Your Lazy Colleagues Are Not Totally Useless

Photo: Eureka Pictures

Every workplace, for better or for worse, is plagued by the same kinds of people: millennials, screw-arounds, people who wear shoes that don’t look good on them, men, women, and lazy, lazy idiots who somehow find more time to play Candy Crush on their smartphones than do real work. Are you the kind of hard worker who feels isolated in a sea of simps who’d rather get paid for doing naught? Never fear: It turns out these layabouts could be more valuable than we once thought.

Eisuke Hasegawa, a professor of agriculture at Hokkaido University in Japan, looked at laziness in ant colonies to find out how these characters affect the dynamic within their workforce. In a study published last month in Nature, Hasegawa revealed that when a colony had lazy ants, it actually helped contribute to the colony’s long-term sustainability because they have a “reserve workforce” to replace the tired, actually hardworking ants when necessary. “In the short term, lazy ants are inefficient, but in the long term, they are not,” Hasegawa explained. According to his research, as workload increases, lazy ants responded by doing more work. They actually chose to step it up a little bit.

New game: Do less work yourself, then see if your colleagues take a break from that sick Candy Crush game. Repeat.