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Basic workplace right in danger

If you work in an office there's a decent chance you do this
If you work in an office there's a decent chance you do this Thinkstock

A BASIC workers' right is being called into question, with some employees photographed, shamed and threatened with the sack for engaging in the innocent behaviour.

If you're reading this story, you're probably committing the crime - frittering away the remainder of your shift by perusing news articles and checking Facebook on company time.

I imagine you've got a bunch of tabs open, ready to flick to a more work-related window if someone starts walking toward your desk. Maybe you keep your mouse hovered over the Excel icon in the task bar, ready to punch it at a moment's notice - the boring spreadsheet masking the "how to get a six pack without doing anything" articles you've spent most of the afternoon reading.

Procrastination is a precious right - and it's under threat. As workdays and workloads increase, management attempts to crack down and eliminate the possibility of time wasting among employees - but it's more necessary than ever before. Many people will shake their head and deny they engage in it. But I will not. I'm the Erin Brockovich for people who don't like to do much.

In recent days, construction workers around Sydney have been shamed for taking a time-out on the job. One was photographed bouncing a tennis ball while another was snapped using their phone. One high-vis clad worker was busted reading a book on site.

In response to the news, Transport and Infrastructure Minister Andrew Constance slammed the behaviour as "mucking up" and called for the workers to be sacked if busted again.

"Bludging on dangerous worksites is a no-go. ... Contractors have been given a message and it clearly hasn't sunk in. I expect them to sack anyone doing the wrong thing," he told The Daily Telegraph.

I hate the word "bludging". It makes me sound like I'm an odd shape and like I don't shower. I much prefer the word "recharging".

After arriving at work 40 minutes late today, I spent the first hour "recharging" on the internet.

Taking a brief moment to recharge made me more productive. In fact, it made me so productive that I called organisational psychologist Travis Kemp to ask him if he agrees with me. He does.

"People do need breaks throughout the day and the micro breaks we make for ourselves are beneficial to our performance," he said. "They help you to recharge because our ability to concentrate for long periods of time is limited."

In the case of the construction workers reading Harry Potter on the worksite, some people have raised concerns about their lack of concentration being a safety risk. But Mr Kemp said not taking regular breaks to relax could be just as dangerous for labourers.

"Certainly your attention to welfare and safety can be impacted by not taking breaks. In those situations where physical labour is involved, it's more important to take breaks," he said.

The nerve.Source:The Daily Telegraph
The nerve.Source:The Daily Telegraph

It seems the only problem with the construction workers is they're not procrastinating properly. They're flaunting it out in the open without a care. They're blocking off streets and slowing down traffic with their annoying "stop/slow" signs in one hand while tapping away on their iPhone in another. Of course they got dobbed in.

Procrastinating on the job is a dark art - one that requires skill and stealth.

You have to strike a fine balance between looking like you're frantically ploughing through work while subtly doing something completely unrelated. If you work in an office, leaving files strewn around your desk helps create the illusion of productivity when you're actually online looking at real estate you will never be able to afford.

During my days working at Just Jeans, I used to put the "Back in 5" sign on the door and just stand there, within view of waiting customers, pretending to type on my phone. The labour involved in helping stay-at-home-mum after stay-at-home-mum try on skinny jeans left me lifeless and requiring a time out to reassess my future. I imagine standing in the sun in heavy workwear getting honked at by motorists leads to a similar reassessment.

Now that these construction workers have been caught, I'm concerned the commute on the already strained roads of our glorious Sydney will become even worse thanks to annoyed and overworked construction employees.

Stripped of their books, phones and tennis balls and threatened with the sack if caught "bludging", these people have nothing left to do but work mindlessly.

Excuse me this is all work related.Source:Supplied
Excuse me this is all work related.Source:Supplied

Walking by a site today, I saw one high-vis clad worker standing spiritless and unstimulated in front of a metal gate. Without a tennis ball to bounce or the latest Judy Nunn to thumb through, she looked sad and humiliated after being robbed of her basic Australian right to procrastinate. She stared at the ground with her hands in her pockets - almost scared to look like she was doing anything other than monitoring that fence.

The easiest way to make an employee unproductive is to make them feel like they're being watched and monitored. I once worked in an office where my boss used to sit directly behind me, with my computer screen in his direct eye line. That kind of pressure is debilitating. Even when I was flat out, I used to be anxious all day that I looked like I wasn't busy enough. Then I'd find myself trying to look busy just to show that I was busy and the whole thing became exhausting.

Now, I sit alone. The pressure is gone. And the rise in ASOS deliveries to my desk is in direct proportion to my increased productivity.

Topics:  do nothing editors picks procrastination work

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