Web Surfing Makes for Happier, More Productive Workers

Surfing the Web at work might not make your boss happy, but it could make you a more productive worker, according to new research.

Taking intermittent breaks from tasks to poke around the Web and visit favorite websites can help people focus more when they go back to working, according to a study presented earlier this month at the Academy of Management conference in San Antonio, Texas.

The research, which was done at the National University of Singapore, found that people who browsed the internet for 10 minutes in between periods of work were more productive and engaged and reported less boredom and mental exhaustion than those who were not allowed an internet-browsing break.

The researchers also pointed out that Web surfing-- or what they term "cyberloading"-- is more restorative than other workplace distractions, including e-mailing, texting or talking with co-workers, which affect a worker's ability to concentrate because they require more engagement.

The study found a high correlation between upbeat mental states and Web browsing, and, conversely, a high correlation between negative mental states and e-mailing.

A second study by the researchers found that employers that try to crack down on employee Web surfing may accidentally inspire more browsing, not less.

"Rather than reducing cyberloafing, excessive monitoring increases its frequency, as employees invariably view such policies as a form of mistrust," wrote the study's authors, Don J.Q. Chena nd Vivien K.G. Lim.

Chen and Lim advise companies to strike a middle ground between work and Web browsing, but limit access to personal e-mailing at the workplace.