Study: Surfing the Web on Company Time Is a Good Thing

If you're reading this item instead of pressing your nose to the old grindstone at work, relax. You're hardly alone. In fact, your boss is probably doing it, too. According to a new study, not only is "cyberslacking" not wasting time, it's actually productive over the long run.

As explained in this article from the Associated Press, using the Internet for personal reasons can help workers balance job and life responsibilities. And everyone on up the totem pole in the workplace seems to be engaging in the practice on the sly, from entry-level employees to senior managers.

The study, based on a phone survey of 1024 people during the summer of 2006, was published in this month's issue of the journal CyberPsychology and Behavior. In their paper, "On cyberslacking: Workplace status and personal Internet use at work," authors R. K. Garrett and J. N. Danziger reveal that, despite the efforts of some firms to monitor personal Web and e-mail use during business hours, employees have grown accustomed to these outlets as part of their routine. They even benefit the employer: with lingering personal matters resolved, workers are more likely to be able to concentrate on their job assignments, which suggests they should be more productive.

One of the study's principals, R. Kelly Garrett of Ohio State University, told the AP: "It's appropriate to just avoid the knee-jerk response that all personal Internet use is detrimental."

Garret said the study was still preliminary, and that he and Danziger (of the University of California at Irvine) were not trying at present to go much further than gauging the types of employees who use the Internet for personal reasons. Still, he speculated, additional research into the matter could suggest alternatives to enterprise administrators as to how they could improve their policies on personal activities online, to the benefit of both employer and employee alike.

Now, that's something we could all appreciate at work, without looking over our shoulders.

(Speaking of surfing the Web, Garrett might want to surf on over to the AP story mentioned in this column at The New York Times, Study shatters myths on personal Net use at work, where his name, R. Kelly Garrett, is hyperlinked to the paper's archive of R. Kelly articles. Ouch! Well, at least he's topical.)

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