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Work, the wasted years

Logging in, deleting e-mails, mistyping things. It all adds up

Published Fri, Jun 17, 2022 · 10:00 AM

FEW things are more depressing than estimates of how much time people spend on a specific activity over the course of their lives. You know the sort of thing: you will spend one-third of your life asleep, almost a decade looking at your phone and four months deciding what to watch on streaming services.

A new study, by academics from the Maryland and Delaware Enterprise University Partnership (MADEUP), applies this approach to the workplace. By conducting a time-use survey of 5,000 office workers in America and Britain, the researchers identify the number of minutes that people waste on pointless activities each working day. (Meetings are excluded: they often turn out to be useless but not always and not for everyone.) The authors then extrapolate these figures to come up with a “weighted total futility” (WTF) lifetime estimate of time that could have been better spent. The results are literally unbelievable.

Correcting typos takes up an average of 20 minutes in every white-collar worker’s day, the equivalent of 180 days, or half a year, over a 45-year career. Some words are mistyped so frequently that on their own they can waste days of the average employee’s existence. “Thnaks” is the worst offender in the English-speaking world, followed by “teh”, “yuo” and “remeber”. The amount of time the average worker spends writing “Bets wishes” is also counted in days.

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