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Recreational Web Browsing: Surfing on the Clock, Not a Bad Thing?

Posted on April 6, 2009 by Archives

A recent study from the University of Melbourne goes against the pretense that personal website browsing at work negatively affects employee productivity. Dr. Brent Coker says, “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... 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.”

This recreational browsing helps prevent burn out by letting the mind rest. In the long run taking a break from time to time leads to a more focused concentration level for the tasks at hand that day. Some of the examples given were online banking, YouTube, social networking or sending a personal e-mail.

Though I agree with the study, there are some reasons why a business would want or need to control or limit the personal browsing of employees. One reason may be as simple as scheduling.  Take a call center for instance, in a call center proper phone coverage is necessary for day to day business activities.  While personal browsing may be good for overall productivity, if everyone in a given call center decided to start their personal browsing at the same time how successful would that call center be as employees adjust from personal activities to business tasks?  Could the company depend on these employees to make their personal activities second to what is going on at the company? Other concerns could be bandwidth issues.  Having multiple people watching video online could seriously diminish productivity to those still engaged in tasks associated with work.  Another issue to be wary of is the security hazards that can be associated with some social networking sites.

The key, as in most things, is moderation.  A little bit of personal browsing is most likely good in the workplace. A lot of browsing will most likely lead to a decrease in productivity and employers may not like it. On that note, be sure to check your workplace policy on browsing the web so you know the consequences of personal website interactions at work. Happy Browsing!



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