YouTube! Facebook! Amazon!
Each are drains on precious company time. Employees who putz around social media, surf through viral video playlists, or purchase knickknacks and curios during work hours are killing productivity and degrading efficiency. Right? Maybe not.
The apocalyptic case against personal internet browsing during work hours is easy to understand. More time on personal digital dawdling means less time actually working. But just because it's easy to understand doesn't necessarily mean it's true.
According to a study authored by a researcher from the University of Melbourne, moderate amounts of personal internet browsing actually boosts productivity. Here's what you need to know.
- The setup: The researcher, Brent L.S. Coker, conducted a workplace productivity survey with 2,700 randomly selected office workers. Each individual was asked by the survey to describe his or her personal internet usage during work hours (i.e. sites visited, duration, frequency). Then, each respondent answered a battery of questions called the "Endicott Work Productivity Scale." The Endicott scale is a commonly used measure of workplace productivity and produces a score from of a low of 25 (think Homer Simpson with a hangover) to a high of 125 (think Hermione Granger with an espresso). The information gathered from the survey was then statistically analyzed to try to spot correlations between personal internet usage and workplace productivity.
- The findings: Individuals who surfed the internet for personal reasons during work hours were about 9% more productive than individuals who did not. And individuals who broke this personal internet time up into a higher number of shorter breaks were about 16% more productive than all-work-all-the-time internet users.
- The takeaway: The findings are clear! Personal surfing is productive, especially when using that surfing in short "internet breaks" spread throughout the day. If you're a manager, relaxing your restrictions against personal internet usage could help kickstart workplace productivity. If you're not a manager, print out this email and anonymously leave it on your boss's desk!