Welcome to the 2022-23 Blog

This morning’s New York Times dished up a piece on how employers monitor the productivity of their employees. Amazon, if you didn’t know, is one of the most notorious punishers of idleness in any workplace. Other firms count the number of keystrokes per hour. One medical outfit compares the number of scans reviewed by radiologists and rewards those who complete the highest number.

Such employers argue that by improving efficiency, they improve their bottom line, which in turn will enrich employees and shareholders alike. However, I wonder if it’s that simple? Might there be such a thing as productive idleness? What would that look like? Does it seem noxious to equate what we’re worth with what we produce–or is that really just good business?

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28 Responses to Welcome to the 2022-23 Blog

  1. Bill Arnoldus says:

    It makes sense from a business standpoint to improve employee efficiency as much as possible. I don’t know what productive idleness would look like. Maybe a block of time to allow employees to become focused on the work that they are doing. Being productive takes a focused mind so having idling time could be beneficial.

    I don’t know how else a business could derive an employees worth without basing it off of what they produce. Depending on the job creativity could be valued, but for menial jobs, basing what the employees worth with what they produce seems like just good business.

    • Kermit Oville says:

      From the workers’ standpoint, wouldn’t most workers be overworked since they would have to push their bodies to the limit to hit a certain number that may look as if they were working their whole shift. Even though rewarding the worker that has the highest packaging rate or the highest number of scans reviewed by radiologists might look good on paper, wouldn’t you also be hurting the person with the lowest packaging rate or lowest number of scans reviewed by radiologists since they would strive to keep up to not get fired. Good business does not always mean good treatment for employees.

    • Jacqueline Smith says:

      I would partially disagree, because having a balance of efficiency and quality is important. Like Dr. Easterling said in class, productive idleness could be like when you are seemingly doing nothing, but you may be thinking on how to improve something, like brainstorming for a marketing campaign. Or it could be strategizing how to grab customers’ attention. You haven’t really accomplished anything until it gets going, but it could definitely be a good asset.
      Furthermore, I do believe that productive idleness is a real thing, and should be encouraged, especially in more long-term careers. You definitely would not want to be served by a Doctor, Chef, or Teacher who aims for maximum efficiency that jeopardizes the quality of their services. Perhaps having different perspectives on how to approach a challenge would be beneficial. Having a chance to add to their environment and reflect on their experiences would encourage employees to have a bit of ownership and pride in their jobs.
      Of course, most people need deadlines to keep them on track, but a supervised collaborative space with fresh ideas and reasonable expectations could improve a work environment and minimize turnover. Perhaps with less of a grip-hold on workers, employers could see a productive, healthy, and profitable workspace.
      Bill did mention that menial jobs should be measured by results, and to a certain degree I agree with this statement, unless the expectations being placed on them are borderline abusive. But even in menial jobs, a set date to get to know coworkers could improve communication, even if it doesn’t produce physical results. Even some paid vacation could make employees less burnt-out and happier with their jobs, producing better long-term results.

  2. Colt Sorey says:

    As the child of a family who runs a small business with a high turnover rate due to the current generation not liking hard labor, I can agree that trying to maximize workplace efficiency to get the best out of our employees. Our typical employee usually lasts 3 weeks because they can’t handle the labor. We need to teach our current generation of teenagers that they need to learn to work because if they don’t they will never be good in life and to display this current workplace efficiency is required. But I would also say that we cannot only benefit people who do more work than others, due to some people are faster learners, and workers than others tend to be.

  3. Elijah Camba says:

    I believe that one of the fundamental goals for starting and expanding a business is to gain money. All of the processes, planning, and management aspects revolve around money. From finding target audiences, finding trends, making sure to do ethical practices, and understanding risks, running a business requires a lot of knowledge to do one thing: make money and keep it. One of those practices includes efficiency and productivity. The more efficient the workers are, the more money the business will make. However, I argue that this belief only works under certain circumstances, as there are many outside factors that might prevent the business from making money, despite the worker’s productivity. Examples include recessions, inflations, customer disapproval, political affiliation, poor management, workspace, and location. Therefore, the belief that efficiency is beneficial to a business is accurate, but it’s only one factor in a complex system with many unpredictable factors.

