Now there’s something positive to tell your boss the next time you’re caught on Facebook or YouTube at work.
A new study finds that taking a break at work to browse the internet can boost your performance at work (Coker, 2014).
Dr. Brent Coker of Melbourne University was inspired to carry out the research after he forwarded a YouTube video to his sister.
He promptly got a message back saying the company she worked for blocked YouTube.
So he set out to examine whether a little web surfing, if it wasn’t excessive, was actually detrimental to workplace productivity.
In one study he had people at work take four different sorts of breaks:
- Surfing Facebook for 5 minutes.
- Internet break: comparing insurance companies (a good comparison for Facebook because you’re on the web, but comparing insurance companies, so presumably not enjoying yourself that much!).
- Stationary break: sitting, doing nothing.
- No break.
It turned out that people’s subsequent attention to their work was best for those who surfed Facebook for 5 minutes, compared with all the other conditions.
In another study, a survey revealed that younger workers found their attention was boosted by taking short breaks from work to surf the web.
Older workers, however, were not convinced of the benefits.
Dr. Coker thinks that taking short breaks from work to surf the web can actually make staff 9% more productive.
He concludes the research by saying:
“The implication of this research for managers is that WILB [Workplace Internet Leisure Browsing] should not necessarily be treated as ‘cyberloafing,’ whereby perpetrators should be punished.
Although excessive WILB may negatively impact worker performance by consuming time that would otherwise be spent performing work-related tasks, the present research suggests positive benefits within reasonable limits.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
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