PhotoHow many times have you heard people say, “I just couldn't get anything accomplished at work today?”

Goofing off at work may be why.

A new survey of chief financial officers (CFOs) from Robert Half Management Resources find that water cooler chatter and Web surfing are the top time thieves at work. Nearly one-third (29%) of executives interviewed said chatting with coworkers is the greatest time-waster. Non-business related Internet use -- including social media -- ranked a not-too-distant second, garnering 25% cent of the response.

"Building relationships with coworkers and colleagues is important for office morale, so socializing is acceptable within reason," said David King, Canadian president of Robert Half Management Resources "That said, too many distractions at work can affect productivity so it's best to keep a balance between non-work tasks during business hours and professional obligations."

Death by meeting

One in 10 financial executives polled said meetings drain significant time, with the data suggesting this is most pronounced at larger companies. At companies with 1,000 or more employees, meetings received 26% of the response, versus just 9% at firms with 20 to 49 workers.

CFOs were asked, "Which one of the following is the greatest time-waster at work for employees?" Their responses:

Employees chatting and socializing29%
Non-business related Internet use (including social media)25%
Personal calls or emails15%
Work-related email14%
Meetings 10%
Other/don't know7%

King said that if there's a noticeable amount of time spent on non-work tasks, executives should try to find out why. “It could be a matter of too much or too little on employees' plates, or a dip in staff engagement,” he said, adding that bosses need to “monitor the distribution of projects to ensure the right amount of challenge and engagement across the board."

The Canadian survey was developed by Robert Half Management Resources, and was conducted by an independent research firm based on interviews with more than 270 CFOs from a random sample of Canadian companies.

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