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Australian Study Says Web Surfing Boosts Office Productivity 173

Posted by timothy
from the it-wasn't-just-the-office-doors dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Dr Brent Coker, professor of Department of Management and Marketing at Melbourne University, says employees who surf the internet for leisure during working hours are more productive than those who don't. A study of 300 office workers found 70 percent of people who use the internet at work engage in Workplace Internet Leisure Browsing (WILB). '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,' said Coker. '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.' However, Coker warns that excessive time spent surfing the internet could have the reverse effect."
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Australian Study Says Web Surfing Boosts Office Productivity

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  • Sure (Score:5, Funny)

    by liquidpele (663430) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @03:52PM (#27435565) Journal
    I'm sure my boss is going to be thrilled since he's looking over my shoulder reading this page as I type comments instead of doing my work.
    • Re:Sure (Score:5, Funny)

      by AliasMarlowe (1042386) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @03:54PM (#27435617) Journal

      I'm sure my boss is going to be thrilled since he's looking over my shoulder reading this page as I type comments instead of doing my work.

      Switch to surfing porn. It will make him even happier!

      • by Gilmoure (18428)

        My last boss only got upset if we didn't share the good porn with him.

    • Re:Sure (Score:5, Insightful)

      by evilkasper (1292798) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @04:00PM (#27435689)
      ...and there are studies that say a short nap during the workday make people more productive. Now who here has an authorized nap time at work?
      • Re:Sure (Score:5, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 02, 2009 @04:03PM (#27435729)

        Everybody who works from home?

      • Re:Sure (Score:5, Funny)

        by phantomfive (622387) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @04:11PM (#27435851) Journal

        ...and there are studies that say a short nap during the workday make people more productive. Now who here has an authorized nap time at work?

        I can't say it's exactly 'authorized' but no one stops me when I roll under the desk and take a quick rest. Mostly they laugh.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Now who here has an authorized nap time at work?

        Just close the door to your office and lock it. If you're woken by knocking or telephone, you have a moment to gather your composure before opening the door. It works for me!

        What? You labour in an open-topped fabric-covered doorless half-height cube? Good god, that's barbaric!

        • Re:Sure (Score:5, Funny)

          by Nefarious Wheel (628136) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @04:46PM (#27436295) Journal

          What? You labour in an open-topped fabric-covered doorless half-height cube? Good god, that's barbaric!

          Sheer luxury mate. I work in a hole in the road, it's a twenty mile commute on foot in the dark and thirty back. My father fed me stone cold poison and killed me every morning before work.

          But can ye get the lads to believe you these days? Noooooo.....

          • by Samah (729132)

            Sheer luxury mate. I work in a hole in the road, it's a twenty mile commute on foot in the dark and thirty back. My father fed me stone cold poison and killed me every morning before work. But can ye get the lads to believe you these days? Noooooo.....

            We were evicted from our hole. We had to live in a shoebox in the middle of the road. Every morning we'd lick the road clean with our tongues, drink a half cup of hydrochloric acid, and our father would slice us in two with a bread knife and sing glory hallelujah.

            http://www.phespirit.info/montypython/four_yorkshiremen.htm [phespirit.info]

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by TurboNed (1370389)

          What? You labour in an open-topped fabric-covered doorless half-height cube? Good god, that's barbaric!

          No, I share one with 3 other people.

        • by fractoid (1076465)

          What? You labour in an open-topped fabric-covered doorless half-height cube? Good god, that's barbaric!

          It is, it's terrible. It's also pretty dang good for communication, I've worked in an office before and I hated it. What, you prefer to rely on email or IM (or intercom, yuck) for *all* the times you need to say "hey bob, could you check in foozballwidget.dll please?" Unless you have the luxury of being the sole maintainer of a system, your job probably requires you to frequently talk to people, which is easier of you have LoS on most of the office.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 02, 2009 @04:39PM (#27436195)

        ...and there are studies that say a short nap during the workday make people more productive.

        My wife and I work in the same department, and occasionally take a "nap" together in a spare office. Curiously, this seems to reduce the productivity of our colleagues, who often look annoyed after our "nap".

