My first reaction was, "Unplug this, turkey." (I actually said something saltier than "turkey," but the editors won't let me print it because they're mean.)
I tracked down Michalowicz — when he wasn't having "nap time" — and pressed him on the concept.
"I agree that even thinking about doing it seems impossible," he said. "But we are so connected that our productivity is dropping. People calling for attention through your hand-held, people physically coming into your office space — it's a constant distraction."
Michalowicz has founded three companies and is the author of the small-business book "The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur: The tell-it-like-it-is guide to cleaning up in business, even if you are at the end of your roll." He said he used library hours — usually just one hour, from 10 to 11 a.m. — and found that his employees eventually liked it and saw it as a chance to press through a sizable amount of work.
"The wonderful thing about library hours is, it involves the entire group, and it's enforced by the entire group," Michalowicz said. "It's like Weight Watchers; there's this public declaration that you're going to do it."
Well, nothing makes an idea sound fun quite like comparing it with Weight Watchers. So with that, I'm going to ask everyone to be quiet while I answer some questions.
Q: Will I ever get a good raise again? I used to get 10 to 15 percent raises, but now I am lucky to get a 1 percent raise.
— "Sign me Anonymous" in Chicago, via email
A: First, I would like to point out that I spent a great deal of time reporting this issue and then worked extra hours — missing my wedding anniversary, my son's birthday party and lots of TV — making sure the information was presented in as clear and useful a manner as possible, thus making me an invaluable asset to my company. (Slight tangent: My bosses look very nice today. Have they lost weight?)
Moving on … raises are nettlesome workplace issues even during the best of times. But with the U.S. economy presently stumbling about like Amy Winehouse on a brewery tour, many workers have been seeing annual wage bumps either shrink or vanish altogether.
Well, there's good news. According to an annual compensation planning survey by the consulting firm Mercer, more than 98 percent of U.S. companies plan to award base-pay increases this year. The survey also found that only 2 percent of companies are planning sweeping salary freezes this year, compared with 13 percent in 2010 and a whopping 31 percent in 2009.
For some intellectual authority on the matter, I spoke with Robert Aliber, professor emeritus of international economics and finance at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
He spoke with measured optimism: "The economy is sluggish. Lots of people are hunting for jobs and most employers are not eager to give wage increases right now. But that's a cyclical phenomenon, and that will change as the economy rebounds. And there are lots of reasons for believing the economy will rebound."
Despite a rash of disappointing reports, including the recent news that the nation's unemployment rate rose to 9.2 percent, many economists continue to believe job creation slowly will improve this year.
While the fate of the economy is out of the average worker's hands, there are steps that can at least boost a person's chances of making more money.
Emily Bennington, co-author of "Effective Immediately: How to Fit In, Stand Out, and Move Up at Your First Real Job," said this: "I think a lot of employees are looking at the issue of raises from the wrong side of the telescope. They're focusing on the employers and saying, 'When can I expect to have a raise again?'
"They should be focusing on, 'How can I be such a rock star that when raises are allocated, I'll be at the top of that list?'"