Monday, November 25, 2002

Oh, sure you're working

This is just in, so ring some bells and blow some whistles:

People actually work when they go to work.

At least, that's what they claim in a second annual workplace survey from At-A-Glance, the nation's leading manufacturer of organization and time-management products.

Nine of 10 people surveyed by the Sidney, N.Y., division of MeadWestvaco, said they are extremely productive for 45 minutes of every hour they are at work.

About six of 10 workers claimed they are productive for 92 percent of their day. In other words, most people only work six hours out of every eight-hour day.

Then, of course, there is that other annoying and cloying three of five people in every office who look busy all the time - or at least they expect other people to believe they work virtually all the time they are at their desks.

The survey is not exactly cast in platinum. One credibility challenge exists: It is simply not believable.

Why? Because people lie all the time, particularly when it has to do with work.

That's why there are jails from one end of this land to the other and all of them are full.

But beyond criminal behavior, you simply have to question any result when pollsters ask the naive question: how hard do you work each day?

Folks will talk about the sweat, pain and despair of their job - as long as they can get somebody to listen - but how many people actually have sweat, pain and despair? Precious few.

Just look at how most people arrive to work each day:

First coffee or tea. Then a little idle chitchat about traffic. Reload coffee or tea.

Take a restroom break and think about a golf shot. Reload the coffee or tea. Read the latest supervisor's e-mail. Peruse all other e-mail. Re-read the last memo.

Clean the coffee mug, and then maybe, just maybe, it's time to finally get to work. And that's just the first hour.

Here's the biggest whopper of them all in the survey, which is supposedly accurate to within plus or minus 2.7 percentage points.

The 1,385 Dilbert wannabes all - each and every one, 100 percent of the people surveyed - claimed to keep idle chatter to less than an hour a day. Half the people surveyed chitchat for less than 10 minutes each day. Yeah, right!

David Martin, an executive coach and trainer based in Mount Lookout, said the survey reflects a common collective attitude at many workplaces.

"People can have a sense of being productive if everybody is moving at the same pace," said Mr. Martin, founder of the Spanda Group, which offers a two-day seminar on how to stretch and achieve goals on Jan. 24-26 at Maitri Center in Northside.

"Our culture influences what we perceive. If everyone else is going at whatever pace, that becomes the norm. I find that most people have a lot more they can put out or bring to work each day."

Slower to hire

Caliper, a Princeton, N.J.-based consulting firm, has determined that employers are now taking 65 days to fill management positions, 60 days to fill sales positions and 40 days to fill customer service positions.

The Caliper report points out that these days, all titles and positions have this much in common: Nobody is hired until a pool of at least 10 applicants is created.

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