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Article - Why is Everyone So Busy
Old 12-23-2014, 07:35 AM   #1
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Article - Why is Everyone So Busy

From the Economist: In search of lost time: Why is everyone so busy? | The Economist

Too many gems to summarize easily, but these two stood out for me:

"Because knowledge workers have few metrics for output, the time people spend at their desks is often seen as a sign of productivity and loyalty. So the stooge who is in his office first thing in the morning and last at night is now consistently rewarded with raises and promotions, or saved from budget cuts."

I saw this happen all too many times. Individuals with very low productivity, but high visibility were rewarded.

"Until the 1970s, American workers put in the same number of hours as the average European, and a bit less than the French. But things changed during the big economic shocks of the 1970s. In Europe labour unions successfully fought for stable wages, a reduced work week and more job protection. Labour-friendly governments capped working hours and mandated holidays. European workers in essence traded money for more timeŚlower wages for more holiday."

It's very difficult to fight this battle on your own. On several occasions I offered to work fewer hours for less pay but, not surprisingly, I was only taken up on this when I was teaching and when I was phasing out at a non-profit. This was a non-starter at my corporate positions.

Also, there are many great insights about why people "feel" like they have no leisure time when, in fact, they do.

I am so glad to be out of the rat race!
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Old 12-23-2014, 07:44 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by jjquantz View Post
I saw this happen all too many times. Individuals with very low productivity, but high visibility were rewarded.
Come in just before everyone. Stay a bit later. And take 2+ hour long lunches. You will look like a very hard worker. Do not forget to take several breaks to talk to your co-workers, you want everyone to like you.
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Old 12-23-2014, 08:42 AM   #3
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Back in the 70s, I had a pretty wise first boss. His style was, I don't care when you come and go, so long as you get results. I loved my job and put in long hours, but also significantly exceeded his expectations results wise and it paid off for me. A lot of the other employees who put in their 8 hours and weren't focused on results didn't like me very much for making them look bad

When I became a department head, the focus on results is all that mattered to me, however, I always told my folks that if others see them coming in late and leaving early, it could hurt them career wise. It's pretty awful that appearances can sometimes trump substance, but that's just the way it is in today's corp world where many are promoted for all the wrong reasons.
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Old 12-23-2014, 11:21 AM   #4
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Back in the 70s, I had a pretty wise first boss. His style was, I don't care when you come and go, so long as you get results. I loved my job and put in long hours, but also significantly exceeded his expectations results wise and it paid off for me. A lot of the other employees who put in their 8 hours and weren't focused on results didn't like me very much for making them look bad

When I became a department head, the focus on results is all that mattered to me, however, I always told my folks that if others see them coming in late and leaving early, it could hurt them career wise. It's pretty awful that appearances can sometimes trump substance, but that's just the way it is in today's corp world where many are promoted for all the wrong reasons.
Clearly specifying the intended results is the key. Most of my supervisors were either unsure what results they wanted or were unable to communicate them clearly. As a result, the default expectation became "you better be here in case I need you." I did have a couple of brief situations like you describe and the key is, indeed, exceed expectations. When your supervisor comes to believe that you are essential, then you are in a position to negotiate.
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Old 12-23-2014, 12:28 PM   #5
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I used to butt heads with HR over letting people work from home, especially new parents. I was fine with it and HR said I was setting a bad example. The people who worked from home actually got more done because they had less interruptions.

We had many "Wallys" who showed up and did nothing, but God forbid I let a productive mom or dad with a baby and a long commute work from home one day a week. I guess face time is all that mattered.
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Old 12-23-2014, 01:32 PM   #6
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I often came into the office and spent the day schmoozing or surfing the web. Too long walks at lunch for a couple of hours. Spent time dealing with things like banks and insurance, the chores that need to be done. Occasionally took a nap in my cubicle. Someone who didn't know me could easily have assumed I was a Wally. The only reason I was there was because we were required to be in the office between 9 and 3:30.

Then I would go home, have dinner, hang out with the family. Then when everybody went to bed I would get to work. There was very little I could do during the day, since all my network and firewall changes and server patches had to be done out of hours. Plus I'd get called for outages nearly every night. It was a fairly miserable existence, and I resented the hell out of having to put in the face time during the day.

When I moved and spent my last to working years in a lab (no production support) environment it took me over a year to learn to sleep through the night. Now as an ER I sleep like a baby, although I'm still way more of a night owl. Late nights, early mornings, and a nice afternoon nap. Bliss.
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Old 12-23-2014, 01:49 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by DFW_M5 View Post
Back in the 70s, I had a pretty wise first boss. His style was, I don't care when you come and go, so long as you get results. I loved my job and put in long hours, but also significantly exceeded his expectations results wise and it paid off for me. A lot of the other employees who put in their 8 hours and weren't focused on results didn't like me very much for making them look bad

When I became a department head, the focus on results is all that mattered to me, however, I always told my folks that if others see them coming in late and leaving early, it could hurt them career wise. It's pretty awful that appearances can sometimes trump substance, but that's just the way it is in today's corp world where many are promoted for all the wrong reasons.
+1
I had a wonderful boss once who made it crystal clear to everyone that if you couldn't get everything done in a 40 hour work week, you were not as efficient as you could be. He told us in no uncertain terms that if he ever caught anyone working late or on a weekend, that he would take appropriate measures.

