Idle Time

What is Idle Time?

Idle Time refers to that period of time in which the company’s resource, i.e. human or machine, is available as well as ready, but it is not doing anything productive. Employees do get paid for this time, but there is a stoppage in work due to various reasons which may or may not be under the control of the management. The alternative term for idle time is waiting time.

In short, it is the time for which workers do get their payment, but no production or benefit takes place in return. In manufacturing operations, it is unavoidable, i.e. it is bound to occur due to machinery breakdown or shortage of raw material.

Hence, idle time is the unproductive time for which employees are paid remuneration, but they are not doing anything productive. This happens because of inefficiency in production.


It is the time lost by workers who get paid on a time basis. Idle time indicates the gap in the time for which workers get paid and the time they spend on the job. It reflects the loss of productivity time.

For Example:
Idle time is when an employee is waiting for the server to respond.

Table of Contents

  1. Types
  2. IdleTimeCost
  3. Causes
  4. Control Techniques
  5. Wrap Up

Types of Idle Time


  • Normal Idle Time: Idle time due to factors that are not under management’s control. Thus, it is wasted time that cannot be avoided. For example, Time spends to reach the department from the gate, tea break, time for tool setting, etc.
  • Abnormal Idle Time: It is the wasted time that can be avoided, as it is under the control of management. For example Machine breakdown, waiting for work, waiting for instructions, power failure, shortage of materials, etc.

Must Read: Time-Keeping

What is Idle Time Cost?

The idle time cost is the total amount paid to the worker as wages for the time (usually in hours) during which he was sitting idle, i.e. not performing any work. This does not cover the wages page for festival holidays or annual leave.

Accounting Treatment

Idle time costs resulting due to economic causes are not added to the cost of production. Hence, they are directly written off by debiting the Profit and Loss Account. On the contrary, the idle time cost occurring because of administrative reasons is recovered as general works overhead. Nevertheless, if idle time cost occurs due to production causes, then it is charged as an item of departmental overheads.

Normal Idle Time is charged against the concerned job at an inflated rate.

Must Read: Fatigue

Causes of Idle Time

According to Controllability:

Normal Idle items

It occurs due to unavoidable causes. Normal Idle time covers:

  • The time gap between the factory gate, i.e. card punching time and place of work
  • Time lost between one job to another
  • Refreshment break
  • Tool setting time
  • Machinery setting up time
  • Loss of time due to rest took to overcome tiredness.

Abnormal Idle items

It occurs due to avoidable causes. Abnormal Idle time includes:

  • Supply of raw materials
  • Strike and lockout
  • Breakdown time
  • Negligence of supervision
  • Loss of time due to earthquakes, floods and other acts of god.

According to Functions:

Production Causes

Wastage of time as a result of waiting for materials, tools, machinery, power outage, breakdown, unutilized manpower, etc. All of these causes lead to loss of production. they can be controlled by effective planning, careful supervision, and proper maintenance of plants and machinery.

Administration Causes

Idle Time occurs as a result of improper planning, unutilized capacity, improper policies of management, delay in instructions for performing work, etc. These occur due to administrative decisions, especially in the period of depression when machines run below normal capacity and the wages are paid in full to all the workers. This happens because the management does not want to discharge workers on a temporary basis.

Economic Causes

These causes include a lack of demand for the product involving partial loading on machines, work stoppage due to strikes or lock-outs, mismatch in supply and demand, products having seasonal demand, and so forth. A fall in demand for products can take place due to severe competition or the seasonal nature of certain products. In these cases, the management cannot discharge the workers at the time of slack seasons.

Must Read: Discipline

Control of Idle time

  1. Surveillance must be undertaken to keep a close watch on the activities of workers and eliminate idle time to the extent possible.
  2. Advanced instructions should be provided to avoid delays. In this way, wait time can be reduced.
  3. Proper maintenance of plant and machinery at periodic intervals can help in avoiding a breakdown.
  4. Causes of idle time have to be identified, and steps must be taken to remove them.
  5. Regular and time-bound supply of raw materials will enable uninterrupted production. It can be attained through a system of storing materials.
  6. There has to be instant reporting of any abnormal wastage in order to take corrective measures in due time.
  7. Proper analysis of labour utilization report.
  8. Installing balancing equipment in order to lessen the imbalances that take place in production facilities.
  9. Maintenance of proper records to keep track of idle time. It has to prepare periodically and sent to the management.

Must Read: Absenteeism

Wrap Up

All in all, workers spend their time performing different jobs. The time recorded for jobs must match the gate time. In general, the time recorded for jobs does not coincide with the gate time. This takes place due to several reasons, such as waiting for materials, machine breakdown, power cuts, etc. Basically, an employer pays for idle time without any benefit to him.

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