Your phone is killing your work productivity

It's amazing that American workers actually get as much done as they do. If you listen to the complaints of bosses -- and the confessions of their employees -- it sounds like the U.S. workforce is made up of a bunch of slackers texting and gossiping like bored teenagers.

Jobs site CareerBuilder polled hiring professionals and workers across a number of industries earlier this year to find out the biggest productivity killers in the office. Not surprisingly, most of the complaints centered around that electronic time suck in your pocket or purse.

In fact, half of employers said that cell phone use, including texting, was the main drag on productivity in the workplace. Many workers seemed to lend some credibility to this notion, with a full 24 percent admitting that they'll spend at least an hour a day on personal calls, emails and text messages.

Here's what the bosses said were the main roadblocks to productivity, according to the survey:

  • Phone use and texting: 50 percent
  • Gossip: 42 percent
  • Surfing the Internet: 39 percent
  • Social media: 38 percent
  • Snack or smoke breaks: 27 percent
  • Meetings: 23 percent
  • Email: 23 percent
  • Co-workers dropping by: 23 percent
  • Co-workers putting calls on speaker phone: 10 percent

Does the list amount to the usual grumbling by managers? If you look at the big picture, Americans actually work a lot more than those in many other countries, and they continue to work even as their wages have slumped.

Between 2007 and 2012, wages for the lowest-paid 70 percent of the workforce fell, but productivity grew by 7.7 percent, according to a report from the Economic Policy Institute.

Many Americans also would rather work than go on vacation. Fewer than half of Americans were confident that they would take a vacation in 2013, according to an Ipsos Public Affairs poll. And 44 percent of respondents said they hadn't taken a vacation in more than two years.

The average American employee works around 1,700 hours a year, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. That's much higher than in France, where a worker notches up an average of 1,475 hours, or Germans, at 1,406 hours.


Americans aren't the hardest workers in the world, however. Hong Kong blows away nearly everyone else, with 2,345 hours worked, and Korea, Singapore and Taiwan aren't far behind.

So Americans put in long hours, and some of them get a little creative with their time. CareerBuilder also asked employers for specific examples of what they have caught their employees doing on the clock, and some answers were quite amusing.

Here's what the employees were caught doing:

  • Looking at dating sites and then denying it, even while the site was still on the computer screen
  • Smuggling a pet bird into work and caring for it
  • Shaving legs in the women's restroom
  • Having a wrestling match
  • Sleeping, and then claiming it was praying
  • Changing clothes in a cubicle
  • Printing off a book from the Internet
  • Warming their bare feet under the bathroom hand dryer
  • Kim Peterson

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