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American Workers: Lazy or Creative?

Hemos posted more than 8 years ago | from the the-battle-wages-on dept.

The Almighty Buck 491

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?"

cancel ×

491 comments

yes, lazy (5, Informative)

jshaped (899227) | more than 8 years ago | (#13483839)

I can only speak for myself,
Yes, I am lazy.

Re:yes, lazy (4, Funny)

Allen Zadr (767458) | more than 8 years ago | (#13483918)

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).

Re:yes, lazy (1)

Ira Sponsible (713467) | more than 8 years ago | (#13484130)

And here I am.

Working on Labor Day.

Submitting a post to Slashdot.

Lazy?

What else SHOULD one do when they should otherwise NOT be working?

Re:yes, lazy (1)

hey! (33014) | more than 8 years ago | (#13484121)

Yes, but what about your hubris and impatience?

Re:yes, lazy (1)

FosterKanig (645454) | more than 8 years ago | (#13484143)

Bored. Really bored. Not allowed to do anything I am not supposed to, never have been even close to challenged. For the love of God, give me something to do and I'll do it!

Case in point (1, Troll)

ericdano (113424) | more than 8 years ago | (#13483842)

Look at Slashdot as an example. Daily duplicates, errors, misquotes. Lazy? I'd say YES.

Re:Case in point (1)

Knome_fan (898727) | more than 8 years ago | (#13483870)

I take it you found out these terrible things about /. only while browsing the side in your private time?

Re:Case in point (1)

ericdano (113424) | more than 8 years ago | (#13483915)

In my NON-Work time. I don't work 9-5 thanks.

Re:Case in point (1)

Slashdot_Gandhi (912342) | more than 8 years ago | (#13483968)


The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.

Mahatma Gandhi

Re:Case in point (3, Insightful)

jangobongo (812593) | more than 8 years ago | (#13483982)

On another level, Slashdot is an example of how people rationalize when they are wasting time at work - "it's work related!"

Readers of Slashdot freely admit that they are reading and commenting while at work. They rationalize it by saying that they are getting news and info directly related to their work. And sometimes, sometimes, that might actually happen. That could be, what? Twenty percent of the time? Less?

The rest of the time they are debating the finer points of Star Wars, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Dr.Who, evolution vs. intelligent design, politics, NASA, Hubble, flying men to Mars, flying cars, and what old people in Korea are doing, etc.

Re:Case in point (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13484010)

Troll? How is this a troll?

Web based survey (5, Insightful)

flynt (248848) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Re:Web based survey (3, Insightful)

HarvardFrankenstein (635329) | more than 8 years ago | (#13483886)

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 (5, Informative)

Wavicle (181176) | more than 8 years ago | (#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 (1)

alexhs (877055) | more than 8 years ago | (#13484068)

> Web based surveys are not scientific (not a random sample)

In fact, they're getting a random sample, but not a representative one.

Re:Web based survey (5, Interesting)

LnxAddct (679316) | more than 8 years ago | (#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 (5, Insightful)

blair1q (305137) | more than 8 years ago | (#13483847)

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.

Depends (0, Flamebait)

superpulpsicle (533373) | more than 8 years ago | (#13483850)

The higher up the corporate chain the lazier Americans get. And no, surfing the web isn't any less productive than golfing. Why doesn't some American journalists bring that up. Oh maybe they're afraid to get fired.

Re:Depends (2, Insightful)

binarybum (468664) | more than 8 years ago | (#13483931)

hmm, physically lazier, yes maybe. but what evidence is there for your statement? It seems that most higher ups in the coporate chain tend to have gotten there from being workoholics, and that condition is a hard one to drop.

Re:Depends (2, Funny)

Xaositecte (897197) | more than 8 years ago | (#13484041)

golfing is all about networking, man.

One of the reasons... (5, Funny)

connah0047 (850585) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Definately (0, Redundant)

Xarius (691264) | more than 8 years ago | (#13483864)

Lazy.

