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The Almighty Buck

American Workers: Lazy or Creative? 491

Posted by Hemos
from the the-battle-wages-on dept.
Nofsck Ingcloo writes "CNET News.com is carrying an article by Ed Frauenheim in which he interviews Bill Coleman of salary.com. Coleman and company have conducted a web based survey regarding how workers spend their "non-productive" time at work. Here are some snippets from the CNET article. " Click to read more.
"The average worker admits to frittering away 2.09 hours per day, not counting lunch and scheduled break time."

"The extra unproductive time adds up to $759 billion annually in salaries for which companies get no apparent benefit."

"Work is invading our personal time and therefore it makes sense that personal activities are invading work time."

"Not all nonproductive time that an employee spends is a complete waste. Some of it is creative or constructive waste."

"[P]of the reason that this [survey] got such a good response was that it's an issue that people think about on some sort of regular basis."

"[O]ne of the reasons people gave for wasting time is they feel that they're not being paid appropriately for the work they're doing. And so it is sort of quid pro quo, in that an individual employee's ability to increase his or her pay is limited, but their ability to decrease the number of hours they actually work is not as limited."

Coleman is definitely on to something. I see this phenomenon, and this reasoning, all around me. How much of the reasoning is rational, and how much is rationalization?"
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American Workers: Lazy or Creative?

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  • yes, lazy (Score:5, Informative)

    by jshaped (899227) on Monday September 05, 2005 @12:03PM (#13483839)
    I can only speak for myself,
    Yes, I am lazy.
    • by Allen Zadr (767458) * <Allen.ZadrNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday September 05, 2005 @12:14PM (#13483918) Journal
      Today is LABOR DAY. A day to reflect on the HARD WORK that goes into the greatness of this nation. A day which is dedicated to the WORKER.

      Of course you're lazy today. It's your Congressional given right.

      (see my journal).

    • Yes, but what about your hubris and impatience?
      • Re:yes, lazy (Score:5, Insightful)

        by B'Trey (111263) on Monday September 05, 2005 @01:19PM (#13484300)
        I think Larry Wall was right in recognizing that simple metrics are often misleading.

        If you're a factory worker who's paid to assemble widgets and you goof off for a couple of hours, you probably ARE ripping off your employer. However, many of us, even hourly employees, aren't being paid to assemble as many widgets as possible. We're being paid to accomplish tasks, and one person might do a better job of it working hard six hours a day and goofing off for two than another person working hard for eight hours a day. If you're a sysadmin, is your network functional and secure? If so, does it really matter if you spend a couple of hours browsing /.? Isn't your employer getting what he's paying you for? If you're a programer, do you turn in quality code on time? If you're a supervisor, do your people understand what's expected of them and have the tools and materials they need to do the job? Do you turn in your reports on time and know what's going on with your projects? There are lots and lots of ways to measure job performance, and "works hard for eight hours a day" is often way down on the list of importance and relevance.
        • Re:yes, lazy (Score:4, Interesting)

          by toddbu (748790) on Monday September 05, 2005 @01:36PM (#13484403)
          I agree completely, kind of. :-)

          The problem with what you're talking about is establishing an initial metric. For example, how many machines should your sysadmin be able to manage? And what happens when technology improves to the point where you sysadmin can do something else for a living?

          I think the better metric is in how a person contributes to the company's bottom line. That doesn't mean how much they sold, but rather how much they contributed. You could write a really cool report that your customers love and that improves customer retention. You write a program that makes it possible for your sales force to be 10% more effective. Those are the real metrics to use. "Getting a job done" is only as good as what that job contributes to the greater good.

          • Re:yes, lazy (Score:4, Insightful)

            by IllForgetMyNickSoonA (748496) on Monday September 05, 2005 @02:10PM (#13484586)
            That would be a rather hard metric to evaluate! Not everybody works in a place where they can "write a program that makes it possible for your sales force to be 10% more effective". As the matter of fact, I could bet almost *nobody* has such a job.

            What about people who work on strategic projects which might pay off tommorrow, in two years, in 10 years, or never? How do you measure by how much the work of the internal training department has contributed to the company's bottom-line?

            Even if you came up with a perfect way to measure one person's contribution to the company's bottom line when working alone, how do you account for influence of other people on the team? Imagine a project which is a complete failure, bringing the company loss instead of profit. How do you now evaluate the people on the team? Have they all failed? After all, the company bottom-line has suffered, even if a part of the team has done a marvelous work. The same goes in another direction as well: if a project turns profit, it is often indistinguishable who contributed how much to it. Who do you reward, who do you fire?

            Quite a few people have tried to come up with means of measuring a software developer's productivity. All failed the real-life check miserably (although some of them seem to refuse to go away and die the thousand deaths they deserve, but rather remain present in mid- or high-level management's minds; think counting lines of code, for example).
            • Re:yes, lazy (Score:3, Insightful)

              by toddbu (748790)
              That would be a rather hard metric to evaluate

              I never said that it would be easy. :-)

              How do you now evaluate the people on the team? Have they all failed? After all, the company bottom-line has suffered, even if a part of the team has done a marvelous work.

              Yes and no. Obviously the guy in charge of them is ultimately responsible and should pay the price. If he had crap people on his team then too bad for him. He should have spoken up, fired some folks, or otherwise attempted to mitigate the problem

            • Re:yes, lazy (Score:4, Interesting)

              by Grishnakh (216268) on Monday September 05, 2005 @03:28PM (#13485061)
              What about people who work on strategic projects which might pay off tommorrow, in two years, in 10 years, or never?

