Use time wisely by slacking off (excerpt)
By Eric Weiner Los Angeles Times: September 11, 2007
A recent survey found that the typical American worker wastes slightly more than two hours a day, not including lunch and scheduled breaks. The insurance industry is particularly rife with time wasters (can you blame them?) and Missouri, for reasons not entirely clear, is the state with the highest percentage of slackers.
The No. 1 timewasting activity is surfing the Internet and sending personal emails (a finding perhaps skewed by the fact that the survey, conducted by AOL and salary.com, was Webbased), followed by socializing with coworkers, conducting personal business and just plain “spacing out.” All of this loafing is supposedly costing employers $759 billion a year in lost productivity.
The elevation of hard work to the status of noble pursuit is, in the sweep of human history, relatively recent. The ancient Greeks and Romans viewed hard work as a curse.
Attitudes toward work differ not only across time but also place. Corinne Maier’s appropriately slim volume, “Bonjour Laziness: Why Hard Work Doesn’t Pay,” advocated that workers resort to “active disengagement” at the office. It was a bestseller in France.
When it comes to interspersing work and frivolity, nobody beats the Thais. “If a job isn’t sanuk fun it’s hardly worth doing,” Thai architect Sumet Jumsai told me over a Scotch at his Bangkok office recently.
In this country, there is talk of trying to derail the office slackers by blocking access to Facebook and other timewasting websites. Despite all of this fretting, we are no slacker nation. The U.N.’s International Labor Organization recently issued a report that found that the U.S. leads the world in worker productivity and by a wide margin.
So why do we feel like such slackers? For one thing, we are a nation ambivalent about work. We both cherish it and resent it. I suspect that some of this loafing is a subtle form of revenge. With work now sloshing over into personal time (think BlackBerry), it seems only natural that personal time should slosh back into work. Technology is fast rendering distinctions between “work” and “leisure” meaningless.
Goofing off is not a waste of time well, not always. Exhibit A: Albert Einstein. He was a worldclass loafer. In 1905, he was working as a clerk at a Swiss patent office, spending a lot of time spacing out. A “respectable federal ink pisser” is how Einstein described himself. Yet it was at work, daydreaming one day, watching a builder on a nearby rooftop, that he experienced “the happiest thought of my life” a thought that soon blossomed into his “special theory of relativity.”
Thus the recent Web survey gets to the heart of the paradox. We are a nation of doers, hard workers, yet we are also a nation of ideas, big ideas. These two aspects of the American personality constantly rub against each other; great ideas require idleness, but idleness makes us uncomfortable.
In a wellorganized essay, offer your own opinion about the benefits and/or drawbacks of wasting time. Perhaps consider work that you conduct through a job or as a student, or the type of work that is expected of people who have jobs in your major or field of study. Perhaps consider attitudes about work and wasting time that are central to you, your family, your nationality, or your ethnicity. Be sure to fully develop your answer. Use the reading material as needed.