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The Internet Businesses

Don't Let Your Boss Catch You Reading This 368

Stony Stevenson writes "iTnews is running a piece on the culture of cyberslacking in the business arena. Studies worldwide suggest employees spend about a fifth of their work shifts engaging in personal activities. Most of that 'wasted time' is, of course, spent online. From the article: 'A recent survey by online compensation firm showed about six out of 10 employees in the United States acknowledged wasting time at work. About 34 percent listed personal Internet use as the leading time-wasting activity in the workplace. Employees said they did so because they were bored, worked too many hours, were underpaid or were unchallenged at work. Firms all over the world are concerned about potentially harmful effects of surfing they deem to be inappropriate may have on their company's image.'"
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Don't Let Your Boss Catch You Reading This

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  • by It doesn't come easy ( 695416 ) * on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @11:44AM (#20399399) Journal
    In the first place, the Internet didn't create the ability to waste time at work. These "studies" never quantify the amount of time wasted at work today to that which was wasted before the Internet. Without comparing before vs. after, one cannot reach any absolute conclusions.

    In the second place, I work practically everywhere these days because of the Internet. I work at home, in the airport, in restaurants, in the car, etc. So counting all these other working locations, my productivity is significantly better than it was 20 years ago.

    In the third place, people aren't machines. People are more productive, and more creative, if they take a mental break now and then. And people make better business decisions if they stay current with social trends and events. It's not a time waster, it's a cost of doing business.

    Nuff said. Now quit bothering me, I really need to get back to work before my boss comes in.
    • by Bin Naden ( 910327 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @11:51AM (#20399517)
      I feel that the fact that most people waste 1/5 of their time on the internet may be a good indication that work weeks are 1/5th too long. In fact, if I could find a job where I would only work 4 days a week, I would probably be as if not more productive than now that I work 5 days a week. This is a case where corporations should revisit their policies instead of the other way around.
      • by Da Fokka ( 94074 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @11:57AM (#20399637) Homepage
        Be careful what you ask for - you might just end up with a 32 hour workweek getting 80% of the pay and end up browsing slashdot in your own time. Anyway, I think you're wrong. There is no intrinsic reason why 40 hours a week would be too much and 32 hours just enough. Smart employers (like mine, I'm typing this from work) don't mind some personal browsing and just care about the job getting done.
        • by Pojut ( 1027544 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @12:07PM (#20399823) Homepage
          This is more or less where my company stands on long as you aren't looking at "innappropriate material" (porn and such) and you get all your work done by the end of the day, they don't could spend 5 hours a day on the internet just screwing around, and as long as you finish everything assigned to you before the time you are supposed to leave, you won't ever be talked to about it.
          • ".as long as you aren't looking at "innappropriate material" (porn and such) "

            [X] My job requires me to look at internet porn, you ignorant clod!
            [X] In Soviet Amerika, pr0n looks at YOU!
            [X] ... what is this "and such" you're talking about?

            Its funny, we don't allow nude bodies, but we allow depictions of people being decapitated, etc.

        • by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @12:10PM (#20399857)

          Smart employers (like mine, I'm typing this from work) don't mind some personal browsing and just care about the job getting done.
          That tends to work well, within reason. I had an employer a number of years ago where the policy was that if all the work was done for the day, that we could come in early and relax. Unfortunately in practice, if there was a project manager at the site, they would have us come back in early and do some other work. Really demoralizing when ones group was the only group which ended up with extra work.

          But done in a fair minded way, it can definitely encourage efficiency gains. And in general if there is that much extra time being spent, it would make sense to just hand out some sort of bonus and give the worker(s) a bit more work to fill out most of the extra time.
          • by cs02rm0 ( 654673 )
            I had an employer a number of years ago where the policy was that if all the work was done for the day, that we could come in early and relax. Unfortunately in practice, if there was a project manager at the site, they would have us come back in early and do some other work.

            Your employer rewarded you by having you come in early and you did so in spite of then being given extra work?
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by hedwards ( 940851 )
              I was apparently unclear. We worked outside doing back breaking labor in the heat of the day. If we were quicker than they expected, we were supposed to be allowed to finish up and stop working early, but for reasons which weren't quite legitimate, they would find additional work to fill out the time which we had made available by being efficient. It was a contractual obligation. In hindsight, I wish I had sued, but realistically, I would not have actually been compensated well enough to warrant doing so, e
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by plague3106 ( 71849 )
          There is no intrinsic reason why 40 hours a week would be too much and 32 hours just enough.

          Actually there are various studies that indicate that people that work 32 hours normally are more productive than those that work 40.
      • That won't scale, though. It might work for a systems architect, possibly not for your help desk or customer service(where you are paying for availability), definitely not for food or retail service.

