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Build Your Career Office Life

Top Office Distractions Still Happen Offline

Top Office Distractions Still Happen Offline
Credit: Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock

When it comes to workplace distractions, some things never change.

Despite the proliferation of mobile devices, email and social media, it's still traditional distractions, like the water cooler, that are keeping employees from their work the most, according to a new study from BambooHR.

The research revealed that taking breaks to go to the water cooler, kitchen or break room is the top workday distraction for employees. Taking trips to the bathroom and chatting with co-workers are the second- and third-most time-consuming workday interruptions.

"Many people think checking in on social media and surfing the Web are the major distractions in today’s modern workplace, but it turns out traditional activities, like taking breaks to the office water cooler or break room and participating in small talk, still reign supreme as the most time-consuming workplace distractions," the study's authors wrote.

The other five non-work-related activities done by employees while "on the clock" that takes up their time the most are:

  • Corresponding (phone, email, text, social media) with family members.
  • Surfing the Web/online personal errands.
  • Corresponding (phone, email, text, social media) with non- work-related friends.
  • Using social media for non-work-related reasons.
  • Watching TV (including mobile and computer).

Employees are split on whether or not they feel their distractions are hurting their productivity. The research found that 20 percent of employees think workplace distractions consistently hinder their workplace performance and efficiency, while 18 percent feel they enhance it.

The study revealed that it's those higher up the corporate ladder whose time is more occupied by distractions. Specifically, more upper-management employees than lower-level workers spend at least 30 minutes each workday taking trips to the water cooler, break room and bathroom. [NSFW? Workers Reveal Their Favorite Online Distractions ]

In addition, more upper management employees spend at least 30 minutes each workday watching TV.

"Contrary to conventional wisdom, frontline employees aren't the ones spending the most time wrapped up in these common distractions – across the board, senior leadership indulges more," the study's authors wrote.

Regardless of their level, 56 percent of employees try to make up for time spent on personal, non-work-related activities while at work by working at home or in the office after standard work hours. The study discovered that 39 percent of those spend more than 30 minutes per day making up for the time they lost to workplace distractions.

Additionally, only 53 percent of employees take lunch each day, and just 1 in 4 take lunch no more than two days a week. Of those who don't regularly take lunch, 1 in 5 said it's because they've traded them for other breaks they've taken during the day.

"Across the board, work schedules have become more fluid and the lines between work and life continue to blur – employees acknowledge time dedicated to distractions, and they build them into their work life by making up for them at work or at home," the study's authors wrote. "Longer hours are becoming more acceptable as some employees are now spending more time at work on personal issues and activities."

The study was based on surveys of 1,005 U.S.-based workers who are employed full time.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has nearly 15 years experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.