Congratulations, fellow Americans! According to the latest “American Time Use Survey” conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we now know that, on the average, Americans are working 26 minutes less each workday. That’s almost a 10 percent improvement!
I’d like to take 100 percent credit for the 10 percent decrease in productivity, but such an accomplishment cannot be credited to one slacker alone. While the gospel of goofing-off that I have been preaching — and living — for so many years assuredly did make a difference, we do have to thank the recent economic kerfuffle for its contribution.
With so many unemployed people unable to do any work whatsoever, it’s only natural and mathematical that the totals would be pulled down. Still, a lower level of laziness is not something to slough off. These days, you have to work hard if you’re going to work less.
My question is — are you doing your share?
If you’re a woman, it looks like you do have some bragging rights. According to the survey results, women worked 41 minutes less every day than men. But don’t start congratulating yourself just yet. If the ladies are doing less at work, they are doing more at home. Women spent an average of 2.6 hours a day on household activities, while men spent only 2.1 hours. And only 20 percent of men do housework every day, as opposed to 68 percent of women.
Granted the Department of Labor has a very strange definition of housework, which they define as “doing laundry and food preparation or cleanup.” This totally excludes those of us who consider housework as managing the remote control and testing the capacity of the recycling container by filling it to the brim with empty beer cans. Incredibly, women who ignore these critical duties are given a pass.
Despite the scope of our great gains in goofing-off, there are certain spoilsports out to derail our success. For verification of this admittedly implausible claim, take a few moments from the three hours and 58 minutes you are projected to work today, and turn to Sue Shellenbarger’s Work & Family column in The Wall Street Journal. In a recent article, “Designs to Make You Work Harder,” the hard-working Shellenbarger provides details on a project undertaken by four design firms to create a 15-foot by 15-foot office that would “inspire ideas and create productivity.”
This was not a totally academic exercise, since each office was to be occupied by a “hypothetical midlevel executive.” And as we know, when it comes to inspiration and productivity, most midlevel executives are extremely hypothetical.
The San Francisco-based design firm, Gensler, envisioned the perfect executive office as an expression in “polished metal and glass,” offering the “the ambiance of a five-star hotel.” As impersonal as it is luxe, the hotel concept is supposed to allow the occupant to “erase her stamp on the office” when out on the road. Of course, even without room service, the real executive benefit of working in a virtual hotel room is how conducive it is to spending the workday sleeping.
PDR, a Houston-based design firm, created an office with a “living room feel.” Featuring “zones for concentration, contemplation and collaboration,” this office features a contemplation corner where “a lounge chair is protected by an acoustical dome that allows privacy while listening to music.” I think this is a lovely idea — not only for the manager but also for the employees, who may find it difficult to accomplish even a minute of work when constantly bombarded by the sounds of Lady Gaga emanating from the corner office.
The New York office of Studios Architecture organized its model office “around the principles of Vastu, an Indian method believed to align design with principles of nature.” Though no one is a greater supporter of Vastu than me, I do think the best feature of this “Sunlit Sanctuary” is the “glass transom that opens automatically to exhaust air when needed.”
That transom is sure to get a heavy workout, considering just how much hot air is produced in executive offices.
VOA Associates in Chicago built their dream office around a heart-shaped conference table to “symbolize the emotional center of the business.” The table design is supposed to be “tongue-in-cheek,” but I take it very seriously, indeed. Any boss who gets to sit in one of these lavish metal and glass throne rooms is going to create a lot of heart attacks.
Bob Goldman has been an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company in the San Francisco Bay Area. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at firstname.lastname@example.org.