And sure enough, it worked perfectly. Happy employees, happy spouses, great work/life balance, and superb morale.
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Old 12-23-2014, 01:54 PM   #8
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My boss' measure of good employee is doing exactly what he says, and how. It's not hard to fool him by doing exactly that instead of doing the right thing. This bred a culture of sycophants who don't hesitate to do wrong things for the megacorp/peers/employees as long as they look good in front of their boss. All they need to do is look busy, act busy, and do everything but being *really* busy.
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Old 12-23-2014, 02:14 PM   #9
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I used to butt heads with HR over letting people work from home, especially new parents. I was fine with it and HR said I was setting a bad example. The people who worked from home actually got more done because they had less interruptions.

We had many "Wallys" who showed up and did nothing, but God forbid I let a productive mom or dad with a baby and a long commute work from home one day a week. I guess face time is all that mattered.
My only concern here is if you would deny telecommuting to those without children, that would stir up resentment because of favoritism toward those because they reproduced. This was not the case at my former company which let me telecommute for 2 years because (a) I was a long-time, productive employee, and (b) I could do my job from home which consisted of a lot of computer work and running/maintaining programs more efficiently during off-peak hours. I recall a new mom with the same job tenure as me asking for telecommuting privileges being denied because she wasn't nearly as productive as I was and her work did not lend itself to working from home. She ended up resigning to be a stay-at-home mom.

My company had no problem granting my requests to work fewer hours. They probably thought I was crazy, asking to be paid LESS not once but twice in a 6-year period. But having more free time was worth far more than what I was earning.

Reading through this thread reminded me of that Seinfeld episode where George lockes himself out of his car at the parking lot in Yankee Stadium where he works. Jerry and George figure out that Steinbrenner and George's immediate boss each see his car there and figure he is working long hours. Jerry describes George locking himself out of his car the best career move he ever made LOL!
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Old 12-23-2014, 02:57 PM   #10
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Back in the early 1980's I worked for a company that was quite proud of their 'flex-time' arrangement. Flex-time was an old buzzword for flexible working hours.

The flex-time policy was pretty straightforward.
  • Work starts any time between 7 and 8:30 AM
  • A 30 minute lunch break could be taken any time between 12 PM and 1 PM.
  • Work ended any time between 5 and 6:30 PM
This was the same employer whose office supply room was staffed, and required workers to turn in old pencil stubs to get a new pencil. The software engineers had figured out how to program their TeleVideo terminals to generate keystroke activity on the VAX, as looking busy (by keystroke count) was important, even while researching or designing.
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Old 12-23-2014, 03:01 PM   #11
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That was a really good article and I am PROUD to be a LAZY FOOL!


This AM, I went over to my Dad's to try help and secure the house for the possibility of some sever weather. He doesn't live far (about 5 miles away), but it took almost 20 minutes to get there because if ALL THE TRAFFIC! People looked so hurried and it was just crazy. So, when I got home and read the article, I thought I would share it on Facebook and made a comment about the craziness of the season. The *very first* comment on my post was "I can't read that entire article, it would take me way too long!!!". At first I thought they were being sarcastic, but it occurred to me that they posted the comment no less than 30 seconds after I shared it. Oye vey.
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Old 12-23-2014, 03:05 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by M Paquette View Post
Back in the early 1980's I worked for a company that was quite proud of their 'flex-time' arrangement. Flex-time was an old buzzword for flexible working hours.

The flex-time policy was pretty straightforward.
  • Work starts any time between 7 and 8:30 AM
  • A 30 minute lunch break could be taken any time between 12 PM and 1 PM.
  • Work ended any time between 5 and 6:30 PM
This was the same employer whose office supply room was staffed, and required workers to turn in old pencil stubs to get a new pencil. The software engineers had figured out how to program their TeleVideo terminals to generate keystroke activity on the VAX, as looking busy (by keystroke count) was important, even while researching or designing.
My last 6 months of w*rk had me doing "super-maxi-flex" hours. Simple...I came and went as I pleased. It was great.

A trick in the Air Force to make it look like you were still in the office was to leave a spare service hat and a set of random keys on your desk, then people would just think you were out and about "with the people". I used to carry around a "Penske File" (Seinfeld reference) when I needed to look busy.
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Old 12-23-2014, 07:13 PM   #13
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With my current job, I used to work in the office so I had to stay there 8 hours whether I was busy or not. It is always difficult when I had to take care of personal business. It is also tough to look busy when I really had not much to do.

Nowadays I work from home, it removes all that. I can multi-task. I can run quick errands. I can watch UPS truck and not worry someone would steal my package.

Today, I had to take my wife to a small outpatient procedure; stayed in waiting room while dialing into a conference room; just in time to see my wife in recovery room when meeting ended. All the while, I appeared to be working but no one noticed that I multi-tasked.
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Old 12-25-2014, 07:05 PM   #14
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FIREd since 2007...I had a lot of trouble with that busy thing for the first few years. It took me quite a while to downshift. I credit a lot of the fine folks here for helping me with that transition.

These days ? I am perfecting the art of dedicated laziness. I do the house and grounds upkeep and piddle away at my small projects and hobbies, but nothing on the scale of activity when w*rking.

Just for fun I will sometimes look back at my old resume, educational records, and list of volunteer activities done while w*rking FT and am simply amazed. It's almost like it was someone else's life, not mine.

Time to plant the flowers and enjoy the smooth passage of a day.
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