Uncompetitive (3, Insightful)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 8 years ago | (#13483877)

Indulged, entitled.

 

I can waste time (-1, Troll)

jobin (836958) | more than 8 years ago | (#13483880)

I'm in high school, so I can do whatever I want as long as I pass... no one's paying me, so no one cares.

Ha ha, you suckers in the real world.

Re:I can waste time (2, Insightful)

sgant (178166) | more than 8 years ago | (#13483921)

ather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying:
And this same flower that smiles to-day
To-morrow will be dying.


Robert Herrick (1591-1674)

Re:I can waste time (1)

cmoney (216557) | more than 8 years ago | (#13484055)

whoever modded the parent offtopic is an idiot.

Re:I can waste time (3, Interesting)

James Lewis (641198) | more than 8 years ago | (#13483927)

If you do just enough to pass, you're the real sucker. Poor performance in school doesn't make you predestined to a life of burger flipping. It does make it much more likely though.

Re:I can waste time (1)

connah0047 (850585) | more than 8 years ago | (#13483930)

The question is, "Do you care?" That will make or break you when you do get into the real world. And unless you plan on being 30 and living at home with mom, you WILL wind up in the real world.

Re:I can waste time (1)

The Clockwork Troll (655321) | more than 8 years ago | (#13484014)

I'm in high school, so I can do whatever I want as long as I pass... no one's paying me, so no one cares.
A mediocre person is always at his best.

Lunch and scheduled break time? (1)

totallygeek (263191) | more than 8 years ago | (#13483881)

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", then go back to work when she scoots off for a bath and then bed.

Re:Lunch and scheduled break time? (1)

agent dero (680753) | more than 8 years ago | (#13484012)

You're never too busy if you've got time for scrabble! ;)

I feel you though man, it's not like there's anything better to do in Central TX ;) (College Station here)

Labor Day (4, Funny)

a_greer2005 (863926) | more than 8 years ago | (#13483884)

We are really a creative nation, we have a day called labor day on which no one acctualy labors! America is so great!

Re:Labor Day (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13484037)

Except for this state employee at a state university who has to work, as does all other University staff, on Labor Day. The students are off, the city is off, the county, and the feds but not us.

Re:Labor Day (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13484052)

You know, you're right. Labor Day should really be on the first Saturday of September, and everyone should have to work 16 hours on it, as a remembrance of times where everyone had to do that kind of crazy shit.

In the rest of the world Labor Day is on May 1 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13484062)

This holiday was introduced by communists over a century ago and is celebrated all over the world. Communism may be (almost) over but May 1 is still a holiday. Americans had to come up with something different, in order to show how much they hate communism.

All over the world March 8 is Womens Day, but not in the US. In the US there is a Mothers Day but not a Womens Day. In the US women have to be mothers in order to have their own holiday. March 8 is also a communist holiday which survived communism.

Re:Labor Day (1)

pjmidnight (712441) | more than 8 years ago | (#13484113)

Well to fly in the face of everything:

I'm at work on labor day.
Reading /. hmmm. makes me wonder

Vacation... (4, Interesting)

afra242 (465406) | more than 8 years ago | (#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... (2, Interesting)

MemoryDragon (544441) | more than 8 years ago | (#13483925)

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.

Re:Vacation... (0, Troll)

Arandir (19206) | more than 8 years ago | (#13484100)

By that logic, we should give workers 365 days of vacation. Think of the productivity!

Re:Vacation... (1)

TwistedSquare (650445) | more than 8 years ago | (#13484066)

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... (3, Informative)

aaarrrgggh (9205) | more than 8 years ago | (#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... (1)

tonydiesel (658999) | more than 8 years ago | (#13484132)

My friend working in Europe get 5 weeks! (and I think that is pretty standard, at least on the continent)

I get two weeks plus holidays...

