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For example:

The unreliable employee often engaged in __ activities like smoke breaks, smalltalk with his fellows, and playing Solitaire during work hours.

On Friday afternoons, the employees would often goof off and perform __ activities.

Fred's mind often wandered while performing menial tasks and he thought about __ activities he would rather be doing.

Best candidates so far:


unprofessional (?)

Bonus: Come up with a word that eliminates the need for the word activity altogether:

The project will not get finished any sooner if you keep wasting time on __.

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closed as not constructive by tchrist, J.R., cornbread ninja 麵包忍者, MετάEd, Kris Nov 29 '12 at 7:37

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"He was engaged in a StackExchange activity." – Robusto Nov 28 '12 at 19:57
@Robusto: ! One could press non-task-oriented into use. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 28 '12 at 20:07
What's wrong with "distractions" (or "distracting activities")? – J.R. Nov 28 '12 at 21:18
@J.R., can distracting be used as an adjective? – Michael Goldshteyn Nov 28 '12 at 21:22
i would argue that I'm just (if not more) productive than other workers, even though I do go out for a smoke and occasionally engage is smalltalk. Your language smells of stalinist management unless you start being a lot clearer. Most adjectives that come up in such situations only highlight a prejudice and dislike for the employee, rather than being accurate descriptors. Thus, avoid them mostly. You could say instead that the employee often instigates in non-work related conversations which is time wasteful for all concerned. A certain amount of sociability is required for humans to function. – Chris Nov 28 '12 at 23:58
up vote 2 down vote accepted

Use counter-productive with activity. It's professional and fits all of your examples.

For a noun: Shenanigans. "We might go home early if there aren't any more shenanigans around the water cooler this afternoon.

Shenanigans: high-spirited or mischievous activity —usually used in plural

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That certainly fits the bill. – Michael Goldshteyn Nov 28 '12 at 19:51
or "non-productive" – Charles Nov 28 '12 at 20:34

I would refer to activities at work that aren't work-related as slacking

slack: To evade work; shirk.

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The word needs to be usable as an adjective in front of the word activity. – Michael Goldshteyn Nov 28 '12 at 19:44

How about some of these options:

Often engaged in diddle-daddle like smoke breaks...

Often engaged in procrastination like smoke breaks...

Often engaged in fritter like smoke breaks...

Often engaged in trifles like smoke breaks...

Often engaged in vacuities like smoke breaks...

Often engaged in trifles like smoke breaks...

Often engaged in fluff like smoke breaks...

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A related term (that doesn't cover all you've asked for) is government work. From wiktionary (emphasis added):

When something was “good enough for Government work” it meant it could pass the most rigorous of standards. Over the years it took on an ironic meaning that is now the primary sense, referring to poorly executed work.

“Government work” is also a term for the manufacture of something on company time for personal use. For example, a custom trailer hitch made at a welding shop for the welder himself on the afternoon shift with no supervisors around is government work.

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Similarly, G-job can be used to refer to a personal project pursued with company resources. – Spehro Pefhany Mar 23 '14 at 4:06

I'd go with "unproductive activities" or even "unauthorized activities".

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So close and yet so far... – Michael Goldshteyn Nov 28 '12 at 21:06
@MichaelGoldshteyn, care to elaborate? – TecBrat Nov 30 '12 at 14:44

You could use personal or time-wasting as your adjective.

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