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Web Surfing At Work Can Boost Productivity 134

Posted by Soulskill
from the you're-welcome dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The Wall Street Journal reports on a study into productivity and efficiency in the workplace, which found that people who are given a break to surf the web return to their work with 'lower levels of mental exhaustion, boredom and higher levels of engagement.' Researchers tested against two other groups; one continued working, and one was given a break that did not involve web browsing. They concluded that 'browsing the Internet serves an important restorative function.' In contrast, dealing with personal email was 'particularly distracting.' In the end, the researchers recommended that employers loosen restrictions on employee web access." This backs up a similar study out of Australia from a couple years ago.
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Web Surfing At Work Can Boost Productivity

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  • no shit

    • by Osgeld (1900440)

      ok I have no idea how this ended up HERE, 2 tabs open, a script error, invalid resource and plop wrong article

      fucking weird

    • by beelsebob (529313)

      While you may have posted on the wrong thread, your comment really does stand. I mean seriously, what person who works in a job requiring intelligent thought doesn't know this? It never ceases to amaze me how many managers do not get this and spend all their time telling their staff not to surf the web, but instead get the product out faster, as if the two are mutually exclusive.

      • Yes, and you don't treat your employees like children. Just leave them alone and the good ones will get their work done. The ones that aren't productive, are the ones you need to deal with. Get rid of them if they don't respond to a friendly reminder. Never mind penalizing everyone with rules because a few can't handle responsibility. If people have to be repeatedly told that they are supposed to get work done on company time, what the fuck good are they?

        • True, but most people don't think like this. Take civil service for example where there is virtually no oversight or accountability for the way time/money is spent, and for the most part the internet filters are off. If they were to poll the time spent surfing the web for personal use, the numbers would be sickening. A person who spends most of their time bullshiting is liked a whole lot more than the ones who spend all of their time getting the work done.
    • Yeah. [ted.com]
  • by ichthus (72442) on Monday August 22, 2011 @11:11AM (#37168264) Homepage
    That's why we're here. At least, those of us who aren't independently wealthy or basement-dwelling leaches. :)
    • by ichthus (72442)
      LeEches. Dammit.
    • by inviolet (797804) <slashdot AT ideasmatter DOT org> on Monday August 22, 2011 @11:36AM (#37168500) Journal

      Yeah, we've been over this already. Just because I have 8 hours to spend at the office, doesn't mean I have 8 hours of focus to contribute.

      I have more like 4 or 5 hours of focus, slightly less if I've had to sit in traffic on the way in. The remaining hours are for my inbox, lunch, surfing, defragging VMs, and so on. No matter how many different spins the "corporate efficiency experts" put on it, I only have 4 or 5 hours of focus per day. They should stop worrying what I do with the remaining time, there's nothing valuable there to be had.

      I think the Europeans know this, and so I've come to realize that their 35-hour work week makes sense. I didn't always feel this way. For most of my 20s I railed against it in libertarian rage. Now I see that there is no point in asking humans to sit at the office more than 7 hours a day. It's just a waste of their leisure time, which would be better spent at home.

      • by bberens (965711) on Monday August 22, 2011 @12:23PM (#37168846)
        Having had "physical labor" jobs and "thinking" jobs I find I need much more breaks when doing "thinking" jobs. I also require more sleep. Back in the days of physical labor I could work 12-14 hour days, get 4-5 hours of sleep and be back on my feet no problem. I'm capable of having 10-12 hour days doing work that requires a lot of mental focus but that's not something I can sustain for more than about a week. And after that I need a bit of a recovery period before I'm back to normal.
        • by sorak (246725)

          Having had "physical labor" jobs and "thinking" jobs I find I need much more breaks when doing "thinking" jobs. I also require more sleep. Back in the days of physical labor I could work 12-14 hour days, get 4-5 hours of sleep and be back on my feet no problem. I'm capable of having 10-12 hour days doing work that requires a lot of mental focus but that's not something I can sustain for more than about a week. And after that I need a bit of a recovery period before I'm back to normal.

          Is that the nature of the job, or because you were younger then?

          • by Darinbob (1142669)

            Maybe a bit of both. Physical activity helps improve quality of sleep.

            Plus when I did this sort of labor it involved a lot of sleeping on the job. Ie, eyes open, hands moving, burgers flipping, boxes getting filled, but brain is mostly asleep.

