Workus interruptus.

The conventional wisdom debunked.
March 16 2006 12:06 PM

Workus Interruptus

Sure, take a break—and help cost the U.S. economy $588 billion.

(Continued from Page 1)

Cost of disengaged employees: $256 to $363 billion.

Cost of spam: $22 billion.


Cost of product counterfeiting and copyright piracy: $600 billion.

Cost of movie pirating: $3 billion.

Cost of delays at U.S.-Canada border: $4.1 billion.

Cost of power disruptions: $100 billion.

These figures aren't destined for any reputable economics textbook. To begin with, it's hard to believe that workplace interruptions really do nearly eight times the damage of rising oil prices, which are said to cost the economy $75 billion. Then consider the double-dipping. No doubt some work "negativity" involves all those annoying co-workers. And when the power goes out, disengaged employees don't even notice. Consider in addition that each of these costs has a corresponding economic payoff. Anti-spam efforts keep well-paid software engineers employed. Annoying co-workers have spawned a healthy market in noise-canceling headphones. There's no standard method for smoothing out all the overlap and contradiction.

Often, though not invariably, "costs to the U.S. economy" are self-serving sums concocted by lobbyists, companies, and advocacy and trade groups in order to grab attention. Basex, for example, is a consulting company that—you guessed it—would love to help you cut down on all those pesky interruptions, for a fee.

That's not to say there's nothing at all to the hype, though. If I'd closed my office door and muted my phone, I'd have finished writing this 25 minutes ago. Which would have given me time to send a copy of the Natalie Portman rap to my buddy Andrew. Ah, I can annoy him with that tomorrow.



Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore, and Schools Are Getting Worried

The Good Wife Is Cynical, Thrilling, and Grown-Up. It’s Also TV’s Best Drama.

  News & Politics
Sept. 19 2014 9:15 PM Chris Christie, Better Than Ever
Sept. 19 2014 6:35 PM Pabst Blue Ribbon is Being Sold to the Russians, Was So Over Anyway
Inside Higher Ed
Sept. 19 2014 1:34 PM Empty Seats, Fewer Donors? College football isn’t attracting the audience it used to.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 4:48 PM You Should Be Listening to Sbtrkt
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 19 2014 5:09 PM Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?   A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.