Slacking Off at Work? It’s No Small Problem

Man playing pretend guitar at work

While there’s nothing inherently wrong with enjoying ridiculous cat videos, there’s a time and place to view them. Slacking off at work doesn’t just hurt your productivity; it can also damage your credibility and career prospects.

Before clicking on that next video link, remember that we’re all working in an increasingly ROI-centric world. Now more than ever, organizations of all sizes are focused on boosting employee efficiency and effectiveness. 

While most people don’t purposely bungle their priorities, those who frequently mismanage time should be aware that their actions — or lack thereof — could cost them choice assignments, promotions or even their jobs. Following are four common productivity killers and tips to overcome them:

'Cyber' slacking off at work

The problem: The “harmless” 10 minutes you spend here and there surfing the web adds up over the course of an eight-hour day. Moreover, many companies are getting stricter when it comes to their web-usage policies. Leaving an electronic trail of your online reading, viewing and shopping habits could come back to haunt you. Remember that “your” office computer and Internet connection actually belong to your employer. What you do online is, in fact, the company’s business. Sneaking peeks at your smartphone throughout the day doesn’t look good either.

The solution: Whether you’re a Facebook junkie, celebrity news enthusiast or dog meme aficionado, break yourself of the habit of scanning the Internet when working on projects. While taking the occasional mental break to surf the Internet is part of modern-day work life, save the majority of your digital media consumption for home. You’ll protect your reputation, stay focused and get better-quality work accomplished.

Post-lunch lethargy

The problem: You frequently feel tired and your output dips in the afternoon. Make no mistake, your post-lunch sluggishness and heavy eyelids don’t go unnoticed. In an Accountemps survey, 37 percent of managers surveyed said 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. is the least productive time of day for employees. Coming in second was 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., as cited by 28 percent of bosses.

The solution: Eat for energy. While high-carb dishes and sugary snacks may give you a brief, temporary boost, your blood-sugar level will eventually crash. And so will you. Healthy, wholesome lunches consisting of lean meats, fish, fruits and vegetables combat the dreaded mid-day slump and aid attentiveness.

Getting personal

The problem: Successfully balancing personal and professional commitments can be a tremendous struggle. But consistently allowing non-work-related obligations, tasks and errands to interfere with your job can cause others to question your commitment and level of engagement.

The solution: Accept that you can’t squeeze in as much as you think. If you tend to take extra-long lunch hours or breaks to run errands or you often disappear from your desk to make personal calls, recognize that you’re on a slippery slope. If you have extenuating circumstances, such as challenging issues involving childcare or an aging parent, don’t suffer in silence. Discuss the situation with your manager. You may be able to work out telecommuting arrangements or a more flexible schedule to help you achieve better work-life balance.

Distraction attraction

The problem: When you’re at work, you’re expected to, um, work, right? If you make the water cooler your second home or constantly allow yourself to get drawn into conversations with chatty coworkers in the break room, you’re productivity is likely suffering. And even if it’s not, you could still be labeled a slacker. As the saying goes, perception is reality. 

The solution: Yes, it’s beneficial to your career and overall well-being to have good relationships with your colleagues. But don’t let your job duties take a backseat to socializing. Complete your work first; then take some time to chitchat. Your friend in accounts payable will likely be around later; you’re deadline will not.

Read more about making healthy choices

15 Tips for Boosting Your Productivity