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Australian Study Says Web Surfing Boosts Office Productivity 173

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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  • 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.
  • 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 RemoWilliams84 ( 1348761 ) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @04:21PM (#27435967)

    If you work a 40 hour week. 20% a day would come out to 8 hours a week, or a whole day.

    Does that mean I would still be more productive if I worked hard 4 days a week, then spent all of my Friday reading slasdot and playing games?

  • 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.
  • 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.)

  • by smooth wombat ( 796938 ) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @04:33PM (#27436119) 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)
  • 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 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 oneTheory ( 1194569 ) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @04:48PM (#27436311)
    Yeah, but most people are. And what I've seen at all the 7+ companies i've work for is pretty much right out of Office Space: people only working just hard enough to not get fired.

    It seems the corporate system is designed this way though. At most companies I've been paid a straight salary with no overtime and either no bonus or a possible 5% bonus based on how well I've been able to project a productive air to my manager.

    So where's the incentive to work harder? When we kick ass and do well as a company, I rarely see an extra cent. When we do poorly as a company I still get paid exactly the same. True I have the possibility of getting laid off but everyone faces the same possibility and generally the axe doesn't fall on me because I do a perfectly OK job. I'd love to be encouraged to work harder with profit sharing or the like but few companies do this.

    It seems there are much better models to encourage productivity and I have no idea why most companies don't adopt them.
  • by Piranhaa ( 672441 ) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @04:54PM (#27436403)

    100% identical! +1

    It's similar to eating a week's worth of food in 1 day and not eating for the other 6 days...

  • 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.)

  • 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 Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 02, 2009 @05:16PM (#27436673)
    The story about General Groves and the Los Alamos scientists during the Manhattan Project comes right to mind here. He entered a room where they were all standing and sitting about working out equations on a blackboard and went ballistic wanting to know whey weren't "working".
  • by Endo13 ( 1000782 ) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @05:28PM (#27436823)

    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.

  • 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.

  • Re:Another aspect... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Bengie ( 1121981 ) on Thursday April 02, 2009 @05:35PM (#27436917)

    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:Another aspect... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Just Some Guy ( 3352 ) <> on Thursday April 02, 2009 @05:53PM (#27437165) Homepage Journal

    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.

What this country needs is a good five cent ANYTHING!