Surfing the Net at Work Boosts Productivity, Study Says

Last Updated Apr 6, 2009 6:51 AM EDT

The Takeaway: When you walk by employees' cubes and catch site of them having a peek at the latest headlines online or updating their Facebook profiles, what's your first reaction? If it's annoyance and an uncontrollable urge to get in touch with IT to see what you can do to limit his Internet access, that's understandable but perhaps counter-productive, according to new research from Dr Brent Coker of the University of Melbourne's Department of Management and Marketing. He says:
People who do surf the Internet for fun at work - within a reasonable limit of less than 20 percent of their total time in the office - are more productive by about 9 percent than those who don't. Firms spend millions on software to block their employees from watching videos on YouTube, using social networking sites like Facebook or shopping online under the pretense that it costs millions in lost productivity, however that's not always the case.
How could slacking off watching a skate boarding dog on YouTube possibly boost productivity? Coker explains: "People need to zone out for a bit to get back their concentration.... Short and unobtrusive breaks, such as a quick surf of the internet, enables the mind to rest itself, leading to a higher total net concentration for a days work, and as a result, increased productivity."

Of course, spending long hours online is not going to improve productivity. Coker stresses his conclusions apply only to moderate use and warns that workers with an Internet addiction are a real problem.

The Question: Will you look more kindly on employees caught surfing the net in light of the research?

(Image of guilty Facebook checker by marshillonline, CC 2.0)

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    Jessica lives in London where she works as a freelance writer with interests in green business and tech, management, and marketing.