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July 11th

Is this justifying my behavior? Yeah, so?

I’m glad someone looked into this regardless of result.

Surfing the net at work for pleasure actually increases our concentration levels and helps make a more productive workforce, according to a new University of Melbourne study.

Dr Brent Coker, from the Department of Management and Marketing, says that workers who engage in ‘Workplace Internet Leisure Browsing’ (WILB) are more productive than those who don’t.

“People who do surf the Internet for fun at work – within a reasonable limit of less than 20% of their total time in the office – are more productive by about 9% than those who don’t,” he says.

“Firms spend millions on software to block their employees from watching videos on YouTube, using social networking sites like Facebook or shopping online under the pretense that it costs millions in lost productivity, however that’s not always the case.”

According to the study of 300 workers, 70% of people who use the Internet at work engage in WILB. Among the most popular WILB activities are searching for information about products, reading online news sites. Playing online games was the fifth most popular, while watching YouTube movies was seventh.

The attraction of WILB, according to Dr Coker, can be attributed to people’s imperfect concentration. “People need to zone out for a bit to get back their concentration. Think back to when you were in class listening to a lecture – after about 20 minutes your concentration probably went right down, yet after a break your concentration was restored.

“It’s the same in the work place. 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.”

However Dr Coker says that it is important such browsing is done in moderation, as internet addiction can have the reverse effect. “Approximately 14% of internet users in Australia show signs of Internet Addiction – they don’t take breaks at appropriate times, they spend more than a ‘normal’ amount of time online, and can get irritable if they are interrupted while surfing.”

“WILB is not as helpful for this group of people – those who behave with internet addiction tendencies will have a lower productivity than those without.”

I have no idea whether this study is accurate, but the reason I find it plausible is because it works for me.

August will be one year after getting fired from a average-paying yet comfortable full-time position for (getting caught) surfing the internet at work. For you employers reading, my productivity had nothing to do with my demise. As a matter of fact, I spend quite a bit of time lobbying to expedite my projects to make it through the sloooooow approval process of developing for a Top 1000 website.

I was told my habit was negatively affecting the morale of the rest of development team. Whatever.

Despite the fact I was fired during the beginning of what would be the worst job market in decades, that I haven’t been able to find stable employment as a freelancer, and that I absolutely despite all HR people even as I recognize their importance, I thought my previous employer made the right choice in removing me.

I’ve realized oh, five minutes, after being canned that we’re not meant to be together. It could be ADD, but I definitely don’t have the concentration to work two 4-hour shifts with a lunch break wedged in between. Reading blogs and catching up to the news keeps me sane throughout the day. If an employer doesn’t recognize this, and I realize the market is overwhelmingly in their favor and it could further sabotage my chance of employment, let’s not do business together. Because other than doing my job as a webdev even better than the day before, I haven’t changed at all. I deliver results, not illusions of it.

And really, I think this study applies to everyone in the workforce working with a computer. They just do a better job hiding it.

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