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Amy Joyce: Life at Work

Biding Time Doing the Bare Minimum

Some People Work Awfully Hard to Fill Their 40-Hour Weeks -- With Amusements

By Amy Joyce
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 28, 2004; Page F05

Oh, it was such a hard week. I worked for 14 hours yesterday. Feel sorry for me.

Sound familiar? It may, because many of us speak words like those quite often.

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But what did we actually do with those hours? Did we really sweat over that report and spend that time focused on our work? Or did we break up our day a little bit with, say, some lingering on a Web chat?

I think I can say rather fairly that we all take a little rest now and then. We need to, right? We have to clear that brain a bit.

Well, the fact is, some of us just don't have enough work to do and don't care to look for more. Others are so miserable in their jobs, they will do the bare minimum to get through the day.

And for some employers, that seems to be just fine.

A perfect example is a full-time temporary worker I spoke to who has spent seven months at the U.S. Department of Labor. This employee was hired to do backup administrative work, he said. Which, he said, mostly means he delivers a package every day.

So as the rest of us are (pant) sweating over our (pant) columns, reports and (pant) whatever else it is we do with our day, some people are trying to figure out how to fill 40 hours a week. As for the employee at Labor, he sure has accomplished a lot.

"I never knew how much I could do," he wrote in an e-mail during work hours.

So far, he has taught himself the Internet's HTML coding, started a blog and taken up several pen pals, including one who speaks Spanish. Why? Because our friend here is also teaching himself the language.

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