Cranky Employer Blames Texting Millennials For Economic Problems

That's just ridic.
Dean Belcher via Getty Images

America has a productivity problem. According to one Texas employer, that problem might just amount to using Facebook and texting in the workplace.

Between picking this topic and opening a page to begin writing this article, I have retweeted something, read an article on the internet -- to be clear, an important, relevant article to my life -- tweeted four times and refreshed Facebook once. I call this the creative process. Others see it as a massive problem facing America's bosses.

An employer comment buried in the monthly Texas manufacturing outlook survey, released Tuesday by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, complained about millennial workers spending too much time online when they're supposed to be focused on their job.

The Dallas Fed's report, which this month shows significant slowing in Texas manufacturing industry, usually includes notes from different sorts of manufacturing businesses about oil prices, or government regulation, or how the hot or cold weather might affect demand. Griping about millennials is certainly a sexier topic.

"We have a serious productivity problem with office workers and estimated that less than 50 percent of their time is spent on value-creating business activities," says the anonymous Texas manufacturer. "The younger workers are often off task, engaged on social media, on the internet, texting on phones and other unproductive activities."

As a result, the comment goes on, employers are burdened with "micromanaging employees and reducing compensation to reflect actual productivity of a mandated 40 hour or less workweek."

This note came in the context of discussing the burden of the Department of Labor's new overtime rule, which will go into effect in December and increase the salary under which a person qualifies for time-and-a-half pay after working for 40 hours in a week to $47,476. The Texas employer used its critique of the new rule as an opportunity to gripe about kids these days, who are never completely engaged during the hours they're supposed to be working.

Millennials on Facebook are not actually America's productivity problem. It's true that productivity growth is slow, and no one is quite sure why, but that's an issue that predates the Great Recession, millennials in the workplace and the rise of Facebook and texting.

Somewhat ironically, Silicon Valley actually believes we've increased productivity, but we're just measuring it wrong. And certainly previous generations found plenty of ways to reduce their workplace productivity without the internet.

The estimated loss of productivity from Facebooking at work accounts for less than half of the productivity lost from insomnia, and about a tenth as much as the estimate productivity lost from parents being stressed out about child care, according to the Washington Post.

In short, there's very little economic evidence that young people on the internet pose much of an actual economic problem for the U.S., new overtime rule or not.

As Bloomberg's Luke Kawa notes about this particular issue, "Everything's bigger in Texas, including hyperbole over the challenges of managing millennials."

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