May '14

For the Business of Apparel Decorating

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112 | Printwear M ay 20 1 4 Last Laugh by Dan Danbom Dan Danbom is a former speech-writer and communication manager whose freelance work has been published worldwide. His book reviews for a number of publications have motivated thousands to give up reading. Nonetheless, he continues to write and is also a principal in Danbom & Sons Books, an online bookstore headquartered in Denver. | | | | U .S. workers say they waste two hours a day," was the headline I read in my local newspaper the other day while I was lounging under my desk. "Most U.S. companies assume about an hour of wasted time, but work- ers admit to actually frittering away more than twice as much time at a cost of $759 billion in annual paid salary that results in no apparent productivity," the story continued, citing a survey from an Internet company. And no one can really talk about wasting time without knowing something about the Internet. But I digress. Back to my point: there are a couple of things about this that need to be cleared up. First, companies assume employees waste only about an hour of time because that is the amount per employee that the companies waste. Because of larger spans of control due to wave after wave of downsizings, stressed managers have to use all their powers of imagination to assure that time is wasted only on authorized activities, such as making employees wait for appointments and having work re-done because of improper initial direction. In the good old days, a manager used to be able to waste double-digit hours simply by calling a meeting to discuss a department's visioning process, but even that doesn't work anymore, particularly if half the people who report to the manager live in Manilla. On the other hand, waste-goals certainly have been aided by the overall lon- ger days employees are putting in at work that give companies more of a window to work with. Plus constant- ly changing information technology has offered surprising (yet welcome) ways to suck hours out of employees' lives. On yet another hand, some of the rampant, productivity-draining, re- source-sapping, costly time-wasting that employees indulge in is because they don't have enough work to do, and that can be the fault of only one person: the customer. Second thing: Is $759 billion an amount we really need to worry about? Isn't that about the amount we spend yearly on making our teeth whiter? Isn't that just a little more than the cost of a decade of premium cable service? If I were a member of congress arguing for a Museum of Bubble Wrap for my district, would I be willing to forego it just because it cost $759 billion including carpeting? No. But let's just say, for the sake of argument, that some of the more fuzzy-minded among you think that $759 billion is too much. I have some simple, practical ideas we could implement immediately, beginning with lowering your salary. Here's how it works: Assuming that the average white-collar worker works eight hours a day, of which two hours are wasted, or 25 percent, a 25 percent reduction in pay would re- coup that $759 billion, a portion of which could be devoted to mitigating the reaction to the salary cuts through the workplace de- ployment of peace-keeping National Guard troops. Or, if some overly selfish employees think that the modest 25 percent salary re- duction is extreme, we could continue to give them their present salaries by adding a modest 25 percent increase in hours to the workday. Voila! Problem solved! Of course, the real issue isn't that employees waste time or that wasted time costs companies money. The real issue is why the In- ternet company that researched it cares about workers who chit-chat, lolly- gag, loaf, and otherwise engage in time-wasting in-activities. This is the sort of survey you would usu- ally expect from the Alliance for the Reduction of Vocational Sloth. But truth be known, some of that time is wasted using the Internet to see if everyone else had their pay cut 25 percent. Well, it turns out that not all time-wast- ing is created equally, because later in the story I read a quote from a vice president at the Internet company saying that some time-wasting activities such as personal use of the Internet can be positive, resulting in new business ideas or a happier work envi- ronment. "There is such a thing as creative waste," the VP said, visions of Bubble Wrap dancing in his head. time's a-wasting pw '' PW_MAY14.indd 112 4/17/14 10:16 AM

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