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Reuters Takes Bogus "Study" and Calls it News

It is stunning what passes for both news and "science" today. One of the fundamental rules of experimental design is that your measurements must measure what you think they measure.

If you want to determine the tallest person in the room, you don't do it by using a bathroom scale. Similarly if you want to measure worker productivity, you measure the quantity of work DONE not the quantity of work UNDONE. Yet amazingly this (and a few other things) are lost on the Reuters news babe who penned this embarrassing piece:

Americans work more, seem to accomplish less

By Ellen Wulfhorst Thu Feb 23, 9:58 AM ET

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Most U.S. workers say they feel rushed on the job, but they are getting less accomplished than a decade ago, according to newly released research.
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Workers completed two-thirds of their work in an average day last year, down from about three-quarters in a 1994 study, according to research conducted for Day-Timers Inc., an East Texas, Pennsylvania-based maker of organizational products.

The biggest culprit is the technology that was supposed to make work quicker and easier, experts say.

"Technology has sped everything up and, by speeding everything up, it's slowed everything down, paradoxically," said John Challenger, chief executive of Chicago-based outplacement consultants Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.

"We never concentrate on one task anymore. You take a little chip out of it, and then you're on to the next thing," Challenger said on Wednesday. "It's harder to feel like you're accomplishing something."

Unlike a decade ago, U.S. workers are bombarded with e-mail, computer messages, cell phone calls, voice mails and the like, research showed.

The average time spent on a computer at work was almost 16 hours a week last year, compared with 9.5 hours a decade ago, according to the Day-Timer research released this week.

Workers typically get 46 e-mails a day, nearly half of which are unsolicited, it said.

Sixty percent of workers say they always or frequently feel rushed, but those who feel extremely or very productive dropped to 51 percent from 83 percent in 1994, the research showed.

Put another way, in 1994, 82 percent said they accomplished at least half their daily planned work but that number fell to 50 percent last year. A decade ago, 40 percent of workers called themselves very or extremely successful, but that number fell to just 28 percent.

"We think we're faster, smarter, better with all this technology at our side and in the end, we still feel rushed and our feeling of productivity is down," said Maria Woytek, marketing communications manager for Day-Timers, a unit of ACCO Brands Corp.

Rather than actually measure what the worker "produced" they studied what the workers said they had left to produce at the end of the day. That has nothing to do with what workers do get accomplished. If your job is to pick oranges and you pick 100 per day in 1994 when you are asked to pick 120 but in 2005 you pick 120 oranges when asked to pick 150 you are still more productive in 2005.

But all that is moot. This isn't news, it's advertising copy dressed up look like science. Lemme play that article back to you with different things bolded and my comments in brackets.

Americans work more, seem to accomplish less

By Ellen Wulfhorst Thu Feb 23, 9:58 AM ET

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Most U.S. workers say they feel rushed on the job, but they are getting less accomplished than a decade ago, according to newly released research.

Workers completed two-thirds of their work in an average day last year, down from about three-quarters in a 1994 study, according to research conducted for Day-Timers Inc., an East Texas, Pennsylvania-based maker of organizational products.

[Did you miss that the first time? This is not a university or a research facility, it is people who want to sell you day timers. They created a bogus "study" for the media because we all know the media loves studies.]

The biggest culprit is the technology that was supposed to make work quicker and easier, experts say.

[OF COURSE the biggest culprit is technology. WHY? Becasue the people doing the research sell paper day organizers. Technology is killing them.]

"Technology has sped everything up and, by speeding everything up, it's slowed everything down, paradoxically," said John Challenger, chief executive of Chicago-based outplacement consultants Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.

"We never concentrate on one task anymore. You take a little chip out of it, and then you're on to the next thing," Challenger said on Wednesday. "It's harder to feel like you're accomplishing something."

Unlike a decade ago, U.S. workers are bombarded with e-mail, computer messages, cell phone calls, voice mails and the like, research showed.

