by Mike Masnick

Think Of All The Lost Productivity In Giving People Lunch Breaks

from the rethinking-produtivity dept

Every time we hear of a study (and they seem to come out every few months) complaining about all the lost productivity from people doing non-work things at work, we wonder if there are really people out there who take them seriously. Almost every time the studies are sponsored by companies who are trying to sell things like internet filters into companies, and so they have the incentive to make every bit of "non-work" activity sound as pricey as possible. Certainly, it's true that people doing non-work things could be hurting productivity -- but it doesn't mean they necessarily are. If someone is particularly productive, but needs a break to recharge to remain as productive later in the day, isn't that a good thing? Isn't that why we have breaks and lunches and time to go home after work? For some reason, though, many people still seem to assume that any non-work activity must be bad. Even worse, they conclude that it's a "cost." It's not a cost at all. Yet, here we are with the latest study saying that it's now online gambling that's costing employers millions. Online gambling probably isn't a very good thing to do at work, but it's a bit of a stretch to suggest it's costing companies. If someone isn't getting their work done, then that should become clear, and it becomes a disciplinary question, not a revenue one. If online gambling is costing companies revenue, so are lunch breaks, commutes and talking to the person in the cubicle next to you about the TV show last night. Yet, no one's putting out studies worrying about those things. Yet.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Rational Thought, Jan 15th, 2007 @ 6:29pm

    Company Time?

    This emotion is nothing new. In 1990 I was disciplined for using comany email to send invitations out to the staff for Friday happy hours on a regular basis. (This was because someone complained about receiving these emails and that he was offended as he did not drink). But I digress. Now at this time I was working about 12-18 hours a day and being paid only for 8. Because I was sending emails out during "normal" business hours, it was deemed misuse of company property and time. I promised to stop sending out these emails if they agreed to pay me for all the hours that I was working. Somehow the corporate lawyers did not see it that way and I was ordered to stop at the risk of losing my job. So as you can see, nothing much has changed from corporations wanting to "own" employees back in the industrial era.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Zack, Jan 15th, 2007 @ 7:05pm

    middle managers who dont hit their numbers have to have SOMETHING to point to in their defense. why not published studies?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Jonathan Barbeau, Jan 15th, 2007 @ 8:06pm

    A comment on Recharging

    You hit the nail on the head there with recharging. If we think to much about something, we develop types of blockage in our minds, becomming less productive.

    I for one need to relax, take a walk, read a book or do something completely different than the task at hand when I find myself in a rutt.

    It is very health to take your mind off something, and revisit the task in a different state of mind.

    I agreee that taking frequent breaks assists in the complex process our mind goes through when channeling ideas. However, this is a very complex theory, and would have to take into consideration the many variables revolving around motivation, distractions, focus, etc..

    I for one requested a hammock at my new job where supply technical computer assistance, system administration, network support, web development and marketing, along with a plethora of other jobs needed by a technically inclined computer and web guru such as myself.

    I need a place where if I decide to work over time, I can sit back, relax, and recollect my thoughts. Sometimes a completely different subject will trigger astounding comparisons to your current project, and shine some new light on complicated tasks.

    Try a hammock in your office, it really kicks butt!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Casey, Jan 15th, 2007 @ 8:13pm

    A disciplinary question

    As the manager of a small office but also someone who spends a good amount of time during the day doing non-work-related activities, I've been torn as to how to handle this issue. I have one employee, however, whose online gambling was more than annoying -- it was a contributing factor to her general inability to perform her duties in a timely manner. In fact, she's often so rushed to finish things after spending hours gambling online that she makes a remarkable number of mistakes.

