The Value Of Screwing Around At Work
8 min read
fairly easy
Why getting away with stuff is good for the soul, and good for the stock.
Credit: Westend61 / Getty Images

Everyone is probably familiar with Google's 20% Project, where the company encourages employees to spend up to 20% of their time working on projects of their own choice, provided it could conceivably benefit the company in some way. This was a big deal when Google rolled it out in the early 2000's, but although still going on, it has since largely faded from public discussion.

Detractors point out that only 10% of employees take advantage of the program, and say it amounts to nothing more than advertising for Google and not really a 'perk'. Maybe so. I will give Google the benefit of the doubt (if not credit) on this one though because I like the idea of letting employees have some freedom to be creative.

But let's be clear here, this is not what I am exploring in this article. I am talking about screwing around.

As in: doing stuff your employer doesn't know about, does not sanction, and doing it on company time, instead of what you are supposed to be doing.

Sound inadvisable? Unethical? Maybe even illegal? Well, in many situations it definitely could be. But I am about to argue that a certain amount of screwing around is not only beneficial to you and your mental health, but to your company's bottom line.

Breaking Into The Time Vault

1918 Photo of the Assabet Woolen Mill / Future home of Digital Equipment Corp.

Back in 1993, I was working as an engineer for Digital Equipment Corporation in their Maynard, Massachusetts headquarters. This was a 19th-century woolen mill that originally made blankets for the civil war, but had since the 1950's been the home of Digital, which at this point in time was the #2 computer company in the world.

The Mill was a labyrinthian complex of over a dozen buildings, interconnected by a crazy system of tunnels and catwalks and haphazardly enclosing over one million square feet of office space. In short, a great place to screw around, when we were not otherwise busy designing the companies new…
Mad Ned
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