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Oz study calls for WILB time

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Sneaking a little web surfing into the work day increases our concentration and productivity overall, according to a University of Melbourne study.

Report author Brent Coker, from the U's department of management and marketing, said folks who indulge in short browsing breaks are about nine per cent more productive than those who do not.

"Firms spend millions on software to block their employees from watching videos on YouTube, using social networking sites like Facebook or shopping online under the pretense that it costs millions in lost productivity, however that's not always the case," Coker wrote on the university's website.

Net benefits to work productivity were noted, so long as surfing is kept below 20 per cent of the total time in the office, according to the study's release. The conclusion was drawn by observing 300 workers, 70 per cent of which browse the net at work. It's not clear how "productivity" was being measured in the study, however. As of publication, Coker hasn't replied to an email requesting further details.

Coker apparently hopes to pin surfing at work with its own acronym - Workplace Internet Leisure Browsing, or WILB. The conclusion he draws from the study is that "people need to zone out for a bit to get back their concentration."

He claimed a typical work day involves an overall goal broken into a series of smaller tasks. For example, writing a report may require formating graphs, editing and so on. By rewarding the accomplishment of these smaller tasks with "short and unobtrusive breaks, such as a quick surf on the internet" our concentration can reset itself. If we aren't given a break, our concentration slides down, Coker said.

According to the study, the most popular surfing activities are searching for information about products and reading online news sites (thank us for your productivity later.) Playing online games ranked number five, and watching YouTube vids was seventh.

The catch, of course, is browsing at work must be done in moderation. Those who spend more than a "normal" amount of time online (showing signs of "Internet Addiction") will have a lower productivity overall than those without.

So chances are we aren't helping you after all. ®

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