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Saturday, September 15, 2007

It's your fault, you time-wasting employees

Apparently there's a new study that shows that Facebook is costing British businesses over 130,000,000 pounds a day. Call me psychic, but I don't even need to look at the survey to know how they came up with this number. I don't even need to read past the first line in the story about this alarming study, but of course I did, because I'm all about wasting time.

I am not really that into Facebook, but I do log into my account almost every day. The Princess and I are trying to come up with a good name for a family group, but so far we've been unsuccessful. I suggested "Hols-pples Who Can Use Apostrophes" (although when I suggested this, I spelled my own last name correctly), but apparently this would limit membership to the two of us. There is another group for people who share our last name, but whoever set it up is completely unaware of grammar fundamentals, so I can't look directly at it. If you have a good name in mind, let me or the Princess know.

To get back on topic, Facebook is the latest in a long line of websites that Big Business wants to keep out of the workplace. Every few months, there will be a new study that shows that this website is directly responsible for the loss of millions of dollars (or pounds, or yen, or whatever). These studies are usually done this way:

1. Find a representative sample of workers.

2. Ask them how much time they spend on Facebook at work. This will usually be a reasonable amount of time like ten minutes.

3. Use grade-four math skills to figure out how much total time all workers in the country are spending on Facebook, then multiply this time by the average salary to come up with a dollar amount. This will usually be in the range of hundreds of millions of dollars.

4. Trumpet this figure as the amount of money businesses would be earning (or governments would be saving) if only they could ban this particular website from their offices.

5. Wait for the media to decide that this pathetic math exercise is newsworthy. They will always find a person to illustrate the story. This person will always admit to wasting hours of time at work or destroying his employer through the site.

6. Start all over with a different website that is contributing to the country's economic collapse.

The main point, of course, is that employees are to blame. If they weren't selfishly wasting all this time on Facebook, there would be rivers of chocolate! This is almost never framed as a management problem.

In general, I am opposed to blocking websites simply for the purpose of keeping employees from wasting time. Every once in a while I will hear that certain bosses want to keep staff from reading the newspaper online, so they block the site and smugly congratulate themselves on increasing productivity.

The problem is that staff who want to waste time will always come up with something new. They take extra-long coffee breaks or spend time in co-workers' offices looking at pictures of their kids. Or they linger over their projects. Or (the saints preserve us!) they simply bring the newspaper to their offices. Yes, this is ultimately the employee's fault, but it's really up to management to deal with staff who don't work. If the person was wasting time by taking long breaks, management wouldn't respond by banning breaks. It makes no more sense to ban all staff from accessing specific websites just because a few people are wasting time.

However, this will never happen. Managers don't want to hear that they should be dealing with their problem staff. It's much easier to clamp down on all employees than to take action against the few who don't work.


Dad said...

It is great fun to know that a journalist can see the silliness of so much journalism.
You didn't learn that in journalism school, did you?
I'd like to think you got it in home-school.

Torq said...

Sarah asked me what I thought. I think The Appletree would be a great name! Pure inspiration of course.

Little Miss Know-it-All said...

Appletree or Apple Tree?

Torq said...

Just the one word, no need to be fancy!