I'd love to write my column this week, but I don't have time.

Sure, I'm at work. But I've got my wife on hold on my office phone with a question about dinner plans because I had to take a call on my cell phone regarding some church responsibilities. Oh, and I've also got to respond to an e-mail I just received from a friend.

You understand, right?

I know you do. Because chances are, you do the same thing.

A survey brought to my attention recently by the folks at OfficeTeam, a staffing service for the placement of administrative professionals, proves it.

The survey of 559 cubicle dwellers found that they admit to spending an average of 36 minutes per day, or about three hours per week, handling personal tasks while at the office.

Meanwhile, 150 senior executives asked the same question said they estimated their staff members spend an average of 43 minutes each day on non-work activities.

Broken down by gender, the OfficeTeam survey said women admitted to taking 29 minutes a day for personal tasks during office hours, while men said they spent 44 minutes.

It appears that younger workers are more guilty of this corporate sin than older folks. Survey respondents between the ages of 18 and 34 estimated spending 45 minutes each day on personal pursuits while at work, but that figure fell to 32 minutes for those between the ages of 35 and 64 and 17 minutes for those 65 and older.

"There are only so many hours in the day to meet job requirements and personal obligations, and employers are aware that not all of the workday is spent on business," said Diane Domeyer, executive director of Office-Team, in a press release.

"The best employers take steps to accommodate the need by staff for work-life balance. Unfortunately, employees who abuse these benefits undermine the success of the programs."

I do spend at least a few minutes each day managing personal stuff while at work. Usually these minutes are spent on the phone with my wife trying to figure out how we're going to get our various daily tasks done, or reminding her to call the plumber to get that problem with our shower fixed, or helping her find something she can't find in our home.

(As an aside, you may think it's strange that I could help find something at our home — where she is — while I'm at work. But I've accomplished this feat many times. In fact, my wife asserts that "finding things" is my superpower. That doesn't make me as cool as one of the X-Men, but I'll take it.)

The more I think about it, though, I'm not sure my time spent talking to my wife should count, because I usually give her a call around noon. I don't have an official "lunch hour," because I often eat at my desk while doing other things. But I figure that "talking on the phone" time comes during my lunch.

And if I need to make a personal call at a different time of the day, I try to do it while I'm checking various Web sites for press releases. This attempt at multi-tasking doesn't always prove successful, but it usually works OK.

I also get the occasional personal e-mail at work to which I respond, but I type fast, so that usually requires only a few seconds of my time.

So, including both my "lunch hour" and multi-tasking talking or e-mailing, I don't think I spend more than 20 to 25 minutes a day on personal tasks during my time at the office.

But this survey has me wondering if that is 20 to 25 minutes too many, and whether my experience is typical among Utah workers. So please drop me a line to let me know how much time you spend on personal tasks during the workday and share any stories about how you manage that time, why you have to do personal items at work or trouble you've had due to your personal activities.

Or, if you're an employer or manager, let me know your thoughts on this subject. I'll share them in a future column.

If you have a different financial question, I'd like to hear that, too. Send it to gkratz@desnews.com or to the Deseret Morning News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, UT 84110.


E-mail: gkratz@desnews.com