  4. Nicolas Neal says:

    Indolence connotates a context wherein productivity is expected. No one observes a man sleeping in his home and remarks at his idle state, but idleness jumps to mind when a man is found snoozing on the job. Without this in consideration, it is not difficult to claim that there is a restorative indolence that we each take part in, one that prepares us for later productivity. This is what journalist Kate Siber promotes in her “Productive Idleness is not an Oxymoron;” however, rest and relaxation is, at least intuitively, exclusive to indolence as per the aforementioned connotation. Consequently, I do not think that there is such a thing as productive idleness unless speaking in excessively technical terms.

    To equate someone’s worth (to a firm) with what they produce (for that firm) seems like a simple and standard way of conducting business as it relates to employment. Is it better to measure someone’s eligibility for a position with how detrimental they would be for business? This question isn’t so deep.

  5. Jacqueline Smith says:

    Regarding the Belle and the lady:
    I agree with what Dr. Easterling said during lecture, that it is easier to put someone down into a stereotype than it would be to take the time to understand them. It’s true that destruction is far easier than creation. Stereotypes can sometimes used to peoples’ advantage, but as Tartt states, there are two sides to each gender stereotype like martyr v. nag, whore v. Madonna, etc. as gender stereotypes are so complicated. Since there are positive sides to each stereotype, they become more complex as they are perpetuated by women themselves. Within the positive realm of western female stereotypes, the Belle is a character that is unapologetic, there to grab attention, and beautiful, her downfall being age. Dr. Easterling stated that one can’t hold on to youth forever, but they should use their youth to their advantage. On the other hand, a Lady could be older as she uses social mores to her advantage. This takes form in behaviors such as being very polite, charming, and proper. An interesting topic that Dr. Easterling mentioned in class was handwritten notes and how they were sincere and great for making formal connections. He even suggested that we have our own personal stationary, something I’ve never heard of. The final portion of the essay mentions how Tartt lost a beauty contest because she agreed with an unpopular stereotype that Mississippi was a racist place, while her opponent disagreed with this notion and went on about highways and natural scenery. In this instance it could be said that her opponent was a Lady because she charmed them with her manners, while Tartt was an unapologetic Belle.

  6. Gracyn Young says:

    In a sense, most businesses don’t have a choice whether or not to equate their employees with the amount of work, or the quality of work that they produce. While I am not agreeing with most employers’ ways, with a combination of money-hungry businesses and unemployment rates skyrocketing due to both the pandemic and people simply not wanting to work, it’s important that employers implement a system that guarantees that they will get some working result.

    We have to remember that most corporate companies, like Amazon, don’t see their employees as the humans they are, they see them as the leeway between nothing and billions of dollars in profits and revenue. Luckily, this is not the case with all companies, and more and more are beginning to give their employees incentive benefits, like more vacation time, sick days or even a pay raise.

    While we should all strive to be the best employees/employers that we can be, it’s also important to note that our work does not define us as human beings. There must be a seperation between work (school) and our everyday lives.

  7. John Robert Walker says:

    Most people would agree that limiting employee idle time is simply good business practice. Employees are paid for their work, and when they are idle they are not benefiting their employer. This seems to be a straightforward concept, but I do not believe it is so simple. Businesses that “eliminate” employee idle time only increase how busy their employees are, and busyness does not equate to productivity. A recent study at the University of Chicago coined the term “idleness aversion” to describe how people are drawn to being busy regardless of how busyness harms their productivity. The researchers found that we waste time doing things that are unnecessary because the busyness makes us feel important. With this being said, I believe that idleness can be productive in the work place. Productive idleness can look different for every employee, but however it may look, it is an important aspect of a healthy and productive work environment.

  8. Adalberto Estrella says:

    My dad started his own little business when I was around 8 years old and at first I thought my dad was crazy because of how much work he was putting into it. As I grew up, I realized that he had to do that so that it would have a good start, continue growing, and so that one day he didn’t have to worry as much. There is a thing such as productive idleness because while on is sitting or what appears to be nothing, one can be thinking of strategies to improve something or look up how to make something better. At the end of the day, society does make it out to be that we are only as good as how much we do for something or someone else and making someone do too much is always wrong.

