‘Cyberloafing’ Helps Work Productivity, Personal Emailing Doesn’t, Study Finds

Workers who do a little Internet surfing during a work break are more productive on the job, a new study has found.

Researchers at the National University of Singapore found that workers allowed to visit Internet sites during a break were more productive than workers who responded to personal email and those who worked straight through, the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) reports.

The study had two components: a survey of 191 adults and an experiment involving undergrad management students. The undergrads had to highlight the letter “e” every time they found one in a sample text for 20 minutes. Then a third of the undergrads were allowed to browse the Internet, a third could do whatever they pleased during the break, and a third had to work on another task.

Afterward, the Internet surfing students did best when they returned to their task of highlighting letters. Responding to emails was particularly distracting for those who did as they pleased, the story says. One of the study authors, Vivien K.G Lim, told the Wall Street Journal that responding to email is a lot more demanding than going to a favorite website, and that may explain the difference.

The survey had similar findings.

The study is called “Impact of Cyberloafing on Psychological Engagement.” It was presented last week at the annual meeting of the Academy of Management.

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