        I'd like to see the work week shortened, as a benefit of the much vaunted increase in productivity that technology has afforded us, but we'd have to accept some changes that might prove unpopular, including higher prices for services from businesses that would need to hire additional help.
      • Meh. Just adjust your work habits. I do mentally intensive crap for about 5 hours a day...Programming, Systems work, debugging, etc. The rest of the time I do some of the piles of pointless crap that are also part of my job...Checking logs, talking to people, writing documentation, doing security audits, fixing stupid problems...Boring, mindless crap.

        They may pay you to do X, but there is plenty of other stuff to do when you can't concentrate on X for another second without going berzerk...Or if there isn't
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by igny ( 716218 )

        I feel that the fact that most people waste 1/5 of their time on the internet may be a good indication that work weeks are 1/5th too long. In fact, if I could find a job where I would only work 4 days a week, I would probably be as if not more productive than now that I work 5 days a week. This is a case where corporations should revisit their policies instead of the other way around.

        But the 4 day work week would mean that one would waste 1/4 of his work time. Oh wait, I was never good at fractions.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Khashishi ( 775369 )
        Nah, I bet people would waste proportionally as much time online in a 32 hour week as a 40 hour week.
    • I personally would like to thank the internet for saving the trees. Think of all the stupid faxes the office secretary used to forward every day. There is scientific proof the net is saving the planet.
      • Unless your boss insists in printing out every email, no matter how silly or unimportant, so there's some archive...
      • I personally would like to thank the internet for saving the trees. Think of all the stupid faxes the office secretary used to forward every day. There is scientific proof the net is saving the planet.

        But at the cost of how many trees a day? Sure, we may save the paper, but how many more do we eat for energy (to feed the datacenters, etc.), buildings (commercial & residential), roads (to get to those new buildings), etc as a result of the network infrastructure & maintenance that is now required?

    • by nine-times ( 778537 ) <> on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @12:03PM (#20399739) Homepage

      I definitely agree with the spirit of your post. People waste time at work? So what?

      You ask people to spend the majority of their waking life, somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 hours a day 5 days a week, in a little cubical, and you're surprised that they aren't hard at work for that entire time? They're people. They should be able to occasionally talk to people and read things that interest them.

      It'd be a problem if you were only asking people to work 5 hours a day, 4 days a week, and people were wasting time on the job. I've had too many jobs, though, where there simply isn't more than 6 hours of work each day, but i had to be there for 10 hours. And those 6 hours of work were stressful, and the breaks kept me from snapping someone's neck.

      Also, there's a question in my mind about what constitutes "wasting time". I work in IT. Is it a wast of my time to read Slashdot? Sometimes. But sometimes it's very informative. I've learned a lot from my web browsing while "wasting time", and a lot of that knowledge has benefitted my employers. I also used to "waste" a lot of time screwing around with various hardware/software products, which also lead to increasing my knowledge.

      Being "productive" 24/7 just shouldn't be anyone's goal. A little experimentation/exploration/contemplation is useful.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by garcia ( 6573 )
        You ask people to spend the majority of their waking life, somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 hours a day 5 days a week, in a little cubical, and you're surprised that they aren't hard at work for that entire time? They're people. They should be able to occasionally talk to people and read things that interest them.

        It's part of time management -- both on the parts of the worker and the manager.

        I have a co-worker who constantly complains she's busy but spends a good portion of her day talking to other co-wo
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by nine-times ( 778537 )

          Good point. A good manager will find work for his/her employees, will help motivate people, and will monitor people to make sure they're doing the expected work. However, I think that a good manager will also expect that no one is going to work 8 straight hours each and every day. It's not even all that healthy for people when you can get them to do it.

          In fact, I think that 1/5 of an 8 hour work day (about an hour and a half) is pretty close to the right amount of "wasting time". I might drop it down t

      • Ultimately, that's the real question.... Is the employee really "wasting time" or is he/she learning something potentially useful?

        It's a little ironic that most employers have programs where they'll pay a chunk of your tuition to go back to college and take additional courses, and others gladly spend an annual budget on "training", sending you all over the country to seminars and training courses. Yet the self-motivated employee who surfs the net each day to learn more about trends in his/her field, to ke
    • by Adambomb ( 118938 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @12:14PM (#20399901) Journal
      heh, FTA

      Walter Block, a professor of economics at Loyola University in New Orleans, pointed to similarities between employees who slacked off before the computer age and those who waste time in cyberspace.
      Your latter two points however are exactly correct. I hear meetings involving the words "Employee Morale" quite often, and yet no one seems to truely understand what that entails. Having the ability to "Waste" such time at work makes for a much happier workforce, who see their efforts much less like work due to such "Slacking". Such employees tend to deliver much higher quality results and care a lot more about actually HELPING the company and actually BEING creative. When we add to that your points of keeping the employees minds fresh and the fact that such employees can work MORE because of internet usage, this really does seem to be a seriously overblown concern.