  9. Andrew Grieve says:

    I believe that if you are getting paid you should be doing work, but doing your job at maximum efficiency the entire time you’re working should not be expected. The amount of production to a person’s amount of worth is not inherently a bad equation. It can even be a great one if it is used to reward employees that go above and beyond, but those employees willing to do extra for more should not then be used to set a new baseline of what a normal amount of work is for the employees that just want to do the required work. While a business’s goal is to earn money, ethics should still be important. Employees should get time set aside for at least a 30 minute lunch break in the day although I don’t think time should be set aside for idleness. I believe this because while there could be productiveness gained from it the person would be the one benefiting not the company. At the same time the company should not expect productive actions from an employee outside of paid hours. What is important is that an employer and employee relationship should be symbiotic. Both parties want to make money and by cooperating together the employer creates the opportunity and the employee does the work required to generate the money. An employee should not be losing their physical or mental health by working at maximum or even too high of an efficiency. Instead employees and employers should work to benefit each other in t and by effect themselves.

    • Tony Bradley says:

      I agree with everything you said here. At the end of the day, working at a job is to make money. No more, no less. If I am working for a company for money, I will do the work that is backed up by that money. If they pay poorly, I will do a poor day’s work; if they pay well, I will do good work. A company should not expect any of their employees to do work without pay, and it also goes the other way around.

      On the lunch break topic, I feel like an hour lunch break is acceptable for most jobs. Thirty minutes is hardly enough to go somewhere to get food. An hour allows the proper allocation of time that allows everyone to get the food they need, no matter the situation. Depending on the job, the employer shouldn’t regulate lunch time, but instead the workers’ pay. If they eat for longer, dock their pay. Although, if they go this route it may promote the skipping of lunch for a higher pay which would harm worker health.

  10. Bryanna Boggs says:

    The idea of an employer monitoring their employees and basing their producibility off of peripheral quotas is noxious and potentially damaging to the company itself. Though I believe this method can improve efficiency temporarily, I don’t believe that it can sustain long enough to have a lasting effect in the company’s interest. Competitive workplace-based rewards for individual employees can create resentment and rivalry among colleagues, leading to an unhealthy workplace. This issue, in turn, causes a lack of quality in a company’s product as employees vie to topple one another in order to meet, or exceed, their quotas. But, this opinion has only been formulated based on my experience as an employee, not as an employer who is evaluating their enumeration of profit and trying to find the best method to make a profit.

  11. Kinsley Hendricks says:

    Personally, I don’t think that it’s that simple. Even though it would be preferable for businesses to employ employees who they know will get work done faster. I ponder is that really the best thing for the business. For instance, they could hire an employee that works rapidly, but the quality of their work isn’t up to par. While another worker can work faintly slower, but their quality of work is finer.

  12. Asher Rials says:

    Employees should not be measured solely by how much work they get done. Yes, that is most employees’ primary purpose, but employees are still people. Some might increase their coworkers’ productivity by being kind or encouraging them. Some workplaces might be improved by some comedic relief. Most people don’t want to work in a boring environment, or to come to work and do the same thing every day. And some people make it their business to make a workplace interesting. Some businesses have some sort of committee that is volunteer-run and is in charge of planning parties or outings that make people look forward to work and, consequently, increase productivity. Therefore, I believe employees’ productivity should only be measured by how much work they get done because everyone does more than just work at work.

  13. Avery McMechan says:

    The idea of basing the value of an employee on the work they do makes sense, of course, a company or employer would want to know that the worker they hired is doing their job efficiently. That argument isn’t necessarily one of the morality of placing someone’s worth on their work, it’s just a good business strategy. Think of it this way, would a University or even MSMS want a lazy student, no, neither would a company want a lazy worker. However there are different ways of being productive, for example, you could be a really efficient worker and get everything for a week done in a day and then be “idle” for the rest of the week. However, you could be a sane human being and divide up the work a little bit so that you don’t break yourself trying so hard, and so you aren’t idle for an extended period of time. Now while having a few days instead of a few hours a day to yourself does sound more appealing to the employee, it’s just an unrealistic standard. To add to that with certain jobs, employers might look more for the stability of a few hours a day than a few days a week when considering their employee’s work. That’s not to say they want a less efficient worker, they just want a stable but efficient worker, slow and steady rather than fast but unstable.

  14. Laykin Dixon says:

    I feel as If monitoring the productivity of employees can be good and bad. If you monitor how much people get done at places like a super busy store like Walmart I feel as if it would be good. But monitoring how much a radiologist gets done can be bad because what if they miss something and then there patient dies because they were rushing to get the most done. I don’t feel as if it’s simple to just monitor how much someone get’s done and it will improve their efficiency because it’s not always gonna work like that people might speed up their process and mess up everything they might get a lot done but not the right way. Some places like any medical field jobs monitoring what they get done can be very bad but places where your life isn’t on the line and your employees are just lazy it might be a good thing. I also feel as though no matter what your job is everyone deserves a small break whether its 5 or 1o minutes everyone needs a break.