              It's simple: their contribution is very poor, and you compensate them accordingly. This is America: the only thing that's important is the next quarter or two. Anything beyond that isn't important.

              This is also the way my company works. If you're working on a project which isn't contributing to the company's bottom line either right now or very soon, you're going to get punished at the year-end review. It doesn't matter if that's what your manager wanted you to work on, because as an employee you're responsible for your contribution to the company. So you have to make sure you're working on something seen as important by the upper management or you're screwed.

              How do you measure by how much the work of the internal training department has contributed to the company's bottom-line?

              Simple; you don't. You outsource the training to other companies and count it as an expense.

              Even if you came up with a perfect way to measure one person's contribution to the company's bottom line when working alone, how do you account for influence of other people on the team?

              You don't. Each person is measured individually.

              Imagine a project which is a complete failure, bringing the company loss instead of profit. How do you now evaluate the people on the team? Have they all failed?

              Where I work, basically, yes. Consideration is given if the failure wasn't their fault ("missed the market window" or some other external factor), but in that case they just won't be getting any raises or especially bonuses, while teams who worked on highly successful projects will be getting raises and big bonuses.

              After all, the company bottom-line has suffered, even if a part of the team has done a marvelous work.

              Yep, but they're supposed to know when they're working on something that won't be successful, and not work on that. What good is marvelous work if it's shitcanned and doesn't earn the company any money?
  • Web based survey (Score:5, Insightful)

    by flynt (248848) on Monday September 05, 2005 @12:04PM (#13483846)
    Web based surveys are not scientific (not a random sample), therefore are completely worthless. Who is more likely to fill out a web based survey, those who use time at work looking at the web, or those who don't? There's the problem, and any conclusions drawn from this data about the general American population have no basis.
    • Just because it's not scientific, does not mean that it is worthless. As long as potential biases are noted in the writeup following a survey/study, the results are still perfectly useful. And also keep in mind that no matter how many lengths one goes to to make a survey sample representative, it is never going to be perfectly so. There is always some error, and there is always some insight to be gained, "scientific" or not.
      • Re:Web based survey (Score:5, Informative)

        by Wavicle (181176) on Monday September 05, 2005 @12:31PM (#13484032)
        The data is a lot less useful than I think you may be giving it credit for. I go over this occasionally with social scientist PhDs who have at most one or two semesters of formal statistics training. They also think that it is fair to generalize from mailed questionaires. If you do not know the degree of the bias, you really have no idea of the skew of your results.

        Case in point, the study says that an average of 2.09 hours is spent "wasting time." Now you know that time wasters were more likely to answer the questionaire, so the bias is out in the open. Now... How far is 2.09 hours from the true mean? Just pick a confidence interval of say 90%. Do you have enough information to figure that out? Unfortunately you don't. There is information in the study, but you don't know enough about the bias to separate signal from noise.

        And also keep in mind that no matter how many lengths one goes to to make a survey sample representative, it is never going to be perfectly so. There is always some error, and there is always some insight to be gained, "scientific" or not.

        This is all taken into account in proper statistics - which require a random sample. If the sample is random, you will know how likely it is to be a "good" fit. But I'm curious, what exactly is non "scientific" insight?
        • Re:Web based survey (Score:4, Interesting)

          by wfberg (24378) on Monday September 05, 2005 @01:51PM (#13484485)
          The data is a lot less useful than I think you may be giving it credit for. I go over this occasionally with social scientist PhDs who have at most one or two semesters of formal statistics training. They also think that it is fair to generalize from mailed questionaires. If you do not know the degree of the bias, you really have no idea of the skew of your results.

          The Dutch National Bureau of Statistics actually researches the skew in their polling once in a while; they hunt down people who did NOT respond to questionnaires, going to them in person with a bunch of flowers, explaining why they need to research skew. On average, it takes 2 calls and 1 visit to get to the pesky non-respondents. Amazingly, the research indicates that the usual means of selecting respondents (they usually don't go for purely randomized samples, but stratified samples; i.e. a fair selection of people distributed over different variable - such as age group, income, etc. - in the same pattern as the general populace) actually holds up well. People who don't respond usually only do so because they don't feel like it at the time.

          (Of course, that won't be true for many other surveys and the type of (self)selection they employ.)
          • Re:Web based survey (Score:3, Informative)

            by servognome (738846)
            they hunt down people who did NOT respond to questionnaires, going to them in person with a bunch of flowers, explaining why they need to research skew. On average, it takes 2 calls and 1 visit to get to the pesky non-respondents.

            Hunt them down with flowers? With a baseball bat they can get responses from those pests with just 1 visit, no calls needed. And in the future you can be sure they will respond the first time :)
        • Re:Web based survey (Score:3, Interesting)

          by TCQuad (537187)
          Well, you see, the non-scientific web poll is basically an anecdote, one person's perspective of what they think or what they've done. And the plural of anecdote is, of course, data. Therefore, if your sample size is large enough, your non-scientific web poll can generate a large set of data that you can describe in scientific terms.
    • Re:Web based survey (Score:5, Interesting)

