We live in an ultra-modern, super-high-tech society with instant messaging, social media, visual teleconferencing, desktop screen-sharing and collaborative workspaces.
Yet despite all that, it’s still impossible to get a hold of anybody.
In my professional career, I don’t think I’ve ever called anyone and actually gotten through. I’ve always been directed to voicemail. This frustration led me to undertake a yearlong project in which I researched the accessibility of the average worker. (Yes, that’s where I’ve been all this time, instead of blogging.)
The results were astounding. They showed that a whopping 93.8 percent of U.S. business is conducted by empty offices with phones sitting on desks.
This may explain why highway traffic is so heavy during peak business hours. While phones sit and ring in unattended offices, working-age Americans are driving around wearing shorts and sandals, enjoying the weather.
In fact, David Von Sickle, chief economist with the Ingrate Institute, attributed the U.S.’s current housing shortage to unused office space.
“Instead of building homes, we’re busy erecting executive suites that nobody will ever sit in,” he said. “To cut down on commercial real-estate costs, American companies would be better off installing a bunch of phones in a random storage shed.”
Efficiency expert Wanda (who’s so efficient that she has no last name), said that our economy has reached so-called “peak productivity,” meaning that everyone is apparently rich and doesn’t have to work.
“In this era where nobody has to show up to the office,” she said, “you could reasonably conduct a multinational conglomerate from a single warehouse in the Arizona desert. All you would need is a truckload of phones and a table to set them on.”
Indeed, corporate strategists have been busy building a connection economy in which nobody actually connects. Little work gets done anymore because nobody is available to do it. Some experts say that this has led to a widening national trade deficit and dizzying phone trees where all possible options disconnect the caller.
“American business is falling behind,” said Amy Asinine, a prominent bureaucrat for a government agency that creates economic reports using made-up data. “Our foreign trading partners are overtaking us because they actually show up to work.”
Some people disagree that detachment from the workplace is necessarily bad. (However, perhaps tellingly, these people tend to be aloof and out-of-touch executives who never show up to the office.)
Larry Lethargic, a corporate officer with a multi-syllable title at an unnamed tech firm, said that although he’s never seen the inside of his suite, he’s heard that it could fit 20 standard-sized cubicles.
“I think it’s on the ninth floor somewhere,” he said, as he took a break from his 10 a.m. Wednesday tennis match to talk. “I’m not quite sure what it looks like, but I know that there’s a phone sitting on the desk.”
When I asked Lethargic about his job responsibilities, he looked at me with a puzzled expression, as if he were watching a David Lynch film.
“I don’t have responsibilities per se,” he said. “I just get paid money — a lot of it. The phone at my desk takes all my calls. And if the money starts to run out, I just buy back stock. That’s how business works.”
The most vocal proponents of social media tend to be celebrities who gather millions of everyday followers and then follow back only six people — all of them other celebrities.
“I love interacting with my fans,” a popular musician told me, while plugging her new album on Twitter and ignoring incoming Tweets from her fans. “Thank goodness for these social media platforms.”
Other experts such as Michael Mindless, a thought leader living in New York City, argue that today’s connection economy has fostered collaborative relationship building across corporations nationwide.
I reached out to Mindless for a comment, but I could only get his voicemail. He didn’t immediately return my call.