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How Much Time Are Your Employees Wasting on Their Phones?

Adam Uzialko
Adam Uzialko
Freelance Editor
Business News Daily Staff
Updated Mar 17, 2020

A new study finds that employees waste nearly eight hours a week on non-work activities, mainly on their mobile devices. Read more to find out what's distracting them.

  • Employees are often distracted at work, which prevents them from remaining focused on their productivity. 
  • Co-workers are almost as distracting as smartphones. 
  • Both managers and employees are responsible for removing distractions from the workplace. 

While their time cards might say they are putting in a full day, many employees aren’t devoting all of their time in the office to their work, research has found.

A study from the staffing firm   revealed that mobile devices are the biggest distraction during the workday. Specifically, workers waste an average of 56 minutes per day, or nearly five hours a week, using their mobile devices for nonwork activities.

The research showed that employees use smartphones for a wide range of nonwork-related activities. Thirty percent said they spend most of their time checking personal email, and 28% admitted to perusing social networks. Checking out sports or entertainment sites, playing mobile games and doing some online shopping are the other things workers said they use their mobile devices for at work. [Want to increase productivity?]

“It’s understandable that employees may occasionally use their mobile devices or attend to personal tasks during business hours,” Brandi Britton, a district president for OfficeTeam, said in a statement. “But these activities can easily become big distractions.”

Employees also use their mobile devices to get around roadblocks employers have in place to keep their staff focused on work. Nearly 60% of the employees surveyed said they often use their personal devices at work to access websites that are blocked by their company, up from just 22% who did so in 2012.

More than half of the employees surveyed said their company blocks them from visiting at least some websites in the office. The research found that 39% of employers block social media sites on the company network, 30% restrict access to entertainment sites, 27% don’t allow visits to online shopping sites and 23% bar employees from checking sports websites.

Smartphones aren’t the only distractions. Employees also admitted to spending 42 minutes a day, on average, on personal tasks. When added with the time they spend on their mobile devices, employees are wasting nearly eight hours, or close to one full day a week, on nonwork tasks.

Britton said employees should better manage their time so they aren’t wasting valuable working hours.

“To best manage their time, staff can take advantage of breaks during lunch and throughout the day to catch up on nonwork email or errands,” she said.

The study was based on surveys of more than 300 U.S. workers employed in office environments and more than 300 senior managers at U.S. companies with 20 or more employees.


What is the most common employee distraction?

A survey from CareerBuilder  showed that smartphones are the biggest distraction for employees; 55% of employees said they are routinely distracted by their phones. In addition to smartphones, office workers are distracted by loud co-workers, office noise and constant emails. 

Whose responsibility is it to eliminate employee distractions?

Employees must take some responsibility for eliminating distractions in their own workplace. Managers can also help to remove distractions from the workplace. Everyone has a role to play in removing distractions. 

How to eliminate employee distractions

 There are some ways to remove the distractions employees often find at work. For example, you can allow flexible work schedules and remote work, which can help employees who may need to concentrate on specific tasks. 

Other ideas include establishing quiet spaces in the office or providing time-management or mindfulness classes for employees. You should encourage your employees to turn off their nonwork-related notifications when they are in the office. You can also set up short break times when your employees are allowed to look at their phones. 

However, employees must also manage their own time and space. They must set aside specific times to do work that requires deep concentration and limit their exposure to technological distractions. Employees should turn off all notifications and check their phones only at certain times throughout the day.

In addition, employees should limit clutter and other distractions from their desktop. When employees manage their health and well-being, they can also concentrate better. That means they should get enough sleep and take time off when they are sick. 

Managers can limit distractions by giving employees proper training, which should include one-on-one interactions and coaching for their employees. Managers can create rules that encourage productivity – for example, do not disturb someone when they are using headphones, or hold meetings in certain rooms away from where people are working. Managers could also have quiet rooms for employees to go when they need a distraction-free space. 



Image Credit:

Dean Drobot/Shutterstock

Adam Uzialko
Adam Uzialko
Business News Daily Staff
Adam Uzialko is a writer and editor at and Business News Daily. He has 7 years of professional experience with a focus on small businesses and startups. He has covered topics including digital marketing, SEO, business communications, and public policy. He has also written about emerging technologies and their intersection with business, including artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and blockchain.