      Course it would depend entirely on the type of work ones site is doing as to whether such morale boosts would actually add value, but it doesnt change the fact that in many situations this can be a very good thing.
    • by raddan ( 519638 )
      Precisely. The decision came down the chain today that we were going to install some Blue Coat web-blocking appliances. The "productivity" argument goes right out the window for starters-- we're the most profitable division of the company, by far.

      I am opposed to this, of course, not just for the reasons you outlined, but that it seems like the decision happened for another reason: the "cover our asses" legal argument. I don't really see the rationale here, since anyone can sue anyone for anything. So
    • by Lumpy ( 12016 )
      They also ignore other factors.

      Smokers, they take a typical 10-15 minute break every 1 to two hours. some of the biggest abusers take 20 minute smoke breaks. actual break time is typically far longer as they mosey on out and may stop to talk to someone to ask if they want to take a smoke break, then mosey on in.

      These can easily turn into multiple 30 minute breaks during the day. Yet they ignore that but talk about how the internet is BAAAAAD and sucks up productivity.

      Internet abuse is one of the smallest
    • I agree. We just replaced water cooler talk with posting on the internet. Same mundane talk, just a different spot and different people.
  • by hansamurai ( 907719 ) <> on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @11:47AM (#20399441) Homepage Journal
    Just because I read Slashdot at work means I'm slacking off.

    Just a sec, I see someone in my monitor mirror *alt-tabs to Eclipse*

    Okay, I'm back, just started a 6000 test JUnit test suite so if anyone wonders if I'm being productive, I can point to the green status bar slowly approaching 100%...
    • Hey, /. is one of my sources for information about security problems! My boss already asks me to do it more. :)
  • by dada21 ( 163177 ) <> on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @11:48AM (#20399473) Homepage Journal
    My employees are free to spend as much time as they want in the office surfing any site they want do: slashdot, porn, the anarchist's cookbook, whatever. It is useless to me to tell them what they can or can't do when they've met their personal goals for projects.

    I also pay my employees differently than most consulting firms. We pay close to minimum wage, plus a very large bonus on each project. I've never had anyone quit, and I've never had anyone complain about their monthly paychecks. By offering a large portion of a project's profits, I know my employees won't waste my money (in salary), won't have to lie on their time sheets, and they'll do the best job they can do because they won't want to go and finish a punch list without pay or handle warranty work at a low rate. It is win-win, and a big reason why I'd prefer full 1099's than W2's if the IRS didn't prevent us from working that way.

    When you're salaried or on wages, the employer has to focus a lot more on containing the employee and sending them in the proper direction, constantly. We have zero managers at my company, just consultants. It works fine. Our customers love us because we're 40% cheaper than others in the industry but we excel at handling their needs.

    So this all lets me "not care" if an employee decides to spend all day long on the web, and only 1 hour on a project. If the customer is happy, and the work is good, and they do it quickly and correctly, they'll make a killing on the profit sharing, and they'll have a ton of free time to kill at the office if they want to be there. Our top employee works 2 days a week, I think, and earns a very respectable income. He can now spend 3 days at the office playing some MMOG, or go home and sleep. I could care less, the customers are happy.

    No, we're not hiring.
    • Are you hiring?

      My focus is to get the job done. Not spend the 38.5 hours in the office. If a problem exists that needs a solution NOW, I solve it. Now. There's a good reason why I recreated my complete office PC at home (as far as company policy allowed, of course).

      Still, I'm currently in trouble for not spending enough time on my desk. Was there a problem with a project? No. Did my work suffer in any way? By far not, I'm the most productive analyst in the company. What's the problem? That that slacker ass
    • Sounds good if you
      a) have realistic project plans.
      b) don't pull people off their projects randomly to (hopefully) save other projects that seem to be failing.

      In other words, if your employees actually have a good chance of succeding with their projects if they have the skills and put in the effort. Unfortunately, project planning at my current employer is inadequate for that, so your method might not work for us.
  • by elenaran ( 649639 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @11:49AM (#20399485)
    I think 1/5th of the time wasted is a huge underestimate. At my former job (IT), I easily spent the greater part of my days idly surfing the web. I wasn't avoiding work either - I really just had nothing else to do, but if in those situations I asked my boss for some more work, he would just give me some BS busy work like organizing a file cabinet. So after a few instances of that I just stopped asking him for things to do.
    • by svendsen ( 1029716 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @11:58AM (#20399643)
      Amen. Right now I am 8 weeks into a 24 week contract. I do on avg. 1 hour of work a day. They hired me to do A,B,C,D. When I started I wasn't allowed to work on B,C, and D because the person who was paying for me said it wasn't their project and it was their money. Hmmm politics. Project A got delayed by 2 months so things I should have worked on when I started won't happen till late Sept.

