In the News: Christopher Wong Michaelson on Productivity and Expectations in the Workplace

Christopher Wong Michaelson, ethics professor at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business, recently spoke with MarketWatch about “mouse jigglers” and other gadgets to simulate computer activity, following Wells Fargo’s firing of remote and hybrid employees for using them.

From the story:

The very existence of technologies like mouse jigglers suggests employers’ expectations may have crossed a line, workplace experts told MarketWatch. “We all need breaks. There’s something draconian about a workplace that doesn’t allow people to take reasonable breaks,” said Christopher Wong Michaelson, co-author of Is Your Work Worth It? and a professor of ethics and business law at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota.

As for the possibility these workers were faking productivity for long periods of time, Michaelson said it is “an ethical failure on the part of the employee to fake it – but it also seems like a moral failure on the part of the employer to give your employees such (crappy) work, that they hate it so much that they can’t bring themselves to do it.” 

The expectation that all workers must actively engage with their keyboard for eight hours a day to prove their productivity is not only unrealistic, but it’s also not the standard by which managers are typically evaluated, Michaelson noted.

“Some people work faster than others. Some people are more productive in bursts and then breaks. Others work at a more kind of consistent pace,” he said. “This idea that you must be always on doesn’t suit everybody’s work styles.”.