Sam Keller's TEC Blog

Friday, June 24, 2011

Is Web Surfing Distracting Your Workers?

The Internet brings powerful tools to the workplace. It also brings powerful distractions - face book, personal shopping, games, videos, music or just surfing.

A number of studies have suggested that US workers waste between one and two hours a day web surfing, costing their companies billions in lost productivity. In response, some employers have banned private Internet use at the office. Sounds like a good idea on the surface. But this practice can result in other problems, perhaps more serious problems, according to new research.

The research paper "Temptation at Work", by Harvard Business School research fellow Marco Piovesan and colleagues, is believed to be the first study of the effects of temptation on work performance. The paper suggests that by banning web surfing, employers are essentially asking their workers to resist temptation until they can go home and surf on their own time. Yet people who are asked to resist temptation in anticipation of a later reward spend effort and energy resisting the temptation and actually become less productive and make more mistakes.

This conclusion is based upon laboratory tests on young people. These tests suggest to Piovesan that instead of a blanket policy prohibiting web use, employers should give workers periodic breaks for "personal communications". These frequent breaks, it is believed,would increase employee energy and relax them so their willpower comes back to the original level.

"They could go out for five minutes and check e-mail and still be able to concentrate on their jobs." In the future, Piovesan hopes to test that principle in an actual office environment. So stay tuned.

Click here for the link the the full article.