Slacking Is Hard Work, Requires Extensive Planning — Not A Job For The Faint Hearted, Reveals Study

Alap Naik Desai - Author

Jan. 13 2015, Updated 1:21 p.m. ET

Just how much time does an average modern-day office-goer employee while away behind the desk? According to a new study, the average employee spends about 1 to 3 hours a day goofing off at work.

Roland Paulsen, a scholar of business administration at Lund University in Sweden, recently presented his work Empty Labor: Idleness and Workplace Resistance, which can be now considered as a yardstick to understand exactly how does an employee slack off during business hours. The work is meant to help us understand what he calls empty labor — which includes anything and everything a worker does on company’s time that isn’t work.

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Activities such as surfing the web, sleeping, organizing the office football pool, or writing a doctoral dissertation on the sly are among the many things that employees do on company time. However, Paulsen chose to focus only on the most aggressive types of work-shirkers. He tracked down hardcore non-performers through friends of friends, web ads, and the Swedish website, where people share slacking stories and tips.

Paulsen’s interviews were designed to answer two basic questions: “How do you get away with this?” and “Why do you do it?” Paulsen notes that slacking is no child’s play and requires strong determination.

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“Doing nothing’ while at work can be a very demanding activity requiring planning, collaboration, risk calculation, and ethical consideration. Some subjects turned shirking into a game they found more meaningful than their actual jobs.”

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What’s troubling is that while ‘presence’ can be easily quantified, ‘productivity’ is an entirely different matter. Many employees confirmed they easily fake ‘performance’ by coming in early and staying late. Additionally, they were well-groomed, which ensured managers were less likely to question their low performance.

Who slack of the most? Paulsen reveals that jobs with maximum opacity — where people have no idea what you do — are most prone to have slackers. Uber-slackers are taking advantage of this perceptual feature of the modern economy, shared Paulsen.

In many jobs, work has become decoupled from tangible production, making productivity difficult to measure. Paulsen cites the example of a web-development team that regularly offers inflated time estimates for projects that never take up that much time.

So what’s the damage? Seventy percent of porn viewing and 60 percent of online shopping take place during business hours. Studies indicate that worldwide, the average employee spends about 1 to 3 hours a day goofing off at work. This is a severe amount of down-time, but managers knowingly turn a blind-eye because slacking can be considered as a trivial incentive as well, quipped Paulsen.

[Image Credit: Glassdoor]


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