Summary of Empty Labor

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Researcher Roland Paulsen, PhD, offers an in-depth study of “those who never work hard.” He discusses how and why employees waste paid time on non-work activities – “empty labor” that has nothing to do with their jobs. Drawing from a variety of occupations, he interviewed 23 men and 20 women who spend half or more of their time engaged in empty labor. Paulsen defines work in terms of “potential output” and “work obligations.” He defines empty labor by whether potential output is high or low and whether work obligations are strong or weak. He grabs your attention with shocking examples, including a Swedish web designer who worked only one hour a day and whose complicit boss bragged about deleting 600 unread emails. The interesting employee examples balance theoretical chapters that might be most useful to academicians. getAbstract recommends Paulsen’s thorough exploration of slacking off and its effects to academics, researchers and managers in HR, human services and business administration.

About the Author

Roland Paulsen is the author of Arbetssamhället: Hur Arbetet Overlevde Teknologin (The Society of Labor: How Labor Survived Technology). He is a postdoctoral research fellow in business administration at Lund University in Lund, Sweden.



Working, but Not Working

Employees spend an estimated one and a half to three hours every workday on “empty labor” – activities that have nothing to do with their jobs. “Empty labor is everything you do at work that is not your work.” Examples include personal phone calls, texts, emails and restroom breaks, as well as chatting with co-workers, surfing the web, shopping online and checking social media.

A recent worldwide Gallup poll found that only 13% of employees like going to work, 63% are “not engaged” and the remaining 24% are “more or less out to damage their company.” Analysts have done little research on empty labor despite these statistics. Author Roland Paulsen’s study concentrated on employees who work for half of each day. He interviewed 23 men and 20 women in marketing, finance, software development, sales, social work, mining, and more, to learn how and why they spend work time on personal concerns. He asked them how they got away with working for only half of their paid hours, and what inspired their empty labor. Interviews indicated that the blurring of personal and professional boundaries evens out and that taking breaks at work is...

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