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(Not) Working At Home

I don’t mean to be a scold, but I have to say what I have to say — reader, I am very disappointed in you.

When you told your manager you were working from home, I believed you. And I respected you. If we’re going to get out this economic mess, we’ll all have to work harder. Especially you. (Of course, I have to work harder, too. It’s just that I’m like your manager — the most important work I do is to make sure everyone else is working harder. Especially you.)

Imagine my shock when I read, “What People Really Do When They’re ‘Working from Home,'” on businessweek.com. The article reports on a recent survey from Citrix Systems, which reveals the shocking news that not everyone who says they are working from home is actually at home, working.

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“Based on a survey of 1,013 American office workers, conducted in June by Wakefield Research, 43 percent watch TV or a movie and 20 percent play video games while officially working from home. Parents are more likely than those without children to partake in these two activities, which aren’t work related.”

Putting aside for the moment the rather ludicrous claim that watching TV or playing video games aren’t work related — I learned everything I know about corporate life from watching “Spartacus: Vengeance,” and playing Splatterhouse — you don’t need a survey to know that even at your measly salary level, most managers do not like paying their employees to sit on their couches, in their PJs, while watching the new season of “Toddlers and Tiaras.”

And it gets worse! If watching bad TV on company time isn’t bad enough, the survey also shows that 24 percent of employees who are “working at home” are also drinking at home. Another 26 percent say they take naps, though I’m not sure how many of the 24 percent of drinkers become part of the 26 percent of nappers after the fourth Negroni.

Not everyone who isn’t working is playing. Thirty-five percent spend at least part of their “work day” doing household chores. If these chores include doing laundry, the work-at-home slacker has a wonderful opportunity to balance the books. After all, if the company is paying the tab, the least you could do is offer to wash the boss’ skivvies.

Another 28 percent of homebound employees use work-at-home time to prepare for dinnertime. Now you could assert that cooking nutritious meals makes you a better worker, but if you really want to neutralize any complaints coming from the corner office, simply invite the boss over to enjoy one of your gourmet repasts. When your supervisor realizes what a horrible cook you are, she’ll never give you grief about wasting company time in the kitchen.

Despite all the (not) working being accomplished, the article cites another survey, this one from Stanford University, which shows “telecommuters are more productive than their peers in the office.” These results may be perfectly accurate, but I also suspect they may be the result of a bunch of slacker Stanford statisticians who are themselves working for home, while totally whacked out on cheap chardonnay and reruns of “Duck Dynasty.”

As you might expect, children play a big part in the popularity of (not) working from home. Being stuck in the office all day is a difficult situation for new parents, but it is actually an advantage for experienced moms and dads, who now have a brilliant excuse for avoiding soccer games, meeting with principals and attending holiday concerts.

Despite the growing popularity of (not) working from home, half of the respondents report that their bosses oppose the practice. The reasons given by the bosses for their preference for your presence in the office include the opportunity for collaboration among team members and the need of the bosses to closely manage your work process, what there is of it. This all makes sense, but I think there’s a deeper reason.

If your managers are going to pay you to work, they want to see you sweat. Even when you’re at home, working like a dog, management will never be 100 percent certain that you’re not goofing off. That’s why I advise doing your goofing off at work, where everyone can see you.

And if it’s too painful to be at the office, under the watchful eyes of management, start wearing your PJs to work. You’ll be more relaxed, and I guarantee, no one will ever look at you.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at bob@funnybusiness.com.

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