There’s something that nearly every manager worries about and no employee can honestly deny doing at least a little bit: not working at work.
According to the American Time Use Survey, U.S. workers spend nearly 9 hours at work each weekday, but even by their own admission, not all that time is spent working. One recent study reported that the average time spent on personal things at the office is anywhere between one-and-a-half to three hours a day. In a survey, employees said that the biggest time-wasters at work were browsing the Internet and socializing with colleagues (and of course, attending meetings).
Different companies and industries probably see a lot of variance in employees’ loafing, but there’s an interesting question to be asked more generally: Is the amount of time spent on non-work activities at the office affected by the health of the overall economy?
Theoretically, when the economy is doing badly, employees would work harder in order to hold onto their jobs. Following that logic, workers are more relaxed when the economy is healthy because there are more jobs out there and employers have to fight to hold onto talented workers. “That is classic economics, goes back to Marx,” explains Dan Hamermesh, the co-author of a new National Bureau of Economic Research working paper on whether effort at work responds to changes in the economy.