How Much Can Employees Cost When They aren’t at Work?


Louise Richardson Copywriter at Mediaworks

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Achieving 100% productivity is the dream for almost all employers. But with the variety of ‘interruptions’ that keep staff from their desks throughout the day, this goal is almost impossible.

Article 5 Minutes
How Much Can Employees Cost When They aren’t at Wo

Essentially, almost nobody can work for their entire shift without stopping — but have you ever wondered what these stoppages cost? Here, we’ve researched how much money we cost when we’re doing nothing — whether it’s because of toilet breaks, lateness or something else! This article for paper cup specialists, Inn Supplies, looks at how much time goes into work distractions and what the cost of these are…

Being late for work

Employer loses: £186 per month.

Employee earns: £23.25 per month.

Everyone is late for work now and then — maybe it’s because of traffic or maybe it’s due to an alarm not going off. Regardless of reason, this lost time costs money — but how much? To find out, we read a study that was carried out in 2012. It suggests that a late employee loses 97 minutes per month on average. Assuming that the employee has an average UK salary of £27,600, they will earn £14.38 per hour, which means that 97 minutes of lateness costs employers £23.25 in lost time, per employee, per month.

But is this a real problem? Are a large number of us late for work? Apparently so. A report by CareerBuilder found that 16% of employees are late on a weekly basis. This means that, in a business with 50 employees, eight employees are late each week. Assuming that this lateness equates to the monthly average of 97 minutes, this could cost a business around £186 each month!

Taking a smoking break

Employer loses: £1,512.50 per month.

Employee earns: £151.25 per month.

Smoking breaks are significant contributors to lost time and reduced productivity. According to a British Heart Foundation study, workers who smoke cost their employer £1,815 over the course of the year. When you consider that 20% of British employees smoke, a company with a workforce of 50 could fork out £18,150 over the course of the year on cigarette breaks.

Answering your mobile

Employer loses: £2,016 per month.

Employee earns: £72 per month.

Many businesses and offices now allow their employees to use their mobiles at work — with some even letting workers keep them visible on their desks. However, does this come at a significant price? A survey by CareerBuilder has found that over half of employees use their mobile phone for personal use in the workplace.

Unfortunately, there is no data to determine how long these non-work related mobile interactions last. But, let’s assume that 15 minutes each day is spent on mobile phones at work — be it calling, texting or using social media. That means that employers are paying £3.60 to each employee every day to use their mobiles. If 55% of 50 employees use their phones for this duration, the cost to the employer is £100.80 each day — or £23,386 in a year.

Heading to the doctor

Employer loses: £179.75 per month.

Employee earns: £14.38 per appointment.

Doctor appointments are often unavoidable and many employers are more than happy to accommodate you taking time to check on your health. But how much do these appointments cost? Generally, in one year, we visit our GP six times, with each appointment lasting ten minutes. 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.

So, what is the cost of a doctor’s appointment and how do we work this out? According to research by, we spend an average of 21 minutes in the doctor’s waiting room. If we assume travelling to and from the surgery will take around 30 minutes in total, this — added to the ten-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.

This means that workers can ‘earn’ £43.14 over the course of the year — on the assumption that three of the six yearly GP appointments will take place during working hours — while employers could lose £2,157 per year on doctor’s appointments alone (for a workforce of 50).

Taking a toilet break

Employer loses: £2,880 per month.

Employee earns: £57.60 per month.

Of course, you don’t have money taken off you for visiting the toilet during your shift — but how does this work out money-wise? On average, we 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!

What does this mean from an employer’s perspective? If we imagine that a company has a workforce of 50, the total cost lost through toilet breaks each day is £144 — money that is literally going down the toilet! 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.

What’s the total?

Looking at the figures above, it’s clear that employers are losing out financially when it comes to these work disruptions. 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. The total cost is a staggering £79,333 per year for employers with 50 staff members, which is a large amount for what we consider to be small interruptions to our working day.

Louise Richardson

Louise Richardson has been a copywriter at digital marketing agency, Mediaworks, since September 2017. After graduating with a degree in Media Production from University of Sunderland, Louise completed a post-graduate course in Magazine Journalism at PMA Media Training in London before becoming a freelance writer, where she wrote articles for multiple industries. Prior to her position at Mediaworks, Louise was a content writer at travel agency, Hays Travel, and digital marketing company, Visualsoft.


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