[bad technology bad]

The average time spent on a computer at work was almost 16 hours a week last year, compared with 9.5 hours a decade ago, according to the Day-Timer research released this week.

[and that is time they should be spending with their day timers]

Workers typically get 46 e-mails a day, nearly half of which are unsolicited, it said.

Sixty percent of workers say they always or frequently feel rushed, but those who feel extremely or very productive dropped to 51 percent from 83 percent in 1994, the research showed.

Put another way, in 1994, 82 percent said they accomplished at least half their daily planned work but that number fell to 50 percent last year. A decade ago, 40 percent of workers called themselves very or extremely successful, but that number fell to just 28 percent.

"We think we're faster, smarter, better with all this technology at our side and in the end, we still feel rushed and our feeling of productivity is down," said Maria Woytek, marketing communications manager for Day-Timers, a unit of ACCO Brands Corp.

This "study" is ACCO Brands advertising that Reuters called news.

Going back to my original point, this study DID measure exactly what it was supposed to measure. It DID NOT measure productivity gains or losses because of technology. It measured how people FELT. Of course we feel more rushed, we're getting more done. -- If you think you don't get more accomplished today than in 1994, give up your technology and see what you get accomplished.

This is why I get so annoyed by the never-ending "studies" that pretend to be news. I'd bet that over 95% of the people reading that story will never know they just read advertising copy. The news media will print any "study" they feel the whim to print regardless of its scientific merits or lack thereof. And now you know why I'm underwhelmed by the latest "global warming study of the week."


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Comments (25)

Footnote: I used the word "... (Below threshold)
Paul:

Footnote: I used the word "study" while the news babe used the word "research." The meaning -and the validity of this story as news- is the same.

Ieeeeee! Take away the tech... (Below threshold)

Ieeeeee! Take away the technology, and I gotta go back to working retail...

Paul,Try watching ... (Below threshold)
Imhotep:

Paul,

Try watching one hour of the Today show & find one segment that is not an advertisement.
I quit watching them 6 years ago for this reason, I don't read the local paper for the same reason...it's all advertisements.

There's a town called East ... (Below threshold)
Phinn:

There's a town called East Texas, Pennsylvania?

That's news to me. I guess this study was worth something after all! (The rest is shite, of course.)

why are people checking the... (Below threshold)

why are people checking their email so often? it's really not that hard to wait till the end of the day. because if this was internal email, you really shouldn't be getting that much crap.

Paul,Try... (Below threshold)
Paul:

Paul,

Try watching one hour of the Today show

Not if you paid me.

The research also fails to ... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:

The research also fails to account for the type of work people did in 1994 compared to the type of work they do in 2005. If you worked on a production line in 1994 it's hard not to get all your work done each day. If you are a knowledge worker or service customers, there are few days where you can complete all the work available.

Companies use technology to get more work our of each employee, so it keeps piling up.

I agree with Paul's <a href... (Below threshold)
Earl:

I agree with Paul's earlier post that it would be stupid if anyone tried to tie a random study on sharks with global warming. But now he turns around and makes the same mistake, equating some dumb marketing study with climate research. The study described here was funded by a private agency, was probably carried out by some consulting company, was not peer-reviewed, and will not be found in the scientific literature.

Yes, it's inane that news organizations will make a story out of any press release by a company to tout their own "research". But it's not the same as reporting on a paper which was recently published in Nature.

Tell those same in that stu... (Below threshold)

Tell those same in that study that they can't go home until their work is done and see if they don't finish the same amount they do now by 3 and leave early. Everyone wants to believe they are important and overworked but damn few are either. As to there being any validity to that study I just measured how long I've been sitting here typing this and my trusty tape measure says 11".

"Everyone wants to believe ... (Below threshold)
Starboard Attitude:

"Everyone wants to believe they are important and overworked but damn few are either."

I'll buy the former, but not the latter. What world to you live in? I don't know anyone who can clear their desk at the end of a 12-hour day--except those with menial jobs.