      In the beginning I asked for more work every day and would either get a be patient or crap work (please proof read this, wtf). Then I only asked twice a week, same answer, same grunt work. Example please make sure 5 people review a manual and give feedback. Glad I got my masters for this

      Now I don't care. I don't ask. I surf 7 hours a day (Slashdot, news, stocks, LinkedIn, etc) and look for jobs during the day. My boss does comment the work I do is outstanding so when I have work I do it well.

      Do I feel bad? Not one bit. I turned down another gig for this one and then got screwed here. So the 7 hours a day they pay me to surf is the opportunity cost to me for having accepted this job.

      How come they never do a study showing how a boss or company wastes the employees time?
    • Sounds familiar. The last time I complained to my boss about not having enough to do, I got stuck in boring meetings for months.
    • This was what I was up against in my old position. When I asked for more work, I was told to make some. Then, when I came up with projects that would have had a real, positive impact on our work environment (not to mention, provide me with some interesting work in the long term), the ideas were shot down--time after time.

      I've been in my new position (under different management) for almost a year now. It was a great change. Update your resume and get looking! A better position is waiting for you!
  • Solitaire (Score:5, Funny)

    by Viceroy Potatohead ( 954845 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @11:49AM (#20399491) Homepage

    about six out of 10 employees in the United States acknowledged wasting time at work
    The other four in ten were too stupefied to respond, having just played 900 consecutive games of solitaire.
  • by hatchet ( 528688 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @11:53AM (#20399569) Homepage
    As a developer i'm productive at work for 2-4 hours per day. That's less than 50%. You cannot expect from developer to code non-stop for 8 hours and be proficient at it. It simply doesn't work that way... and any employer expecting this is an idiot.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by BrianRoach ( 614397 )

      I work at a place that actually understands this, and love it. We do agile dev, and 4 "hours" is the daily level.

      I don't think I've ever worked in a better environment, and to be honest, I probably get *more* done in an average day than at any other place I've ever worked.

      Obviously this doesn't mean that on some days I don't code for more than 4 hours, or don't work at home sometimes when things need to get done, etc. That just comes with the territory. But it's the environment where I don't have someone s
      • I work at a place that actually understands this, and love it. We do agile dev, and 4 "hours" is the daily level.

        I don't think you understand agile or the 4 hours of daily work. It does not mean you only work 4 hours a day, it means that you only get 4 hours of *scheduled* work done per day. The other 4 hours reflect business related interruptions, unanticipated/unscheduled work, etc. Agile still expect you to be doing work for the company for 8 hours.

        if your projects are getting done, they don't rea
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Wylfing ( 144940 )

      This is something that is pretty well understood in jobs that are creative like programming or writing. You simply cannot be creative all the time. When something grabs you, and you're inspired by it, you might go all night without sleep in order to keep working on it. At other times, things are flat. You might force yourself to hammer out 2 or 3 hours worth of material, but it's not great output even then.

      After being in that kind of business for a number of years, you learn to find a way to become moderat

    • by e2d2 ( 115622 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @01:42PM (#20401205)
      Agreed. The only time I can truly code for 8 hours straight is with a nice nap at around hour 4 and then back up and fresh at it. That's straight coding.

      A lot of this job is research and "surfing" and "slacking" aren't the same thing. If I'm reading about a development platform that has potential, but has nothing to do with my current work, am I slacking? I don't think so. It's an investment in myself, and in turn my employer, for me to be a better developer across the board. You never know where you'll find a great idea that will change it all.

      And then there is the recovery of a mind that's been stressed. Would a person take a break after a test? I would put forward that programming can be this intense sometimes. You haven't done anything physical but you feel spent when finished.

      Very few programmers have longevity in the industry (beyond 10-15 years) because of the high stress level. Managers should be doing more to relieve this stress and keep their investments around. I never understood why computing throws away wisdom so easily, instead using green-horns who will work their brains fried just to impress the boss man. It may work in the near term, but long term it's detrimental.

  • Company Image (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Joebert ( 946227 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @11:55AM (#20399595) Homepage
    Because in todays economy, it's not how good you are, it's how good you look.

