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Could Slacking Off Be A Viable Job Skill?

Productivity. It’s the word on everyone’s lips when it comes to the workplace. How can we be more productive? What’s the best way to measure productivity?

In some ways, our collective focus on productivity can be its own worst enemy. The more we obsess – the more we push ourselves – then the harder it is to be productive, and the less mental leg-room we have to give it our best. After all, productivity cannot be measured by hours on the job; this is definitely a case where quality trumps quantity.

The thing is, the person with the messiest desk and the weekly meltdown may not be the busiest or most productive person in the office. The US National Bureau of Economic Research published a study on workplace productivity earlier this year that found, the longer someone spends at work over a week, the more likely they are to slack off.

The person with the messiest desk and the weekly meltdown may not be the busiest or most productive Click To Tweet

Patrick Allan writing for Lifehacker.com believes that “working nonstop for 8 hours a day is sure to burn you out, and taking a little break time can refresh your mind.” He then goes on to (seriously) provide tips for slacking off and not getting caught, including links to free browser games that look like normal work programs e.g. CantYouSeeImBusy.com.

But maybe slacking off doesn’t need to be something that is hidden from the boss? Maybe slacking off can be written into a workplace culture and used to promote productivity?

Managers and employers driven by KPIs and economic pressure can lose sight of how to get the best from employees. The ‘one-size, fits-all’ model creeps back into play, and we neglect to honor that different people work in different ways. No one way is correct or wrong, just as long as it fits within the office culture and no one gets hurt.

Here are some workplace personality types that may be mistaken as slacking off when they’re really doing what they can to produce the best results:

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The Thinker

This person needs time away from their desk to stare into space or navel-gaze. The positive ions shooting from a computer screen are likely to send their neurons into a spin. Let them chill out uninterrupted in the lunchroom, on the reception couch or look out the window where they can do the thinking required to get their job done.

The Ciggie Breaker

Apart from possibly having an addictive habit, this person is like the thinker but prefers not to think in silence with nothing to do. The action of smoking gives them a purpose and, therefore, a reason to step from their desk, take a breather and have a break. If their desire to smoke is a problem, encourage them to take up knitting instead.

The Napper

Sleeping on the job would appear to be the ultimate no-no but there is something to be said of Spain and other European cultures where the siesta is an accepted way of life. There is debate over whether power naps during the day are actually good for you but, regardless, many people find a 15-minute shut-eye to be the perfect antidote to the mid-afternoon lag. Workspaces aren’t introducing napping rooms for nothing.

The Talker

Some people just need to talk things through and, when it comes down to it, this person can be the most disruptive in the office. Amid the Thinkers, Nappers and Ciggie Breakers, they’re the ones distracting others from their work/thinking and that can be a problem. But, if a talker needs to talk, then it’s prudent to give them the forum to do so – whether that’s in a formalized meeting or around the watercooler.

The most effective means for fostering productivity in the workplace is to actually ask employees: how do you like to work and what do you need to perform optimally? By doing this, you remove any guesswork and you also get to negotiate what may be mistaken as slacking off but is actually a legitimate tactic for an employee being their best.

In the end, you’ll soon work out if they’re really slacking off. It’ll show in their results.