        • by AliasMarlowe (1042386) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @04:46PM (#27436287) Journal

          ...and there are studies that say a short nap during the workday make people more productive.

          My wife and I work in the same department, and occasionally take a "nap" together in a spare office. Curiously, this seems to reduce the productivity of our colleagues, who often look annoyed after our "nap".

          Damn right, we're annoyed. Those "offices" may have real doors, but they only have fabric walls...

        • by Gilmoure (18428)

          Wife and I work in same department but were chided because we don't bicker or act like we're married. What's wrong with a cold, joyless relationship?

      • Re:Sure (Score:5, Funny)

        by Nefarious Wheel (628136) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @04:42PM (#27436231) Journal

        Now who here has an authorized nap time at work?

        I do. That is, I effectively do.

        Ok, you want the truth? Nobody knows the difference.

      • Move to Spain.

        Take a couple of hours off for lunch, every day.

        And yet other EU colleagues want them to work 9-5 :(

      • We do actually have a small dark "quiet room" with beanbags at Stardock [stardock.com].
      • It absolutely does, and the lack of easy facilities for this probably hits out GNP.

        But Most places are required to give you a half hour (even unpaid) break, so just take your car and leave, and master the 25-min nap.

      • by EvilIdler (21087)

        I worked in a place with authorised nap-time. By "authorised", I mean nobody told the boss.

  • Yup... (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 02, 2009 @03:52PM (#27435577)

    I'm increasing my productivity right now!

  • Really boss, I'm just becoming more productive fer ya.
  • by simonbas (1319225) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @03:54PM (#27435613)

    "Australian researcher's lab shut down by MPAA."

  • by siriusdogstar (1151547) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @03:59PM (#27435663)
    I also promote in-office online banking and other personal business but the company balked when I suggested catered meals would also boost productivity by lowering stress levels caused by having to go out and forage, and the health benefits of not wolfing down food. Another company agreed with me and even hired a masage therapist because they found lowering stress levels among employees caused the biggest spike in productivity.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 02, 2009 @04:20PM (#27435959)
      They did the same thing where I work but went further by adding a free "Happy Ending." The plan backfired as productivity decreased and sleepiness increased. However, absolutely no was was stressed out.

      Posting anon because the wife reads slashdot.
    • by smooth wombat (796938) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @04:33PM (#27436119) Homepage Journal
      by having to go out and forage,

      You do know people can bring their own lunch to work and not have to forage? It saves bundles of money for the person and they know exactly what they're having. This also allows them more time to surf the web at lunch or maybe go out and have a walk around the building or get a quickie around the corner.

      I realize this is a simple solution so obviously you're a programmer! (j/k)
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Endo13 (1000782)

        I've done both. Believe me, the people who get stressed out by "foraging" will get at least twice as stressed out trying to find time to throw together lunch to take along. Sure it's no big deal for the morning people who get up an hour before they need to, but for the night-owl types, there is never a good time to pack a lunch.

        The only time I pack a lunch is when I'm *really* short on funds. Most of the time I'd rather pay 4x as much and eat unhealthy food that I can pick up over lunch.

  • I believe it (Score:5, Interesting)

    by piojo (995934) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @03:59PM (#27435667)

    I bet a little web surfing keeps one from getting "too bored". A recent article in the same vein said that doodling helps people pay attention--I don't recall whether that one made slashdot.

    • by cstdenis (1118589)

      It did.

    • Re:I believe it (Score:4, Interesting)

      by DutchSter (150891) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @05:28PM (#27436843)

      I wonder how much the 'browsing the Internet' bit really matters. As others have pointed out, there have been other studies that promote the benefits of massages, naps, etc. Seems to me the common denominator is taking a break at natural intervals. I spend enough time at the keyboard during the day that my Internet usage is really minimal (no, seriously!). On the other hand, if you walk in my office you're always going to find the Wall Street Journal opened up to some article on the side of my desk. I will periodically peek over and read for a few minutes after finishing a task while waiting to start the next one, such as the five minute lull at the start of conference calls where the host keeps saying "Let's give the others a few more minutes to join..." An aside - I start my conference calls on time. After a year, even my boss was trained to be no more than 30 seconds late.

