Why Your Boss Should Let You Screw Around on the Internet

by Nicholas Pell on 20 November 2013 4 comments

If you work in the 21st century workplace, there's a good chance you're chained to a computer all day. There's an equally good chance that you're less than diligent about staying off of the Internet when you're "supposed" to be working. Well, the next time that you get caught, don't hide it. Simply explain to your boss that a bit of slacking off throughout the day is good for your productivity. (See also: 5 Ways to Stay Focused at Work)

Seriously, it's science.

The Science of Slacking Off

When it comes to your work day, it's easy to get burnt out with your nose to the grindstone. This is probably the principle underlying the findings of a 2011 study from the National University of Singapore: Workers who slack off (a bit) are more productive than workers who never slack off at all.

The reason is obvious to slackers, though maybe not so much to their employers. Your brain needs time to recharge itself after intense periods of activity. One of the best ways to do this is to watch videos on YouTube of pandas sneezing or browse your favorite cute cat site for a bit. (See also: Really Cheap Ways to Relieve Stress)

In fact, it's more than just the time you spend recharging your brain. It's also about the energy that your brain expends trying to stay off of the Internet. This is brain energy that could be easily purged by checking your Facebook real quick, checking out what Miley Cyrus was up to this weekend, looking at some pictures of baby animals, and then heading back to work. On the other hand, the longer you hold out, the more time and energy your brain is spending resisting the urge to do all of the above.

In simple terms, that's energy wasted.

The Math of Slacking Off

There's actual math about this subject! The study found that people who slack off 20% of the time are 9% more productive than those who do not. In terms of an eight-hour workday, that means you have a little over an hour and a half every day to stare into the abyss of the Internet and all its time-wasting glory.

How to Partition Out Your Time-Wasting Time

It might be a little ironic, but you can actually use productivity tools to sort out your time-wasting time throughout the course of a work day. Here's how you make it happen. (See also: Do Less to Get More Done)

Twenty percent of your time throughout the course of a day adds up to precisely 96 minutes in an eight-hour day. However, this is a bad figure for a couple reasons. First, you're not going to (nor should you) take all of your time-wasting time in a single block. Second, few people work a traditional eight-hour day anymore.

Instead, try to shoot for a 12-minute block every hour. Put it at the beginning or the end of the hour, for example from 9:00 to 9:12. Miss the window? Too bad. You missed your slacking off time and you'll have to wait another hour to get it. (See also: How to Have a Better Day at Work)

This is a great way to use your non-productive time. It gives you something to look forward to throughout the day, removes the mental stress of trying to avoid the Internet, and gives you a bit of time to recharge your batteries.

Happy web surfing, mental workers of the 21st century! Remember: It's for the good of the company.

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Tara Struyk's picture

I'd also argue that the Internet is full of information and inspiration - that's a good thing for productivity too!

Guest's picture

I agree. As a software developer, I used to spend a lot of time checking out tech blogs at work. It was entertaining for me, but also it kept me focused on things I should be learning about and even allowed me to generate some ideas for the company.

Guest's picture
Anna

As a web designer, I do tend to surf the web a lot. I try to make the brain-break as productive as possible by surfing design-oriented sites like Dribbble, Mashable or Pinterest, and I only do it when I'm working on tasks with less predictable billable time, like the discovery/research and pixel-pushing phases of a design project. That way, when I get an email coming through that is more task-oriented (like updating content, or cropping images), I can tear through those with little distraction.

So far, no one has ever complained. I actually have a reputation for getting things done really quick. I love the brain breaks.

Guest's picture

Wow - I wonder how I can slip this article to my boss a la inception style?!?