Monday, April 13, 2009

Does updating your Facebook status make you a better employee?

Surfing the Internet may no longer be seen as a warning sign that an employee is a lazy slacker, but actually a sign that you have a top performer on your hands, according to the latest research out of Australia.

Earlier this month, the University of Melbourne released a study showing how employees who use the Internet for personal reasons at work are about 9% more productive than those who don’t.

The practice of “workplace Internet leisure browsing” or WILB, helped to sharpen workers’ concentration and improve productivity after taking a leisure break.

From the Reuters story:

"People need to zone out for a bit to get back their concentration," [said study author Brent Coker, from the department of management and marketing] on the university's website (

"Short and unobtrusive breaks, such as a quick surf of the Internet, enables the mind to rest itself, leading to a higher total net concentration for a days' work, and as a result, increased productivity," he said.

According to the study of 300 workers, 70 percent of people who use the Internet at work engage in WILB.

Among the most popular WILB activities are searching for information about products, reading online news sites, playing online games and watching videos on YouTube.

"Firms spend millions on software to block their employees from watching videos, using social networking sites or shopping online under the pretence that it costs millions in lost productivity," said Coker. "That's not always the case."

The study focused on workers who used the Internet in moderation (less than 20% of their workday). The authors also note that people “who behave with Internet addiction tendencies” will be less productive than those without a problem.

Surfing the Internet as a new idea to improve employee productivity ... Could this be a manager’s worst nightmare come true?

What do you think about the research? Do short “leisure browsing” breaks make for better, more productive employees?

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