Screwing Off Increases Productivity!

Firms spend millions and go through a lot to keep their workers from goofing off on the Internet.  That may not be such a good idea:

Caught Twittering or on Facebook at work? It’ll make you a better employee, according to an Australian study that shows surfing the Internet for fun during office hours increases productivity.

The University of Melbourne study showed that people who use the Internet for personal reasons at work are about 9 percent more productive that those who do not. Study author Brent Coker, from the department of management and marketing, said “workplace Internet leisure browsing,” or WILB, helped to sharpened workers’ concentration. “People need to zone out for a bit to get back their concentration,” Coker said 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.

Since I’ve always simply presumed this to be the case — at least for those whose jobs are primarily intellectual — it’s hard to dub this finding “counterintuitive.”   And, it should be stressed, this finding holds true only up to a point.

However, Coker said the study looked at people who browsed in moderation, or were on the Internet for less than 20 percent of their total time in the office. “Those who behave with Internet addiction tendencies will have a lower productivity than those without,” he said.


Hat tip: DrewM. Photo by Flickr user tueexperto, used under Creative Commons license.

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business, Science & Technology, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. sam says:

    Those who behave with Internet addiction tendencies will have a lower productivity than those without

    Heh. Reminds me of Dave Pelz (the golf guru) demonstrating, with graphs, etc., that "low handicap players tend to get much closer to the hole with their chips than high handicap players" … Your welcome, and that will be $300 for the lesson.

  2. odograph says:

    I scan a blog as a mental break, and it helps, but the flip side is that multi-tasking makes us dumber(*).

    * – in practice, at the tasks at hand

  3. Ben says:

    This is so obvious that it blows my mind that companies don’t realize it. Plus, I’ve found that working at a company that blocks Internet access leads to very poor employee morale as well. Employees at those companies tend to feel, act, and work like grounded kids.

  4. Anderson says:

    I look forward to the next research breakthrough:

    “Screwing Off Increases Productivity.”