Not that I'm bitter. I think vacation really does help with productivity. Whether we realize it or not, constant work really wears us down. Taking a real vacation (at least a week) gives one a chance to completely separate from work and really relax. I've taken two weeks this year and both times had extremely productive periods immediately after I came back. I wish companies in the US would realize the value in that!

Not responsible for enough (5, Interesting)

bgfay (5362) | more than 8 years ago | (#13483893)

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.

Re:Not responsible for enough (1)

Bald Wookie (18771) | more than 8 years ago | (#13484073)

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 communicating to your students that you're "unenthused" because you have a tiny budget. They deserve better than that.

Lazy or Creative? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13483894)

Creatively lazy.

Re:Lazy or Creative? (1)

ROMRIX (912502) | more than 8 years ago | (#13484078)

I've always thought of creativity and lazyness as a symbiotic relationship.

P.S. I was too lazy to write this so I'm using voice recognition software to do it for me.
Man I hate breathing, it's so laborious...

Amount of time spent at work (4, Insightful)

Targon (17348) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Re:Amount of time spent at work (1)

ocbwilg (259828) | more than 8 years ago | (#13484002)

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 gets stuck on something (being the only network admin in a team of five IT people). None of that bothers me too much, because I knew it going into this position and made sure that my salary took that into account. Vacation time could be better, but it's 3-4 weeks per year (my employer lumps sick and vacation time together as PTO, which is a horrible thing to do). Unfortunately, I've only gone on vacation once in the past couple of years that I haven't been interrupted by work, and only then because it was my honeymoon, I told them that I would not be available, I left the country, and didn't take a mobile phone with international access.

I think that I have a good job, but I definitely spend part of it slacking off. Usually when I am slacking off, it's surfing some tech sites so that I can keep up on the latest technology/tech news. So maybe my slacking time qualifies as professional development time, who knows? All I know is that I don't feel bad about it (especially when I see the web sites that other people are surfing in their slack time).

My Motto (4, Interesting)

superid (46543) | more than 8 years ago | (#13483901)

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 (4, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 8 years ago | (#13484061)

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.

A good motto (1)

mblase (200735) | more than 8 years ago | (#13484095)

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 anything toward it, innovative or otherwise.

Re:My Motto (2, Insightful)

csplinter (734017) | more than 8 years ago | (#13484110)

hehe yea or a way not to do it.

I use my wasted time constructively... (5, Interesting)

connah0047 (850585) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Seems I'm not the only one using this technique (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13483992)

Seems I'm not the only one using this technique.. I wonder how prevalent it really is.

Re:I use my wasted time constructively... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Re:I use my wasted time constructively... (1)

connah0047 (850585) | more than 8 years ago | (#13484108)

My situation is probably a little different than yours. I work for a fairly small company where the dough gets passed around. If someone contributes to a project that makes the company money, they see the tangible results in their paycheck. My little scheme pays off now and then. ;)

"A Lazy Engineer is a Good Engineer" (4, Insightful)

Manhigh (148034) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Re:"A Lazy Engineer is a Good Engineer" (3, Funny)

phulshof (204513) | more than 8 years ago | (#13484013)

Exactly! Power steering was not invented by a body builder I bet!

3 observations (4, Insightful)

cgenman (325138) | more than 8 years ago | (#13483913)

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.

 

Re:3 observations (1)

Rick and Roll (672077) | more than 8 years ago | (#13484027)

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 :)

Re:3 observations (1)

Xarius (691264) | more than 8 years ago | (#13484042)

"...rather than just one daily grind task."

Unfortunately most people in the world do these daily grinds, because it's what makes the bigger cogs turn round and round.

Repetitive stuff needs doing, I work in a crappy repetitive job. We can't all be web designers or artists, you still need the people at the bottom to keep the world going.

Hmm... (0)

Infinityis (807294) | more than 8 years ago | (#13483919)

"Coleman and company have conducted a web based survey regarding how workers spend their 'non-productive' time at work"

That's easy, they all read Slashdot...

