All I want is the internet

Tempting Twitter

Sometimes it’s lastminute.com. Sometimes it’s Groupon. Sometimes it’s the hateful Facebook. Sometimes it’s desperately wanting to write a new blog post. The internet explorer button is at the corner of my eye. But I’m at work. I ought to be writing a briefing paper or working through an excel spreadsheet.

So I write the blog on Word, to be saved and published later. Cunning, eh?! Until someone comes along and thinks it’s a bit odd that an economist is peppering a policy paper with exclamations like “cunning, eh?!”, which is definitely not the sort of thing you write after explaining the pros and cons of different regulatory pricing options, at least where I work.

Actually, where I work they are reasonably relaxed about people taking a quick peek at the news headlines or personal emails. But I know of some companies that take a stricter line – blocking access to social networking websites among other things.

What’s the best approach? A recent study, Temptation at Work, by Alessandro Bucciol, Daniel Houser and Marco Piovesan, suggests that giving people access to the internet, but asking them to resist the temptation to check out YouTube may not be a good idea. In their study, people who were asked to resist the temptation of watching a video clip made more mistakes in the task they were given to do. By contrast, another group of people were shown the video and then told to get on with their work: these people made fewer mistakes.

The act of trying to resist temptation reduces productivity. So the authors suggest that employers either completely block access, or give employees short breaks during which they can use the internet for personal purposes.

I think this means I should blog at work when the urge takes me. It’s in the interests of my overall productive capacity.

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