Could online procrastination actually improve productivity?

Next time you have a huge work deadline, you should probably open up Twitter or Facebook. No, really. According to a new study from the University of Cincinnati, taking breaks to click around the internet can improve productivity.

Researchers conducted in-depth interviews with professionals from a range of industries, 62% of whom were women. They found that workers go online when they’re feeling stressed out and need to decompress, when they’re bored, or when something’s going on with a family member or friend who they want to check in with. Sounds about right.

According to Sung Doo Kim, who led the research, people who regularly took online breaks felt that it helped them relax, and being able to pay bills or email an ill relative made them better able to focus afterward. Some diligent people even took a break from work to go online and read about news in their industry, but a handful of sticklers felt that it was morally wrong to click on Kim Kardashian’s Instagram or spend five minutes aww-ing at Love Meow when they were supposed to be working.

How refreshed people felt after some light online procrastination varied, and the bad news for all of us whose work involves staring at a screen is that desk jockeys were less rejuvenated than people with more active jobs.

But regardless of their field, people who took regular short online breaks routinely reported greater job satisfaction, as they felt more in charge of their time. To be fair, though, their bosses’ satisfaction wasn’t measured. Also, the findings were based on self-reports, so there’s no actual hard science to back this up.

But until further research tells us differently, we might as well go along with the idea that taking a Buzzfeed quiz or watching a video so cute you won’t believe what happened next is boosting our productivity. Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a kitten video I really need to watch. For my career.

Image from Shopware AG via Wikimedia Commons.

Diane Shipley

Comments are closed.