          • by Yamioni (2424602)
            It's a function of human nature. It is well documented (or so I'm led to believe) that physical exercise leaves a person feeling better (boosted endorphins, etc, etc.) It is also well documented (again, so I'm led to believe) that the more physically fatigued you are when you finally bed down for the night, the deeper and more restful your sleep. Now, pulling 12-14 hour days with only 4-5 hours of sleep sounds like a young man's game, but studies have shown (this one I'm certain of, but I can't find sources
          • by bberens (965711)
            I'm still in my 20s, so while I'm sure it's a little of both I would lean more towards the nature of the job. And of course, anecdote != data.
        • by owlstead (636356)

          I think it's amazing how much energy is spent by the brain as well. After a day of having 10 word documents open, a gazillion folders and trying to do something meaningful with all that, I am really really hungry. I can eat a large lunch and feel very hungry at five thirty. Compare that with a weekend day - even one spent puzzling if it is drowsy outside. I can eat almost nothing at all. Of course, then I get home and cannot always sleep since I've just done too little to exercise my other cells (I really r

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Thanks for your input and for bringing this productivity issue to our attention - we will now hire 2 people on 4 hour shifts for a better cost per focussed hour.

        I have already outsourced selected IT functions, pray I don't outsource further.

        Yours sincerely

        The management

      • Weird -- I'm libertarian, yet I have no problem with shorter work weeks. The shorter the better. You know, because I'm all selfish and stuff.

        • by inviolet (797804)

          Weird -- I'm libertarian, yet I have no problem with shorter work weeks. The shorter the better. You know, because I'm all selfish and stuff.

          The libertarian issue here is: should there be a law specifying the length of the work week? Or should it be voluntary within companies and industries?

          It matters. In Europe they made it a law in order to deal with that one guy at the office who, having no family, spends 80 hours a week at work. Management is too stupid to understand that the 80-hour guy is phutzing around for the first (or last) fifty hours of his week... to management, the guy seems like a motivated superstar, always at the office, alw

          • by unixisc (2429386)
            This is precisely the issue!!! A company voluntarily determining that a 35 hour workweek is optimum for its employees, vs a government dictating that to it. The Libertarian view is that an employer and employee are @ liberty to make any deal they like, and it's up to either one of them to decline it if terms of the agreement are not mutually acceptable. If an employer & employee mutually agree to work 20 hours, it's not like Libertarians would have any problem w/ it. Only problem is government dicta
      • by msheekhah (903443)
        Your brain only has so much seratonin, calcium, and potassium. For mentally intense jobs, you wear down the supplies far quicker than manual labor.
      • by V!NCENT (1105021)

        Everybody's different, but the only thing that works for me is:
        1. Boss tells me "x must be done in time before y, so your deadline is at z.";
        2. My boss leaving me the fsck alone;
        3. I'm doing whatever I want to be doing, which gives me a great feeling of voluntarily chosing to do it out of myself;
        4. Shit get's done on time;
        5. Me happy, Boss happy;
        6. If not delivered I'm fscked, which results in healthy motivation.

        Is that so hard? Why must I be dominated and baby-sitted ? In fact, who the hell thought that it

      • by Compaqt (1758360)

        The way I look at it, all the productive time is from 8-12 or so. The hours after lunch are (or should be) for miscellaneous stuff, boring meetings, etc.

        • by Bengie (1121981)

          I find my most productive time for researching new things is 9:30-11:30 and my most productive time for complex ideas that I'm familiar with is 1p-2:30p

          For boring repetitive things, any time is good.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 22, 2011 @11:13AM (#37168282)

    After all, no one can tell the difference between surfing the 'Net for fun and me actually doing my job.

  • I think it is well-known that people are not dumb automata for a while now. In fact, I think "people over process" could apply to a lot more jobs too.

  • by aglider (2435074) on Monday August 22, 2011 @11:15AM (#37168308) Homepage

    This is trivially true as long as relaxation doesn't mean distraction.

  • by sageres (561626) on Monday August 22, 2011 @11:18AM (#37168330)

    Don't know... been surfing since 9 am (it is 12:15 now) and being Monday don't feel like doing Jack...
    A coworker just came by and he started off with famous cliche, "So, are you working hard or hardly working?"
    I chuckle.
    We stood for the next 30 minutes discussed everything from current political realities in Middle East to the greatest newest phone gadget on a market.
    Yup that's how my day goes.
    Someone once told me that out of 8 hours we only in reality work like 1. The rest we pretend. I tend to believe that.

    • by nschubach (922175) on Monday August 22, 2011 @11:23AM (#37168370) Journal

      Someone once told me that out of 8 hours we only in reality work like 1. The rest we pretend. I tend to believe that.

      I was told the same, except it was 3 hours instead of 1. It was my previous supervisor so they may have been trying to get 3x the productivity out of me.

