Boosting productivity by ‘not working’

article_boostingApparently, the well known adage “All work and no play make Johnny a dull boy” isn’t just some excuse to be laid back and take a break from the drudgery of work (hah, drudgery), but is really a fact based on science. At least as far as the fellows from the University of Melbourne in Australia are concerned.

A recent study conducted by the University’s Department of Management and Marketing has shown that moderate internet browsing for personal uses during working hours (and MODERATE is the operative term here) actually increases productivity among workers. This a big “Ha! I knew it.” moment for many, with most employers preferring that their employees not be posting new status messages on Facebook or checking out the latest sensation from Britain’s Got Talent from YouTube. Their reasoning being that it wastes company resources and makes employees lazy.

300 employees from different companies were made part of the study, where it was found out that workers who use the internet for personal reasons, called “Workplace Internet Leisure Browsing” or (WILB) in the study, for less than 20 percent of their working hours were 9 percent more effective, focused, and therefore productive in their respective jobs. WILB activities usually encompassed searching for and researching about products to buy online, reading blogs and news websites, social networking (like Facebook, MySpace or Friendster) activities, playing online games, and watching streaming videos from sites like YouTube and Veoh.

Professor Brent Coker, the man behind the research, explains that people need short breaks to reset their concentration. According to him, focusing on a certain task for too long degrades the level concentration, making “zoning out” from time to time essential in maintaining an optimal frame of mind to be able to accomplish a work task efficiently.

But before you lug your gaming CDs to the office or prepare for marathon runs of your favourite Facebook application, Dr. Coker is quick to remind everyone of the term MODERATE usage. Anything beyond that, he says, will then result in loss of productivity. So don’t feel too guilty when you watch Susan Boyle belt her heart out on YouTube for a couple of minutes or post a comment or two on Facebook. As long as you get right back to work afterward, no harm, no foul.

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