In the days after my post about what employers can do to help their employees avoid the “too little time” problem, a fair bit of discussion cropped up on LinkedIn. The focus was primarily on the fact that employees have a lot to say for getting their own house in order, despite whatever flexibility employers can give.
It’s true. A lot of employees willingly get sucked into time-wasting activities throughout their day: email backlogs, gossiping during work time, meetings where nothing is accomplished, surfing the ‘Net (at work or home), watching hour after hour of TV, playing games on smart phones or video game consoles… you get the idea.
As much as we might like to shout down employers for taking time away from the precious little time we have on this planet, we employees must also recognize that we don’t exactly help our own cause.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average employed professional in America watches a lot of television. They spend 1.82 hours/day during the week, and just over 3 hours/day on the weekend, watching TV. Over the course of a week, that amounts to over 15 hours (over 900 minutes).
Meanwhile, full-time employees spend a mere 0.22 hours exercising each weekday, and 0.4 hours/day exercising on the weekend. For those keeping score at home, this equates to less than two hours per week of exercise.
Take a look at the following graphic:
Each piece of data is an amount of time per day (in hours) that the average person spends on an activity. The three data columns marked by arrows represent the whole population (men and women) for three different categories:
- Households with the youngest child under six years of age
- Households with the youngest child between 6-17 years of age
- Households with no children under the age of 18
Look at the complete imbalance of activity time. Per day, this is what takes up people’s out-of-work time.
- 1.87 hours watching TV; 0.52 hours preparing food; 0.23 hours of exercise; 1.87 hours caring for children (households with youngest child under six)
- 2.08 hours watching TV; 0.52 hours preparing food; 0.28 hours of exercise; 0.62 hours caring for children (households with youngest child between 6-17)
- 2.44 hours watching TV; 0.37 hours preparing food; 0.26 hours of exercise (households with no children under 18)
Employed Americans are spending over twice as much time watching TV as they are exercising or preparing food, and in some cases nearly four times as much time!
Combine this with the data from the “at work” article that shows that employees can waste up to half of the work day, and what we have is not just a time management problem but a priority management problem.
Until recently, I always considered time management and priority management to be pretty much the same thing. In truth, they’re distinct but intrinsically connected concepts. Good management of one requires good management of the other. You can’t spend your time well without having your priorities set. Similarly, you can’t get your priorities straight without having a handle on how you spend your time.
And based on how people actually spend their time, watching the new episode of Duck Dynasty is more important than going for a walk or preparing a home-cooked meal.
That’s where individuals, whether as part of a wellness initiative or by themselves, need to really take a strong look at why they seem to have so little time on their hands.
If you decide to address stress as part of a wellness program, including time and priority management initiatives is a great idea. Get employees to see how they really spend their time at (and away from) work. Get them to see that making progress health-wise means replacing poor time-spending habits with better ones.
Has your wellness program ever addressed time/priority management? What’d you do? Did it work? Leave your thoughts below.