All work and no web reduces office productivity

28 May 2008

Not allowing office staff small breaks to check personal email, book a flight or read their favourite sites on a daily basis can result in huge costs from lost productivity, according to research carried out for Dublin-based tech firm PopCap Games.

The survey, carried out in conjunction with Goldsmiths University on several UK businesses, estimated that up to £4bn sterling in earnings could be lost if staff are denied access to the internet for personal use.

Ten is the magic number, it appears: the research suggested that 10 minutes of browsing and checking email per day was enough to reduce stress levels and increase focus, thereby boosting staff productivity.

However, social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace are still considered as time-wasters by most firms, with seven out of 10 companies that took part in the survey (including Credit Suisse and British Gas), stating they banned access to these sites completely.

Speaking recently to, Fergal O’Byrne, chief executive of the Irish Internet Association (IIA), said banning personal web use is not the answer.

“The internet is here to stay, it is part of our daily lives, personal and business, so all companies should establish an AUP (acceptable usage policy), which covers responsibility of both business owners and staff,” he said.

This PopCap study tunnelled down into the various types of personal web usage and discovered that some activities were found to be more beneficial to employees than others.

Casual and puzzle-solving games were found to have the most positive impact, while personal email and social networking came a close second, followed by shopping, general browsing and productive activities like online banking.

“With work days becoming increasingly longer and work loads more demanding, UK bosses are introducing internet bans to help combat alleged productivity loss and inappropriate use of workplace resources,” said Dr Chamorro-Premuzic, who supervised the study.

“Yet bosses are missing a trick by introducing e-bans. The PopCap Break Report has revealed that allowing workers more freedom at the PC can benefit their morale levels, effectively boosting companies’ profits.

He added that allowing workers to ‘switch off’ from their tasks for a while cultivated a more trusting work environment.

By Marie Boran