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The Xoomworks study of 1,000 UK adults found:

  • Allowing employees to ‘slack off’ during office hours has a positive impact. UK companies spend £108 billion paying employees for non-work activities, but the net benefit is equal to £120 billion in improved productivity.

  • Most non-work activities are conducted online

  • 1 in 10 employees say using social media at work improves their productivity

  • Checking private email is the most common non-work activity

Non-work activities to which UK employees dedicate more than 30 minutes per day



The financial implications for employers is significant. In one year, UK employers will spend an average of £108 billion in salary and wages on the aforementioned activities, according to the ONS.

However, research conducted at the University of Melbourne, Australia, found that workers engaging in social media use (less than 20% of their working day) were 9% more productive than their social media-abstaining colleagues.

UK companies are therefore receiving, on average, 9% more hours work as a result of allowing approximately 30 minutes of discretionary time.

When the average UK wage of £15.62/hr is factored in, this represents a 150% return on investment on the £108 billion spent paying staff for non-work activities.

The net benefit to the UK is approximately £120 billion.

Financial benefit by activity

Social media use: £13.4billion is spent, 9% increase in productivity gives the employer an effective £15.4billion in increased value, a 115% return on investment.

Extrapolating these findings to the other personal activities:

  • Cost of allowing personal admin: £11.8 billion

  • Value created through allowing personal admin: £13.6 billion

  • Cost of allowing personal email use: £19.2 billion

  • Value created through allowing personal admin: £22 billion

  • Cost of allowing unscheduled breaks: £4.9 billion

  • Value created through allowing personal breaks: £5.7 billion

  • Cost of allowing personal chats with colleagues: £11.1 billion

  • Value created through allowing personal chats with colleagues: £12.8 billion
  • Cost of allowing online shopping: £6.4 billion

  • Value created through allowing personal admin: £7.4 billion

Nicolas Henry, Director of Business Intelligence at Xoomworks, says:

“The survey results reveal that in the UK, we see a substantial sum of money being spent on non-work activities. Analysed in a vacuum, this could be alarming, but allowing for the increase in productivity that comes with workplace contentment, a great deal more value is created than money spent in salary. Tracking, analyzing and ultimately understanding the activities that are value added vs. those that are not is the key to increasing both the workplace productivity and its culture.

“The younger age groups surveyed display an increased tendency to engage in non-work activities throughout the work day. This trend suggests that work-life balance is of ever increasing importance to the changing workforce. Data not only helps us recognize the trend in changing demands of workers, but allows us to act upon them to the benefit of productivity and company culture.”

How age influences productivity habits

People in five age categories answered the same question: “Thinking about your workload, which of the following activities do you spend more than half an hour doing per day”

The 5 age demographics were: 18-24, 25-34, 35-44, 45-54, and 55+ years of age.

The greatest disparity in responses occurred between the 18-24 and 45-54 years of age categories, spanning the age range of pre-retirement respondents.

Percentage of respondents spending more than half an hour per day for each non-work activity; disparity is shown between age groups 18-24 and 45-54


Age trends in social media use social media at work

Of employed individuals not required to use social media in the job, but who do have access:

  • 18-24 year olds are twice as likely as 45-54 year olds to chose to use social media at work, if it is available.

  • 18-24 year olds are 25% more likely than 45-54 year olds to use social media as a break, believing it enhances their productivity.

  • facebook in the office14.8% of 18-24 year olds believe that social media has no impact on their productivity, whereas over a quarter (25.8%) of 45-54 year olds respond the same way.

  • Over a third (38.3%) of 18-24 year olds admit that their use of social media at work reduces their productivity, contrasted with 5.8% of 45-54 year olds who agree with the reduced productivity outcome.


Inphographs courtesy of Xoomworks