Ins and outs of keeping busy at work

I recently attended an Internet webinar about Web 2.0 and streaming video. Amidst the considerable blah-blah, the talker talked about the extent to which some studies have shown that many people spend some time on their jobs pursuing personal interests online. He mentioned YouTube and MySpace and FaceBook. He didn’t mention blatant pornography, although I’m sure he could have.

He said corporations were worried (how does an institution worry?) about lost productivity because of the unauthorized time spent presumably doing something not useful to the business ("Is that work-related?"). I know several people who are dissatisfied with their jobs, and some of the discontent seems related to their employer’s vagueness about productivity—what they actually want from their workers and when they want it.

Public schools perpetuate this sort of mismatch, where the process selects for children who meekly follow orders and don’t mind sitting still for long periods listening to drivel. The system produces far more sheep than an informed, progressive society needs, and the corporati are doing just fine.

I suppose some workers might have difficulty justifying the time they spend playing poker or scanning “Hot Sex in Chico!” sites, but the spirit of unfettered scientific research requires a wide-ranging approach to learning. One never knows where one may find the datum that will clear up everything/save the company money. Feel free to use this excuse yourself.

People in more or less creative jobs have a better reason than some for mental or visual stimulation not strictly related to whatever they’re being paid to do, and I suspect that hassling somebody about their Internet use often happens when the hassler doesn’t know quite what to expect from the user in question or perhaps is accustomed to controlling people as an exercise in management technique. If a worker is producing adequately, the rest doesn’t matter except as an excuse for intimidation. I think the same way about peeing in a cup. It’s an intrusive and barbaric practice to intimidate people, like the lights on police cars.

People and society are changing faster than jobs and rules, and the industrial, line-’em-up-and-keep-an-eye-on-’em way of doing things is no longer as useful as it once was.

An increasingly common way to approach being used by somebody to further their aims is a contract for performance, with specific deadlines, results and compensation. I say what I want done and you say what you want for doing it. When we agree, we sign. I don’t care how you spend your time or whether you’re efficient; I care only about the deliverables, and I limit my attention to them. I don’t care if you’re a lush or a paragon, not that you mightn’t be both. If you want to use my office space, I’ll rent it to you. If you need my equipment, same deal. Otherwise, call me if you need to. I’ll stay out of your life, and I’ll see you at the deadline.