This week I posted on whether Twitter is Like Stopping at the Water Cooler? and asked if Twitter is like Going Out for a Smoke? How I found an interesting study from Arie Goldshlager on Freedom to surf: workers more productive if allowed to use the internet for leisure. Is this break just what many need to recharge themselves and get good ideas at the same time. The study found that 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 surf.
Before reading further I was reminded of a study reported by the BCC, Sleeping on the job, that found ““Some 30% of people have their best ideas in bed compared to just 11% who have them at their desk, according to research by the East of England Development Agency (EEDA). It is calling for companies to install beds in the workplace, in an attempt to change the way we work for the better. According to the authors of The Art of Napping at Work we live a "napaphobic culture", but attitudes are changing and the bed could soon become part of the office furniture. Bill and Camille Anthony say workers are "nap ready" and often sneak a snooze anyway.”
Now back to web surfacing. Twitter is only one form of web surfacing so we have to be careful about over generalizing here. The study found that in the study of 300 workers, 70% of people who use the Internet at work engage in ‘Workplace Internet Leisure Browsing’ or WILB. Among the most popular WILB activities are searching for information about product and reading online news sites. Twitter was not in the top activities but it could serve a similar purpose.
The report went on to say that the attraction of WILB 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.”
So web surfacing can work like naps, except that you might gain some useful information while zoning out if you do it right. Here is more from Slate on why corporate IT should let us browse any way we want. They say that, "the restrictions infantilize workers—they foster resentment, reduce morale, lock people into inefficient routines, and, worst of all, they kill our incentives to work productively." Some unchain your workers. Maybe they will browse instead of nap at the their desks.
However, I do get a lot of great ideas when I take a nap. I also get great ideas from Twitter. Sometimes the two work together as I realize the significance of what I read on Twitter while taking a nap. However, like napping you need to do Twitter and other forms of web surfacing in moderation and return to the workplace ready to take on your challenges of the day.