      In terms of workload, I consistently fall into the 'exceeds expectations' category when it comes time to figure out year-end ratings. Yet I also keep a fairly regular schedule. I'm not in the office 12 hours a day like the guys across the hall who consider it a badge of honor to eat lunch AND dinner at work yet bitch when their reviews keep coming back as 'meets expectations.' And yes, we more or less have the same job duties.

  • by hansamurai (907719) <hansamurai@gmail.com> on Thursday April 02, 2009 @03:59PM (#27435675) Homepage Journal

    Hmm... gotta get back, done compiling.

  • Another aspect... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anachragnome (1008495) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @04:02PM (#27435721)

    Depending on what the employee is viewing, it is also an opportunity to LEARN something.

    My wife regularly surfs the web at work, often news, and consistently finds stories that directly effect the industry she works in, sometimes her actual place of employment. She then brings this information to the people she works for, the people that need to know about it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Bengie (1121981)

      When I first graduated and got my first job, during down times I would read up on multi-threading and database optimizations because it was interesting. As new projects have come up, I have applied what I learned to make some code go from minutes to seconds with correct results.

      Many times I get stuck on something and I just open up my favorite game forum and veg for 2-3 minutes. It's enough time to usually come back and view my problem a-new and figure it out.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Just Some Guy (3352)

      My wife regularly surfs the web at work, often news, and consistently finds stories that directly effect the industry she works in, sometimes her actual place of employment. She then brings this information to the people she works for, the people that need to know about it.

      All joking aside, I've gotten a lot of that out of Slashdot. I've rolled out quite a few technologies at work that I might not have heard of were it not for people here arguing about which implementation was best.

      On the intangible side, there's much to be said for practicing making your points clearly and succinctly, and for learning to anticipate counter-arguments and answer them before anyone else brings them up. Debate team has nothing on a good language war.

  • Re: (Score:5, Funny)

    by parallel_prankster (1455313) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @04:02PM (#27435723)
    I am going to print that article and put it on the wall next to my desk so that next time I don't have to use the "code is compiling" excuse.
  • Ciggy Break (Score:5, Insightful)

    by biocute (936687) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @04:04PM (#27435745) Homepage

    If taking a cigarette break, coffee break or gossip break is allowed, I cannot see any difference in internet break or game break.

    • by Red Flayer (890720) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @04:12PM (#27435859) Journal

      If taking a cigarette break, coffee break or gossip break is allowed, I cannot see any difference in internet break or game break.

      I smoke, have a caffeine addiction, love to gossip, play games, AND surf the internet, you insensitive clod!

      I spend just under 20% of my billable time each day on each activity... I work about 20 minutes a day, just enough time to make sure the lackeys are doing my work for me.

      What? Isn't that the American dream?

      • by Critical Facilities (850111) * on Thursday April 02, 2009 @05:17PM (#27436697) Homepage

        I spend just under 20% of my billable time each day on each activity..

        According to this study, that makes you about 63% more productive than other office workers, NICE JOB!!

        • According to this study, that makes you about 63% more productive than other office workers, NICE JOB!!

          My math shows 54% more productive (1.09^5).

          Not only am I more productive, apparently I am more accurate too :)

          • Hmmm, yeah, apparently you're right!!

            Although, maybe I can convince you that I was allowing for the unmentioned 'bathroom breaks'?? No??

            Ok, you're right, I can't count.....multiply, yes.....count, no.
    • by pimpimpim (811140)
      I like the idea of a cigarette break, even though I don't smoke. It's pretty social. Parents tell you when you go to school not to give in to peer pressure and hang out with the cool smoking kids during break, but the older I get, the less I think that that kind of advice makes sense. Only by the time I was halfway university, I started figuring out how to enjoy life a bit, instead of just studying. Missed a part there! Hang around with the cool smoking kids! Drink beer! Try weed! Have sex before marriage!
  • Ironic (Score:3, Funny)

    by locopuyo (1433631) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @04:07PM (#27435787) Homepage
    I'm sure it is for just about everyone reading this.
  • by 8127972 (73495) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @04:09PM (#27435809)

    .... also include surfing for pron?

