Internet Distractions

by Elaine Schwartz    •    Apr 8, 2011    •    583 Views

At work, we “should not be watching that excellent new video of a schnoodle howling along to its own piano playing.” Yes?

According to New Yorker journalist James Surowiecki, the answer actually is, “No.” Citing recent academic studies, he says that people “addicted” to the Internet are more productive when permitted to indulge during business hours.

This takes us to “willpower” studies. Presented with a platter of radishes and a platter of chocolate chip cookies, the group asked to avoid the cookies did more poorly on subsequent tasks that required self-discipline. Somewhat similarly, when a group was divided between people who could watch a funny video and those who were not allowed to see it but heard others enjoying it, the people who saw the video then performed a task more accurately then those who did not.

The Economic Lesson

Defined as more output per labor hour, productivity results from more inputs (land, labor and/or capital), better inputs, and/or a more effective combination of inputs.

Surowiecki asks whether we might be more productive at work if company policy permitted us to surf the internet during “internet breaks.”


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