How do I waste time at the office? Let me count the ways....

With the line between work and the rest of your life becoming blurrier every day, technology seems to make workers both more and less productive at the same time.

Computer tools can make quick work of once-tedious accounting tasks, for example, but they also make it easier to buy a paperback, chat with friends by instant message or balance your personal checkbook while at the office.

Don't most people view their work computer as a home away from home? Apparently so, if you consider the results of a Salary.com survey. The average employee wastes 1.7 hours, or 20 percent, of a typical 8.5-hour work day, according to its "2007 Wasting Time Survey."

Leading time wasters? Personal Internet use ranked at 34.7 percent of respondents, socializing with coworkers at 20.3 percent, and conducting personal business at 17 percent. Of the more than 2,000 employees surveyed during June and July, over 63 percent admitted to wasting time at work, with the youngest employees wasting more time than older ones.

Some workers said their minds drifted to personal matters because they "don't have enough work to do," at 17.7 percent. But others (13.9 percent) said their "hours are too long." So are employees working too hard, or is it that they're not challenged enough?

Many observers have argued that limiting use of technology tools, such as the omnipresent BlackBerry, would actually increase productivity by lengthening time to focus on work projects. You might get more work done if you create a schedule of when you check your e-mail, for example, rather than being roped into it all day every day.

Some people have gone so far as to text or check e-mails while driving, which is at best dangerous. In Washington state, it's illegal, and six other states may pass similar laws. But a revealing Harris Interactive survey, commissioned by mobile messaging service Pinger Inc., showed that 91 percent of Americans believe sending text messages while driving is as dangerous as driving after having a couple of drinks, but 57 percent said they do it anyway, Reuters reported.

What the survey didn't say was whether those text messages are personal or work-related, but if you are at work killing time on the Internet, the Wall Street Journal has a quick tip for you.

If you're buying your summer beach reading supply on Amazon.com and your boss turns the corner, hit Alt-Tab to minimize the website window and maximize your Excel spreadsheet.

 

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