Finding the Slacker-Worker Equilibrium

Everyone knows The Solitaire Guy. He’s the one with the red message light on his phone always blinking, the one that gives the “I’ll get to it, I’ll get to it” brush-off whenever he’s asked when he’ll get his tasks done. He’s late to meetings, forgets to return phone calls, his desk is cluttered and nobody can remember the last time he did any significantly helpful work.

But hey, everyone is that Solitaire-playing loafer from time to time: the CIO with the suspiciously low golf handicap; the woman in telecom who does the vanishing act everyday at 4:45 p.m.; your buddy in the next cube who is always “too busy, can’t talk” but nobody knows quite with what.

But the smart and successful workers are the ones that know the difference between occasionally visiting Slackersville and buying a home there. The latter are loathed universally; their managers throw their hands in the air, wondering how these so-called workers ever made it through an HR screening process.

Yet the former can do alright for themselves, because they know that getting good work done isn’t about obsessively and unwaveringly adhering to a productive task for every second between the time they walk in the door and retire for the evening. It’s about finding a balance that will allow them to get their work done efficiently by giving themselves time-outs throughout the day to pause and regroup.

Everyone wastes time sometimes

There is no shortage of respectable, forgivable reasons to slow down at work. Smart workers know that from time to time, looking busy in the absence of a heavy workload is better than facing the inevitable avalanche that will fall upon a naive worker that complains about downtime.

They also know that taking a break—and not boasting about the fact that they’re actually IM-ing with a friend or watching 80’s videos on YouTube—is not only not against the rules, many states have carved out laws protecting this right.

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