Goofing off or becoming more productive?News added by Benefits Pro on July 23, 2014
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By Alan Goforth

It’s always an uncomfortable moment when an employee is caught surfing the Internet for leisure during working hours. But thanks to new research, they can tell their boss they are not goofing off — they’re improving their productivity.

Surfing the web for leisure can make a worker 9 percent more productive, according to research from Brent Coker, Ph.D., of Melbourne University. He undertook the study after a video he sent to his sister was blocked by her employer. He set out to examine whether a little web surfing, if it wasn’t excessive, was actually detrimental to workplace productivity.

Employees take four kinds of breaks, Coker found:
  • Surfing Facebook for five minutes.
  • Internet break (such as comparing insurance companies).
  • Stationary break (sitting and doing nothing).
  • No break.
He documented that subsequent attention to their work was best for those who surfed Facebook for five minutes. An unrelated 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.

“The implication of this research for managers is that workplace Internet leisure browsing should not necessarily be treated as ‘cyberloafing,’ whereby perpetrators should be punished,” Coker concluded. “Although excessive browsing 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.”

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