else REALLY IMPORTANT to do.
And still others, uh, blaze their own path, you might say, when it comes to passing the time with non-work activities. Enter mail order brides, sleeping on the CEO’s couch, and sponge baths.
A new CareerBuilder survey of 2,175 hiring and human resource managers makes it clear that sometimes, employees aren’t just engaging in your run-of-the-mill email, Internet surfing or water cooler gossip — but in much more bizarre activites. Below, employers dish on their employees’ biggest productivity killers, as well as the craziest things they caught employees doing while on the clock.
The biggest productivity killers, according to employers
While there are all sorts of tips and tricks to combat lack of productivity, it seems some workers will do just about anything to avoid doing actual work while on the clock. (Though, I think most all of us could agree sitting in a cubicle can sometimes makes one’s soul die a little.)
- Cell phones/texting: 52 percent
- The Internet: 44 percent
- Gossip: 37 percent
- Social media: 36 percent
- Email: 31 percent
- Co-workers dropping by: 27 percent
- Meetings: 26 percent
- Smoke breaks/snack breaks: 27 percent
- Noisy co-workers: 17 percent
- Sitting in a cubicle: 10 percent
Workers’ Strangest Non-Work Activities While On the Job
When employers were asked to reveal the most unusual or most memorable things they have found an employee doing when they should have been working, they didn’t hold back. And can you blame them? Who would be able to keep these situations to themselves?
- Employee was taking a sponge bath in the bathroom sink.
- Employee was trying to hypnotize other employees to stop their smoking habits.
- Employee was visiting a tanning bed in lieu of making deliveries.
- Employee was looking for a mail order bride.
- Employee was playing a video game on their cell phone while sitting in a bathroom stall.
- Employee was drinking vodka while watching Netflix.
- Employee was sabotaging another employee’s car tires.
- Employee was sleeping on the CEO’s couch.
- Employee was writing negative posts about the company on social media.
- Employee was sending inappropriate pictures to other employees.
- Employee was searching Google images for “cute kittens.”
- Employee was making a model plane.
- Employee was flying drones around the office.
- Employee was printing pictures of animals, naming them after employees and hanging them in the work area.
The Cost of Being Driven to Distraction
It’s no surprise that productivity killers can lead to negative consequences for the organization, including compromised quality of work (45 percent), lower morale (30 percent), missed deadlines (24 percent), loss in revenue (21 percent) and more.
So what’s the solution?
Some say that to get things done and put off procrastinating (see what I did there?) it helps to remind yourself why what you’re doing is important, and others recommend just simply starting a task to get over the anxiety of actually starting it.
Nearly 3 in 4 employers (74 percent) have taken at least one step to combat productivity killers, such as blocking certain Internet sites (33 percent) and banning personal calls/cell phone use (23 percent). I personally hate these, because one bad apple shouldn’t spoil things for the other employees who do use them responsibly. Plus, your employees aren’t robots (yet). People aren’t designed to work 8-plus hours straight with no breathing room, whether that involves a walk outside, an email to a friend, or spacing out for a few minutes on Instagram. In fact, research shows taking breaks actually makes people more productive.
CareerBuilder’s chief human resources officer, Rosemary Haefner, backs this up:
Between the Internet, cell phones and co-workers, there are so many stimulants in today’s workplace, it’s easy to see how employees get sidetracked,” said Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer of CareerBuilder. “The good news is, taking breaks from work throughout the day can actually be good for productivity, enabling the mind to take a break from the job at hand and re-energize you. The trick is finding the right (work-appropriate) activities that promote – rather than deplete – energy.”
You know, like not-drinking-vodka-and-watching-Netflix-type activities.
Haefner offers the following four tips for productive procrastination — which may be helpful to pass onto your employees (or bookmark for yourself):
- Schedule “play” breaks. Give yourself permission to take a break, and set a definite ending time. Not only will you have something to look forward to after you’ve worked hard, you will also know when it’s time to get back to work.
- Surround yourself with productive people. Much like laughter, productivity can be infectious. Watching how others make themselves productive can inspire us to act similarly.
- Make yourself accountable to your (social) network. Can’t seem to motivate yourself to finish (or start) a big project? Post on your Facebook wall that you will do it. Making yourself publicly accountable will make you more likely to actually do something.
- Just (literally) walk away. Can’t seem to concentrate? Go for a 10- or 20-minute walk. Research shows that a few minutes of light exercise can rejuvenate the brain and lead to sharper cognitive function.
When it comes to workplace productivity, what works well for you and your team?
Want more? Get more highlights from the survey here.