    • Obligatory Office Space scene:
      http://movieclips.com/2pyJo-office-space-movie-motivation-problems/ [movieclips.com]

  • by hellkyng (1920978) on Monday August 22, 2011 @11:19AM (#37168334)

    As the guy that monitors web traffic for the whole company, I have to believe the enormous amount of time employees spend on FaceBook isn't helping productivity. On the other hand, I am here...

    • by TheCarp (96830)

      Of course, in the real world, there are other concerns. This is only looking at taking short breaks on the web vs not taking short breaks or taking short breaks to check email. It is not comparing effectiveness of any other area of the workplace. People learn what is expected of them to do their job.

      Perhaps management has created a perverse incentive to not work very hard? I have seen places where management behavior has pretty much convinced many people that their best course of action is to just slide by

  • to create a record of my idle surfing, so that I have evidence of my productivity increase.
  • Can't wait for the next research resulting in this headline:

    Watching Porn and Jerking Off Increases Work Productivity (and lowers violence).

    • by 6Yankee (597075)
      I work in a sperm bank, you insensitive clod!
      • by roman_mir (125474)

        So hmmm, what sort of dividends do you receive? Some form of profit sharing paid in form of the product?

        What kind of performance evaluations do you guys do there?

        Is any form of training provided or required to increase productivity?

        Do they bring in consultants to observe the processes involved and suggest improvements in efficiencies?

        Is overtime paid for or are they just leaving you out in the cold sitting there, waving dicks around (too soon?)

        If you have a work related injury, do they send in the nurses?

        Wh

    • by Yamioni (2424602)
      Don't forget about it lowering the likelihood of active sexual harassment. Passive not so much if your workmate catches a look at your dong and mistakes it as hitting on her. People just gotta be discrete, yo.
      • by roman_mir (125474)

        if your workmate catches a look at your dong and mistakes it as hitting on her

        - as long as she ain't hit WITH it she'll be fine.

    • by couchslug (175151)

      "(and lowers violence)."

      Who feels violent after rubbing one out?

  • same for school (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JigJag (2046772) on Monday August 22, 2011 @11:23AM (#37168374)

    In the country where I grew up, the lunch break was 2 hour long, while the class day was 4 hours in the morning and 4 in the afternoon. So you started school at 8am and finished at 6pm. That's an awful long day for north-american standards (start at 8 something and out before 2:30pm). Yet, I see an identical situation with TFA: when we returned to our class on the afternoon we were rested and had a second peak of productivity, while the kids in north-america have only one and by the time they reach 2pm, they're exhausted.

    JigJag

    • recess is needed as well to many fat kids now days

      • by vlm (69642)

        recess is needed as well to many fat kids now days

        Not a part of NCLB testing, has to be cut. Teach to the test, and only teach to the test, that is all. Seriously, that's what happened.
        More recess, requires a major cultural change, not a minor scheduling change.

    • 8am and finished at 6pm. That's an awful long day for north-american standards
      Sigh, to be back in school again.
      I remember the 1pm-10:30pm back to back with one class overlapping by 5 minutes. Good times.
      Now Working for 8:00-6:00 with an hour break is the the norm.

  • by DNS-and-BIND (461968) on Monday August 22, 2011 @11:30AM (#37168444) Homepage

    Biased result - what they should have done was give people a set amount of time work to do, gave them the same amount of money, and then measured the productivity of the two groups. Instead, they put the first group to work for the full 30 minutes and then gave the second group 20 minutes of work, a break to browse the web for 10 minutes, then 10 more minutes of work. A break gives you more productivity on tedious tasks like highlighting every letter 'e' in a Word document? Duh! At least it was done in Singapore so we know no U.S. tax dollars were spent on such an obvious conclusion.

    How about people who don't work at all but screw around on the web all day? Giving them the same amount of money for work or no work would answer that question. I know for a fact some people will sit around all day at work commenting on their friends' facebook status, checking twitter, watching Youtube with headphones on, and reading celebrity news. Heck, I've done my fair share of wasting time, too..."Honest boss, I need to check Slashdot all day to...uh...stay current in tech trends!" (to be fair this was back in 2001 when this website was a different place)

    • I'm a planner, mostly. I think of ways to fix problems and improve my company's network systems. Not only is reading Slashdot "productive" for me, so is sitting around at home watching a movie and eating popcorn.

