Technology brings a tide of time-wasting


Crashing computers, pointless meetings, annoying colleagues and unnecessary phone calls waste up to three hours of our working time each day.

A survey of more 1,000 office workers has found that computers are overwhelmingly the number one cause of lost productivity, with crashes, printer jams and network problems causing the average Briton to waste away 48 minutes a day in a whirl of PC-generated frustration.

And the unreliability of computer hardware and software is made worse by the deluge of annoying emails - which, as research published last week warned – can also impair mental capability even more than smoking cannabis.

Add in the time wasted in pointless meetings, dealing with unnecessary phone calls and staving off with annoying colleagues and the survey suggests that the average Briton loses up to three hours each day – that's 80 working days a year.

But according to last year's Efficiency in Business survey, many people may be contributing to their own poor productivity by failing to pick up basic IT skills. It found that one in seven office workers still needs help switching on a computer while a fifth struggle to save a document and need assistance when printing.

Another survey found that some of the UK's biggest companies spend an average of £10,000 per person per year paying employees to read and write unnecessary emails. One FTSE 100 firm estimated that email cost £39 million per annum.

But some companies are fighting back against the time-wasting tide. In 2003, UK mobile phone retailer Phones 4u banned its staff from using internal email to deal with customer queries after the company's management discovered that the length of time taken to deal with customers had risen dramatically as its use of email increased.

The company estimated the ban will save staff three hours a day and at least £1 million a month in saved time.

Michael Chambers, managing director of Bacs Payment Schemes, which carried out the latest research, said: "No office can ever be 100 per cent efficient, but it's ironic that so much time is being wasted on the very devices that we trust to streamline office processes."

"The average British office worker is clearly frustrated."