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a little goofing off is good for productivity October 8, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Observations, Seen Elsewhere, Unsociable Networking, Wasting Time.
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Don’t be so quick to crack down on people who use the internet to goof off at work:

A new study from the University of Melbourne in Australia apparently flies in the face of conventional wisdom—and many employers’ common sense. According to the study, workers who are allowed to use the Internet for personal reasons during the workday are actually nine percent more productive than workers who don’t. The reason? Perhaps surfing the Internet for pleasure or personal reasons increases worker’s concentration levels or eases anxiety about other parts of their lives, enabling them to concentrate more on their work.

Checking Facebook: the new smoke break at work. (CC-licensed photo by MarsHillOnline)

Checking Facebook: the new smoke break at work. (CC-licensed photo by MarsHillOnline)

Admittedly, in the U.S. we don’t like hearing that people in other countries, such as Australia, have come up with ways to make employees happy (I still think mandatory mid-day exercise, as has happened in Japan, is a great idea), but this makes total sense to me.

Think about it: if you aren’t automatically penalized for spending a few minutes checking Facebook or writing an e-mail to your mom, you’re probably more likely to do only a few personal things before getting back to work. But if it’s absolutely forbidden to even log into your Gmail or pull up I Can Haz Cheezburger, employees are more likely to either do it anyway and for longer or spend that time they’d spend on TMZ complaining to their peers about how much it sucks that they can’t go onto TMZ for five minutes.

The IT policy in my new department is a little stricter than the old one — for example, I know for a fact that they monitor the ports AIM and Yahoo Messenger go out on — but I still have the freedom to check Facebook every now and then, tweet or retweet, and see whose life is normal today. I get my work done, I get it done right, and I get it done on time.

Obviously people will occasionally abuse the policy, but in my experience as a manager I’ve found that it’s better to be a little permissive and deal with the fallout than to be completely draconian and have to penalize people for posting a status update when someone in the office says something totally inappropriate and you just had to tell someone.

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