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Did March Madness Make You More or Less Productive?

Photo: Jason Dean

For the past month, employees everywhere have spent chunks of their workday glued to the NCAA College Basketball championship games, which can now be viewed live online.  While “March Madness” represents a particularly good distraction, most people rely on the internet for distraction throughout the year, prompting many companies to restrict or block access to certain sites.  But do such restrictions actually work?
Maybe not, according to James Surowiecki:

“A new study, done at the University of Copenhagen, asked participants to perform a simple task—watch videos of people passing balls and count the number of passes. But first they were presented with a distraction. One group of participants had a funny video come up on their screens; the rest saw a message telling them that a funny video was available if they clicked a button, but they were told not to watch it. After ten minutes, during which people in the second group could hear those in the first laughing at the video, everyone set to the task of counting the number of passes. And the curious result was that those who hadn’t watched the comedy video made significantly more mistakes than those who had.”

Surowiecki ties this new research on the Internet and productivity to existing research on the limited nature of willpower, and suggests occasional brief “Internet breaks” for employees.  Readers, what do you think?  Does the internet make you more or less productive at work?