According to a new survey of 10,000 workers by America Online and Salary.com the average worker in the Software and Internet sectors admits to wasting 2.2 hours per work day. Human resource managers admitted to an assumed loss of 0.94 hours per work day and a suspected loss of 1.6 hours per workday. The top reasons employees provided were not having enough work to do (33.2%), feeling they were underpaid for the amount of work they perform (23.4%), distractions from co-workers (14.7%), and not enough personal time after-work (12%).
I think the top two cited work hinderances are actually related: not having enough work to do and feeling the work they do is undervalued. That means that there is a big opportunity to increase downtime with a well-communicated incentive and advancement program and the ability to be an agile business rewarding employees for being self-starters.
Google and Yahoo! are often cited as companies enabling their employees to work on cool new projects a few hours a week. Google refers to its program as “20% time” while Yahoo! calls it “Friday fun” and I will simply refer to it as time set aside for side projects. Assuming a 50 hour work week each program enables 10 hours a week of acceptable employee sidetracking. Any employee working on something other than his or her immediate job duties might be seen as researching a side project, or taking away from their own personal project through this extraneous work. I believe the creation of such acceptable side projects empowers the individual employee to take more personal responsibility for his or her time on the job.
The San Francisco Bay Area is a bit different than most places, but many people I know are involved in side projects outside of the workplace.