New York - The increase in furloughs, which are unpaid days off from the job, could have a negative effect on the economy overall, says a new report. Furlough days, which have been used in lieu of layoffs by government and private companies, have created pressure on employees to do more in less time, which could cut into industries built around employee slacking.
"Goofing around at work has always been a time honored tradition, but in the internet age it's big business, supplying the livelihoods of millions," says Harvard economist John. D. Fournier III.
While some economists have cited that effect of goofing time as good for the creative soul, especially at companies like Google, Fournier has look at the uncreative masses and the effect the lack of slacking has even in their soulless mechanistic jobs.
"The human mind needs a break from humdrum of the office life. Working a boring job makes it necessary to find amusement and breaks," says psychologist Alfred Meyer of Yale.
The demand for mental escapes used to be supplied by newspapers, which had pages of comics, crosswords and other amusement, as well as news to take the mind away from the desk. The rise of the Internet brought Flash Games, online fantasy sports leagues, and news aggregators that bring the weirdest and most amusing news to the masses.
"The slacking off industry on the Internet alone supplies jobs to at least 4 million people, whose jobs are now at risk," said Kendra Clay or Wired.com, "Internet ad spending is questionable in this economy and a drop in site views will lower what advertisers are willing to pay."
ESPN interactive media analyst Jorge Martinez said that he expected the furloughs, which are likely to spread out over the next year, would wreak havoc on the sports industry. He said competition between co-workers in betting accounted for 40% of fantasy leagues and sports betting.
"Already we've questioned rebranding March Madness as "March Moderation" due to the likely lack of interest in brackets because of the furlough days," Martinez said.
Some people have wondered whether being at work is essential to goofing off, since furloughs would allow more time to surf the internet. Dr. Haru Woo, Standford Labor Professor, said that the work environment was essential to slacking.
"Humans feel the need to work for their self esteem, and without a job they will drift along and try to find one. You'll find people volunteering, working around the house or checking the classified ads instead of goofing off at work. Only the steadying influence and boredom of a 9-5 job can motivate slacking," Woo said.
Woo also said competition between co-workers on the job manifested itself into fantasy leagues and bracket betting, which allowed for feelings of animosity to be channeled into safe activities. Without a safe outlet for the stresses caused by a bad economy and competition for rewards, more work place violence could break out.
"I'd expect a rise in workplace shooters and general vandalism as stress takes it toll," Woo predicted.
Woo suggested employers allow furloughed employees to come in on unpaid days in order to maintain a healthy dose of boredom. He said office safety and productivity would be maintained.