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Key to comeback? Lazier workers

OK, that headline is a bit tongue-in-cheek, but an article in today's Washington Post did some connecting of dots - unemployment statistics, GDP drop, industrial output and worker productivity - and concluded one factor holding back higher employment levels may be workers' 'fear factor' driving them to levels of productivity above what normally could be expected. From the article:

"As best as anyone can guess, the crisis that began in 2007 and deepened in 2008 caused both businesses and workers to panic. Companies cut even more staff than the decrease in demand for their products would warrant. They were hoarding cash, fearful that they wouldn't have access to capital down the road.

When demand for their products leveled off in the middle of last year, the companies could have stopped cutting jobs or even hired people back. But they didn't -- payrolls have continued declining.

Instead companies squeezed more work out of remaining employees, accounting for a 3.8 percent boost in worker productivity in 2009, the best in seven years. Which raises the question: Why couldn't companies have achieved those gains back when the economy was in better shape? The answer to that may lie on the other side of the equation -- employees.

Workers were in a panic of their own in 2009. Fearful of losing their jobs, people seem to have become more willing to stretch themselves to the limit to get more done in any given hour of work. And they have been tolerant of furloughs and cutbacks in hours, which in better times would drive them to find a new employer. This has given companies the leeway to cut back without the fear of losing valuable employees for good."

Here's the link for the entire article.

Lesson learned: Next time your boss catches you with your feet up on your desk, tell him you're doing your part to reduce unemployment. 

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