Sounds right on... (5, Insightful)

Evro (18923) | more than 8 years ago | (#13483923)

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.

Re:Sounds right on... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13484083)

"...it became clear I wasn't ever going to get a raise."

Yeah... I know I'd give a raise to the guy that decided that he was only going to work 35 hours a week when I'm paying him for 40.

As far as justifying working for "such a pittance", by your own admission you did justify just that when you took that job because "there was nothing else available".

Either stand by your convictions (by NOT working a job that's "beneath" you) or get over yourself and realize that you're probably only worth the under $40k that you were being paid.

Re:Sounds right on... (1)

Evro (18923) | more than 8 years ago | (#13484152)

Actually, I wasn't ever going to get a raise because the owner had a bad nose for business and refused to spend any money on marketing, and the company is floundering to this day.

Excuse me? (5, Interesting)

mcgroarty (633843) | more than 8 years ago | (#13483924)

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.

A web-based survey eh? (1)

Spectra72 (13146) | more than 8 years ago | (#13483928)

Was CowboyNeal an option? We all know how accurate self-selecting web-based surveys are! Perhaps the only people with time to take the survey were the lazy ones surfing the web in the first place? Hell he even admits that this survey is biased towards IT workers who do nothing but sit their asses in front of a computer all day.

What a load of drivel.

It depends... (1)

rasafras (637995) | more than 8 years ago | (#13483934)

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 more efficient to ditch 2.09 hours a day, so that the other 5.91 or however much will be better.

Not, lazy, no (4, Insightful)

amliebsch (724858) | more than 8 years ago | (#13483935)

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.

I think they're lazy.... (0, Troll)

Pao|o (92817) | more than 8 years ago | (#13483939)

Based on the amount of work being outsourced to developing nations like India/China/Philippines I'm guessing most US-based IT workers are lazy for the money they're being paid to do work for.

There are basically 2 types of american workers (1)

ickleberry (864871) | more than 8 years ago | (#13483940)

1. Hey Bob you wan another beer? did you get any action from yer wife lately? are we going hiking & camping nex weekend or just watching baseball in teh basement? 2. Omg I have to help this great country's wonderful corporations or else my wonderful company will go to shit and I will be a disgrace to the worlds greatest country.

Whilst working in corporate America ... (5, Interesting)

QuatermassX (808146) | more than 8 years ago | (#13483973)

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 ...

Re:You sir (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13484127)

...are my new role model.

Okay folks... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13483978)

Let's all count down until the obligatory "Office Space" quote!

Lazy AND creative (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Re:Lazy AND creative (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 8 years ago | (#13484131)

If you are not gifted you can work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and produce nothing.

I think it also bears mentioning that even if someone is gifted and hard working, but incompetently led, they can still produce nothing of value.

-jcr

Oh shit! Batton down the hatches! (1)

wheany (460585) | more than 8 years ago | (#13483996)

Prepare for thousands of comments! This is not a drill!

See, 6 hours. (4, Insightful)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 8 years ago | (#13483999)

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.

Re:See, 6 hours. (1)

louzerr (97449) | more than 8 years ago | (#13484054)

Ah ... the voice of common sense.

And here I thought I was the only one left!

False dichotomy (2, Insightful)

Mensa Babe (675349) | more than 8 years ago | (#13484001)

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 productive than the work proper (e.g. working in a factory). And for those reasons et al. I would take the results of this survey with a grain of salt.

Re:False dichotomy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13484046)

You're an idiot.

Re:False dichotomy (1)

jim_deane (63059) | more than 8 years ago | (#13484153)


The question isn't "Lazy or creative?", it is "For the given non-productive work time, is the primary explanation that our workers are lazy, or is the primary explanation that our workers are creative?"

It isn't an either-or question, so the false dichotomy doesn't apply.

