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Whether it’s establishing new rules or using employee monitoring software, businesses are always looking for new ways to get more “productive time” from their employees. Some companies ban access to Facebook, grab random screenshots of employee workstations, or enforce strict schedules.
But do any of these measures actually work? Let’s take a close look at three common productivity myths and the truth behind them:
Myth #1: Block distracting websites like Facebook and YouTube so employees can focus on their work.
While it’s easy to blame lack of concentration on idle Internet surfing, a study from the University of Melbourne claims that those who surf the Internet for fun while in the office are actually more productive than their colleagues who don’t. Leisurely browsing the web at work may actually increase concentration. According to the study’s author, Dr. Brent Coker, “Firms spend millions on software to block their employees from watching videos on YouTube, using social networking sites like Facebook or shopping online under the pretense that it costs millions in lost productivity, however that’s not always the case.”
Myth #2: Conflicts provide distraction.
It’s common to think that conflicts among colleagues is distracting and encourages them to focus on office politics rather than the work they have to do. But a study from the University of Amsterdam shows that people actually become more focused and find more creative solutions when they’re conflicting rather than when they’re cooperating.
Myth #3: Group brainstorming encourages groups to come up with more ideas.
In theory, when you get a group of people together, they’ll be able to generate more ideas than they would’ve if they worked individually. This belief is what leads to several brainstorming meetings and, sadly, hours of wasted time.
Why is this time wasted? The truth is that most studies on brainstorming prove that it doesn’t work as well as we think it does. In a paper by Adrian Furnham from University College London, he claims that there are three reasons behind this:
- Since you’re working as a group, people tend to lessen the individual effort they give
- Individuals tend to fear negative feedback for their ideas
- You can only make suggestions one at a time, so you keep your ideas to yourself until it’s your turn to speak.
If brainstorming doesn’t work so well, why do businesses keep doing it? According to the same study, people see brainstorming as a way to pool resources, get general acceptance on decisions, and it allows individuals to bring their specialized expertise and experience to the table.
What common productivity myths do you think need to be busted?
Related GigaOM Pro content (sub. req.): Enabling the Web Work Revolution