Egor S. Grand

A new study out, to be published next week by the Cleveland-based Journal of New Studies Out, not only posits that white collar worker productivity is down, but also suggests a significant reason why.

Co-authors Ron Thom and Thom Ronald, tenured professors at Cleveland State University for the Perpetually Matriculating, point out that white collar productivity is down a full 7 percent over last year.

The reason? Time spent searching for the perfect emoticon when e-mailing co-workers.

The study's findings were based on forms workers filled out anonymously, along with on-site observations.

Thom says, "It's no longer sufficient to provide the :) or the ;) or the :(. People are working really hard to comprehensively express their feelings."

This search for precise communication can take a long time to create the appropriate string of symbols.

One particular example the authors cite was a worker at an Ohio newspaper who spent a full seven minutes and 13 seconds fashioning the following emoticon: {-O)**£.

This symbol, according to the worker, served to communicate his complicated emotional response regarding the removal of a hand-dryer in the men's restroom. The worker is quoted as saying, "I just had such mixed feelings; on one hand I was glad the damn thing was gone - it made such an irritating noise. On the other hand, the warmth of it ... the way its surface gleamed in the light, the ergonomics of its design ... I dunno. I just wanted to get my feelings right."

Co-authors Thom and Ronald have no particular solutions to the situation. "Of course," Thom said, "everyone should be alarmed at the productivity dip; at the same time, I think it's really neat that people are digging deep to know their feelings - especially men who are not necessarily expected to work this hard."

Ronald says his favorite emoticon - one that allegedly took over 12 minutes of envisioning and re-visioning - was this: (ö).

"How poignant," Ronald said. "I mean, so simple, yet so densely packed with despair. How very Münch-like."

The Journal of New Studies Out is available in local bookstores.