Monday, January 19, 2015

Slacking Workers of the World Unite

File under "Ain't Goinna Work on Maggie's Farm No More"
A friend of mind used to call his acts of work place sabotage "Willful Inefficiency"
From In These Times:  http://inthesetimes.com/article/17448/slacking_workers_of_the_world

We’ve made an art of wasting time at work. But to what end?

BY Lindsay Beyerstein January 1, 2015

Seventy percent of porn viewing and 60 percent of online shopping take place during business hours. Studies indicate that worldwide, the average employee spends about 1 to 3 hours a day goofing off at work.

In Empty Labor: Idleness and Workplace Resistance, Roland Paulsen, a scholar of business administration at Lund University in Sweden, sets out to understand what he calls empty labor, which includes anything a worker does on the clock that isn’t work—be it surfing the web, sleeping, organizing the office football pool, or writing a doctoral dissertation on the sly.

Paulsen focused on the most extreme shirkers. He interviewed 43 Swedish workers who claimed to spend less than half of their work hours actually working. He tracked down these hardcore non-performers through friends of friends, web ads and the Swedish website maska.nu, where people share slacking stories and tips. Most were white-collar workers, but a construction worker, a security guard and several house cleaners also participated. Paulsen's interviews were designed to answer two basic questions: How do you get away with this? and Why do you do it?

It turns out that slacking off is serious business: “ ‘Doing nothing’ while at work can be a very demanding activity requiring planning, collaboration, risk calculation, and ethical consideration,” Paulsen observes. Some subjects turned shirking into a game they found more meaningful than their actual jobs.

Even when productivity is difficult to measure, presence is easily quantified. In order to get ahead, workers have to be seen to show up early and leave late. Many of Paulsen’s informants said they put a lot of effort into punctuality and attendance (as well as personal grooming), which made managers less likely to question their low performance.

Paulsen concludes that the most successful slackers have jobs with high “opacity,” which means that other people have a hard time grokking what they actually do or how long it’s supposed to take.
Uber-slackers are taking advantage of a feature of the modern economy: It is unusually conducive to empty labor. We are often told that people are working longer and harder than ever, and that may well be true, on average. But in many jobs, work has become decoupled from tangible production, making productivity difficult to measure.

A web developer told Paulsen that her team gave inflated time estimates for projects they didn’t want to do, and nobody could contradict them, because only the web team knew how long it should take to build a website. When a client wanted to put flying sanitary napkins on a company website, the team claimed it would take weeks, instead of the short time it would actually require.

Continue reading at:  http://inthesetimes.com/article/17448/slacking_workers_of_the_world

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