As per a study in the UK, an average employee is productive for less than 3 hours in an 8 hour working day. That’s impossible, right? Well, that is what it seems like at first. But do you know how many hours in a day do you spend working? Out of those hours that you work, how many are productive?
If you do not have an answer to these questions it is no surprise because measuring hours worked and productivity is no easy job. A normal day has factors such as meetings, socializing, distractions, and smartphones. Therefore, a working day of 8 hours involves far fewer actual hours of work.
On the other hand, if you do have a rough estimate, be prepared to realize that your estimate is way off the mark. If you are like most people, chances are you have overestimated your productivity.
Does that seem shocking? Well, you are not the only one. Most people are taken aback when they realize the amount of time they waste in a day.
- The history behind 8 hour work days
- Why are people not aware of the time wasted in a day?
- Calculating your time spent working
- As per the math, you waste 5 hours and only spend 3 hours on a working day on real work!
The history behind 8 hour work days
In the 18th century, a day would consist of 12-16 working hours. It was the era of growth where many factories required manpower for labor. Most of these factories were running 24*7.
Early in the 18th century, Robert Owen advocated for shorter work days. His motto was “Eight hours labor, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest.” It took more than 100 years for his dream to come true. In 1914, Ford reduced the working hours from 16 to 8 while also doubling the wages.
The trend has carried on to this day. So, do not forget to thank Ford for having shorter work hours.
Why are people not aware of the time wasted in a day?
The work hours have reduced and so have the working days in a week. We work 5 days a week and repeat the same pattern of work. Yet, why aren’t we able to estimate our productive hours mentally? This is because your working hours will include many activities other than actual work.
You will have a meeting that you are pulled into, texts and emails to attend, people to talk to and notifications from the smartphone to look at. These consume a few minutes each. These little chunks seem negligible which is why people ignore them as small. In reality, these chunks total up to a large figure by the end of the day.
Here are the examples of the little chunks of wasted time
- Checking social media by browsing Instagram or Facebook feed
- Watching Youtube videos
- Reading News articles
- Lunch Time
- Discussing random topics with colleagues
- Texting on your phone
- Calling your friends/partner
- Smoking/coffee breaks
Are some or all these also a part of your daily routine? The answer is most likely a yes, isn’t it? Have you tried totaling the time consumed by all these activities? Don’t worry if you haven’t. We will do that in this article. At the end of this article, you will realize if you are among the chronic time wasters or those who do it within reasonable limits.
In the study, employees were asked to choose the activities they spend time on while at work. Choosing multiple options were allowed. Look at the results below.
A whopping 47% of the people mentioned that they used social media at work. Reading news and discussing random topics with colleagues followed next as the most commonly done things.
Now, not all of these can be avoided because some of these activities are necessary. You cannot work without lunch(at least on a daily basis) nor should you stay away from talking to your coworkers. The message here is that all these consume time from your 8 hour day. In turn, this reduces your hours worked. This reduction varies from person to person. Some people are fantastic at keeping it at bare minimal while some indulge in distractions for a long time.
Calculating your time spent working
Let’s try to understand employee productivity vs hours worked by getting into calculations. To know where you stand, pull out a sheet of paper or use your phone/computer.
You can write down the values by referring to the rough approximates for each activity. These values might vary for you. So write down what you think is the time you spend on each of these activities.
Settling Down – 15 min:
We all need time to settle down once we enter, don’t we? We need to put our bags down, say hi to people around, turn on the computer or pull some files. In total, I estimate 15 min for settling down. I have noticed people settling down far faster and much slower too. 15 min seemed like the right middle ground.
Smoking/coffee breaks: 40 min
How can anyone work without coffee? A break each in the morning and in the evening is among the regular routine of most. Smokers tend to have more than just 2 breaks. However, for simplicity, let us consider each break to consume 20 min making it 40 min in total for the day.
Lunch Break: 40 min
At work, this is again divided into 2 parts. We need 10 min to gather people followed by at least 30 more minutes on actual eating.
Social Media: 1 hour
We are social animals, we need to be connected to the world. We need to know what our Facebook friend whom we don’t care about is up to and what did our friend in another city has for lunch. Before I forget, it is crucial to read news about what is happening world around the world. We must keep ourselves updated about whom Brad Pitt is currently dating or that forest fire in Europe.
Overall, a modest estimate of 1 hour in total is consumed for Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, news websites and random internet browsing.
Distractions: 30 min
No workplace is the monastery of the Tibetian monks. You will be distracted sooner or later, multiple times. A coworker will wave saying hi, a group of colleagues will laugh loudly at a stupid joke, the gossip-loving lady will bring up a topic or the cute new hire will pass by. If none of these happen, you will receive calls with the latest offers on a credit card or for a pre-approved loan.
15 such instances in a day are a low estimate. Assuming 2 mins for each instance, this totals to 30 min.
Me time: 30 Min
We need some ‘me’ time because ‘All work(really?!) and no rest makes Jack a dull boy’. 30 min of doing nothing at all. We all have that.
Attention residue: 15 min
Every time we shift our focus, we cannot immediately switch back to work.
When you focus back on work, the thought of previous tasks will linger around for a bit, called attention residue. This leads to loss of concentration until you resume where you stopped. For example, if you reply to a text while working, and then get back to work, the text is lingering on for about 30 seconds or more before you resume your attention back to the task.
Let us consider a fair estimate of checking your phone 15 times while at work. Adding 15 min of distraction, a total of 15 minutes is consumed on attention residue.
Saying Bye: 10 min
Again, we are social animals, remember? 10 mins of getting ready to leave by saying bye to all your colleagues who don’t care.
Congratulations, we have arrived at a grand total of 4 hours per day.
Wait, we are not done yet. The numbers above were only for Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursdays. Mondays and Fridays are not the same, are they? So let us calculate the time wasted for a week and average it out.
We all know the Monday blues. Rarely anything happens for the first 2 hours on Monday morning. Oh yes, something does happen, which is asking colleagues what they did over the weekend.
And of course, we know our Fridays. We have to prepare for the weekend because we had a tiring week(really?!). No work happens post afternoon on a Friday. Deducting another 3 hours from the week.
Congratulations, you have spent 25 hours a week not working. If you have not realized it yet, yes those are 25 out of the 40 hours or 5 hours in the day. Next time someone asks you what is the average worker productivity, you know a rough approximate. If anyone blatantly disagrees show him the productivity statistics with the math involved.
As per the math, you waste 5 hours and only spend 3 hours on a working day on real work!
Next time you complain that your company promised a salary of X and then deducts tax, benefits leading to lesser take home, do remember that you are not working the promised 8 hours either. The average percentage of productive hours in a workday in organizations are way lesser than you imagine.
How much did your total of time wasted come up to? Leave a comment. Don’t be shy.
If your daily routine is like most people, you must be shocked by now. If you average time spent on the above activities summed up to less than 5 hours, pat yourself on the back. That is no easy feat.
Maxim Dsouza has spent over a decade experimenting and finding various time management techniques to improve his productivity. He strongly understands the fact that time is a limited commodity and tries to make every second count. He has extensive experience in leadership in startups, small businesses, and large corporations.
He has helped people of different professions and age groups gain clarity on their goals, improve focus, revise their time management skills and develop an awareness of their psychological cognitive biases.