      by LnxAddct (679316) <sgk25@drexel.edu> on Monday September 05, 2005 @12:45PM (#13484106)
      Where I work we follow the whole "Agile" paradigm and when we task ourselves with work, we are to assume that we'll only be 60% productive. This isn't something we made up, this is in the books, apparently many studies find that the ideal time is about 60% for programmers, its just enough for you to get in the zone and do some good coding, but its not too much to mentally strain you, thus causing poor quality work later. That also accounts for time in meetings etc... There are no restricitons on what we browse on the net, or what we can install on our computers (including games like WoW). My company just wants us to get our work done, and to do it well. We come in when we want, leave when we want, and they aren't allowed to ask us to come in anyother time unless we want to. Noone assigns the teams with work, they tell us what needs to get done and we choose what we think we can get done each sprint. The 60% thing works really well, a lot of people constantly dread going to work but when you go to work and its actually kind of fun and you dont get stressed out, you find that the time you are working you're 2 to 3 times more productive. We have everything from basketball and football to foosball, ping pong, etc... too. I look foward to going to work, I like not only the way they treat us but I'm genuinely interested in the work I do there (I work at a defense contractor on 2 classified projects for the DoD). I feel bad for people who dont feel the way I do about their jobs, its not fair that they'd have to do that.
      Regards,
      Steve
  • Neither (Score:5, Insightful)

    by blair1q (305137) on Monday September 05, 2005 @12:04PM (#13483847) Journal
    We're bored.

    America lost its internet economy when we realized we'd made it too easy to operate and it could be shipped anywhere people could put text into editboxes.

    Now we're giving massages and filling out divorce forms for a living.

    This isn't the New World Order we paid for.
  • by connah0047 (850585) on Monday September 05, 2005 @12:06PM (#13483863)
    No, one of the reasons this survey got such a good response is because no one was busy working and had time to fill it out.
  • Uncompetitive (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Colin Smith (2679) on Monday September 05, 2005 @12:09PM (#13483877)
    Indulged, entitled.

     
  • Breaks are times I can pick to be "less-productive". I am way too busy to be non-productive. Perhaps that is because I own a company, and therefore have more incentive than just working for one. But, I can look back at previous employers and say that my work ethic is no different today than then.

    My wife laughs and says that I work from 8 to 5 and 9 to 3 most days. I usually work all day, although I do enjoy long lunch meetings, come home for dinner, television, Scrabble, and other assorted "wife time",

  • Labor Day (Score:5, Funny)

    by a_greer2005 (863926) on Monday September 05, 2005 @12:09PM (#13483884)
    We are really a creative nation, we have a day called labor day on which no one acctualy labors! America is so great!
  • Vacation... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by afra242 (465406) on Monday September 05, 2005 @12:10PM (#13483888)
    People working full time in America, despite these figures, still work relatively hard. There is little to no vacations available to a lot of workers here. How many times do you hear of someone going to Europe for a vacation, for a month? Rarely. Yet, this happens a lot in other nations. Many companies in Europe and Asia, for example, give 3-4+ weeks of vacation a year. Here in the U.S., it's called "sick days" and you get a very limited amount of them. Obviously not all companies, but most I have dealt with.
    • Re:Vacation... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MemoryDragon (544441)
      The funny thing is that the higher percentage of vacation time leads to a higher overall productivity. The reason is, because people tend to work more focusedly and are generally in better shape and motivation.
    • I thought that by the time you added up all your public holidays it came out similar, it's just that we get a bit more flexibility on when to spend them? By rough estimation, the average UK worker will get around 30-35 days holiday including all public holidays - how does that compare to US workers?
      • Re:Vacation... (Score:4, Informative)

        by aaarrrgggh (9205) on Monday September 05, 2005 @12:49PM (#13484134)
        Most companies in the US have 8 or 10 "govenment holidays" paid. "Standard" vacation time is 10 days, but you usually get another week after 5 years working with the same company. In addition, most companies give 5 sick days per year. This gives a standard benefit of 23 days.

        For my company, they combine sick and vacation days and just count it PTO. This works out pretty well if you don't get sick or have kids.

        Compared to Sweden, which I think has a standard benefit closer to 45-50 days... I would say that Americans have a very limited vacation benefit.
        • Re:Vacation... (Score:3, Informative)

          by digithed (445564)
          I live and work in Sweden (although I'm from UK) and the standard benefit is 25 days vacation plus around 13 days of public holidays. This is pretty similar to UK which also generally has 25 days vacation plus around 11 days of public holidays.

          In both Sweden and UK some companies also operate flex time so it's possible to build up more free time (the company I work for also allows you to choose between cash or free time when you have worked paid overtime).

          However, the biggest difference in Sweden is that it
        • Re:Vacation... (Score:3, Interesting)

          by king-manic (409855)
          Most companies in the US have 8 or 10 "govenment holidays" paid. "Standard" vacation time is 10 days, but you usually get another week after 5 years working with the same company. In addition, most companies give 5 sick days per year. This gives a standard benefit of 23 days.

          For my company, they combine sick and vacation days and just count it PTO. This works out pretty well if you don't get sick or have kids.

          Compared to Sweden, which I think has a standard benefit closer to 45-50 days... I would say that A
      • Re:Vacation... (Score:4, Informative)

        by bladesjester (774793) <slashdot&jameshollingshead,com> on Monday September 05, 2005 @12:56PM (#13484171) Homepage Journal
        Most companies work through national holidays with the exception of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and sometimes New Years.

        Really the only people that get the other days off are banks, government offices, and a few buisnesses that actually decide to close for the day.

        After that, most people get 2 weeks or so of vacation if you're salaried.
      • Engineer, fresh out of college. I get 3 weeks vacation, 7 personal days, plus the standard federal holidays and three "floating" holidays.

