First Business

December 02, 2011

Management: productivity's four sworn enemies

The biggest time-wasters in the workplace have nothing to do with online shopping.

Businesses earlier this week lost about $1 billion worth of productivity, by some estimates, as employees spent Cyber Monday using their workplace computers to do their holiday gift-buying instead of their jobsthe latest sign of the way that "e-commerce is creating a new and distinct boom,†as Peter Drucker once put it.

In all, Cyber Monday saw $1.25 billion in spending over the Internet, up 22 percent from a year ago, marking the heaviest online shopping day in history, according to comScore, a provider of digital business analytics. People purchasing electronics, shoes, books, and all manner of other items from behind their desks accounted for more than half that total revenue.

Not everyone is happy about the trend. "Spending excessive time on nonbusiness activities while at work raises a red flag for employers,†warns John Reed, executive director of IT-staffing supplier Robert Half Technology, which found that 60 percent of the chief information officers it surveyed say their companies now block access to online shopping sites.

No boss, after all, likes to see a bunch of employees goofing off. Yet Drucker, I suspect, would have found all the focus on these Cyber Monday shenanigans a bit silly. Rather, the real cause for concern among managers should be those time-wasters that dog their enterprises every day of the week, all year long.

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