    If I look like I'm working, logicly, the company must also look like it's doing good, right ?
  • by Verteiron ( 224042 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @11:58AM (#20399677) Homepage
    My bosses fixed this by having me implement an unavoidable proxy server with a whitelist of approved sites. If you want to get onto a site that's not on the list, a manager must approve the site. Needless to say, anything not work related (including news, weather, banking sites, etc) are not on the list. Oh, and they're not playing Solitaire, either, thanks to the group policies in place that prevent the running of sol.exe and all other Windows games. And it's not like they're going to download new ones.

    Problem solved, says management, who are not subject to the filter!

    Of course all the employees resent being treated like children, and it's created a tremendous amount of ill will toward management, and people gripe about it all the time. At least one good employee switched companies because of the restrictive policy. But hey, at least they aren't wasting time on the 'net!
    • by dtouchet ( 1065652 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @12:10PM (#20399863) Homepage
      Management is usually exempt from these things.
      Our old IT manager wanted his surfing taken out of the firewall logs so I happy obeyed.

      Last year we get a call from our ISP that SPAM is coming from our site. I searched the logs to no avail, we found the PC doing the most surfing and my boss accused them of doing it on purpose. In the meantime, I kept looking at current packets going've guessed it by now....the IT manager had the spam producer on his PC. He never noticed his anti-spyware/virus was out of date.

      Lucky for me, I had in writing, his policy of exempting himself so it wasn't my problem.
      Always get this weird stuff from your boss in writing because it will always come back to get you if you don't.

      If management had to obey the rules of the lowly workers, the Internet would be free for all to use (as it is at my company now).
    • So time is now wasted trying to find ways to circumvent the filtering proxy. Hey, it's educational!
      • So time is now wasted trying to find ways to circumvent the filtering proxy.

        I work for the government (state) and we use a proxy and filtering software. When the software was implemented, one person was (and maybe still is) logged trying to find ways to get to sites with the word 'ass' in them. You name it, he tried to get to it.

        Go to the site directly? Yup. Didn't work. Go to Google then the site? Yup. Didn't work. Go to another site which somehow linked to the site. Yup. Didn't work. Tr

        • If someone wants to circumvent a filter, he can. It's all a question how much effort he puts into it vs. how much effort is put into keeping him from doing it.
    • by HikingStick ( 878216 ) <> on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @12:32PM (#20400185)
      Block access to the web, and people will go back to other topics (as if they don't already)--who's on Dancing with the Stars, LOST, some YouTube video, their pets, beading hobby, weekend at the lake, et. al. ad infinitum.

      Let's face it. People are not going to be 100% productive 100% of the time while they are at work. As other posters have noted, there are different dynamics depending on the type of job, but I won't go so far as to suggesting that similar slacking does not exist for those in the lower-end wage brackets. The biggest way slacking occurs there is through productivity slowdowns.

      Sure, it might only take an enthusiastic new employee 15 minutes to clean the breakroom, but it becomes clear very quickly that doing so makes the rest of the employees look bad, since they are allocated 30 minutes to do the job. I knew a guy who went to work (with his buddy) at a silo manufacturing facility many years ago. They got the hang of it soon enough and were soon completing nearly two structures a night. The pace was fair, and they were able to hold some great discussions while they were working. After a couple of weeks, they wondered how many silos they could make if they shut up and focused on the work. First night that way, they made five. The next night, they made seven. After about a week like that, the union steward showed up and told my friend and his buddy that, "it is physically impossible to build more than 2.5 silos per night." Excitedly, they told him what they did, but the guy just repeated his line. For the rest of the summer, they built 2.5 silos a night. Neither opted for full time jobs with that place.

      It's not a union thing--it's an establishment thing. Once people have an accepted "norm" for how something is done, it's hard to break away. That's one reason why "face time" is still valued (in some offices) more than productivity. Viva la revolution!
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by houghi ( 78078 )
      They could read a newspaper on the toilet like I^hsome people I know do.
  • by glindsey ( 73730 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @12:00PM (#20399693)

    Employees said they did so because they were bored, worked too many hours, were underpaid or were unchallenged at work.
    I'd like to add the following to the list: depressed employees. And by depressed, I mean clinically, not just feeling down every now and then. Seriously, being depressed leads to apathy and lack of motivation. This is why I fully believe that workplace insurance programs should always cover psychological and psychiatric treatment at an equal level as other medical concerns; in the end, employees who aren't depressed are more productive, and therefore more profitable to the employer.
    • by networkBoy ( 774728 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @01:42PM (#20401201) Journal

      My health care program (while it has its failings) covers psychiatric care. If you feel "not right" and ask for help you will be given a priority appointment for your first session and evaluation*. After that until your shrink (LCSW or psychiatrist, as appropriate to the help you need) determine you are good to go your care is covered. There is no limit on how long or the number of sessions. I'm sure the staff gets some pressure on long term patients, but the impression I got was push back by the care giver was accepted at nearly face value.
      Also covered without limit are group sessions, which can be immensely helpful, at least they were to me.

