What we do at work while not working

Lazy worker at desk
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Employers aren't really sure what you're doing at work, but they're pretty sure you're not working enough.

Ask some companies why we're so unproductive, and they'll probably have a survey to identify the problem—and a product to fix it. For a company that makes sound management equipment, too much noise is to blame. If you ask an information management company, we all suffer from crippling information overload. According to an ethics training company, we're distracted by frequent ethical lapses.

Jobs site CareerBuilder added its own worker productivity survey to the stack on Thursday morning. The survey asked about 2,200 hiring managers and human resources managers what they thought were the "biggest productivity killers in the workplace."

Managers also shared the most memorable things they found an employee doing instead of working. Among them: shopping for a mail-order bride, drinking vodka and watching Netflix, sabotaging another employee's car tires and sending "inappropriate pictures" to other employees.

It may sound like a good time, but managers blamed such unproductive behavior for lower work quality, low morale and revenue losses. Nearly three in four employers had put into place new policies to curb productivity killers, including blocking certain websites and banning personal cell phone use.

Of course, there isn't any reason to assume that managers actually know how their employees waste their time. Questions asked of both employees and employers don't always match up.

Salary.com released a similar survey last year that asked employees how they wasted their time, and what they thought was the biggest single time-waster during their workdays. Some of the results, like Internet browsing, line up with what managers said, but others, like "dealing with annoying bosses," didn't show up in the managers' reports. Employees don't seem to think they spent quite as much time gossiping or texting as their managers seem to imagine (and managers likely didn't view their interactions with employees as time wasters).

Why do so many people waste time? In Salary.com's survey, about half of employees said they allowed themselves to waste time periodically because they thought short breaks actually increased their productivity.

That may not be too far off: In CareerBuilder's survey, about one in five managers reported using scheduled break times to prevent employees from wasting time. Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer for CareerBuilder, also recommends scheduled "play" breaks or short walks to increase productivity.

It may not do away with unnecessary meetings or keep a co-worker from slashing your tires, but it's a good start.