Survey Says: Employees Spend Half Their Days Doing Nothing

Responding to e-mails and setting up meetings is killing office productivity, according to new research.

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Enter sandman: Employees spend half their days on e-mail and other mundane tasks, according to a new survey.Does it often seem like you spend your whole day working, but get nothing done? Well, you're not imagining it. A new survey confirms it -- you really are accomplishing nothing. (That uncomfortable office chair doesn't help matters, either.) Here's a closer look at some of the latest small-business surveys.

Busy Doing Nothing

Employees at small and midsize businesses spend 50 percent of their day on "necessary, yet unproductive" tasks like filing, communications and dealing with correspondence, according to a survey by Webtorials for business communications company Fonality.

The study of "knowledge workers" -- the largest staff component for most SMBs (or the business owners themselves) -- found that 36 percent spend their time trying to contact customers, partners or colleagues, find information or schedule a meeting. They spend 14 percent of their time duplicating information (forwarding e-mails or calling to confirm if a communication was received) and managing unwanted communications such as spam e-mails or unsolicited phone calls.

I can so relate to this survey. There are too many days I feel like 99 percent of my time is spent on this stuff, so it's nice to know I'm not alone.

Discomfort Factor

Are your employees grumpy? Maybe they just need better chairs. One-third of U.S. workers say they would be more pleasant to work with if they had better ergonomic furniture, according to a survey from Staples Advantage, the business-to-business division of Staples.

Eighty-six percent of workers say they suffer discomfort from their current furniture and equipment, which is no surprise, since a whopping 77 percent of companies don't consider ergonomics when purchasing furniture. But small changes can make big differences: With more comfortable furniture, nearly half of workers say they'd be more productive, and 35 percent say they'd be less stressed.

Sounds like buying your staff new chairs would be a small price to pay for increased productivity.

Maybe They Have Better Chairs?

Despite having a critical view of the economy (rating it 47 on a scale of 1 to 100), U.S. CFOs are showing signs of optimism when it comes to their own companies. Almost half of corporate CFOs (47 percent) say their companies plan to hire in 2011, up from 28 percent last year, according to the CFO Outlook survey by Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

Forty-four percent plan to hire permanent employees, while 13 percent plan to add contract workers. Some say they plan to hire both. With trends in the past few years favoring contract workers, I'm a bit surprised by the strong showing for permanent employees -- but I'm happy to see it. More people working floats all businesses' boats.

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow Rieva at and visit to sign up for her free TrendCast reports.

Tags: Business Trends, hiring, HR, human resources, office chairs, office furniture, productivity, Rieva Lesonsky, Survey Says

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