Why Lost Time Seriously Affects Your Profitability

Employers lose 4.5 hours per employee each week due to time theft. This is where employees are being paid for non-productive hours.

Delays in production, inefficient workflows, distractions and other interruptions in the workplace – even minor ones – can add up to significant lost time throughout the year, costing companies thousands of dollars in the process.

According to Paychex, 16.1% of all time loss happens to administrative staff, 9.3% to support staff, 8.8% to middle management, 8.3% to temporary employees and 7.5% to upper management. The average amount of time wasted per department is 3 or more hours every day.

Assuming you paid a full-time employee $15 per hour, a 3-hour daily loss would cost $11,250 in lost revenue annually per employee.

Even a loss of an hour a day could set you back $3,750 each year. Click To Tweet

The biggest areas of time loss are unproductive meetings, inefficient email practices and general interruptions in the workflow. The good news is that by addressing these areas and looking into the workflow itself, you can regain lost time and improve your overall productivity.

Don’t miss: 5 Tips for Minimizing Daily Workplace Time Loss.


On average, employees spend 31 hours a month in meetings. One study by Atlassian found that half of those surveyed believed that meetings were the number one time-waster at the office. Atlassian also estimated that the salary cost of unnecessary meetings was around $37 billion annually.

In his article for Psychology Today, executive coach Ray Williams noted that meetings often expand to fill the time available, making it difficult to cut down on time-wasting activities. “If you set an hour for the meeting, people will use the hour, regardless of how much is on the agenda,” he wrote.

The biggest issue is that many of the agenda items that are addressed in your typical business meeting can be handled with more time-efficient processes throughout the workday. Information can be given via email and visual workflows can help minimize unnecessary tasks, removing them from the meeting agenda altogether.

Not everyone who attends a meeting needs to be there, either. Understanding the role that each employee plays in the workflow may reduce the number of hours or employees involved in meetings, saving additional payroll costs for the company.

Because meetings are such a considerable area of time loss, it’s important for organizations to improve their workflow processes to reduce unnecessary time spent in meetings throughout the workweek.


In the same survey by Atlassian, inefficient email practices were also noted as a major factor for time loss. They found that an average of 16 minutes each day are spent refocusing on tasks after handling emails.

A survey by Adobe Systems Inc. found that employees spend 6.3 hours every day checking emails, and 87% of those polled, check their work emails outside the office.

According to Michelle Yeager of Career Valet, one the biggest time-wasters when it comes to emails is back-and-forth conversations, where asking questions about or clarifying project details can reduce productive hours otherwise spent working on said projects.

Considering that the average employee receives 147 emails per day and only deletes 71 of them (48%), inbox burden can also contribute to slow downs, especially if time is wasted searching through inboxes for the right email or resending emails that get lost in the fray.

Understanding your organization’s workflow (who should be doing what, when and who needs to be notified) can help minimize unnecessary emails sent and streamline the process, saving countless hours in the day.

Additionally, having a specific email workflow in place to minimize inbox burden can help employees stay on top of their work load and dwindle the amount of time spent curating their email inboxes.


According to a study by UC Irvine, people spend an average of 11 minutes on a project before they’re interrupted, and take 25 minutes to return to a reasonable level of productivity after an interruption has occurred. This loss is estimated to cost around $588 billion per year for U.S. workers.

Some of the biggest interruptions and distractions in the workplace include:

  • Too much work or being understaffed
  • Full inboxes or checking/sending emails
  • Office noises or other ambient distractions
  • Technology updates or crashes
  • Chatty co-workers
  • Time spent in meetings
  • Micromanaging from superiors

Micromanaging in particular – especially when combined with other distractions from the list, like sending emails to check in on workers – can waste hours of both employee and management’s time.

A study from Florida State University found that productivity and performance are at their peak during uninterrupted 90-minute intervals, but finding a hour-and-a-half of dedicated time each day isn’t always easy.

The key to reducing interruptions and “time locking” (setting aside those precious hours of uninterrupted work time every day) is to utilize your workflow to batch-process repetitive tasks. Batching or automating smaller tasks can eliminate the distractions that reduce productivity and help workers focus on larger projects.

Management should also look at any other habits or processes that invite distractions. For examples, frequent mistakes on projects can cause other employees to waste time fixing errors.

Using technology and automated processes in your workflow can curtail these burdens for employees.

Reduce your daily workplace time loss with these 5 tips:

Final Thoughts

Any lost time is lost revenue for your business. Ensuring that processes are in place to minimize losses will improve productivity and boost your bottom line throughout the year.

It’s important to have a streamlined workflow that can abbreviate smaller, time-consuming tasks and generally help the business run smoother.

If you’re not sure that your workflow is ideal, you may need to monitor workplace activities to assess slowdowns and track areas (or people) that are contributing to time loss and eating into revenue.

The ideal workflow will make sure that the right people are notified of upcoming deadlines or tasks in the right way, at the right time during the day, so that no extraneous energy is spent checking emails, attending meetings or otherwise being distracted during billable hours.