        Basically, it all depends on skill level. More skilled jobs, in general, give better vacation. However, the other variable to consider is some employers offer better pay or other benefits in lieu of vacation. For example, I could have taken another job in town and made 10% more money, but I would have had less vacation and a crappier insurance policy. The safety of the
    • Re:Vacation... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MidnightBrewer (97195) on Monday September 05, 2005 @05:15PM (#13485617)
      I'm an American who has lived in Germany and now lives in Japan, and I can tell you, Americans have it the worst of any country on earth as far as vacation time goes. The problem is, our expectations of work ethic is extreme in the wrong direction. The minute somebody says they want a vacation, everyone else instantly thinks that person is lazy. Why? Why should we spend our lives working all the damn time? There's nothing noble about it. It's been proven time and time again that people who are forced to work long hours spend a large majority of those just goofing around. If you put someone at work for 10 hours a day, they will be no more productive (and possibly less) than somebody working 6-hour days, and less happy to boot.

      The United States is the only country without a federal law stipulating a minimum guaranteed number of holidays per year. The Japanese actually get more vacation time than Americans(ten days guaranteed, at least another week or so in national holidays.) The solution is to scale back work hours, increase vacation, and encourage people to get the same amount of work done in less time.
  • by bgfay (5362) on Monday September 05, 2005 @12:11PM (#13483893) Homepage
    I know that in my job as a teacher I often feel that I'm not entrusted with enough responsibility and, because of that, am unenthused. Now, before I get too flamed for whining about my job, let me say that this is a result of having what I call six layers of idiocy (bureaucracy) above me.

    Case in point: the budget for our school is divided into strict segments with fixed dollar amounts for each. Someone in the layers above me decides how much our school can spend in each area. My thought, rather than pay that person, entrust us, the staff at our school, to use the money to our best advantage. That person, whose salary is likely over $100,000 (over twice what I'm paid), could be put to more useful work or that position could be deleted. We would be able to spend the money more effectively and would be much more invested in the budgeting process.

    As it is, the way it is, I only care about the money so long as it lasts in any given account. I'm lazy about the money, because I'm not allowed to be creative with it.

    And thus ends my whining about my job.
    • I know that in my job as a teacher I often feel that I'm not entrusted with enough responsibility

      I'm lazy about the money, because I'm not allowed to be creative with it.

      Not enough responsibility? You're entrusted to teach young people. I've never heard a teacher complain about lack of responsibility. If you consider "being creative with money" a greater responsibility you should have gone into finance.

      I will agree that teachers need more control over a district's resources. Even so, you shouldn't be c
      • I think what the parent is saying is that he or she has the responsibility to teach the children, but no responsibility in how to teach the children. This teacher may have great ideas that may save the district money or teach the children better, but has no financial freedom to make any changes.

        Even so, you shouldn't be communicating to your students that you're "unenthused" because you have a tiny budget.

        Now this sentence is just a load of crap. If people don't speak up, how do things change? Reminds me a
      • Not enough responsibility? You're entrusted to teach young people. I've never heard a teacher complain about lack of responsibility.

        You'd be surprised by how restrictive teaching can be. My mother teaches algebra to 13 year olds (talk about thankless tasks). At one point the district decided math scores were too low. Their solution? They created a mandated lesson plan, with a specific timeline; i.e. "you will teach lesson X for Y number of days, then give the test. You will then teach lesson X+1...". The

    • In business classes they call this sort of thing employee empowerment. People get a lot more satisfaction and do better work in a job they feel they own. If the highly skilled and creative people hired to do the work make the decisions then the project is their project and their work tends to reflect that. The opposite is true too.

      People get a lot less satisfaction if they have to ask permission for every move they make and their job consists of a to do list made by someone else. I work at a place whe
    • by aaronl (43811) on Monday September 05, 2005 @01:50PM (#13484477) Homepage
      I don't know if you're working in public education, but I'm someone that works in public sector on the government side. I'll give you what is seen from that side of the fence.

      Schools tend to account for over 50% of a municipality's budget. In most states, they aren't required to (and sometimes are strictly prohibited from) run their budget as just another government department. Most departments have to justify the need for money, and get approvals for expenditures. Schools get their money, and can move it around and spend it how they like, never requiring authorization from the government body that they're a part of.

      That person you're talking about is likely the school system equivalent of a financial board; perhaps a business administrator or similar. They're making sure the budget monies that they get from municipal revenues are being spent in the right places. You don't want to get too detailed, though, because then you have to move money around all the time. You can't just have a massive "teaching" budget, since you need more accountability than that offers.

      If you were to do it your way, you would have to allocate a pool of money to each school. Then each school would have to allocate it to different functions, and split the rest among departments, and then among teachers. That would actually reduce flexibility, because each pool of money would be quite small. You would get rid of a few administrators by making everyone be accountants.

      As a teacher, your job is first to teach your students. Optimally, you shouldn't be worrying about money at all. You ask for something, and you either get it, or you get some reason why you aren't getting it. That all has to be worked out before budgets are decided. Realistically, you probably are working against a department budget, and have another small budget for your classroom for more specific things. Your department head would seem to be the person to talk to about budgets, or perhaps the school principal.

      When the school systems decided their budget, they'll break down system-wide requirements, and lay down the budgets for individual schools. Those school budgets will be decided by talking to each principal and determining requirements. Then they'll go to the municipality and request that amount of money as their department budget. If it is granted, then they're done. Otherwise, they have to go and decide what school things get cut, etc.

      Then pricipal of each school determines what they need by determining what the whole school requires, and then what each department within the school needs. If there is a budget cut that hits them, they need to decide what to cut.

      That is why you can't just entrust the staff with the budget. There are too many things to consider, many of which are outside of a teacher's expertise. I think you'd find that if you let the teachers decide about the budget, you would have lots of classroom equipment, and buildings/grounds that are falling apart with infrastructures that don't work right. Management is just not what a teacher does, and it isn't likely to turn out well.
      • by gilroy (155262) on Monday September 05, 2005 @02:48PM (#13484826) Homepage Journal
        First, as a classroom teacher, let me compliment you on a clear articulation as to why these bureaucracies exist. Sure they occasionally go awry but that doesn't they're evil or unnecessary.

