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Work Daze: To Sleep, Perchance to Steam

These days, it’s difficult to find heroes.

Outside of thee and me, of course.

That’s why a recent Jena McGregor article in The Washington Post is a must-read for those who are looking for inspiration, as well as income, from their jobs.

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“Why We Love Stories About Workers Who Sleep On The Job” is the title of McGregor’s sermonette, and when I rubbed the sleep out of my little eyes with my little fists, I found myself truly inspired by the actions of a few brave souls whose achievements in somnambulism at work deserve our attention and admiration.

Alas, like so many heroes throughout history, these titans of sloth received not celebration but condemnation.

“The California State Auditor’s Office released an investigative report last week citing several cases of state employee misuse of state time and property and economically wasteful activities,” the author reports.

Exhibit A: “A couple of groundskeepers at California State University in Fresno who were said to have missed thousands of hours of work over a four-year period, driving off campus to their home or sitting in their cars rather than working.”

On the surface, this behavior may seem indefensible. But what if these groundskeepers had important keeping to do at home? I refer to keeping up with the nefarious antics of Summer and her scheme to seduce Billy on “The Young & the Restless.” And since when is sitting in your car a crime? By sitting in their cars during the time they should be mowing the lawns and trimming the hedges, these valiant workers were saving us megabucks in police salaries by making sure their cars weren’t stolen. Or, if they were stolen, there’d be someone dozing in the back seat to drive their car home.

Exhibit B: An assistant chief in the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, who was cited for “building an unauthorized structure on state property using staff under his command.”

In their rush to judgment, California authorities did not consider that the structure, which happened to be a 16-by-20-foot tiki hut built in the backyard of his personal residence, serves as a magnificent salute to the culture of Polynesia. As long as the tiki hut is kept in tip-top shape — and I know a couple of groundskeepers in Fresno who may have time to provide maintenance services — it will also inspire firefighters with the knowledge that while they are battling blazes, their managers are relaxing at home with frozen rum runners and Bahama mamas.

As you might expect, the much-hated Department of Motor Vehicles also drew attention for a sleepyhead in the org chart.

Exhibit C: A data entry worker who slept “at least three hours every workday over a four-year period, costing the state more than $40,000 in lost work.”

Only $40,000? That’s chicken feed if it kept even one grumpy DMV worker away from the public for hours at a time. If the entire department spent every day sleeping, a trip to the DMV would be a much more pleasant experience.

Still afraid to close your eyes and drift off to dreamland? A Gallup poll found that 85 percent of workers are not engaged in their jobs. Another poll found that 52 percent of workers reported napping at work. (The fact that the latter poll was conducted by Amerisleep, a mattress company, should in no way taint these results. After all, I think one can safely assume that 100 percent of Amerisleep employees snooze on the job.)

While public workers who sleep on the job are universally condemned by the taxpayers who pay their salaries, author David Graeber believes that private industry leads the way in dozing off on-the-job.

“Injecting jobs with more purpose and more challenges” is one prescription for keeping workers engaged and awake. This sounds pretty woo-woo, and I suspect that most companies will follow the lead of air conditioning giant Daikin and electronics company NEC, who have “begun experimenting with a system that monitors the movements of employee’s eyelids and — if it detects workers snoozing — can immediately lower the room’s temperature, keeping people alert with a blast of cold air.”

That may work for the average napper, but for committed sleepytime employees like us, our corporate overlords may want to enhance the cold air blast with a blast of 5,000 volts of electricity.

This may seem like overkill, but don’t fight it. Ralph Lauren sells a very stylish shock collar in a variety of fashionable colors.

On you, it would look wonderful.

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 now works out of Bellingham, Washington. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at bob@bgplanning.com.

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