Bob Goldman

Congratulations, fellow Americans! According to the latest "American Time Use Survey" conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we now know that, on the average, Americans are working 26 minutes less each workday. That's almost a 10 percent improvement!

I'd like to take 100 percent credit for the 10 percent decrease in productivity, but such an accomplishment cannot be credited to one slacker alone. While the gospel of goofing-off that I have been preaching -- and living -- for so many years assuredly did make a difference, we do have to thank the recent economic kerfuffle for its contribution.

With so many unemployed people unable to do any work whatsoever, it's only natural and mathematical that the totals would be pulled down. Still, a lower level of laziness is not something to slough off. These days, you have to work hard if you're going to work less.

My question is -- are you doing your share?

If you're a woman, it looks like you do have some bragging rights. According to the survey results, women worked 41 minutes less every day than men. But don't start congratulating yourself just yet. If the ladies are doing less at work, they are doing more at home. Women spent an average of 2.6 hours a day on household activities, while men spent only 2.1 hours. And only 20 percent of men do housework every day, as opposed to 68 percent of women.

Granted the Department of Labor has a very strange definition of housework, which they define as "doing laundry and food preparation or cleanup." This totally excludes those of us who consider housework as managing the remote control and testing the capacity of the recycling container by filling it to the brim with empty beer cans. Incredibly, women who ignore these critical duties are given a pass.

Despite the scope of our great gains in goofing-off, there are certain spoilsports out to derail our success. For verification of this admittedly implausible claim, take a few moments from the three hours and 58 minutes you are projected to work today, and turn to Sue Shellenbarger's Work & Family column in The Wall Street Journal. In a recent article, "Designs to Make You Work Harder," the hard-working Shellenbarger provides details on a project undertaken by four design firms to create a 15-foot by 15-foot office that would "inspire ideas and create productivity."

This was not a totally academic exercise, since each office was to be occupied by a "hypothetical midlevel executive." And as we know, when it comes to inspiration and productivity, most midlevel executives are extremely hypothetical.

Bob Goldman

Bob Goldman is a business humor writer.

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