How do I prevent myself from browsing the web when I telecommute?”

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Q. – “I have a confession to make. Since we’ve been operating in hybrid mode, at home, I can’t stop browsing the web. Just like that, for fun, without looking for anything specific. It makes me feel good, but I think it also hurts my productivity. Of course, on office days, I don’t have fun with that. How do I keep myself at home?” – Sophie-Anne

A. — Dear Sophie-Anne, I have a quick question for you: are you so sure that browsing the web is detrimental to your productivity? Well, if your answer is that this represents a large part of your working time, it goes without saying that the problem is serious, but I would be surprised: your boss would have already told you about it, I imagine, because your productivity at home would then be out of step with what you have at work. I therefore assume that we are not in this scenario, which would amount to a form of technological dependence requiring the use of the services of an expert in the field.

So I come back to my little question, which is not so innocent: does loitering on the web really harm productivity? It turns out that two management professors from the National University of Singapore, Vivien Lim and Don Chen, looked into this subject in 2009 and thus made a discovery that should surprise many…

The two researchers paid students to perform a daunting task, corresponding to removing the “e” from all the words of a text. After 20 minutes of work, the participants had to take a 10-minute break. What they didn’t know was that they had been split into three groups:

– The first group could not rest during the “break”, but had to perform a different, much simpler task.

– The second group could do whatever they wanted on their computer, except browsing the web.

– The third group was invited to browse the web.

Then, work had to resume, for another 10 minutes.

Results? The “loafers” were the most productive. From afar.

To note an interesting point: the two researchers noticed that those who took advantage of the 10-minute break to consult and process personal emails were the least productive of all the participants in the experiment. And this, surely because “consulting emails is psychologically demanding”, argued Vivien Lim and Don Chen.

In short, Sophie-Anne, do not prevent yourself from browsing the web when you work at home. Because, contrary to what you think, it does not harm your productivity, at least it harms less than other types of breaks (checking personal emails, fixing a small urgent task, etc.). The best, it seems to me, is to set break times for yourself at fixed times, to devote, say, every other break to browsing the web and the others to stretching your body and your head (a series of relaxation movements, a breath of fresh air outside for a few minutes, etc.), and above all, stick to it. What do you think?

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