      The point is, I'm paid salary, not hourly. It doesn't matter how much time I'm given, I just have to complete all tasks, period. So, if I want to show up at work and screw around on Slashdot, or Google+ or whatever, it means nothing. Either my job gets done or not. If it continually doesn't ge

  • CAN is important (Score:3, Informative)

    by d.the.duck (2100600) on Monday August 22, 2011 @11:33AM (#37168474)
    Also, hitting on women at work CAN get you laid. Strangely it also CAN get you fired.
  • not that i am complaining, as this is exactly how i use slashdot (he said, posting from work), and i think this is true of most other people here

    slashdot would materially suffer from a workplace that blocked outside surfing

    i would further add that the articles i read on slashdot have benefited me at work, such as with the recent spate of articles covering development on the android: i bring these subjects up in meetings with my coworkers and superiors and employees under me

    the web at work is not about porn or gambling sites. unfortunately, that's the only way some management views the issue. you can walk a middle road: black list sites of only a certain nature. for example: block porntube.com, don't block cnn.com

    furthermore, if you do have an employee looking at porn or gambling from work, you are dealing with someone whose comfort level with certain kinds of transgressions at work that they are probably transgressing in other ways at work as well. meaning, blocking their web access is not the way to deal with them, and doesn't solve the problem of the other possible transgressions they are probably engaging in, perhaps against the company. keep an eye at them at least, or better yet, terminate them. anyone surfing porn or gambling from work has issues

    • A few years back I discovered the head of HR at my work was looking at porn on a nearly daily basis. Sure explained why he stayed really late all the time. This was resolved with a basically "don't do that" when the rest of HR and senior management were made aware of it. No repercussions or anything. Fast forward a couple years and there are a few people at some of our different locations looking at porn. Some of these were people who were not surfing but had just received email with pictures or links from

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        yup

        this seems to be the increasing tenor in this country (or my country, if you are not posting from the usa): classism. class warfare is of course the next step. unfortunate, but people denied equal treatment because of their income have to fight back some way to reaffirm the fairness owed them, the double standards

        the right has even openly embraced classism as the new "morality" for america: "i got mine already, so screw you". "you're poor? sorry, no healthcare or education for you". get your money and sc

  • by MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) on Monday August 22, 2011 @11:43AM (#37168546)

    I can think of a number of times I've gotten stuck on a scripting problem, distracted myself on the web for a couple of minutes, then come back and have had the solution become clear to me. I don't really know why this happens but I suspect it's because I'm willing to dump where I'm at and start over from the beginning to look for the problem. Im not sure how much sense that makes so I'll put it another way: I needed a mental reboot.

    I don't personally believe productivity takes any real hit from web broswing. Even if it did, I think the info that is gathered from it can make up or even exceed that gap. I had a boss ding me once for talking to someone on ICQ. A month or two later he needed me to find some info. I knew the dude from ICQ had experience with that particular product and he was kind enough to fill me in. My boss was reasonable enough to take back the comment he made.

    • by vlm (69642)

      I can think of a number of times I've gotten stuck on a scripting problem, distracted myself on the web for a couple of minutes, then come back and have had the solution become clear to me. I don't really know why this happens but I suspect it's because I'm willing to dump where I'm at and start over from the beginning to look for the problem. Im not sure how much sense that makes so I'll put it another way: I needed a mental reboot.

      I /. (and other sites) and also go on walkabouts. Main difference is on /. there is a permanent record on an optical disk (I probably fill a DVD-R all by myself) in some dusty warehouse of every click and every keystroke I ever made, whereas WRT my walkabouts, the carpet is microscopically more worn. Guess which gets documented on the review...

      The other issue is that frankly I get a heck of a lot of ideas by surfing the web. There's surfing Ruby sites/blogs, which they may as well catagorize along with m

      • I know what you mean. I had a job once where they placed my desk right in the hallway. All day I could hear virtually every conversation that was going on, not to mention the constant bombardment of phantom footsteps walking by. To top it off, I sat next to the laser printer, so everybody'd come up and say hi to me. Eventually I got a CD player and a pair of headphones. Finally I could work in peace! My boss dinged me for looking like I wasn't paying attention.

        In his heart I think he was trying to

    • by Bengie (1121981)

      " I needed a mental reboot"

      I do this all the time, mostly when working on new things. When the busy time hits and I'm doing the grind, I "need" it less, but it still keeps be from feeling burnt out so fast.

      I actually come up with most of my ideas when randomly browsing the web.

  • here [wordpress.com]'s a picture of a lolcat.

    Now get back to work!

  • Most of the websites blocked here are known malware hosts, sites that link to known malware hosts, and social networking sites that offer too many vectors for infiltraiton.

    It's not about appropriateness, it's about data security. Which is, here, appropriate.

    Mind you, I rarely feel refreshed after browsing Slashdot any more. And I wouldn't hit Fark here at work, you never know what you'll get.

  • I find it interesting that the people who should read this, are banned from browsing the internet during work hours, and as such will probably never read it.

    I could name a few business and government organizations but I won't.

  • productivity skyrockets.
  • ...this web surfing session to read this article?
  • For future defence.

    Somehow, I don't think I'm alone in this.

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