OK, let me start out by saying I do try to keep my attention on-task while I'm work. Most of my tasks involve being on the computer, unfortunately. Which means I'm gaining weight steadily at work (read my post of April 15 on the "sitting disease.") I'm not on-task 100% though. I do get the occasional email from my daughter, and sometimes from a friend or two, brief ones. And very occasionally, once a week, I'll look at Facebook for 5 or 10 minutes. Faceback is vastly entertaining to me; one of my good friends calls it the "crackbook" because he can't stay away from it when he's supposed to be working. Facebook is loaded with messages from my family, my closest friends, people I want to know better.....perusing Facebook is the equivalent of eating a bowl of ice cream for me. I don't do it that often, but it feels good. It makes those endorphins flow. And believe me, I need all the endorphins I can get.
I've been feeling somewhat guilty about this, but I came across an article this week that said Facebook and Youtube can actually increase productivity at work. (I don't do Youtube at work ever, partly because it's too loud for my particular surroundings.)
So here's the thing: is productivity about "always working"? Or is it about getting work done? As it turns out, productivity is not about "always working."
Back in 2000, a study came out noting that employees who did some personal surfing at work tended to be happier and more productive. There were a variety of reasons for this, including that personal surfing allowed for "mental breaks" that made actual working time more productive. Another study found that most employees who do personal surfing at work more than make it up. Since those studies came out in the earlier part of the decade, those issues could have been put to rest. But, no. With new online services like Facebook and YouTube, suddenly employers started worrying again, encouraged to fret by claims from internet filtering companies (it always comes from internet filtering companies) about just how much productivity is lost via Facebook and YouTube. And, of course, they have a simple solution: buy our filter and block access to these sites. And the fear mongering seems to work.
Yet, a new study, since the emergence of Facebook and YouTube, has found that people who do a little personal surfing of sites like Facebook and YouTube at work tend to be more productive. The study found exactly what previous studies had found:
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.
People need to zone out for a bit to get back their concentration. Another recent study I heard on Morning Edition (NPR) showed that people who doodle during a lecture tend to remember more of the lecture than people who stare at the speaker the entire time and don't doodle. Seems the doodling keeps them from daydreaming and allows them to listen as they doodle. The point is that people have trouble concentrating and focusing completely for long periods of time, with no diversion or breaks.
Short breaks at work, such as a quick surf of the internet, allow the mind to rest, leading to a more concentration over the course of the day, and as a result, increased productivity.
Now, of course, some people will abuse the privilege - and there's nothing wrong with finding out who's doing that and dealing with it. But a blanket ban on such things may actually reduce productivity for most workers. Rather than assuming that personal surfing decreases productivity, it seems to make more sense to focus on those who may abuse the privilege.
By Sally Kneidel, PhD, with quotes from the www.techdirt.com article below.
Key words::work productivity, surfing at work, Youtube, Facebook, doodling, taking breaks
http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20090402/0227084349.shtml Accessed April 10, 2009.