After a previous post about boosting productivity by allowing employees to surf Facebook (I’m sure you’re delighted to have me bring that point up again), I want to clarify exactly what I believe is a productivity booster and what is not. Some companies advocate naps at work (a few heavily creative jobs really do necessitate this) and others ban personal Internet surfing (which I really don’t think is entirely all good) and so I’d like to come into this discussion again squarely in the middle.
Canada.com recently cited a study that indicates allowing people to goof off at work (surfing the Internet) boosts morale and productivity.
"[A] new study by a U.K. research group might help boost the Internet's image. It found that taking short breaks to surf the Internet at work might actually be beneficial to an employee's productivity.
Conducted by MindLab International, the study involved European women from seven different countries who were asked to complete computer-based intelligence tests designed to induce stress. They were then offered a 10-minute break in which they could surf the Internet freely before returning to further testing. Stress levels and productivity were monitored throughout and the researchers found that the break resulted in both a reduction in stress and an increase in productivity."
On the other hand, some companies struggle with workers goofing off by gossiping and stirring up trouble among fellow employees. That is not my idea of boosting morale.
AfricanPath.com, a site geared to reporting news of and by Africans around the world talks about the problem of gossip in the workplace and I really liked blogger Kwaku Adu-Gyamfi’s June 26, 2008 checklist on the subject.
- Spread rumors about other people?
- Have you good things to say about others?
- Judge others only on the basis of facts?
- Encourage others to bring their rumors to you?
- Precede your conversations with a "don’t-tell-anyone, and you-didn’t-hear-it-from- me"?
- Keep" confidential "information confidential?
- Feel guilty about what you say concerning other people?
- Have an okra (slippery) mouth?
- Like to hear reports of scandals?"
These examples should serve as a caution to employers who cite lost productivity as the number one factor impacted by employee turnover, according to TalentKeepers’ 2008 Employee Turnover Trends research report.
"‘It used to be that employee turnover was considered solely an HR problem, but now top executives are beginning to see the far-reaching impact of turnover and its implications,’ explains Craig Taylor, VP of Client Services for TalentKeepers and senior research author of the 2008 Employee Turnover Trends report. ‘It starts a domino effect that will eventually touch all aspects of an organization. The key is to stop the chain reaction by implementing tactical retention strategies before the last domino falls.’"
Is allowing goof off time a tactical retention strategy? According to many employed workers, the rigidness of an employer is also a measure of their willingness to stick around for the long term. I think every employer must ultimately make the call about goof-off time that best suits their particular needs. But I urge moderation. Polling employees about their preferences and discussing these issues openly is the best next action for companies seeking a definitive policy.