This is the verbatim blog heading and entry, from the mystery blogger (yeah, I know; should have got the link before the text, but I didn’t think it was that interesting until after I had read it properly…do’h).
Blogs. Destroying the economy or improving productivity?
A report last week by Advertising Age Editor at Large Bradley Johnson noted that about 35 million workers -- or one in four people in the U.S. labor force -- spend an average of 3.5 hours, or 9%, of each work day reading blogs.
This blogification of workplace time is no minor concern -- the total losses across the national work force are estimated to be the equivalent of 551,000 years of paid time that is being spent on blogs via the employer's own computer systems.
Another important point was that the time spent reading blogs on the job was in addition to the time already spent surfing the Web in personal pursuits. The debate appears to be one of reasonable limits.
At what point, or at what length of time, does the use of company assets for personal activities become unreasonable? And is the problem likely to become an even greater one as more and more TV content goes online, becoming easily accessible from one's office computer? Do employers need to find new ways to police their computer systems? Or does Blogging and personal surfing actually improve moral and make people more productive in the long run? Your thoughts?”
I didn’t get to the comments, if any, as I had lost the blog by then.
In addition to blogging and surfing the web for personal use, he left off the work time devoted to personal emails. Given that business emails use up hours of time each day, for most people, when you throw in blogs, personal surfing, perhaps a bit of instant messaging, and personal emails, perhaps 15 minutes playing an online game, well, the erosion of time devoted to actually performing work is, to my mind, dramatic. Add in meetings, necessary routine administrative tasks, walking to and from printers and photocopiers, listening to voicemail messages, leaving voicemail messages, and having real telephone calls (personal and business), playing with Blackberrys and other personal devices, scheduling future meetings, prioritizing work to be done in the future, and you start to see that an enormous number of average office workers, including managers, are most likely performing very little work.
By “work” I mean the actual construction or production or provision of a real or tangible contribution to achieving some goal or output or outcome that contributes in a measurable, whether quantitative or qualitative, manner to the maintenance or increase of business profits or margins, or to the efficiency and effectiveness of an organization. Because THAT’S what people are paid to do – to work; to make a contribution. And they’re paid to do it TODAY.
I was, as you would gather, especially intrigued by the question posed by our “mystery blogger” at the end of his post. Do all of these personal activities, performed on company equipment, on the company network, on company time, improve morale? Does this make people more productive “in the long run”?
Given that the “long run”, in economic terms is generally about five years, but sometimes as little as three years, a large number of workers won’t remain in a company long enough for the company to benefit from this hypothetical “long run” dazzling increase in productivity – and it would need to be dazzling, with bells on. Their productivity, by my rough mental calculation would need to increase by, on average, 60% purely to make up for the time they did not spend doing the work they are paid to do in the first place. In order to be more productive, they would have to increase their productivity by more than 60%, because that’s merely a break-even number, the point at which they have worked the hours they were being paid to perform at a pretty average level of productivity.
Improve morale? That tends to occur with flexible hours and arrangements, that is, when people know they can go to the bank when a bank is open; when they can come in late and work late, because that suits their family obligations, or their gym schedule; or when they know they can pop down to the shops to get some Christmas shopping done at a time when the hoards have yet to descend; or to take days off, without penalty, when their children or their Mum is sick. In other words, moral and productivity are improved when people know with a certainty that their private lives will not be overly compromised or destroyed by their work obligations – it takes a weight off their mind, which means, or should mean, that when they are at work they are focused on work. Morale and productivity are also improved by people having control over how they perform their work and how they manage their work. Let’s just make that point a bit clearer – control over their WORK, as opposed to “control” over their incidental leisure activities, such as blogging or surfing the web.
Improving morale and productivity has nothing to do with people devoting hours of their working day to the pursuit of personal hobbies, interests or amusements.
This is not some grey line, this is clear cut: flexibility and trust boost morale and significantly improves productivity, but using your 8 hour working day distracted by the Internet is not an accommodation of personal or family needs, and adds nothing to morale or productivity – that’s just slack-arses totally abusing work resources and taking their pay under false pretenses.
Add it up – all of the non-work, non-productive, and personal activities now being performed in offices across the globe, during so-called working hours – and the cost to business must run to many tens of billions of dollars every single year.
The more technology changes to provide new beaut business tools - which all too often adds to busy-ness, rather than enabling an increase in effectiveness or productivity - the more we have technology that also nicely accommodates a myriad of personal distractions - during working time. Indeed, most especially during working hours, because that's often where the best technology is located, and often the only access that some people have; perhaps too, it's when people, perversly, make time for their personal interests, because they know they won't have time when they get home to their families, or when the clock chimes for their social life to kick-in, or their part-time study, or whatever.
It takes most people at least five minutes to focus back onto a task once they have been distracted (that's a fact), by things such as a call, an email, a quick look at a blog, checking an item on eBay, a chat with a colleague passing in the corridor. Add in all of the “refocus on the job at hand time” down-time in the average working day and you’ve already lost at least one hour of work time, if not more, for each person simply trying to remember what they were doing before they were interrupted or distracted – increasingly by personal pursuits and amusements on their workplace technology tools.
Yes, this is a DIRECT COST to business and to organisations, which means a direct cost, and a direct loss, to both employers and employees - billions of dollars in productivity forgone; billions of dollars in profits forgone; billions wiped off the GDP of developed countries.