      Ultimately I left that job (gee, I wonder why...) but the personal tools I gained from the experience where vastly helpful. My openness about needing help in the past has had some interesting results though; at my current job one of my co-workers came to me for help with a personal issue, because their impression was I'd "been there". The best advice I could give them was to get professional help, and that if they were concerned/afraid/uneasy/whatever I would hold their hand and go to the first session till dismissed by them or the shrink. Ended up attending nearly the entire first session as a silent witness, and was asked to return after they left. Shrink both chewed me out and thanked me at the same time. I should not have been there because of the whole doctor/patient privilege issue, but at the same time, they needed help and I got them in.

      *They seem to understand that in the case of psychological issues immediate intervention is not optional as the person asking for help may not do so very forcefully, but still be in dire straits, either of suicide, or "going postal".
  • I'm an intern at a small software company and I keep busy. That said, I sit next to a full time employee that does less work in a weel than i do in in a day (according to ticket logs and time he spends on youtube, collegehumor, etc). Just like most other businesses, the more you get paid-- the less work you actually do.

    for the record-- he's our network admin.

    • Re:much more (Score:5, Interesting)

      by HikingStick ( 878216 ) <> on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @12:18PM (#20399953)
      I'm just guessing here, but...

      When the network takes a dive, he's the one working nights and weekends to get it back up, while you're at home playing WoW or watching Firefly on DVD.

      If he never puts in the time, then he is a slacker and I hope he gets canned. If he is like most other netadmins I know, he probably logs a crapload of time when everyone else is away, yet he's still expected to put in face time during the workday. In cases like that, he's probably judged on network availability and other metrics. When all is going well, he has slack time. When all is not going well, he could put in a couple hundred hours in a couple of weeks.

      If I were your manager, I'd be wondering how you found time to look at your netadmin's time in the ticket logs if you are already so busy--just something to think about.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    This whole subject of "losing time at work" is idiotic for all intellectual professions. Especially ones involving creativity, such as programming, or systems development in general.

    Of course there are guys that are paied and do nothing. But even the most job-oriented person needs some time to let the brain do its work.

    This entire hype of "spending time on the internet" is IMHO a production of HR staff that want to further decrease wages. Something like the RIAA counting losses.
    • Of course there are guys that are paied and do nothing.
      Isn't there some joke about management lurking in the wings here?
  • This is pretty much a self correcting system. A company can purchase software from Websense or Surf Control (which I imagine this is a slashvertisement for, without checking) to monitor/restrict internet access. The employees will either accept it, waste time doing somewhere other than online, or quit and go to companies that do not restrict Internet access.
    • I can tell you exactly what's happening.

      Instead of wasting time surfing, they waste time sitting together trying to find ways around the filter and swapping information about it. Which is kinda good in an odd way, it increases informal communication within the company.

      The drawback is that it's almost invariably strictly forbidden to circumvent it, so whenever the computer blows up because they managed to acquire some kind of malware they will keep up the "didn't do anything" story forever, even under tortur
  • by forgoil ( 104808 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @12:03PM (#20399755) Homepage
    1. People work too many hours == freakin' unproductive
    2. People are poorly managed (nothing to do, boring tasks, other crap)

    The problem isn't the internet, nor talking to your co-workers about other stuff that work. The problem is the way we work today. It's freakin' unproductive! We are worn out and tired, and there are few things that require less effort than surfing on the web. Attack the real problem and you'll see that productivity will skyrocket, employees will be a lot happier and have a lot more spare time where they can *gasp* surf on their own, or go hiking, or learn a new language, or travel the world (lots of vacation is GOOD for productivity, not the other way around!).

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Opportunist ( 166417 )
      The problem is in both cases poor management.

      Most managers are still in the 20s, where mindless conveyor belt work did actually work along the lines of "more hours == more productivity". Yes, it increased accidents as well, but unskilled labour is easily replaced. Throw the injured one away, grab the next guy from the street.

      It does not work in at least minimum skilled labour situations. And even less so where skill plays a key role. More hours only means more errors, and programming is an error prone occup
  • by seebs ( 15766 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @12:04PM (#20399765) Homepage
    And yet, somehow, I'm pretty productive.

    See, brains are complicated things, and sometimes what I really need is a half hour or so NOT looking straight at the problem, although I tend to be sort of absently thinking about it. And then suddenly I know what to do, and I go do it.
  • Low-Wage Jobs (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Gman14msu ( 993012 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @12:07PM (#20399817)
    While it's interesting to see the statistics for the workforce as a whole, I think it's interesting to point out that this is another major disadvantage for low wage workers. The types of jobs where you can slack off for 1/5th of the day aren't things like janitors, factory workers, or other lower level service personnel. If you factor that into the amount of work done per hour paid, the disparity between salaried office type work and low wage service work is even greater.

