An employee works at French startup Heetch headquarters in Paris, France.

Forced idleness costs US employers $100 billion a year

$100 billion

American employers waste tons of money when they don’t give workers enough to do. A recent study estimated idle time costs companies $100 billion a year.

Published   |  Photo by AP Photo/Jacques Brino
An employee works at French startup Heetch headquarters in Paris, France.
$100 billion

A recent Harvard study polled people across 29 occupations—including lawyers, agricultural workers, and soldiers. Researchers found that 78% of participants reported some kind of idle time.

An employee works at French startup Heetch headquarters in Paris, France.
$100 billion

That idle time causes a “deadtime effect” in contrast to the similarly named but very different “deadline effect”— which sees workers’ productivity increase in response to a time limit.

An employee works at French startup Heetch headquarters in Paris, France.
$100 billion

Study authors tried a simple but effective method for counteracting deadtime: Using leisure time as a reward for more efficient employees.

An employee works at French startup Heetch headquarters in Paris, France.
$100 billion

Study co-author Teresa Amabile noted an immediate upgrade. “Access to leisure activities, once work has been completed, need not detract from productivity if it’s done right.”

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