Writer Dave Johnson published an article called Use email for “perception management” at work in which he describes how employees can “game the system” in order to look busy. Johnson says “I suppose that you might consider some of the recommendations in this article as a fair turn for the always-connected, always-available mindset of many companies today.” Isn’t that a lovely attitude!
Johnson suggestions include:
- Picking out a single high profile email (one with a lot of recipients) in the morning and respond to it. This will show you are engaged. Ignore the rest for the morning.
- Send a lot of short emails. Auto-schedule them if you are out of the office or on vacation. This makes you look like you are working all the time.
- If you want to look like you are in the office remove the “sent from my mobile” message on your phone.
- Use Twitter to send messages that imply you are working at night and on the weekends, even though you are not.
Now beyond the lack of productivity issues that someone like this may have there is also an issue of wages and overtime having to be paid to people not earning them. If you have non-exempt employees who are engaging in these “gaming” activities then the time they spend doing this may be considered compensable time. If it gets into producing work hours more than 40 hours (or 8 hours in a day in California) the overtime must be paid on this “gaming” time.
How do you stop this? Well the best answer is effective management. Managers need to know if time spent and productivity results are a good match. You can also control some of this with non-exempt employees by having limitations on when and how these can work beyond normal work time.