    • 25%? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by TerranFury (726743) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @04:29PM (#27436067)

      Some source was quoted in the Newsweek I was reading the other day as saying that 25% of people view internet porn at work.

      (This surprised me. Slashdot? Sure. Wikipedia? Definitely. Porn? That's just stupid.)

      • I don't think I'll ever understand that. I can only think of one reason to watch porn, and I just can't imagine doing that at work.
  • I don't know. xkcd.com [xkcd.com] disagrees.
  • Bludging? (Score:3, Informative)

    by SlashDotDotDot (1356809) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @04:11PM (#27435841) Journal
    The title of TFA is:

    Workplace web bludging 'good for productivity'

    allwords.com [allwords.com] tells me that "to bludge" is to avoid responsibility. What a great word. Is it used outside Australia?

  • by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Thursday April 02, 2009 @04:13PM (#27435867) Homepage Journal

    I am so asking for a raise.

  • by syousef (465911) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @04:17PM (#27435927) Journal

    We need to commission studies that look at increases in productivity for the following activities during work time:

    1) Games and gaming at work
    2) Consumption of alcohol at work
    3) Coming to work in casual clothes - the more casual the better - think underwear and curry stained shirt
    4) Workplace sex

    • by Red Flayer (890720) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @04:20PM (#27435957) Journal

      3) Coming to work in casual clothes - the more casual the better - think underwear and curry stained shirt

      Sure, your productivity may improve -- but what abot everyone else in the office who is too busy cleaning vomit out of their keyboards to get work done?

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Ed_Pinkley (881113)

        3) Coming to work in casual clothes - the more casual the better - think underwear and curry stained shirt

        Sure, your productivity may improve -- but what abot everyone else in the office who is too busy cleaning vomit out of their keyboards to get work done?

        4) Workplace sex

        Ditto.

  • by djrabbit (1522869) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @04:20PM (#27435955)
    I'm much more inclined to believe that people with above-average productivity can afford to spend up to 20% of their time surfing the internet.
    • by CannonballHead (842625) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @05:08PM (#27436567)

      Exactly what I was going to say...

      Seems that when a study slashdotters don't agree with (video games "boost" teen violence), we get a huge amount of "correlation != causation" posts and tags. When it's a study that slashdotters agree with or like (visiting slashdot during work improves your performance; don't feel guilty!), we're a little bit more lax on the fact that it's just as guilty of faulty logic, typical statistics, etc...

      I'm sure I'm pointing out the obvious, but seems not many others have yet, so :)

      • by PachmanP (881352)

        Seems that when a study slashdotters don't agree with (video games "boost" teen violence), we get a huge amount of "correlation != causation" posts and tags. When it's a study that slashdotters agree with or like (visiting slashdot during work improves your performance; don't feel guilty!), we're a little bit more lax on the fact that it's just as guilty of faulty logic, typical statistics, etc...

        Damnit I don't care how bogus the statistics are! If it justifies what I do at work all day anyway, I'm gonna take it as gospel proof until my boss comes back with a refutation in Science.

    • by CAIMLAS (41445)

      Without looking at the study, I'd say there's a mix of reasons for this.

      One, if you actually need to concentrate on your work, a distraction every once in a while can be (and usually is) helpful, if your brain simply isn't working the way you want it to.

      Two, people who take the 'internet breaks' likely spend a lot of their day simply thinking, anyway. People who don't surf the web, probably can't: their work is very linear, boring, work, but not something that they could not conceivably accomplish at a fixe

  • by Paul Slocum (598127) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @04:20PM (#27435961) Homepage Journal
    that I'm helping to get my work done right now!
  • I would rather call it Workplace Internet Browsing for Leisure, otherwise known as WIBL.

    "Hey Tony, I need you to collate those TPS reports."
    "Yeah sure boss. Right after I get done wibbling a bit."
  • Happy = Productive (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Wellington Grey (942717) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @04:21PM (#27435973) Homepage Journal
    I think this should be filed under the general maxim that happier workers are, generally, more productive workers.