    When I first started at my office job during college, I was so used to being in the basic service industry that I didn't fit in right away. I was used to just taking a task, doing it, and immediately going back to the boss for the next thing. I didn't realize that the culture I was in was for slower progress on tasks and there wasn't a need to rush and be essentially managed by the boss every second of the day.

    Just some things to think about. A lot of people don't realize that for a lot of American workers, and 8 hour day really means 8 hours.

  • Fine line (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HikingStick ( 878216 ) <> on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @12:08PM (#20399831)
    I think there's a fine line (for some) between cyberslacking and taking periodic breaks from the tedium of work. For me, my periodic checks at Slashdot and other news sites are a way to stay sane, so I can hyper focus for other periods of time during the day to get things done. I have a set of sites I visit daily, mostly news/information sites, and my flow works something like this (my days average nine hours sans lunch):

    *Arrive, log in, check voice/email messages, responding as appropriate. 30 min.
    *Check my preferred websites. 30 min.
    *Tackle biggest task(s) for the day. 2-3 hrs.
    *Check my preferred websites. 10min.
    *Tackle those annoying-but-not-critical tasks. 1-2 hrs.
    *Lunch. 15-30 min. (usually at my desk while checking and replying to messages).
    *Check my preferred websites. 10min.
    *Project work, progress on multi-stage tasks. 2-3 hrs.
    *Check my preferred websites. 10 min.
    *Follow-up tasks, and assignments to other technology groups. 1-2 hrs.
    *IF NOT at the end of the day, check some secondary sites or research some new topics until end of day. 15-30 minutes. This is the one time of day that, for me, comes closest to true cyberslacking. Often I'm just waiting for any final help calls or trouble tickets before our designated end-of-day.

    The first site check of the day is longer because most headlines/topics refreshed overnight. Later in the day, I'm only scanning for new headlines or topics of interest. Of course, some days (about once a week), I never get to check my sites. Perhaps once a month I'll have a day where I can read every article that interests me. This works well for me and my employer, as my reading keeps me well aware of numerous trends in and outside of our industry, and it allows me to dive in with greater intesity when I am working. Of course, some will not believe this works without a scientific study, and I'll be the first to say this does not work for everyone. For me, however, I'm glad to work for an employer that allows for some personal use during the workday and is more focused on results than on managing every minute we're in the building. I get my work done on time, seek extra assignments, and pick up slack from my coworkers. Some would argue that my employer is overstaffed [I tried to make that point to a former employer for years until I finally bailed for my current gig, so I know the difference], but that is not the case--it comes down to how I handle my workload. I sprint, then I walk, then I sprint again. My diversions are those little walks that let me run full bore from time to time.

    Am I the only one who operates like this?
  • Self Employed... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Tatisimo ( 1061320 )
    I do spend most time I should be working "researching" interesting information (the eating habits of horseshoe crabs, super Mario bros. villains, Cambodian cuisine, etc.) and I have no problem getting work done. I used to feel guilty about it, but by now I realize it's part of work, so I work, slack off, work some more, slack off twice as much time as I worked, and repeat. There's too much to "learn", and 8 hours a day work get too much in the way of it. I say find a way to make a living that doesn't take u
  • This is very true (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @12:12PM (#20399885)
    My company has an authenticating web proxy that users must use to access the internet, and they track personal web use in this way. We also have a VPN that can dial in to the corporate network from home, which is also authenticating but which traffic statistics, for obvious reasons, aren't monitored.

    I've been so committed to slacking, as it were, that I committed significant time to creating a backwards web gateway for myself using an automated dial-in from home, which creates a remote ssh tunnel to my work computer that forwards certain port traffic back to a proxy server on my home network. So now at work I just set my web proxy to the localhost at the specified port and surf backwards through the VPN, only using our corporate web-proxy to do job-related surfing.

    And all so I can slack. Never underestimate the laziness of a programmer.
    • We have a tracking proxy here too. I set up an old P3-550 in my basement. It's running a proxy, and zebedee.

      At work, I run the other side of zebedee with a key on a usb drive. Point your browser to localhost:8080 and you're ready to rock! To the admins, they just see a stream of traffic to some webpage at

      Another great slack tool is VMware. Make virtual disks with fun stuff on them and take them to work. Or bring in books in pdf format on your usb drive. Music and movie

  • healthy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Tom ( 822 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @12:25PM (#20400065) Homepage Journal
    People do what they feel necessary to keep themselves "running". You can outlaw it, but that doesn't change the fact that they do it, maybe you can change what exactly they do.

