I thought Homer was Bart’s dad

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Nope. Turns out a “homer” is something a worker makes, using company resources and on company time, for use at the home. This from Harvard Business School’s Working Knowledge web report:

A factory worker uses company time and materials to fashion a lamp he will take home for personal use—an artifact called a “homer.” The practice is probably illegal and clearly against written company policy. If discovered, the worker could be fired on the spot for his action.

But here’s the twist. Turns out that research shows homers—or, rather, allowing them—helps worker morale, team cohesion, and, contrary to what you’d assume, productivity. Says Harvard Business School assistant professor Michel Anteby:

…the practice may help some organizations be more effective. Homer making keeps teams together and skills sharp during idle times in the highly cyclic aeronautics business, for example. Also, someone’s well-crafted homer can be a source of pride when fellow workers take note. Says Anteby: “If employers are able to tap into these drivers, and remain within the legal boundary, then they might be in a better position to allow their employees to blossom.”

Hmm. I don’t work in a factory, and can make nothing of use with my bare hands (I can fashion a Play-Doh pony for my kid to enjoy smooshing, but, again, I said of use). But I’m sure I’ve used company resources and company time for personal needs.

Like when I was a writer at Money magazine, I used my skills and resources as a personal finance reporter to research estate planning implications for expat Americans. In fact, I did pitch and write a story on the subject—but only because I needed to apply the information to my father’s situation. I bet you I’m not alone; plenty of reporters work on stories merely to satisfy a personal need to know how it turns out. And don’t get me started on my friends at consumer magazines. The editor needs new curtains? A fall feature on draperies it is!

Fess up: what are your homers?