    But when I fire her tomorrow, I'm not going to mention the gambling, just like I wouldn't mention YouTube obsession or incessant news-reading (that's me). The more important issue is really whether things get done efficiently.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Brendan, Jan 15th, 2007 @ 8:56pm

    So true

    I work at a small company, and they don't micromanage us or tell us what to do. We have no filters on our internet, and no one keeps track of our time. We are responsible for our own deadlines, and the environment is MUCH more productive than the bloated large company that I used to work for. Without all the overhead of dealing with managers delegating tasks, we are able to actually get work done and think for ourselves. This kind of environment encourages us to work, and there's no reason to try to sneak around and cut corners just to get a break. I actually want to work in order to please my bosses with my accomplishments. Positive reinforcement works much better than punishment.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Capt. Underpants, Jan 15th, 2007 @ 11:03pm

    disciplinary question, not a revenue one

    This is actually only part true. If an employee is not performing as expected, and the problem seems to stem from that person spending too much time buying gold plated elephant poop on Ebay, then the company has every right to discipline the employee. At very least give a verbal warning, followed by a written if things did not change.

    If there was no improvement and the employee were fired there is still a cost in filling the position and what impact an employee being fired would have on morale or the productivity of others.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Louis, Jan 16th, 2007 @ 4:40am

    RE: Company Time?

    I've found that the company takes as much as you give it, and it never complains. Working 18 hours a day is detrimental to your own health, not the company's... it doesn't mind you working your ass off. Word to the wise, don't trust anyone who doesn't drink.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Mousky, Jan 16th, 2007 @ 5:31am

    Re: A disciplinary question

    You should be firing for being inefficient, for making mistakes, for doing things last minute.

    The biggest problem is that there are plenty of 'managers' who should have never become managers in the first place. They don't have the guts to discipline an employee, more so if they work in an union environment. Instead, they would rather have a blanket policy about doing non-work activities at work. That way they can simply point to your internet log and fire you. Who cares if you are productive?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Mousky, Jan 16th, 2007 @ 5:37am

    Re: disciplinary question, not a revenue one

    I agree that the company has every right to discipline an employee that is not meeting corporate standards. Problem is that more employers are instituting blanket policies about non-work activities at work on the incorrect basis that non-work activity effects productivity.

    My gut tells me that most employees who are unproductive or inefficient would be unproductive with or without the internet. Give them a written warning. No improvement? Fire them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Yet Another anonymous coward, Jan 16th, 2007 @ 6:19am

    If you are reading this at work... should all be fired. But, since I work in Security, I'll just modifiy the logs to make it look like I did it outside working hours...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Strofcon, Jan 16th, 2007 @ 6:57am

    Another take perhaps...

    While not in the interest of being snide or sarcastic, I am curious, is it possible that the "lost productivity" claim is simply a cover this time? After seeing the bans recently placed on cell-phone-based poker and whatnot, it seems to me that there's a small chance companies are more concerned with the online gambling of their employees becoming a legal liability to them. I've never been fired, or even reprimanded, for reading news sites, sleeping, or even playing WoW at work (though thank God I dropped the WoW habit!) because my productivity was through the roof. And one of my jobs was at CompUSSR... er... CompUSA rather. My bosses even commented on such studies, as they were pushed on them by the higher-ups, but they never really seemed to care, so long as I kept up the work.

    Oh, and off-topic, a word to the wise, never trust anyone who willfully imbibes a mentally crippling drug that strips people of anything resembling a rational thought process. A drinker may not be hard to find, but neither is a person with an STD. Being widespread doesn't make it any better! :-)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 16th, 2007 @ 7:11am

    At the end of the day productivity counts for very little in most companies. Whilst there are some companies out there that truly let an employee manage his own time and only come down on him when his productivity falls. The reality is most companies, even the ones who say they have such policies in place, are slave drivers.

    They truly believe they own you and think you should do what you are told, when you are told. Actually most companies think you should do what they want without being told, you should proactively seek unpaid overtime.....

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 16th, 2007 @ 9:55am

    My company allows me to websurf as I see fit with no filters, blocking, or tracking, but I would never a.) download porn or b.) online gamble at work. Anyone that does either, deserves to be fired for sheer stupidity.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Kevin, Feb 27th, 2007 @ 6:53am

    costs are real

    When too many employees fill up the existing resources and you're left purchasing more bandwith, that is a real cost.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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