I live in the real world wh... (Below threshold)

I live in the real world where people spend more time reading personal e-mails and commenting on blogs (like YOU just did) than actually working. Now tell us again about this make-believe world where you are overworked...

I'm retired.The pe... (Below threshold)
Starboard Attitude:

I'm retired.

The people I left behind are not reading personal emails and commenting on blogs. They're in Court 4 hours a day, taking depositions 6 hours a day, and writing briefs and reports another 4 hours a day. That's a typical week day. On weekends they research and write another 12 hours, and they're never caught up.

That's how a lawyer in Los Angeles works, and my friends in NYC, DC, Philadelphia and Chicago are in the same boat. I wish that were make believe, but it's not. 20 years of that took its toll on my heart, so now I'm retired and only take occasional cases for personal friends (for free).

My fiance designs retail stores for a large movie studio, and she probably averages 10 hours on the lot, and two hours at home each day--plus another 8-10 at home over the weekends. She has no time to read email or answer phones until the wine is uncorked at 8:30.

My CPA friends work 12 hour days, six day a week in the OFF season. Now they're doing 16-18 hour days 7 days per week.

My doctor friends have similar schedules--in fact some are even worse.

So tell me, what lazy backwater job market is giving you this skewed perspective? What do you do, Bullwinkle?--work for the government?

I'm retired, and extemely d... (Below threshold)

I'm retired, and extemely doubtful of you claims. I never met a lawyer who didn't call himself an attorney. I also never met onw who put in a full days work.

BTW, the list of your frien... (Below threshold)

BTW, the list of your friends is a little suspicious too, lawyers don't have friends but that's not the reason I'm a little skeptical, every time I go to the golf course that's exactly the same people I see there. As to me coming from some lazy backwater job market it's worth noting that I managed to retire at 39, either that or I've been on vacation for 7 years, you pick.

>I agree with Paul's ear... (Below threshold)
Paul:

>I agree with Paul's earlier post that it would be stupid if anyone tried to tie a random study on sharks with global warming. But now he turns around and makes the same mistake, equating some dumb marketing study with climate research.

Earl, perhaps it was too complex for you to understand. I DID NOT say that because people felt they did not finsh their work that global warming is a hoax. THAT would be stupid.

What I did was demonstrate how easily the media was manipulated by "studies" then siad that was the reason I did not trust them to report on global warming studies. -- Which is a perfectly reasonable and logical conclusion.

How hard was that to understand?

Bull Twinkie:You d... (Below threshold)
Starboard Attitude:

Bull Twinkie:

You didn't answer the question: What industry and geographic region informed your claim that "damn few" are over worked, and the rest spend their days reading blogs and emails? And since you've been retired for 7 years, I'd like to know what blogs your co-workers were contributing to in 1998-1999. Could it be that you pulled those ideas out of your ass?

As for the golf course, I've golfed only three days in my life. I'm sure if you saw me on those days, you probably thought I was some pampered rich lazy asshole for not being in the office--based solely on those three days. I know the stereotype you claim to see, but I know of no real-world examples. The real-world people I know are always in the midst of a perpetual queue of rush projects, pumping gallons of adrenaline, and never having the time to take a decent shit. Also, a day on the golf course means three more nights of coming home at 2 a.m. and sleeping with files in the bed. That's why I'm curious to know more about your experience, and the slow pace that would allow people to read blogs at work all day.

Congratulations on your retirement. I had to work until I was five years older than you were. It appears we're the same age.

Paul- I share your frustrat... (Below threshold)
Earl:

Paul- I share your frustration at the media; but it seemed to me that your comment "This is why I get so annoyed by the never-ending 'studies' that pretend to be news" was not just about the media but also about the underlying study. Sorry if I misunderstood.

Earl, I don't get annoyed b... (Below threshold)
Paul:

Earl, I don't get annoyed by the stupid studies that don't pretend to be news.