        But, second, as a classroom teacher, let me respond to

        Management is just not what a teacher does, and it isn't likely to turn out well.

        What drives teachers crazy is that it seems management isn't done well by managers either. I have assiduously avoided getting "promoted" into administration precisely because I want to teach. But I don't think it's outrageous to ask that those who do take jobs in administration learn to be good at, you know, administering. The grandparent post had a point: The people who make the budgets and track the money often seem openly hostile to hearing from the classroom teachers -- they want to set budgets without asking us what the priorities are from our vantage.

                It might or might not be true that if teachers made the budget, we'd all have great classrooms and lousy buildings. I'd like to think that the people in charge of educating the young would be smart enough to understand infrastructure; in fact, I'd be willing to bet that, among professionals not directly involved in infrastructure, teachers probably rank among the highest in their appreciation of those issues. But that's anecdotal and I could be wrong. In any event, if the decision makes sense, why not actually explain it and show people?

                In fact, in my experience, most bad management involves a desparate, almost pathological need to control the flow of information and a corresponding disdain for transparency.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Creatively lazy.
  • by Targon (17348) on Monday September 05, 2005 @12:12PM (#13483899)
    A part of the problem is the amount of time most Americans spend at work, and how little vacation time people get in this country. Two weeks of vacation a year isn't much, and people burn out as a result.
    • A part of the problem is the amount of time most Americans spend at work, and how little vacation time people get in this country. Two weeks of vacation a year isn't much, and people burn out as a result.

      That pretty much sums it up, IMHO.

      I'm a network admin and I usually put in at least 50 hours per week, though I'm usually only in the office 40 or so. If you can do the math you can figure that I work from home a lot. Even when I'm not on call I am expected to be available to help if the on-call guy
  • My Motto (Score:5, Interesting)

    by superid (46543) on Monday September 05, 2005 @12:12PM (#13483901) Homepage
    Give a lazy man a job and he finds the easiest way to do it.

    I think I read that in Beetle Bailey 20 years ago....words to live by.
    • Re:My Motto (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TheRaven64 (641858) on Monday September 05, 2005 @12:38PM (#13484061) Journal
      Good advice. I consider myself to be a lazy individual, and I'm constantly amazed by people who can work two or more times as hard as me and not achieve anything more.
    • Give a lazy man a job and he finds the easiest way to do it.

      That's not even as bad as it sounds. After all, every invention mankind has produced, all the way back to the thigh-bone club, was invented to make some job easier.

      For many people, the easiest way to do something is, in fact, to eschew the tried-and-true brute-force method and develop an easier technique, even if it does take longer in the short term.

      Of course, those people were doing something toward their intended goal. "Lazy" means not doing an
  • by connah0047 (850585) on Monday September 05, 2005 @12:12PM (#13483903)
    I use my wasted time at work constructively. I have found throughout my job history that if you want your ideas to be heard and implemented, you have to implement them for them to be heard. Going to the boss and saying, "Hey I have this cool idea..." usually gets a, "That's nice, now get back to work."

    I've made a habit of using time at work I'm not supposed to be using to write the programs I think need to be written. I then casually show it to the boss and say, "Oh by the way, if you're interested, I mocked this up 'over the weekend', tell me what you think." That almost always gets a "Cool! Let's go for it!"

    My company's present flagship product was spawned out of my little "time stealing" sessions.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 05, 2005 @12:40PM (#13484070)
      I use my wasted time at work constructively. I have found throughout my job history that if you want your ideas to be heard and implemented, you have to implement them for them to be heard.

      Yes, but the big question is: is it worth it?

      Is it worth giving your blood to the company, working on a idea they themselves don't encourage you to do and are not paying you to do it? What are you going to get in the end, a big "thanks"?

      That's something i've been thinking a lot lately.
      • That's actually what I'm trying to work out right now.

        The job I was originally hired to do was grunt work (literally, I work on a farm now). Now that I'm writing business proposals, doing research for new projects, keeping accurate records, am always on call, come in when needed on weekends and holidays, and am in charge of safety and first aid, I'm making about $1.50 an hour more than when I was weeding.

        I'm enjoying my work more now, but the total lack of my wage to keep up with my work means that I am def
  • by Manhigh (148034) on Monday September 05, 2005 @12:13PM (#13483912)
    Meaning that, rather than doing boring repetitive tasks manually, a good engineer usually finds shortcuts and ways to automate tasks without compromising the quality of results.
  • 3 observations (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cgenman (325138) on Monday September 05, 2005 @12:13PM (#13483913) Homepage
    I generally find that time spent bonding with co-workers comes back in intangible ways. It opens lines of communication so that people feel comfortable when real issues arise. It makes people feel more comfortable reporting blockages in their workflow.

    Likewise, studies have shown that workers produce the most when they spend a full 20% of their time off-task. That means roughly two hours of their day should be spent doing something else as recovery time to produce the most overall. People burn out if they focus too much, and 2 hours sounds about right based on the studies I've seen.

    Employers should grab the above and run. Never give an employee one thing to do... always have several things they can rotate between when they're tired. Give them little projects with other people that can open lines of communication, rather than just one daily grind task.

     
    • I agree. I have only been given daily grind tasks at work. I also have a bad workspace.

