Sometimes you’re at work and you just have to watch that one cute cat-/dog-/panda-playing-in-the-snow video. And then you spot that girl from high school on your Facebook feed and wonder what she’s been up to all these years … Would you look at that? It’s lunchtime! Time to skip out of work and wait in an obnoxiously long cafeteria line with your co-workers and dissect that cute animal video you just saw.
But exactly how much time are we wasting at work? That’s what a group of economists — Michael Burda, Kaie Genadek, and Daniel Hamermersh — wanted to find out, and they’ve published their results in a new National Bureau of Economic Research working paper.
但工作中你到底会浪费多少时间呢？这正是Michael Burda，Kaie Genadek和Daniel Hamermersh这些经济学家们想知道的，他们已经把结论在发布在新一期的国家经济研究局刊物上了。
Using the self-reported American Time Use Survey, the economists found that, on average, workers spent about 34 minutes per day not working. Doesn’t seem a lot, right? But when the economists got rid of the people who claimed they didn’t spend any time slacking off (uh-huh, right), the figure rose to 50 minutes. About half that time wasted was spent on eating, the other half on “leisure” activities (watercooler break!).
Perhaps unsurprisingly, not everyone wasted the same proportion of the workday. The authors explained that, all else being equal, the more someone worked, the higher the proportion of the time they slacked off — until about 42 hours a week. The more time in the office workers logged above this level, the less they slacked off, proportionally. Those eager-beaver, first-to-arrive-and-last-to-leave types seemed more capable of resisting the lure of internet cats than the rest of us.
Like any research based on self-reported statistics, there are some limitations here, simply because there could be various biases to how people estimated or reported the amount of time they spent slacking. It’s also important to realize that slacking tendencies may vary a great deal over time, depending on the economy. In a section of the paper titled “To Loaf or Not to Loaf: That Is the Question,” the economists note that recessions make slacking off more of a luxury than during a “normal” economy, as worker jobs hang in the balance and are at risk of being axed. The data was from 2003 to 2012, so it captured much of the recession, meaning it may be that we’re slacking more these days than we were back then, given that the economy’s a bit stronger.
But maybe the simpler point to keep in mind here is that not all slacking is bad. In fact, as the Science of Us noted earlier this month in a video, taking breaks is a good thing, both for your mind and creative output. Afternoon naps are a treasured part of Japanese work culture, and working for more than four and a half hours at a time actually leads to a diminishing rate of productivity. In fact, some researchers think the ideal work/break balance comes out to 17 hard-earned minutes of fun time for every 52 minutes of work. If you calculate that for a ten-hour day, that comes out 147.8 minutes — or over two hours — of “loafing” time.
但也许我们需要记得的是，不是所有的偷懒都是坏事。事实上，正如Science of Us在月初的视频节目中提到的那样，休息放松对思考和创造力都有好处。在日本午睡也是种工作文化，连续不断工作超过4.5小时会降低生产力。研究表明每工作52分钟休息17分钟是比较理想的工作方式。如果以一天来计算，那么就得出一天可以休息2个多小时。
So take heart, worker: You’re not a lazy bum straight off the set of The Office. You’re merely taking a brain break.