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by Cathy Vandewater | April 12, 2012


There's a lot going on in Employers vs. Facebook news. Wednesday, legislators in the state of Maryland passed a bill banning employer requests for employees' and job candidates' social media passwords.

Thursday morning, Facebook announced plans to provide its users with "archives" of data the company stores--helping Facebookers of what information is floating around the internet.

This is all great news for job seekers seeking more privacy protections for their online activities. But as much has been said about workers' online lives outside of work, little has been mentioned about the use of social media sites at work.

Generally, it's safe to assume that all parties think it's a bad idea: employers bristle at the notion of paying employees to tweet or update their statuses (even if they don't block social sites at the workplace), and employees who don't want to look lazy will deny their extracurricular online activities.

But maybe all this shame and secrecy is unfounded. Can checking Facebook at work really be so bad?

Not so shockingly, it's not. In fact, new research says Facebook on your breaks—or any other fun web surfing--might actually boost your productivity.

To test this theory, Academy of Management experiment gave three groups of people a simple task--highlighting letter A’s in a large block of text—then gave them each three different rest activities. One group put together bundles of sticks, another rested without internet (but could call friends, etc), and a third was allowed to surf the web.

When each of the groups had their "mental exhaustion" surveyed after the 10 minute break, it was discovered that internet users were 16% more productive than the offline group, and 39% more productive than the group that had continued working with the sticks.

Awesome, right?

Of course, longer, more active breaks (perhaps those including sunshine and exercise) are probably the most preferable rest you can get. But the all-encapsulating mental vacation that is mindless web browsing is pretty powerful stuff, and the biggest bang for your time buck. Considering many workers are too worried about job security to take real lunch breaks, or even their vacation days, it's worth allowing.

So until the workplace gets a little less stressful for everyone, employers: can we get a little looking-the-other way on our Pinterest habit?

--Cathy Vandewater,

Read More:
Facebook Offers More Disclosure to Users (New York Times)
Vacation Days Left Unused by Nearly Half of U.S. Workers: Report (Huffington Post)
Why CEOs Should Allow Facebook in the Workplace (Mashable)
Facebook Fights Back
Should You Share Your Facebook Password With Your Employer?


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