      I think the last paragraph was particularly insightful (and of course it needed the previous paragraphs to lead into). It needs to make it out in to online news sources as much as possible. I think you might write an article about it and email it to Paul Graham. He may add a link to one of his essays if it's as insightful as the above post :)

  • Sounds right on... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Evro (18923) <evandhoffman@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Monday September 05, 2005 @12:15PM (#13483923) Homepage Journal
    I used to have a job where I was severely underpaid. I was making under $40k to be the sysadmin and only programmer for a small e-commerce company. Rather than dicking around, I just took a later train in the morning so I ended up working 7.5 hours rather than 8, because I couldn't justify working for such a pittance at the time, but there was nothing else available. After a while I had a lot of built up a resentment because it became clear I wasn't ever going to get a raise. For many people, feeling undervalued is a great demotivator.
    • You make up to 40k! wow?

      In Tampa your lucky to be making up to 25k-30k a year. That is with 5 years experience I may add.

      But it beats working at BestBuy anyday.

      At my job for a big ISP (shall remain nameless) HR and all the managers like to remind all of us that Indians are and will be more than happy to take our jobs away if we all dont pull together and except their benefits. I make $10 as an A+ tech (I use to make 35k a year before the .com crash)and I think the pay is quite good sadly and I am glad I am
  • Excuse me? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mcgroarty (633843) <brian,mcgroarty&gmail,com> on Monday September 05, 2005 @12:15PM (#13483924) Homepage
    A web-based survey on how people fritter time away at work? Hands up if you think the results are going to be just a hint biased toward a certain group.
  • Though I'm still in school, I spend quite a bit of my time surfing the web and doing things not productive in any way. But then I think, if I were to work every moment of my free time, I would get tired. The work would not be so productive. It is because I spend a lot of time doing nothing that I can do much more when I do work. Basically, what I'm trying to say is that it all evens out - the more time you spend working, with insufficient rewards, the less good your work will be. Perhaps it's ultimately mor
  • Not, lazy, no (Score:5, Insightful)

    by amliebsch (724858) on Monday September 05, 2005 @12:16PM (#13483935) Journal
    I don't think most Americans are lazy. The majority want to support themselves and are willing to work hard to get what they want. THe article had some good explanations as to why more time was being "wasted." But there are a couple of things that are happening here that the article didn't mention much. First, individual productivity has gone way, way up in the past couple of decades. Technology has been the big player here. But just as technology has increased work productivity, so too it has increased personal productivity. Now it becomes possible to borrow a few minutes here, a few minutes there, to get personal things done at work. Ultimately, that all adds up. Of course, as long as personal has been increasing even while less time is spent working, many employers have been willing to put up with it.

    Another factor is that more and more people are working in jobs where it is difficult if not impossible to quantitatively assess their hourly productivity. For example, if you work on an assembly line screwing parts togethe, it's pretty obvious if you are slacking off during a given hour, and what's worse, you'll slow the whole line down. But if your task is to write a chunk of code, or draft a certain number of letters, it becomes almost impossible to figure out whether you are working fast and loafing, or working slowly but steady. From the employer's standpoint, they don't usually care as long as the total work gets done in about the same amount of time.

    It also gets harder to second-guess the employee when certain tasks take longer, because some tasks are more difficult than others and will inevitably take more time. Unless the manager is willing to personally do the task and figure out exactly how hard it was, they can only rely on what the employee tells them.

  • by QuatermassX (808146) on Monday September 05, 2005 @12:22PM (#13483973) Homepage
    I managed a small dev/production team for a publishing company. My highest priority after I was hired was to make myself redundant and not altogether needed in the office. I did this by "empowering" those that worked for me. By that I mean I analysed what the manager (me) needed to do and delegated the responsibilities evenly. Although I was always available to "ok" team decisions, in practise it meant I did very little during the day. I made myself obsolete! The key to all this was papering over all this by using my office time to work on my writing. I also managed to be "at home" far more than anyone else. By steadfastly refusing to actually "do" anything, I very quickly learned how to put together a damn good team that produced quantifiable (and quality) results every time. Am I lazy? Hmmmm ... not sure. The department brought lots of projects in on time and under budget. The affairs of the department flowed smoothly. But I really didn't need more than a few hours of time in the morning (and a few hours in the evening) to do the job. Hmmm ...
    • by sean23007 (143364) on Monday September 05, 2005 @03:24PM (#13485042) Homepage Journal
      So you're saying you made yourself redundant and successfully didn't do any work. Congratulations. I presume you made more money than your team members. I also presume you know that you are the reason people dislike middle management. You get paid more to do nothing. What would have happened if there had simply been an email forwarding program in your place, and anything that would have come to you instead got distributed to your team? The same work would have been done, they would have worked exactly as hard as they had been, and the company would have saved whatever your salary was.

      Just so you know, making yourself useless is not a good way to keep a job. In fact, that's why getting fired is often called being "made redundant."
      • by jd_esguerra (582336) on Monday September 05, 2005 @05:01PM (#13485535)
        I also presume you know that you are the reason people dislike middle management.

        Actually, if he/she knows his team well enough to know what each member can/cannot do and can orchestrate their actions effectively, then time and effort of the team members is probably not wasted. I would love a manager who could do that consistently. When I dislike middle management, it's usually because they are brought in to micro-manage. Unless they have a science/engineering background, it's pretty much like having an idiot standing behind you with a clipboard doodling and asking dumb questions.

  • Lazy AND creative (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 05, 2005 @12:25PM (#13483990)
    These are two totally unrelated qualities. Yo can be very gifted and work 2 hours a week and produce a lot, make millions, etc. If you are not gifted you can work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and produce nothing.