(think about that one) ;-)

P

Now there's proof you're a ... (Below threshold)

Now there's proof you're a lawyer if I ever saw any. Everybody know lawyers are so mature and smart that after giving it a lot of thought only they can come up with witty names like "Bull Twinkie". If you were a lawyer, which I doubt seriously, the reason you never got to golf was because it took you 12 hours to do four hours of work. You weren't overworked, you just don't have the mental capacity to get anything accomplished. I'm from Texas and worked mainly in construction, like that makes any difference. Those confusing things called words must have been really rough on you, you might try not moving your lips while you read them so you don't come with ideas (those other confusing things for you) and reread what I wrote. I didn't say it had anything to do with any co-workers, or that it was from any experience over years ago. When you get ready, in 3 or 4 years, we can discuss things like past and present tense, you know, like nowhere in what I commented did I say things like "when I used to go to the golf course 7 years ago" or "back in 98 when I was growing up". I did say "every time I GO to the golf course". But that's for another time, when you're older and a little more mature, I already know that a 3 hour lesson will drag out to a full day and I just don't have time for dealing with idiots like you. I'm too busy putting 18 hours of goofing off into 8 hour days. Dickhead.

A company that manufactures... (Below threshold)

A company that manufactures organizational products commissions a study that finds *surprise!* that workers are achieving less on the job?

Well, I bet 'ol Day-Timers, Inc. has the solution!

Well it was worth the price, considering all the free pub they have gotten since.

Uh, Bullwinkle, can you rea... (Below threshold)
Starboard Attitude:

Uh, Bullwinkle, can you read?

The 7 year bit was about your experience in the workforce, not on the golf course. But that's moot since you've already admitted you didn't work in a busy office environment. You don't have any relevant information about busy office work habits, do you?

Nor did you read my description of a typical lawyer's life. It's not a matter of staring at a computer for 12 hours to do 3 hours work--people are constrained by real-world time demands and huge workloads. You can't speed up judges or testimony.

Bullwinkle, you're a fucking provincial, ignorant, pinheaded moron.

But to get back on topic, I agree with Paul. Bogus "study," and absurd results. In 1984, people in my industry could not keep up with work demands. In 1994, they still could not keep up. In 2004, ditto. However, personal productivity skyrocketed. The more people can produce, the more is demanded of them.

Yep, I'm a pinhead who blog... (Below threshold)

Yep, I'm a pinhead who blogs in 3 places and can read a sitemeter report and see exactly how many of these poor overworked people are surfing those blogs on the company clock. And us construction types never get a near a busy office, yep I'm a pinhead. LMAO What a moron, did you really retire or get sent to pasture so you could be replaced by a monkey? BTW, you're still a dickhead.

Bullwinkle, you're a fuckin... (Below threshold)
Slav:

Bullwinkle, you're a fucking provincial, ignorant, pinheaded moron.

Yeah, and you two are gentl... (Below threshold)

Yeah, and you two are gentlemen and scholars. Right. One is even a lawyer. Sure he is.

Well fellas, just to put an... (Below threshold)
JohnG:

Well fellas, just to put another slant on this thread, and to get somewhat away from the name calling between the two bull-mooses, I'd like to give an overseas slant on this topic.
I work for a multinational (small) with offices in the US and in another, overseas, English speaking nation, and we, in the overseas office, are constantly amazed at the hours that our US brethren are putting into the job. We wouldn't, because we try to practice something called "work-life balance".
I know the feeling of amazement is mutual, because some of our US colleagues visited us recently, and they were equally stupefied that nearly all of the laptop computers that they had so diligently handed out to staffers in our office, were being locked away when we went home, rather than being taken home so that we could continue supporting the head office during the "life" part of the equation.
The study isn't what it appears to be. To me, it looks more like a finding that more and more in the USA are forgetting the term "work-life balance", and are letting their work time dominate their lives, often to the detriment of their health and families.




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