It's nearly impossible for people to stay on task when placed in front of a computer with Internet access, and that may not be a bad thing. Researchers found that browsing the Web can make workers refreshed and more productive, and it's less disruptive than making personal calls, texting, or emailing.
Researchers from the National University of Singapore conducted two studies on the effect of taking web browsing breaks during work. The Wall Street Journal reports:
In the first, they assigned 96 undergraduate management students into one of three groups-a control group, a "rest-break" group and a Web-surfing group. All subjects spent 20 minutes highlighting as many letter e's as they could find in a sample text. For the next 10 minutes, the control group was assigned another simple task; members of the rest-break group could do whatever they pleased, except surf the Internet; and the third group could browse the Web. Afterward, all of the subjects spent another 10 minutes highlighting more letters.
Subjects who poked around online performed the tasks better and said they were more engaged and less mentally exhausted by the work.
The researchers say using the Internet is a better break activity because people only visit sites they enjoy reading. Tasks involving human interaction are "cognitively more demanding" and could wind up stressing people more. According to the WSJ, this means you shouldn't "feel guilty" about browsing the Web at work. If skimming through former classmates' Facebook photos all afternoon, much like pooping on company time, only fills you with a sense of triumph, then carry on.