Wasting Time at Work: Surprising Stats on Games We Play

playing game on phone while at work

Adapted from Getty Images

Between filling out TPS reports and hopping on Zoom calls, just about every employee is wasting time at work. It was once the case that you might play a game of Minesweeper on your work computer. Nowadays, time wasting games are much more varied and enticing, leading to many lost hours of productivity. Is wasting time playing games at work really all that bad?

What Games Are We Playing?

It’s unlikely, albeit not entirely unfathomable, that employees are playing top-tier, flagship PC games while at the office. The much more likely scenario is they’re playing casual games, like word jumbles, either on their own smartphones or in a web browser. 

Most Popular Mobile Games

Do you ever sneak in a quick game on your phone while at work? You’re definitely not alone. The most popular mobile games are designed so that they can be enjoyed in short bursts. Get in a couple moves on Words With Friends, pass a level or two in Candy Crush Saga… and then head outside on your lunch break for some Pokemon GO!

Not including news and service apps, the most popular mobile gaming apps in the US are as follows:

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Most Popular Games on Facebook

In addition to following your friends and favorite brands, you may also catch yourself playing games on Facebook too. It’s just so convenient. 

The most popular Facebook games, as reported by Statista, are Texas Holdem Poker, 8 Ball Pool, Candy Crush Saga, Farm Heroes Saga and Coin Master. They’ve got 10 million monthly active users each!

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How Much Time Are We Wasting?

So, it’s probably not a big deal if you play a short game of Wordscapes on your coffee break. It can become a much bigger issue if you’re wasting half of your working hours crushing candies and mastering coins! Of those surveyed by Salary.com, nearly 9 in 10 respondents said that they’re wasting time at work every day! About half are wasting one to two hours each day, while 4 percent are saying they waste four hours or more every day at work! 

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What Are the Biggest Time Wasters?

Chances are that you’re reading these words on your phone. Or, you came across this article while casually browsing the web in a non-work related way. It should come as little surprise, then, that the two biggest time wasters are using a cell phone (50 percent of reponses) and surfing the web (44 percent).

While these statistics from Blue Water Credit don’t single out “gaming” as a time-waster, it’s reasonable to assume that at least some time “using a cell phone” or “surfing the web for personal use” is spent playing a mobile or online game.

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Why Are We Wasting Time at Work?

You’d think that the most common reason why employees waste time at work is because they’re bored. While boredom is up there, at 23 percent of Salary.com survey respondents, it’s not the top reason. 

More people said they weren’t challenged enough (35 percent) or that the hours were too long (34 percent). A lack of incentive (32 percent) and a sense of dissatisfaction (30 percent) were also more common responses than boredom. 

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What About Fantasy Football?

Mobile games, online games and Facebook games can definitely feel like a waste of time when you’re supposed to be working. As it turns out, many employees waste plenty of time playing fantasy football (and other fantasy sports pools) too! 

A study cited by CNBC indicates that 7.5 million workers in America play fantasy football while at work. Employees spending 50 minutes a week on fantasy football, on average. That works out to more than $18.7 billion in lost productivity over the course of an NFL season! 

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At the same time, there are benefits to fantasy sports in the workplace too. “It might cost employers a little bit in lost productivity, but we think it makes up for it in spades in terms of building up the culture in an organization,” said James E. Challenger, founder of executive outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. “It helps transform jobs that have become more and more transactional into communities.”

Benefits of Playing Games at Work

Indeed, “team building” in fantasy football can literally be a team building activity in a corporate environment too. Coworkers form stronger social bonds when they engage in non-work related activities together. 

Playing all kinds of games at work can be a net positive, offering all sorts of benefits. These include stress relief, helping employees restore mood after a stressful period. Games are also great for overcoming cognitive fatigue. Remember that happy employees are more productive employees!

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Letting employees play games at work is also a sign that companies trust their workers to manage their own time and productivity. It’s great for morale, even if they’re just virtual team building events based around online games. 

Top Time Wasting Websites

What if we look beyond playing games? What if we look beyond playing games? Only 20 percent of workers claim they don't visit any non-work related websites while they’re on the clock. Three of the biggest time wasters at work are YouTube, Facebook and email. 

The average YouTube session lasts more than 40 minutes. The average Facebook user spends 38 minutes per day on the site, contributing to the 144 minutes (and rising!) users spend on social media every day. Between work and personal accounts, Americans report spending almost six hours every day going checking and responding to emails! 

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Playing to Win at Work

It’s not a waste of time if you’re learning something or having a good time, right? Managers and supervisors will likely disagree. Even so, the truth is most employees waste at least an hour each day, including playing games at work. And if you’re going to do it, you may as well get hip to the lingo. Check out our guide to popular gaming terms that you’ll actually find in the dictionary.

Michael Kwan is a professional writer and editor with over 14 years of experience. Fueled by caffeine and WiFi, he's no stranger to word games and dad jokes.


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