Reason Foundation

Reason Foundation

Working hard or hardly working?

Ted Balaker
July 10, 2005, 3:33pm

(Read on, here.) (Reminds me of that old SNL skit where a Japanese executive--played by Dana Carvey, I believe--goes into spin-control after calling American workers fat and lazy: "Some are fat, some are lazy, and some are fat and lazy. But I did not mean to, you know, generalize.") If anything the "over two hours" figure probably understates the amount of slacking off. After all, survey respondents typically sugarcoat their answers (according to travel diaries no one has ever visited a nudie bar). Nick Gillespie points to the AOL wrap-up which includes a state-by-state breakdown (Missouri tops the slacker list with 3.2 hours of screwing off per day). In a roundabout way this should make managers warm up to telecommuting. Many resist it precisely because they're worried about workers screwing off at home. But lots of evidence suggests telecommuters are actually more productive and, as the AOL/ survey suggests, being "at" work is no guarantee that workers are actually working. We're often quick to notice the potential distractions at home, but as this British study points out, there are plenty of productivity-sapping distractions at the office. This Harvard study argues that presenteeism–when workers are at work, but out of it–costs businesses more than absenteeism. Perhaps more managers will shift away from the clock-punching mentality and look more closely at what workers actually accomplish.

Ted Balaker is Producer

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