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You get what you pay for

Updated: Nov 11, 2018

Kurt Vonnegut coined this idea, but he was clearly not thinking about office productivity at the time.



A recent study of nearly 2,000 office workers found that, on average, they spent fewer than three hours on productive tasks during each working day. The top ten distractions were reported as:

  • Checking social media – 44 minutes (spent doing this during working day)

  • Reading news websites – 1 hour 5 minutes

  • Discussing non-work-related activities with colleagues – 40 minutes

  • Making hot drinks – 17 minutes

  • Smoking breaks – 23 minutes

  • Text/instant messaging – 14 minutes

  • Eating snacks – 8 minutes

  • Making food in office– 7 minutes

  • Making calls to partner/ friends – 18 minutes

  • Searching for new jobs- 26 minutes

Labour force statistics for 2017 reported an average annual wage of $50,000 so, if you take the study findings into account, the real value of that wage expense (at cost) was only 3/8ths of that, or $18,750. Thus, a full-time office worker delivering three productive hours each day is effectively being paid $74 per productive hour.


As a manager, it’s worth keeping this in mind when it comes to outsourcing projects; a contractor’s quote for a project may appear to translate to a higher hourly rate than it would cost to have it done in-house. Still, when you consider what your effective internal hourly rate may be (above) and add in staff-related operating costs such as real estate, employee benefits, vacations, sick days and myriad others, outsourcing starts to look quite attractive.







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