So, I mentioned earlier in the year that due to strange restructuring, I went from being considered an exempt employee
to being an "overtime-eligible exempt employee". I considered this annoying because it meant that I had to do daily timecards and use a more irritating time entry system, but I've discussed that before.
Today, I found out that exempt employees will begin having to do something idiotic. When an exempt employee want to take a half-day (perhaps they became ill midway through the day or need to take the morning off for personal reasosn), they can either not use sick/vacation time for it (essentially placing the burden on the projects that are supporting you) or spend a whole day's worth of sick/vacation time (wasting much of a sick/vacation day in the process). This is due to the requirement that exempt employees charge whole days at a time when making use of leave time. From now on, however, people who use the method of not using sick time for taking partial days off will be required to mark down such time using a special tag: "Unproductive time".
Now, clearly this is an attempt by certain people to gain a better view of the "redundancy" or "wasted" time that employees have. There are many problems with such a standard. Firstly, no one will ever record that they were "unproductive" for 10% of a week. Doing so will lead projects to question the person's work ethic or possibly attempt to remove such a person from a project. Secondly, when one starts to question the meaning of "unproductive time" it quickly degerates into meaninglessness. Is time spent reading slashdot
unproductive? Most would say yes. Is the 15 minutes that I have to spend getting back to my place after my boss comes in to talk unproductive? Absolutely, but it is also unavoidable. What about the time that I spend walking to a meeting that's being held in a meeting on the other side of the lab? How about if I stare at the wall for a few minutes while I gather my thoughts when switching between tasks? Is using the restroom unproductive time?
And what about the other side of the coin? What if I can't get to sleep at night because I'm busy considering how to go about solving some problem at work? Can I bill that as "supraproductive time"? If I'm on a telecon and also coding, is that "supraproductive time"? What if the telecon and the software have different charge numbers associated with them?
All of this really goes to what it means to be an exempt employee. Exempt employees are supposed to be professionals. They aren't hired to "write software for 40 hours a week" or to "design circuits 40 hours a week"; they're hired to do tasks. Trying to increase the effectiveness of the employees by tracking "unproductive time" seems like the sort of thing that goes counter to the very idea of jobs that require responsibility and self-management. I suspect that, once implemented, it will be a complete non-starter with employees. I doubt that any employee will ever
list a single minute of time as "unproductive".
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