Internet at work is a blessing (for your boss)

It’s always seemed to me a bit over the top to block social internet sites at offices. I’ve wondered if people spend more time looking up free proxy servers that aren’t blocked than they would have if they’d been allowed to check their Gmail. Now a study says that most people do surf at work and it actually makes most of them more productive: the opportunity to take a break and relax for a minute helps them to concentrate harder the rest of the time.

Clearly the productivity gain to surfing at work is concave, so the question is really, “at what point do the marginal gains become negative?” According to this study it’s only when you surf more than 20% of the working day that your productivity starts to decline! That means that the productivity losses from boredom (or whatever it is) are absolutely enormous; far bigger than I would have guessed! And, on average, those people are almost 10% more productive. I’d really like to know more about the shape of the productivity/surfing curve, but no more data is reported in the article.

Unfortunately, that’s not a sufficient reason to demand more surfing time from your boss. The article also reports that 14% of those surveyed had ‘internet addiction’ and spent far too much time on the net, so employers have to balance that against any productivity gains.

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