  15. Lauren Varner says:

    Productive idleness does exist, and here’s why. Working nonstop is unhealthy for many reasons. For one, employees can easily become burned out in their fields if they do not take scheduled breaks. Also, constant work can be unhealthy for the business. If the employees become unmotivated, efficiency will suffer. Productive idleness should be incorporated into the everyday work environment, allowing workers to take breaks every now and again. Managers should enforce these breaks in order to increase productivity and make workers feel better about coming to work rather than dreading it. Furthermore, equating one’s worth to how much they produce is inaccurate and selfish. As humans, we are more than what we create, and we should be treated as such.

  16. Max Feng says:

    If I was an owner of a business, my main goal would be to grow the business as much as possible. The money would be the main factor in the growth of my business, but I believe employee satisfaction is what drives the earnings. If employees are happier, they will produce better work which could result in more earnings. To create better employee satisfaction, employees should not be classified through numbers (like keystrokes) or be compared with each other. It is hard to judge someone’s work on another person’s work. Instead, I believe it would be better to judge someone on their previous work.

    I am not sure what “productive idleness” would look or feel like. If good quality work is produced by the employee, I will support the productive idleness. Everyone works differently.

  17. Kelvin Pool says:

    I believe that it can be quite productive for workers to take breaks and not work too hard. Drained workers are likely not to produce the same results as rested and healthy workers. You are not exactly worth just what you can do. However, if you cannot work or perform your duties then you have no value to a company or workplace. The line between doing your job and sacrificing the rest of yourself for your work is one that is crucial to draw. It is also vital to work as much as you reasonably can in order to keep your job, but you should try your best to take care of yourself first.

  18. Kinsley Collum says:

    In a debate on whether companies should micromanage their employees’ productivity, I think many perspectives come into play. Are you asking this question while looking through the CEO’s eyes or the employees’ eyes? From the CEO’s perspective, you would want what is best for your company numbers-wise rather than individual based. Of course, if you were running a business, you would want your employees to stay off their phones and away from distractions. You may feel the need to micromanage because more productivity means more efficiency. However, what if you looked through the employees’ eyes instead? Would you feel appreciated knowing every little thing you do is being monitored or that you need to hit a certain quota each hour? I think a constant demand and monitoring of a person could cause a toll on mental health and overall attitude towards the job. CEO’s run the risk of making their employees feel untrusted and under too much pressure to meet quotas. Unhappy employees are just as dangerous as unproductive employees and could cause an overall decrease in business.
    On the other hand, I think it depends on the work field you are looking at. In the fields of visual arts, I would debate that productive idleness is necessary. Doesn’t an artist need time to envision a painting, doesn’t a dancer need time to come up with a routine, or an actor needs time to step into a character’s shoes? However, the arts are not the only things we should not be rushing. Would you want a doctor to rush through your heart surgery because he has a quota of surgeries to meet? When it comes to managing companies’ productivity, we have to look at the company on an individual basis, rather than business as a whole.

  19. Bethany Setiawan says:

    One person could describe productive idleness as completely zoning out or rather thinking of ideas that could improve their workplace. Either way, employee’s efficiency should be just as important as the quality of their work. Productive idleness is a real thing and numerous amounts of different occupation employees tend to do it without even realizing it. That’s the power of productive idleness. Producing work at a fast speed may not guarantee the end result being the best quality. Each employee will work differently according to their workplace and the pace that best suits them that guarantees the end product to be the best it could be.

