How to raise workplace productivity in China

Time spent on personal activities and unproductive tasks

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What were the biggest time killers in the workplace? The causes of wasted time are surprisingly similar across industries and ownership groups. 

Types of personal activities at work

Of the time that workers spend on personal activities, browsing the internet proved to be the most popular, soaking up more than a third of the time employees spend on personal activities. Social media was the second biggest time killer, taking up 23% of time, followed by socializing with co-workers (16%), making personal phone calls (6%), and even leaving work to run personal errands (4%).

Types of personal activities at work

EY - Types of personal activities at work

The most disengaged employees

The most disengaged employees appear to be young, highly educated, male staff.

The amount of time spent on personal activities increases as the level of education attained rises and the age of employee’s decreases.

Employees with a postgraduate education, for instance, spend half an hour more each day on their personal matters compared to those with just a high school diploma. Young people, more highly educated than their forebears and facing what some have called the toughest job market in memory, appear to be finding themselves alienated in their workplace. Men tend to spend more time on personal activities than women, as did employees with longer tenures in their organizations.

Time wasted on unproductive tasks

Time wasted on unproductive tasks is another drag on productivity.

Waiting for other people accounts for 17% of hours employees said that they waste each day on average. Almost on par is time wasted in meetings (15%), followed by time spent delivering work that is not used (12%), and travel between work sites (12%). Many of these factors will be readily familiar to office workers around the world.

Private domestic enterprises, with a reputation for being quick and nimble, waste the least time on unproductive tasks, whilst state-owned enterprises waste the most.

Looking at our three cities, Hong Kong workers appear to be the most efficient, while Shanghai workers were the least. The differences, however, are not significant.