Jim

Jaded (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13484005)

One word, Jaded. I'm underpaid and get 1 week vacation. A combo that makes for a very unproductive worker. Tasks that should take me 2hrs take me 8hrs, i work for about 20mins and then make my rounds on the net...cnn, slashdot, espn, drudge, read a few wikipedia articles, check the weather...in a few dozen towns. It may sound strange but i'd rather be working at shoprite making 8.50hr because at least then I wouldn't be underpaid.

On the usefulness of web polls (1)

Haiku 4 U (580059) | more than 8 years ago | (#13484022)

Do you waste your time?
Click on the answer that applies:
Yes, yes, sometimes, yes.

I am ready for anything (2, Interesting)

erroneus (253617) | more than 8 years ago | (#13484026)

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.

Peter Gibbons said it best (4, Funny)

glomph (2644) | more than 8 years ago | (#13484033)

"Well you see, Bob, it's not that I'm lazy... it's that I just don't care"

Missing option (1)

bechthros (714240) | more than 8 years ago | (#13484040)

How about both?

Binary thinking is for machines...

Maybe this is a rationalization ... (3, Insightful)

Edmund Blackadder (559735) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

we get shit done when it needs to get done (1)

JeanBaptiste (537955) | more than 8 years ago | (#13484074)

Thats the american way. We do slack a bit when we can, but when something needs doing, we do it.

WW2 would be a good example of that. It took us a while to get our asses in gear, but when we did, we got the job done. The japanese high command thought we were lazy, we proved them wrong...

Justified downtime? (1)

travail_jgd (80602) | more than 8 years ago | (#13484080)

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 didn't give 110% -- I did that yesterday.

Businesses need to look at the big picture, instead of adding up the minutia. Locking down the Internet connection or bathroom stall to monitor employee time to the second doesn't make a more productive workplace, it just gives ineffective management another target to miss.

bull (2, Interesting)

fakedupe (872465) | more than 8 years ago | (#13484087)

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.

Time v. Work (1)

gadzook33 (740455) | more than 8 years ago | (#13484092)

In the past, on commenting upon the lazyiness of the American Worker, I have on many occasions been told that on average Americans spend more time at work than the people of most other nations. I have always thought this to be an misleading statistic. Americans spend a lot of time at work. That has absolutely no correlation to the amount of time they spend actually doing work, or perhaps more importantly, the quality of that work.

My favorite tool of productivity "The water cooler (2, Interesting)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 8 years ago | (#13484103)

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.

Wow... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13484107)

Being worthless nigger trash in New Orleans must suck.. ..why not evacuate them back to africa?

Eh?

I'm voting for "lazy" (0, Troll)

meta-monkey (321000) | more than 8 years ago | (#13484124)

All I see in these comments, and in the story, is rationalization. "I don't get paid enough. I don't get enough vacation." Cry more, please. People can rationalize anything. That doesn't make it true.

People are not machines (1)

Eminence (225397) | more than 8 years ago | (#13484126)

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, our bodies are biological entities, they don't evolve as fast as our technology. What I think is happening is that the fact that we use computers more and more in our workplace makes it easier to observe in detail what employees do. And there is some degree of dehumanization in the workplace going on, especially in large corporations. So, performance of "human resources" is being reduced to numbers just with all other resources and the time spent at work gets arbitrarily and mechanically divided as "productive" or "unproductive".

Nothing has changed (1)

Veteran (203989) | more than 8 years ago | (#13484133)

People haven't changed much since primitive times. On a day after day basis it was not possible to work on hunting more than 4 to 6 hours a day. The same remains true today, the brain can only concentrate for so long.

As the article mentions much of what appears to be 'wasted' time is really subconscious creative time.

In my case I can't design a computer consciously; I bring in the requirements, I talk about them with other engineers, and then I relax, letting my subconscious work on the problem. When it is ready it hands me a completed design. I just transcribe it into the layout program. The whole process is more or less effortless.

working (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13484137)

I wonder how many people are at work reading this very article when they should be working

Lazy AND creative (2, Interesting)

zhiwenchong (155773) | more than 8 years ago | (#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]
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