    If you manage to accomplish in an hour as much as other people in a year why not be lazy?

    Yo can see that in all fields which require special talent like mathematics, theoretical physics, literature, art, etc.

    For example, Adolf Hitler dreamed to become an artist, worked very hard, was not lazy but had no talent and only managed to become a dictator. (He did design the Nazi flag, however)

    There are Nobel Laureates in literature which only wrote a few books. On the other hand there are hard working mediocre writers which wrote hundreds of books and nobody knows them.
  • Prepare for thousands of comments! This is not a drill!
  • See, 6 hours. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by benjamindees (441808) on Monday September 05, 2005 @12:27PM (#13483999) Homepage
    The workday in the US should be reduced to 6 hours. That's 30 hours per week. Any more is unproductive.

    The Europeans are kicking our asses on even the most basic technology, and they don't work nearly as much as we do.
    • Ah ... the voice of common sense.

      And here I thought I was the only one left!
    • Re:See, 6 hours. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fossa (212602) <pat7@nOSPAm.gmx.net> on Monday September 05, 2005 @01:21PM (#13484315) Journal

      I do not love my job. It's nice, occasionally interesting, but it's not my passion. I don't think that's such a terrible thing either. However, I work 8 hours a day five days a week. I come home hoping to work on some of my many hobbies (exercise, art, programming), and I either don't have the energy or I end up staying up late making work the next day a drag. Even if I had a "dream job" doing one of my hobbies, I'd still have other interests I'd want to pursue.

      I'd like to believe society in general would be healthier with a shorter work week because that could give people time to socialize, work on hobbies, volunteer, participate in politics, etc. Maybe I'm being overly optimistic, and time not working would just be wasted, but I feel like work is a vampire sucking all of my energy. I can't imagine what it would be like if I had kids.

  • False dichotomy (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Mensa Babe (675349)
    Lazy or creative? This is a false dichotomy [wikipedia.org] (or bifurcation [wikipedia.org]), i.e. a logically fallucious reasoning, for being lazy and creative is not mutually exclusive. Furthermore, I would tend to think that only lazy people can be truly creative in the most metaphysical sense. In any case I consider this survey highly biased (biased sample [wikipedia.org]). Needless to say, it would be unwise to draw any serious conclusions especially when the so called "non-productive" time (e.g. writing in an on-line forum) may be indeed much more
  • by erroneus (253617) on Monday September 05, 2005 @12:30PM (#13484026) Homepage
    My work does not involve a great deal of routine "productivity." I fix things, I monitor things, I make decisions. There are plenty of things I could make myself busy doing but generally, I maintain my readiness and do very little.

    That said, there have been times when I would work tirelessly for 12 days without a day off at more than 12 hours a day. This is when major projects are happening and it requries a lot of work. It' rare but it happens. When the time comes, I am there 100%. (Some might say 110% but that's just dramatic expression isn't it?)

    So mostly, I get paid for being available as much or more than anything else. I guess this sort of study doesn't apply to my occupation.
  • by glomph (2644) on Monday September 05, 2005 @12:31PM (#13484033) Homepage Journal
    "Well you see, Bob, it's not that I'm lazy... it's that I just don't care"
  • How about both?

    Binary thinking is for machines...
  • by Edmund Blackadder (559735) on Monday September 05, 2005 @12:36PM (#13484056)
    But I find it very often you need to be lazy in order to be creative. Sometimes I think very hard on a problem and cannot think of a solution, but when I go to lunch or start doing something non-work related the solution appears to me out of thin air.

    Fact is if you have to work all the time you cannot be creative. You need to pu tyour brain in different modes.
  • Speaking for myself, I know that there have been times that I deliberately haven't worked on something. With 10 minutes until a meeting starts, and there's little sense starting a new task when it'll take more than 10 minutes to pick up where I left off.

    More than once I've had to pull a late night -- due to deadlines or being on call -- without any additional compensation (formal or not). You can be assured I didn't make an effort to work the next 8 hours at 100% efficiency. I didn't try to slow down, but I
  • bull (Score:2, Interesting)

    by fakedupe (872465)
    I can only speak for myself and my coworkers. And thats a crock of shit, or maybe we're in the minority, who knows.

    At this point we're working continuously from morning to lunch, then from lunch to late into the night.

    I've never worked with a better group of people. When we do goof off or have a laugh, which is more like a max of 15 minutes day, its usually helping to get the team to gel more or to help relieve some of the tensions from the hectic schedule.

    My situation can't be that rare.
  • by Billly Gates (198444) on Monday September 05, 2005 @12:45PM (#13484103) Journal
    My father was an IT manager and eventually worked his was as a director of supply chain management.

    How he got his first managerial job? Someone asked him in an interview what his favorite productivity tool was. His answer was the water cooler and coffee machine.

    He summarized it as this. IF you chat with your employees before work or during breaks you can find out the most of what needs to be done and what is going on with the various projects. Needless to say he got the job.

    Breaks including talking to those around the water cooler was alot more productive then serious talk in an unproductive meeting everyday.

    I wonder how many hours each day are lost doing busy work or meetings, etc? Something to think about.

  • People are not machines. We can't work 9 hours straight with a short pause for refueling, we can't be focused all the time. But human mind is not a computer, the moments when someone looks out of the window admiring clouds and apparently doing nothing might be just this precious moment, when some of ideas, facts and questions in his mind come together bringing about something significant.

