Personal Time During the Workday

Since many people work nights and weekends while at home, companies should expect and accept that those same workers might do at least some nonwork-related activities while at the office.

Not that it should get out of hand, but a bit of personal time during the workday can be healthy for the person, and for the business.

The majority of executives and managers already think that in the course of a typical workday their subordinates spend up to 10 percent of their time on nonwork-related activities, such as Web surfing and socializing, with 43 percent spending more than that. “Most employees work at least eight hours doing what they get paid to do, and intersperse personal matters when they have time,” said one respondent in the global survey by NFI Research.

Those few who work only eight hours in a day probably have time for personal matters during personal time. It is the majority that falls outside that group. “When the average workday extends to nine and 10 hours a day, personal issues do creep into regular work hours,” said another respondent.

“If you net the amount of time spent on business outside the workplace with the personal time spent during the work day, most people would be at way less than zero on this scale,” said another.

The reality is that the demarcation between work and personal life is not as clean as it once was. With total, all-the-time connectivity and constant communication (even on vacation), there can be overlap between where work and where personal life occur. “The time at work doing personal work issue has completely blurred, since more and more employees do work stuff from their home, on the road, on cell phones,” said one manager. “It is now more an issue of total productivity.”

Another way to balance work and non-work related activities can be based on busy and non-busy seasons. “The amount varies in relation to the amount of work available,” said one respondent. “During our slow summer months, a lot more latitude if given.”

“Our work is very seasonal so my staff will spend very little time on personal matters during our busy time,” one executive said. “However, during our slower time they might spend as much as half of their time on personal matters.” Said another: “I spend probably 15 percent of a day on my own activities. But I also do some work on Saturday and Sunday. I have tried reducing the non-productive time in order to avoid weekend work, but it just doesn’t work for me. I’m more successful working every day and dealing with personal matters part of every day.”

Tradeoffs are important to achieving balance. “Unfettered access to the Internet costs companies millions of dollars per year in lost productivity, not to mention increased exposure to viruses, hackers and outside attacks,” said one manager. “That being said, I do feel that socializing is an important part of the work environment. It facilitates information and idea exchange that might otherwise not occur and gives employees a healthy opportunity to blow off some steam.”

Heads-down work for too many straight hours is neither healthy nor practical.

Chuck Martin is a best-selling business author whose latest book, SMARTS (Are We Hardwired for Success?) (AMACOM/American Management Association), was recently published. He lectures around the world and can be reached at