At work, but not working

Jan 09 2007 by Brian Amble Print This Article

It's hardly news to anybody that the traditional 9-5 working day is now more like 8-6. But does this mean that we're doing more work, or just wasting more time?

A survey of 1,000 office workers in the UK by Microsoft suggests that the average working day is now 8.37am to 5.37pm and that employees work an average of 39 days overtime a year.

Half of those questioned said that these earlier starts and later finishes were because they found it easer to get work done when the office was less busy. One in five, meanwhile, equated spending more time in the office with a desire to be successful, apparently regardless of what they were actually doing during this time.

But while many Britons might be spending more time at work, it is clear that much of it is not actually spent working. In fact, the research found, almost three hours a day are spent being thoroughly unproductive.

By far the biggest single distraction is the-now familiar one of surfing the web, something that consumes almost an hour a day - 54 minutes - for most of those questioned.

Formatting documents and sorting out PC problems consume a further 46 minutes - both issues that a small investment in training or simply reading a manual could quickly reduce.

Throw in a further 35 minutes of the day spent just gossiping with co-workers, plus time making calls to friends, drinking tea, taking toilet breaks and daydreaming, and three hours of every day have vanished.

Professor Cary Cooper, Professor of Organisational Psychology and Health at the University of Lancaster, said that with so many distractions in the modern office it was not surprising that our minds wander. Yet small changes to the way we work could make a big difference.

"We don't have to make drastic changes to enjoy a more efficient Ė and shorter Ė working day," he said.

"Spending time formatting a document or having to deal with day-to-day computer mishaps can easily disrupt your day and as the results of the survey show, end up costing you up to two hours.

Taking time out in advance to learn a few helpful shortcuts can come in really useful Ė better to spend time learning some tips and tricks than waste hours battling your computer when you are on deadline."