    Plus, so many jobs now expect you to be working to some extent while you're at home (checking email, etc). If an employer wants an employee to work while at home, then it's reasonable for the employee to do some personal web surfing at work.
    • by escay (923320)

      I think this should be filed under the general maxim that happier workers are, generally, more productive workers.

      I think the current maxim is that the more scared workers are, generally, the more productive workers. Nothing more motivational than lax job security.

  • by ThreeGigs (239452) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @04:34PM (#27436127)

    Perhaps people who browse the web at work are _more comfortable with_ and _more knowledgeable about_ computers in general, than people who don't browse the internet at work. I've seen many users who are clueless about computers wasting time by using their computers badly, unproductively, or not at all.

    If you can't use a spreadsheet, chances are you don't 'get' the internet. I'm wondering if perhaps the study is drawing the wrong conclusion. Perhaps internet browsing isn't the 'cure', but a healthy symptom indicating a better affinity to computers.

    • by Dareth (47614)

      If I find another person using a calculator and "plugging in" the answers in Excel I don't know what I will do!

    • I'm a software engineer and I've used a spreadsheet maybe 5 times in my life. I hate to sound like Bender here, but most everything in life is a degenerative form of programming, especially spreadsheets.

  • Does this mean I can stop fiddling with the log files now?
  • by Rix (54095) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @04:45PM (#27436283)

    I would suggest that rather than websurfing increasing productivity, people tend to leave authoritarian employers who disallow websurving, productive people having more ability to move.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 02, 2009 @04:49PM (#27436321)

    It may be that bright-minded, sharp, intelligent, high mental-energy, people are already prone to being more productive, and that searching for ideas and information is just part of their wiring. Of course the information and stimulation help feed the process. OK, back to work...

    • by MrCrassic (994046)
      I think that ability is strengthened much further when said person actually appreciates their job. That's just me, though.
  • by Eil (82413) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @04:54PM (#27436415) Homepage Journal

    '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,' said Coker.

    I had a boss that would have balked at the 20% figure. He believed (and told us as much) that you were wasting company time and money if you were anything less than 100% engaged in your work. He was, however, always interested in boosting productivity any way possible, so when someone brought up Google's "personal project time" policy (Google was the rockstar of the Internet then, even moreso than now), he wanted to try it. Once we started seriously discussing it, though, the boss killed the idea by proclaiming that the personal project time would be in addition to, not replacing your normal 8-hour day. That means you either had to come in early, stay late, or come in on a weekend. And it wouldn't count as overtime either. That pretty much killed all interest.

    (Posting this at work, from my new job.)

  • All the surfing breaks, coffee breaks, ciggy breaks, comfort breaks and lunch don't leave much time to actually achieve anything. Though it's good to know that if I did have time, I'd be so much more effective.

    Anyway, gotta go, it's nearly time for another break.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    From Michael Scott, "Jim Halpert. Pros. Smart, cool, good looking. Remind you of anyone you know? Cons. Not a hard worker. I can spend all day on a project and he can finish the same project in a half an hour. So that should tell you something."

    Anecdotally, I am more inclined to believe that people who are more productive can slack off more. At my previous job, I would often do more work than my colleague and still found plenty of time to slack off, because I knew how to do the work quickly and correctly.

  • by flyingfsck (986395) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @08:32PM (#27439087)
    By his match the productivity gain doesn't outweigh the loss.
    • by Yosho (135835)

      By his match the productivity gain doesn't outweigh the loss.

      No, you're misinterpreting what is being said. He said, "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."

      Note that he did not say, "more productive by about nine per cent per hour." In other words, if Person A works 10 hours without breaks and makes 100 widgets, then Person B who works 8 hours and takes 2 hours worth of breaks will have produced 109 widgets.

  • is if you get your work done. This is influenced by a lot of factors. But in the end you Boss should not need to analyse your Web usage to determine if you do a good job. If he needs, he is not the right man for the job.

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