    If it's not the Internet it's smoke-breaks, talking at the coffee/water machine, or just looking out of the window. Also, lots of people are good at appearing busy.

    And I think that's ok.

    One, if you really put people in the grinder, force them to work 8 hours, no breaks or diversions, I'm sure you will soon see the quality of their work plummet, as well as their motivation. If you're a factory in backland China that might be a winning strategy, if your business is in any way dependent on thinking employees, it isn't.

    Two, if you pay by the hour, and your people are only there for the money, then two things shouldn't surprise you. One, that they try to get as much money for as little work as possible. You do the same, except that you don't call it "goofing off", but "profit maximizing", or maybe your consultants have found an even nicer buzzword. But it's just capitalism. If you don't like it, go somewhere where they haven't dumped Communism, yet.
    Two, you shouldn't be surprised that someday soon, some institute, consultant or survey will reveal your employees are rather badly motivated. Money alone doesn't do it. Do your homework in leadership. Throughout history, brilliant leaders weren't the guys who paid best, and that's not they are remembered for.

  • I work for a company where I can pretty much sit at my desk and surf the internet anytime I want. The company is more focused on the end result and insuring that the clients are happy. As long as I get my work done and the client is happy, they could care less if I spend 4 hours on the internet.

    For my job, I travel a lot so I spend countless Sunday's in airports with nothing to do when I could be home sleeping, or doing personal things. Because I give up PLENTY of my own time for the company and am paid a f
  • by SynapseLapse ( 644398 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @12:31PM (#20400161)
    At my first real job, this side of the college world, I tried my damndest to make sure I was keeping busy 95% of the time I was on the clock. (Working a tech support line and burning CD patches for the shipping dept to send out.) As they inevitably do, things slowed down during a lean month and it became impossible to keep busy all the time. The real problem occurred when I asked my manager for more duties; since by 3pm I had finished all of my tasks for the day. My manager was incensed at the idea and wanted to know if I needed to resign or a new job. In the business world, managers don't care if you're wasting time or working efficiently. All they care about is if the work assigned to you gets finished in the timeframe they required. If that means you spend 2 hours in the morning checking your e-bay auctions, so be it. Who cares, the numbers on their reports are all within spec. Yet, 6 years later I'm the manager now and I'm perpetuating the somewhat hypocritical business world.
  • by arkham6 ( 24514 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @12:36PM (#20400231)
    So I'm eating lunch, glancing at slashdot.

    My boss walks up behind me and says "Don't let your boss catch you reading this? What is that Dave?"

    "Umm, its slashdot boss, and Its my lunch time."

    "You know Dave, internet usage isnt for personal activities...."

  • Because, yeah, you know, no one can work without a pointy haired boss with a whip. How else do you learn self discipline without doing it yourself? When self motivated, the quality of the product also tends to be better. Slacking is just an indication that the job sucks, and the employer should be making the work process more efficient and less tedious and workplace more productive, not supressing the symptom.
  • Yes, I spend time at work reading personal email, /., even trading stock.

    Yes, I also spend my personal time at evenings and weekends doing work.

    What's the problem here?
    • The people (i.e. managers/officers) who have the hardest time with this are those who were raised in "old school" business, where face time was everything, and where it was assumed that there was a simple direct correllation between employee work and productivity. While the correlation between work and productivity remains the base for the equation (zero work still yields zero productivity), workplace and behavioral studies have determined that numerous other factors (like employee morale) influence produc
  • xkcd covered this topic []
  • by HangingChad ( 677530 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @12:58PM (#20400595) Homepage

    If it wasn't solitaire or the internet, it would be their iPhones, cell phones, Blackberry, portable video players, mp3 player or host of other electronic gadgets they have at their disposal. If you invest in monitoring their internet use, they'll find a way to proxy around it...those who don't have iPhones. Trying to regulate people's behavior turns into an endless goat rope.

    If they're getting their work done and they're profitable, leave them alone. If not, let them go. It's that simple. Inappropriate material is an issue everyone should be aware of by now. If they're not smart enough to leave their p0rn on their iPhone, then they deserve to get fired. If they're not smart enough to keep their steamy email affair off the company mail system, b-bye. This isn't rocket science. So many companies over-think the problem.

  • A recent survey by online compensation firm showed about six out of 10 employees in the United States acknowledged wasting time at work.

    It also showed that about 4 out of 10 employees lie about wasting time at work.

  • As a sysadmin... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Daishiman ( 698845 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2007 @01:27PM (#20401009)
    As a sysadmin slacking off means I'm being productive, since no problems are occurring. You could say that the goal of a sysadmin is to legitimately slack off as much as possible.

They are called computers simply because computation is the only significant job that has so far been given to them.