Sunday 22 September 2019

Reply now? It's Friday afternoon

Tea-time: Putting our feet up at work may seem like laziness but it's self-preservation
Tea-time: Putting our feet up at work may seem like laziness but it's self-preservation
Dub noir: Tana French
Balenciaga Crocs
Katie Byrne

Katie Byrne

According to a recent survey, the average full-time UK office worker is only productive for 2 hours and 53 minutes of the work day.

The rest of the time is spent on pressing tasks such as checking social media, reading news websites and making hot drinks.

It should be noted that this survey was commissioned by money-saving app Vouchercloud, and not a reputable industrial relations organisation.

It's also important to point out that Vouchercloud's last survey revealed that a quarter of men believe they suffer from 'man periods', with an alarming 5pc of these men complaining of 'menstrual cramps'.

In other words, if you will forgive the digression, Vouchercloud's research may not convince empirical sceptics. Nonetheless, we can all relate to the workplace distractions that the survey cites - especially on a Friday afternoon.

The weekend used to begin at 5.30pm on a Friday. Nowadays, it kicks off shortly after lunchtime, as the collective consciousness of entire organisations goes into power-saving mode. By 4pm, most employees are officially offline. Send an email without a meme attached to it after 5pm, and you risk disciplinary action.

If you're one of the few people who have been diligently working away while the rest of us have been looking at cat videos, just compare the amount of emails that you receive after 3pm on a Wednesday or Thursday, compared to a Friday. Exactly.

Most employees have by now signed up to the implicit Friday Afternoon Workplace Charter, but they still have to look busy. That's why they are careful to synergise the seventh tea run of the day; hit the ground running with another completely unnecessary lap of the office and think outside the box by ordering a unicorn onesie on ASOS.

And they don't neglect their long-term goals either: most conscientious office workers know that Friday afternoons are the best time to surf job websites.

Sure, it may look like employees are tapping away on their keyboards on Friday afternoons but they have in fact been spirited away to the land of Netflix, late nights and lie-ins, a magical place where they like piña coladas and getting caught in the rain.

"Do you have that report on Q1 figures ready?"

"Do I f**k."

On one hand, it's flagrant presenteeism. On the other hand, it's self-preservation. Most employees have simply run out of steam by Friday afternoon, what with longer hours, shorter lunch breaks and all the other trappings of the relentless work culture.

Come Friday afternoon, they have mentally checked out, not because they are clock-watchers but because it is within their best interest not to have a stroke while they are still in their forties. Employers aren't oblivious to the end-of-week standstill. They've seen their staff turn the simple act of pouring boiling water over instant coffee into an elaborate Japanese tea ceremony on Friday afternoons, and some of them have wondered what's to be done about it.

Enter Summer Fridays, a corporate perk that allows employees to leave early on Friday afternoons during the summer months. The initiative is fast gaining ground in the US, with 42pc of Fortune 1000 companies now offering some form of early leave to their employees on Fridays.

At first glance, Summer Fridays might seem exceptionally generous and high-minded, but take a closer look and you'll see that it's no different to free breakfast, duvet days and all the other quirky employee benefits that have been spearheaded by digital companies.

These companies have examined the bottom line and realised that they can raise morale and improve attendance with a relatively small outlay.

Irish employers should take note.

Crime and postponement: Tana French gets the green light

ir Tana_French.jpg
Dub noir: Tana French

Most successful writers are familiar with 'development hell', the limbo land before a book that is optioned is successfully brought to the screen. And that's if it gets there at all.

Irish novelist Tana French's award-winning 'The Dublin Murders' series recently got the green light from the BBC commissioning department to be adapted into an eight-part drama, but the author admits that she wasn't holding her breath.

The books had been optioned for television almost three years ago, while The Likeness, one of the books in the series, had been acquired by Paramount Pictures in 2011 to be adapted as a film, an option that has since lapsed.

"To be honest, I know that so many of these things come to nothing," said the author when we caught up with her this week.

"It still feels very strange that it looks like it is actually going to happen, because they buy the option but 99 times out of 100, the option expires peacefully and nobody comes back to you.

"It's strange to think that it has gone from a vague possibility to an actual reality," she adds. "I didn't think it would ever be adapted, especially because In the Woods has a slightly odd ending so I thought, 'Nah, nobody will ever pick that up'."

French is a fan of Scandi noir crime dramas like The Killing and The Bridge but she has no idea what direction the BBC will take, or else she's just not telling. "I don't know if it's going to a very atmospheric, character-driven noir, or whether they are going to go for something very different," she says. "I'll be as surprised as everyone else."

'The Dublin Murders' is a co-production between Euston Films, Veritas Entertainment Group and Element Pictures, the Irish production company behind Oscar-winning film 'Room'. Filming starts next year in Belfast and Dublin.


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