Did We Need Yet Another Study To Tell Us That Slave-Driving Isn’t Productive?

A recent study from the University of Melbourne, covered by Computer World, found that workers are more productive if allowed to use the internet for leisure. Duh! Anyone with two working brain cells in IT should be able to tell you that.

Specifically, it found that People who do surf the Internet for fun at work – within a reasonable limit of less than 20% of their total time in the office – are more productive by about 9% than those who don’t. The explanation given is that people need to zone out for a bit to get back their concentration. Duh! Anyone who’s taught can tell you that. Every 17 to 20 minutes, you lose 1/3 of your audience if you don’t shake things up a bit, change the topic, wake them up, etc.

And even more insightful, the press release notes that it is important such browsing is done in moderation, as internet addiction can have the reverse effect. Duh! If you spend 8 hours a day following the twits that comprise the twittersphere, then you’re obviously not going to get anything done.

At least the computerworld article had the good sense to state the obvious points that should have been made.

  • It gets personal things off your mind.
    It’s hard to work distracted. If you can pop-on the internet, and get an annoyance like paying a bill, pre-ordering take-out, or getting out a message you can’t forget to deliver over with, you free yourself of distractions and this enables you to concentrate (providing you turn off those twitter feeds).
  • It converts unnecessary real-time interactions into asynchronous ones
    Nothing destroys deep concentration more than a five minute “pop-in” by a colleague who just feels the need to “talk”. If it’s unimportant, they can write you an e-mail, and you can read it later when you’re not in the middle of something important.
  • It makes work enjoyable.
    No one is productive in workplace hell where bosses spend all their time reciting garbage along the lines of “personal time steals from the company” and doing everything they can to squash happiness. Happy workers are productive workers. Productive workers create value. And that’s what sells in today’s economy.

So keep your workplace fun and free of too many unnecessary restrictions. As long as employee behavior is responsible, you’ll get your money’s worth.