    I don't think it has anything to do with laziness. And I don't think people did change that much over time. Remember, o

  • Lazy AND creative (Score:3, Interesting)

    by zhiwenchong (155773) on Monday September 05, 2005 @12:51PM (#13484144)
    Bertrand Russell wrote an essay called "In Praise of Idleness" which argues that creative work arises out of constructive idleness. That's why we have academia. ;-)

    Full text here:
    http://www.zpub.com/notes/idle.html [zpub.com]
  • by Infonaut (96956) <infonaut@gmail.com> on Monday September 05, 2005 @12:56PM (#13484168) Homepage Journal
    "The extra unproductive time adds up to $759 billion annually in salaries for which companies get no apparent benefit."

    Because of course every worker is supposed to be productive every minute of every work day. We're primates! We were not built to work eight or nine hours a day at the same pace and intensity. If you want that sort of efficiency use robots.

    Seriously. There are plenty of jobs where robots would be better suited to the task. When you're talking about office jobs, there's simply no way for human beings to be productive all the time. Due to the fact that we are social creatures, many of the best insights and increases in overall productivity in the white collar environment (and in blue collar jobs too, from my limited experience) actually happen when people are standing around chatting, or even when their minds are allowed to wander off a bit while they goof off.

    I understand that businesses always want their employees to be as productive as possible, but this notion of "lost productivity" is a canard, built on a baseline assumption of 60 minutes an hour of productivity per worker. In reality when you pay people an hourly wage, you know you're not paying for 100% efficiency. If you're a smart employer, you try to keep your employees happy, and you reward actual work results.

    The mentality that workers should be monitored (all your emails and web browsing are belong to us!) stems from the same idiotic view of employer/employee relations. Hey, here's an idea: Why don't companies actually train their managers in *leadership* so they know what their employees are doing?

    If Employee A is getting a lot of excellent work done, should we really care if he's being productive 100% of every hour on the job? In my experience the person who seems to be working the hardest is usually the one who is not getting the most work done. Eventually that person is also the one who poisons the work environment because their mindless buzzing about to and fro raises the stress level for everyone else. The only way to measure real productivity is by measuring worker output. Even then, you run into all kinds of problems quantifying output, because quality and quantity are often totally unrelated and difficult to evaluate as aspects of overall output.

    I want to see someone quantify how many wasted hours CEOs create with about-face decisions, late decisions, and "make work" plans. I want to see a study of how many wasted hours are the product of incompetent people being placed into management positions. I want to see how many wasted hours are created through mid-level manager infighting.

    Sorry, I'm having a pissy day. But this is just the most absurd quote, particularly on Labor Day.

    • "Sorry, I'm having a pissy day. But this is just the most absurd quote, particularly on Labor Day."

      Ok, so some asshole is poking fun, and insulting american workers. Fair enough. They probably have some agenda which is helped by getting quotes like these into the newspapers at regular intervals.

      Getting annoyed at how wrong they are is amusing but pointless. However...

      Imagine if at some strategic moment every 2-3 months, a study came out estimating how many billions of dollars were wasted each year by man
  • by rdunnell (313839) * on Monday September 05, 2005 @02:02PM (#13484545)
    When you figure people are working 10 or 11 hour days and being "paid" for 8, I figure that means some of us can waste another whole hour and still break even!
  • Both! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by shatfield (199969) * on Monday September 05, 2005 @02:43PM (#13484792)
    American workers are lazy. And creative. I think it takes one to drive the other. I for one will spend 2 hours creating a script to do something for me in an automated fashion that takes me 5 minutes to do manually, just so that I don't have to do it manually any more!

    What's creative about it is that what I learn from writing the script can be used in other places, and I can spend some time later trying to find better ways to be even more lazy in the future :-)
  • by briancnorton (586947) on Monday September 05, 2005 @03:08PM (#13484954) Homepage
    Americans aren't perfect, but I don't think that ANYBODY could reasonably think that we are collectively lazy.

    The US work week is tied for first as the longest in the industrialized world at an average of 2040 hours. (France is around 1400 by comparison)

    Screwing around at work for 2 hours is extremely reasonable considering that tens of millions of Americans go home after work and keep on working. Then there's overrepresentation of young people by virtue of the fact that it's a web survey. Young people have a strong representation in the retail sector, where screwing off causes little to no economic loss to companies.

    *In general*, if you work hard, you can get ahead. That's the American Dream, and people here are pretty good at it. Just check out the GNP.

    • by zpok (604055)
      "The US work week is tied for first as the longest in the industrialized world at an average of 2040 hours. (France is around 1400 by comparison)"

      And yet, France with far fewer resources, 7 weeks of paid holidays, a 35 hour workweek and an attitude from here to Indistan, yet they still are the 5th largest economy in the world.

      "*In general*, if you work hard, you can get ahead. That's the American Dream, and people here are pretty good at it. Just check out the GNP."

      There are scores of americans who can't ge
  • by John Jorsett (171560) on Monday September 05, 2005 @03:46PM (#13485168)
    Don't remember where I first saw this, but I've remembered it ever since:
    The 3 qualities of a good programmer
    1. Hubris
    2. Impatience
    3. Laziness

  • by richieb (3277) <richieb&gmail,com> on Monday September 05, 2005 @05:17PM (#13485631) Homepage Journal
    This book [mehling.org] makes great reading on this topic.

    Time spent in the office is easy to measure, but is not necessarily a good measure of productivity. Kind of like "lines of code".

  • Rommel Quote (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 05, 2005 @05:38PM (#13485738)
    Quote from legendary German Field Marshal Rommel:

    Men are basically smart or dumb and lazy or ambitious. The dumb and ambitious ones are dangerous and I get rid of them. The dumb and lazy ones I give mundane duties. The smart ambitious ones I put on my staff. The smart and lazy ones I make my commanders

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