Concerned about declining workplace productivity, many organizations are implementing “no web surfing” policies. Intuitively, this seems like a good idea. However, in practice, current research shows that allowing employees to surf the net during work hours may actually increase productivity. In fact, banning the practice is actually counterproductive, as surfing time under such policies actually increases!
As reported in the Globe and Mail on Wednesday, August 17, 2011 (Report on Business/Careers B17), various studies confirm that surfers report “significantly lower levels of mental exhaustion and boredom and significantly higher levels of psychological engagement on a questionnaire”. Further, the study found that such surfing was found to be related to “such upbeat mental states as being excited, interested, alert and active”…as opposed to “negative mental states such as feeling distressed, fearful, hostile, and jittery.”
However, all web time is not created equal. The study confirmed that time spent by employees reading and answering email was found to produce negative rather than positive mental states. Ultimately, the article urges companies to compromise and to find a balance – to permit periodic web surfing while limiting time spent on personal emails.