Beware the Idle Hands of March

Friday - 3/11/2011, 4:00am EST

Over the next several weeks, millions of American office worker/arm-chair athletes will be consumed to varying degrees picking winners (they hope) in the college basketball playoffs known as March Madness.

For some socially-challenged folk, MM is the high point of the year. For some of their less interested (perhaps equally challenged) colleagues it is a major pain in, and drain on, the office's assets.

Studies show that most (certainly not all) of the players are males and that they will spend an average of half an hour per day, each day online picking teams, checking scores and/or talking about their victories and defeats with other MM addicts.

(For federal workers gambling, on sporting events or anything else, at the office and using government equipment is a very serious no, no, and has been for long enough for everyone to know better. And yet...)

"Around here we say Beware the Ides of March and we are not talking Shakespeare or Julius Caesar," says a senior Defense Department analyst. "A lot of the staff, and especially the 30 something crowd go nuts this time of year. The contrast between guys showing up with college shirts and the spit-and-polish military people is something to behold," she said.

So is this a harmless once-a-year morale builder? Or is it a prime example of wasting time?

A 20-plus year GSA employee declined to comment on the MM phenomenon, but he did say there are other ways that people zone out on the job. "The smokers are an obvious target," he said, "They have to find a safe haven a couple of times a day. I'm a reformed smoker and I know the problem. And the cumulative impact of their time outs. On the other hand some people still sell Avon products on the job. What are you going to do?"

An Interior Department employee said his favorite time-out tale involves a coworker of his sister. She is a private sector type "in an office where everybody is always busy, busy, busy and constantly complaining about the workload. Everybody does two jobs, right? " he said, "except this one guy...chief complainer who falls asleep at his desk every day with his computer open to his Face Book account!!!" She said it made for interesting reading.

A young woman who worked briefly at the Department of Transportation said she had a senior staffer who "was always on our case about how many telephone calls we got or made, and queries we didn't answer." But, she said, he was a primo time-waster because "every now and then he would say he was going to clean up his desk...he would take two days to do it and in a week" it was back to its old state. She said the desks were squared off u-shape so there was a lot to clean. Best of all, she said, was that he would "take time off to take his cat to the vet" and that this happens every couple of weeks.

So, got a story about how some of your colleagues spend their time working, or not?

What's it going to be like at your place during the basketball playoffs. Join our war on wasted time campaign. Drop me a line at: mcausey@federalnewsradio.com

Meantime, I'm thinking Kentucky to win it after a face-off with Georgetown. But that's just me.


Locals and Tourists #7: Washington, DC (By Eric Fischer)

Nearly Useless Factoid
by Suzanne Kubota

In smithsonianmag.com's "Suprising Science" blog, we found the story of computer programmer Eric Fischer's project looking at the locations of photos of cities as taken by locals (blue) and tourists (red). He says, "In general I was surprised that waterfront pictures were such a large fraction of the total."

MORE FROM FEDERAL NEWS RADIO

New three week CR to be unveiled today
House Republicans plan to unveil a new, three-week continuing resolution today. It would keep the government operating until April 8. The current CR expires in one week.

Reorganization plans due in 90 days
Other headlines in this morning's Federal Newscast include: HHS to stay in Parklawn, FHA commissioner steps down, GAO overturns DHS's CACI TASC award.

Issa: Government needs long term budget planning
The chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform said short-term continuing resolutions - like the one currently funding government - are "wasteful." He told Federal News Radio that budget planning should be quadrennial.

Reid: Dems must make budget sacrifice
Senate Majority leader Harry Reid showed signs that Democrats were willing to compromise on the stalled budget.