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Guest Post: Goofing Off Makes You A Better Employee?

This is a guest post by one of our long-time readers, Michael Plis. It’s pretty awesome to see readers getting inspired to write their own articles! Learn more about Michael in his author bio below.

I recently read this article on how companies are losing money because their employees access social media during work hours. It seemed like a pretty innocuous article at first, but then I thought about it a bit more and it started to bug me…a lot.

I have a big issue with the idea that anything done on company time that’s not work costs the company money. We need to move away from this mindset that people must be “working” at all times in order for them to reach their peak productivity. It’s this mindset that’s led to too much fake work where “working” has just become “doing something”. This is the reason why so many people spend too much time checking email – people feel like they’re being productive (and therefore not wasting time), but they’re not actually getting anything done.

Some people will respond to this by saying, “But Mike, companies are paying their employees to work, not to goof off!” and my response is that you’re missing the point. Companies pay their employees to get things done, not to work. When have you ever heard that the best way to accomplish a task is to spend every second you have working on it until it’s done (protip: the answer should be “never”)? Hasn’t anyone heard of this little thing called “burnout”? There are even people out there saying that we need to take more breaks.

There’s this productivity technique out there called the Pomodoro Technique. The idea is that you spend 25 minutes doing productive, distraction-free work and then take a 5 minute break. That means spending over 16% of your time not working, and yet it’s one of the most popular and effective productivity techniques out there.

I’m not advocating that companies allow their employees unlimited access to Twitter, Google+, and Facebook (although it looks like around half of the companies out there already do that). I’m slowly becoming a social media nut, but this is much bigger than social media. I read a lot of personal development and lifehacking articles and I’m constantly hearing the “work smarter, not harder” mantra being repeated time and time again. The problem is that this idea hasn’t permeated through to enough companies yet. Sure, there are some companies out there with great corporate cultures, but not everyone will be fortunate enough to work for them. As more companies turn to Facebook to fill job positions, and thus the lines between our personal and professional lives become more indistinguishable, I hope that companies focus more on making work an enjoyable place to be and stop trying to squeeze every last ounce of effort out of their employees.