Way back in the late 90s, there was a spate of news stories worried about this awful web thing and how companies were making it available at work -- and how that was obviously going to be a massive drain on productivity. Of course, this was falsely based on the idea that productivity means always working
, rather than getting work done. All the way back in 2000, a study came out, noting that employees who did some personal surfing at work tended to be happier and more productive
. There were a variety of reasons for this, including that being able to do some personal surfing allowed for useful "mental breaks" that made actual working time more productive. It also let people spend more time on the job (and, in fact, another study found that most employees who do personal surfing at work more than make it up
) rather than having to leave work to deal with personal things.
Since all those studies came out in the earlier part of the decade, we had hoped that these issues had been put to rest. But... no, of course not. With new online services like Facebook and YouTube, suddenly companies started freaking out again -- with hyped up claims from internet filtering companies (it always comes from internet filtering companies) about just how much productivity is lost
via Facebook and YouTube. And, of course, they have a simple solution: buy our filter and block access
to these sites.
And the fear mongering certainly works. Every time we mention any such story, we're inundated with comments from people insisting that there is simply no reason why anyone should ever access Facebook from work. Well, yet another study suggests that's incorrect again. As with the earlier studies, this one found that people who do a little personal surfing of sites like Facebook and YouTube at work, tend to be more productive
The study found exactly what previous studies had found:
People who do surf the internet for fun at work - within a reasonable limit of less than 20 per cent of their total time in the office - are more productive by about nine per cent than those who don't.... People need to zone out for a bit to get back their concentration. Think back to when you were in class listening to a lecture - after about 20 minutes your concentration probably went right down, yet after a break your concentration was restored.
It's the same in the workplace.
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 day's work, and as a result, increased productivity.
Now, of course, there are some people who will abuse the privilege -- and there's nothing wrong with finding out who's doing that and dealing with them properly. But a flat-out blanket ban on such things may actually be reducing productivity for most workers, rather than increasing it. Rather than assuming such personal surfing decreases productivity, why not focus on just those who abuse the privilege.