Study finds employees need more time offline to be productive

It has frequently been observed that slave-driving of employees is a counter-productive strategy for any company.

In a fresh angle to this, a new study says that giving workers breaks from the computer during work hours – for example, to help kids in homework or pay utility bills, or even go offline for lunch or coffee breaks.

The benefits of breaks from computer work are momentary recovery, learning, and satisfaction to begin afresh.

''Workers engage in online work breaks when they report a high need for recovery like feeling tired after an intense work period or recovering from a significant loss of physical or emotional energy,'' said Sung Doo Kim, a doctoral candidate at University of Cincinnati.

Other triggers for going offline during work hours are to break monotony or boredom, check on demands at home and other personal demands, or emotional work-related events that triggered anger or frustration.

''Employees reported benefits on going online to balance their work and personal responsibilities such as checking on their children on social media or chatting with them,'' Sung added.

After reassuring themselves about their children, they were better able to focus on their work.

Employees who took online breaks also reported greater levels of satisfaction at work, perhaps because of the freedom to be able to occasionally check in on their personal life.

The researchers, however, cautioned that if taken in an undisciplined manner, online breaks could turn into cyber-loafing, resulting in the excessive loss of time and productivity.

Workers whose jobs required extensive computer time or sitting at a desk for prolonged periods were less likely to find online breaks rejuvenating.

The respondents for the study included 14 healthcare workers and 19 full-time working MBA students.

The reported online activities were categorized into pleasure-seeking and non-work-related duties and responsibilities.

The former includes listening to music, reading entertaining articles and checking the sports scores while the latter includes checking in with family members, paying bills and doing school work.

The findings were presented at the 74th annual meeting of the Academy of Management in Philadelphia.