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Is technology making workers less productive?

Mobile technologies are often touted as a way for businesses to soup up their productivity, untethering workers from the confines of the office. But a survey of nearly 2,200 hiring and human resources managers across the U.S. underscores how tech can also interfere with getting things done, exposing workers to a ceaseless barrage of digital interruptions.

The poll, conducted on behalf of job research firm CareerBuilder, cited what employers consider some of the biggest workplace productivity-killers. Not surprisingly, cell phones and texting were mentioned by over half of those surveyed, followed by the Internet (44 percent), social media (36 percent) and emails (31 percent).

By contrast, respondents also note the potential for disruption from more traditional distractions, such as co-workers dropping by, office meetings, and smoking or snack breaks.

Digital technology in the workplace 02:23

Some of this may sound petty, the grumbling of managerial martinets obsessed with corporate efficiency. But CareerBuilder says there are measurable negative consequences to having distracted employees. Those include lower-quality work, lost revenue, missed deadlines, deteriorating management-employee relations and lower morale when other workers have to pick up the slack.

"Between the Internet, cell phones and co-workers, there are so many stimulants in today's workplace, it's easy to see how employees get sidetracked," Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer CareerBuilder, said in a statement.

"The good news is, taking breaks from work throughout the day can actually be good for productivity," she continued, "enabling the mind to take a break from the job at hand and re-energize you. The trick is finding the right (work-appropriate) activities that promote -- rather than deplete -- energy."

The survey respondents also listed some of the more unusual, and certainly not work-appropriate, ways they've discovered workers using their office time. Among some of the more memorable things employers said they found employees doing while at work were:

  • Taking a sponge bath in a bathroom sink
  • Attempting to hypnotize other employees to break their smoking habits
  • Looking for a mail order bride
  • Sleeping on the CEO's couch
  • Making model airplanes and flying drones around the office space
  • Printing pictures of animals, naming them after employees and hanging them in the work area
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