Is a workplace better off if its employees take internet breaks? Dan Houser and colleagues investigate this counter-intuitive idea in a new Harvard Business School Research Paper.
Professor of Economics and ICES Director Daniel Houser and his co-authors Alessandro Bucciol (Universities of Verona and Amsterdam) and Marco Piovesan (Harvard School of Business) used lab experiments to determine if delaying the gratification from watching a humourous video online helped or harmed economic productivity on a subsequent task. In their paper “Temptation at Work” they found that productivity actually declined for participants who resisted the urge to watch the video.
To encourage worker productivity offices prohibit Internet use. Consequently, many employees delay Internet activity to the end of the workday. Recent work in social psychology, however, suggests that using willpower to delay gratification can negatively impact performance. We report data from an experiment where subjects in a Willpower Treatment are asked to resist the temptation to join others in watching a humorous video for 10 minutes. In relation to a baseline treatment that does not require willpower, we show that resisting this temptation detrimentally impacts economic productivity on a subsequent task.