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How Much We Earn at Work for Doing Nothing

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You may think you work 40 hours per week, but in reality it’s actually a lot less than that, when you take off the time you spend stuck in traffic, on the loo or at the doctors. So how much of your yearly salary do you earn without lifting a finger? Inn Supplies, a retailer of soup containers, examines:

Arriving late

From sleeping in to getting caught in traffic, we all arrive at work late from time to time. In 2012, research found that just one late employee loses 97 minutes per month on average. Assuming an average UK salary of £27,600, employees on this pay scale earn £14.38 per hour. With this in mind, 97 minutes of lateness costs employers £23.25 in lost time per employee each month.

CareerBuilder research has found that 16% of employees are late every week. This means that in a business with 50 employees, eight employees are late each week. Assuming this lateness equates to the monthly average of 97 minutes, this could cost a business around £186 each month just on employee lateness.


You earn: £23.25 per month.

Your employer loses: £186 per month.

Going to the toilet

Every time you visit the loo at work, you’re getting paid! On average, we’ll go to the toilet six or seven times a day. Basing our calculations on the average employee visiting the loo three times at work, with each lasting four minutes, you’ll earn 96p each time you go to the toilet.


An employer with a 50-strong workforce will face a loss of £144 per day through toilet trips. Excluding holidays, there are 232 working days in the average year. Over this time, a company of this size can expect to spend £33,408 on toilet breaks alone.

You earn: £57.60 per month.

Your employer loses: £2,880 per month.


For smokers, cigarette breaks are a staple of the working day. A study found that employees who smoke cost their employer £1,815 over the course of the year.

Man smoking a cigarette

One in five British workers smoke. In a 50-strong workforce, this means employers can spend £18,150 on cigarette breaks over the course of a year.

You earn: £151.25 per month.

Your employer loses: £1,512.50 per month.

Visits to the doctors

We’ll take six trips to the doctors each year, with every appointment taking 10 minutes on average. Of course, the actual time we’re away from our desk is much longer than this, considering time spent travelling to the surgery and in the waiting room itself.

Vitals.com states that we spend 21 minutes per trip in the waiting room. If we assume travelling to and from the surgery will take around 30 minutes in total, this —added to the 10 minute consultation time — means we’re away from our desks for around an hour each time we visit the doctors, costing employers the hourly rate of £14.38.


Assuming three of these appointments take place during the working week, we would earn £43.14 over the course of the year just for visiting the doctor. For a workforce of 50, employers could lose £2,157 per year on doctor’s appointments alone.

You earn: £14.38 per appointment.

Your employer loses: £179.75 per month.

Getting distracted

*Day-to-day, we face a number of distractions as we try to work, with the main culprit being our mobile phones.

According to research by CareerBuilder, 55% of employees use their mobile phone for personal use in the workplace. Of course, it’s unknown just how much time is wasted on mobile phones. However, if we assume that 15 minutes each day is spent on mobile phones at work — be it calling, texting or using social media — employers are paying out £3.60 to each employee each day on mobile phone use.


In the 50-employee example, this means employers are faced with a £100.80 cost per day, or £23,386 over the course of a year.

You earn: £72 per month.

Your employer loses: £2,016 per month.


So how much of our yearly salaries are we earning for doing absolutely nothing? In total, non-smoking employees earn £1,877.34 from lateness, toilet breaks, doctors’ appointments and distractions over the course of a year. For smokers, this figure is even higher at £3,692, once the associated costs of cigarette breaks are factored in.For employers with 50 staff members, the total cost is a staggering £79,333 per year, giving new meaning to the phrase time is money.

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