  20. Julia Nguyen says:

    In an idealistic standpoint of business owners, they tend to want to get the most bang for their buck, regardless of what measures need to be taken and regardless of factors other than making the most money. This includes but isn’t limited to the following: increasing work hours for their patrons to increase company profit, decreasing pay to use the remaining money to fund new projects and ideas, firing long-term workers and replacing them with more tech-savvy workers, etc. The notion that improving efficiency overall enriches both employees and shareholder is something I will have to disagree with. By “improving efficiency” for employees and shareholders, there is no other way to do it than almost condescendingly; it jeopardizes the future of it’s company workers, especially those who have devoted their skills to the company for years. It is in no way simple to just benefiting both employees and company owners. Productive idleness is absolutely healthy. I previously mentioned that some business owners will increase hours of their workers without taking into account what a break is. Without schedule times for recollection, it will not make a worker want to continue. They will be burnt out, frustrated, tired, and ultimately not benefit the company. Productive idleness is important to distinguish work times and break times. Everyone needs a break, but companies like Amazon are money-hungry. I agree that it is noxious to equate our own worth by what we produce. What business owner wouldn’t want a good business? The real question is to what extent will they be willing to make that happen. Not everyone works the same in different environments, not everyone types the same speed, not everyone works well under pressure, and not everyone is familiar with stressful and overloading work conditions. Slimming down the window of good work ethic to bad work ethic not only shows that company owners will do anything they can to improve their business, but also evidently shows the care they have for their workers. Without valuing each individuals work ethic, it will put stress on those who can’t work at the speed of the rest of the company. Business owners should not equate a worker’s worth to what they produce.

  21. Noah Lee says:

    I think productive idleness is a great thing, but it’s also important to look at the wider context and specifications of the job in question. First of all, it’s important to realize that a business is a business–they exist first and foremost to make money. I believe that, from a logistical standpoint, they should push their workers towards doing the best and most efficient work that they can. Now, this doesn’t mean that the company should exert its workers non-stop, as employee burnout will, in the end, lead to less efficient workers. There has to be a definitive balance between efficiency and satisfaction. If the workers aren’t satisfied, then they will be less motivated, meaning that the quality of their work will be worse. Because of this, I do think that productive idleness is a good thing. It’s a little bit harder to figure out the specific mechanism for introducing it, though. Perhaps the best way would be to set certain deadlines and goals for the workers, while leaving the exact working processes and time management up to them. As long as they get their work done, they can spend their time however they want. Also, it’s important to understand the context in each specific job. For example, a emergency room surgeon should not receive as much productive idleness as a cubicle worker because the surgeon’s job requires more immediacy.

  22. Jack Sisson says:

    Productive idleness, I believe, would increase the amount of production. Productive idleness could manifest itself in many ways, but for the purpose of my comment, I’ll just focus on paid vacation. A paid vacation would increase a worker’s relationship with the company: creating a higher incentive to produce for the company.

    I don’t think the answer to increasing workplace production is simply “productive idleness”, though. I think the answer is different for each sector, each company, and each position. The UPS worker needs a different break than the telemarketer. The factory worker needs a different break than the data analyst. Companies should test what works best for the workers, the production, and the finances.

  23. Kadie Van says:

    Although productive idleness will have better outcome for the business in most cases considering there will be more production, what is to say that the quality or the product or worker will have the same outcome? Personally, my parents own a nail salon and have been working ever since I could remember. I go out to help them with inventory or management, and from one day, I already feel tired. Saying that, I ask the question of how a worker can work at their fullest every day? They can’t. Productive idleness does not define a company or worker; they are defined by the quality they are able to produce. Wellness also plays a factor. If a worker such as my parents were to give it their all every day, they would have a burn out and simply be too tired to enjoy all of the good things life has to offer. For example, my dad would always play tennis after work with me and my siblings because he loves us, and he loves the sport. If her were to be 100% at work every day, what time will he make for himself or us? Therefore, productive idleness does not define anything but rather the quality does.

  24. Mira Patel says:

    Monitoring productivity is essential for some companies because they tend to want the most efficient workers. The major goal for many businesses is bringing in as much revenue that they can in very little time. The issue with this, however, is that the quality of work can get affected. If we were to measure productivity in firms by counting the number of keystrokes per hour, for example, we would not necessarily be measuring the quality of work being produced. Productive idleness, however, can improve the quality of work being produced because at a time of rest, the brain is able to think creatively and problem solve better than it would be able to if it was constantly being used to work on a specific task. Productive idleness can also be beneficial because it allows employees to have a time of rest, which can improve the rates at which employees resign from their jobs. In the long run, productive idleness will be able to improve the relations between employees and their companies and the quality of work being produced. Additionally, I disagree with the statement that improving efficiency can improve the companies bottom lines in turn enriching shareholders and employees. Again, the quality of the work being produced is the issue here. Also, the employees will probably not be enriched because they will not have any time to rest, straining their relationships with their companies.

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