UK businesses lose £4 billion a year due to office ‘e-break’ ban

Banning personal internet use in the workplace could actually cost British businesses up to £4 billion every year* due to a resulting decline in staff productivity. That’s according to a new report, published today by PopCap Games, that unveils all-new research that indicates taking a 10-minute online break during the course of the working day serves to reduce stress while sharpening and refocusing the mind.

With seven out of ten companies - including Credit Suisse and British Gas - banning access to social networking sites** and many considering banning personal internet access altogether, The PopCap Break Report 2008 highlights the negative impact this could have on the UK economy. The research shows that far from distracting employees from their work, e-breaks actually serve to increase staff efficiency and morale, benefitting UK businesses.

The findings are based on psychometric trials carried out on a cross section of UK businesses under the supervision of Goldsmiths University psychologist, Dr Chamorro-Premuzic. The comparative effect of different types of online breaks on employees’ performances*** were tested and the results revealed that if bosses actively encouraged employees to take one ten minute e-break in the working day their overall productivity levels would increase.

The report looks at different types of office e-breaks and ranks them according to their positive impact on productivity levels. Dr Chamorro-Premuzic rated the top five types of e-breaks according to their benefits to staff productivity:
1. Puzzles and casual computer games
2. Social networking & personal emails
3. Online shopping
4. General browsing
5. Life admin

1) Puzzle and ‘casual’ computer games
The report reveals that ten minutes playing online games had the most positive benefits for employees (and therefore, employers!) They were particularly beneficial for stressed out, nervous and anxious workers. This finding supports recent research which shows that ‘casual’ videogames and online puzzles like the ones found on, can have calming effects on individuals. Following the ‘use it or lose it’ brain-training methodology, these type of games help to improve mental agility and boost confidence – creating a calmer, happier workforce.

2) Social Networking & personal emails
Research suggests that ‘interpersonal e-breaks’ have the most positive impact on workers who are self-assured and content in their role. Self-assured individuals tend to enjoy stronger interpersonal relationships and have “more to lose” if they are prevented from interacting with friends online. Consequently, permitting staff to communicate with friends during an allocated time slot helps to increase motivation and confidence levels in the office.

3) Online shopping
A slot of online retail therapy is an effective ‘quick fix’ strategy to boost happiness levels in the workplace.

4) General browsing
Although this form of relaxed internet surfing may appear to have no specific goals, the research shows that it fulfils individuals need for cognition, caters to their intellectual curiosity and stimulates their thirst for knowledge - ultimately bolstering general knowledge acquisition – of benefit to bosses. General browsing, such as visiting gossip blogs and news sites is a way of keeping in touch with the outside world, maintaining socially-adequate levels of current-affairs knowledge, and feeling present in the real world even while immersed in the daily routine of work.

5) Life Admin (e.g. online banking, booking doctor’s appointments etc)
This break is better suited to female employees, with the research tracking a greater improvement in their productivity levels than their male counterparts. Life admin is extrinsically linked to work performance in that it frees up the mind from administrative concerns as well as freeing up time after work.

Dr Chamorro-Premuzic commented “With work days becoming increasingly longer and workloads more demanding, UK bosses are introducing internet bans to help combat alleged productivity loss and inappropriate use of workplace resources. Yet bosses are missing a trick by introducing e-bans. The PopCap Break Report has revealed that allowing workers more freedom at the PC, can benefit the worker’s morale levels, effectively boosting companies’ profits. In addition to allowing their mind to switch off from their work worries, employers can foster a more trusting and enjoyable environment for workers.”

In light of these findings PopCap is campaigning employers to introduce a ten minute e-break into their employees’ working days. Employees who wish to anonymously lobby their bosses to instate an e-break into their office should visit