Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Clock running slow? Researchers say: it’s not just you

Ever feel like your day at the office starts to drag around mid-afternoon? It turns out that you're not crazy (at least, not for that reason) -- and you're certainly not alone.

Researchers at the Workforce Policy Center have discovered what countless office workers have long suspected – that there is a bubble or bulge of additional time, as much as an hour or more, that tends to insert itself within the average workday between about 2:30 pm and 4:00 pm. These extra minutes go unrecorded by any office clock. What appears to be about 11⁄2 hours of passing time actually adds up to 21⁄2 hours or more, depending on the day and the office. "And it sure feels that way," according to several workers we talked to. "The afternoon just plain bottoms out," says "Anthony," a claims adjuster. "It feels like it's never going to be time to hit the door."

"Time is variably elastic at all times of day – we've known that for years," asserts labor expert Rona Rotifer of the WPC, who directed the recent study. "Say you get to the office around 8:00 in the morning to catch up on your email. Ten minutes later, boom! it's 9:00, and the boss is bugging you. That's a pretty common story. But almost without fail, you glance at the clock at 2:45, work for another hour, look at the clock again, and it's 2:55. We thought, how could that be?"

Employees who notice and comment on the typical workday's midafternoon "valley of death" have typically been told that it's all in their heads and to get back to work. Now, with the news of Rotifer's study, workers are talking about the additional compensation they might be owed, where the extra time might be coming from, and whether it could be applied instead to holidays and weekends.

Rotifer's group was able to detect the mysterious bulge of time by using their own clocks and keeping them located outside of the office being studied. Researchers found that the extra time created in the afternoon would be often evened out by day's end, usually by having the pleasant events of the evening simply go flying by. "Bedtime so soon?" complained more than one subject in the study. "It feels like I just got home!"

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