updated 7/12/2005 9:59:08 AM ET 2005-07-12T13:59:08

If you're on the job, and you're reading this story, you should probably get back to work.

The average worker wastes more than two hours a day, and that's not including lunch, according to a new Web survey by America Online and Salary.com. That means companies spend as much as $759 billion on salaries annually for which they receive no apparent benefit, the research found.

The No. 1 state for wasting time was Missouri, where workers who responded to the survey reported slacking off 3 hours and 12 minutes a day.

Massachusetts workers reported wasting just under two hours a day -- 31st on the list.

The survey didn't specifically look at why Missouri is the worst in the nation, but if Missouri workers think the perception is unfair, "We would encourage people to visit the home page and weigh in further on that," said Richard Cellini, head of research for Needham, Mass.-based Salary.com.

Missouri's governor Matt Blunt responded to the survey in a statement: "Nobody can match the work ethic of Missourians. This survey, which our busiest citizens did not want to waste their time on, cannot undermine decades of experience. Missouri workers are among the most productive in the world."

The Missouri Department of Economic Development said a study it published last year on the industries driving the state economy found Missouri employees hard at work.

"It appears to me the Missouri worker is equal to, or slightly higher, in productivity than other workers across the nation in most of the industries (the Missouri study) looked at," said department spokeswoman Kristi Jamison.

The America Online and Salary.com survey found the workers' top excuses for wasting time nationwide were not enough work or inadequate for the work they do.

About 10,000 people responded to the poll.

More than 44 percent said the No. 1 way they waste time at work is personal Internet use, like reading e-mail, instant messages, playing interactive games -- and responding to online polls.

The second most popular, according to 23 percent of respondents, was socializing with co-workers. Other excuses included conducting personal business, spacing out, running errands and making personal phone calls.

Employers expect that workers will waste some time on the job, about an hour per day in addition to the lunch hour.

"Our survey results show that workers on average are wasting a little more than twice what their employers expect. That's a startling figure," said Bill Coleman, senior vice president at Salary.com.

He noted that some of the wasted time could be considered helpful, however, as conversations and personal Internet use can lead to new business ideas.

The research was conducted through Dulles, Va.-based AOL's Find a Job site, which gives job seekers access to job postings; through the AOL service, and Salary.com's Salary Wizard, an online salary calculator.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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