Time for an E-break?

May 29 2008 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Social networking sites are fast becoming public enemy number one in the workplace. In fact, if you believe everything you read in the media, it's a wonder that anybody does any work at all in between staying on top of their virtual social lives.

All of which means that the battle lines are well and truly drawn between po-faced employers keen for staff to actually do something productive in the office and those ever-so-hip on-line enterprises equally desperate to prove that the latest social networking fad isn't the end of working life as we know it.

The latest salvo in the cyber-loafing wars comes from an outfit called PopCap (who comes up with these names?), whose entire business model seems to be about wasting time with free on-line games.

According to The PopCap Break Report, banning personal web use actually costs business billions in lost productivity because taking an online E-break during the working day reduces stress while sharpening and refocusing the mind.

But before jumping to the obvious conclusion that "they would say that, wouldn't they", the important thing to note here is that by E-break, they mean a 10-minute session, not a furtive afternoon spent uploading risqué photos from your last holiday and organising your party schedule.

This finding emerged from psychometric trials carried out on a cross section of UK businesses under the supervision of a Goldsmiths University psychologist, Dr Chamorro-Premuzic.

The comparative effect of different types of online breaks on employees' performances were tested and the results revealed that if bosses actively encouraged employees to take one 10 minute e-break in the working day, their overall productivity levels would increase.

That ties in with research from the Netherlands which suggested that cyber-loafing workers are more productive than non-loafing colleagues because they prioritise and manage their workloads better and reduce stress by enjoying their day more.

The problem is, of course, that a visit to Facebook doesn't usually last just 10 minutes. Far from it. In fact as a 2005 survey from the US found, the average American fritters away more like two hours every day, the majority of which is spent surfing the web.

Little wonder, then, that seven out of 10 of the UK companies that took part in the PopCap survey (including Credit Suisse and British Gas), said that they have banned access to social networking sites completely.

"The report proves that a ten minute e-break a day can have significant benefits," insisted Dr Chamorro-Premuzic.

"But despite this, many bosses are banning them in the fear that they distract employees. By factoring in a dedicated slot for an e-break bosses are fostering a more trusting working environment, boosting productivity and ultimately increasing their profit which surely makes good business sense."


Older Comments

I usually take a few 2-5 minute breaks to play some game at Multigames.com or some other site. Most of the negative stress is gone after such a break. With out doubt it makes me more productive.