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There have been many mentions about employees wasting a lot of their time at work visiting Facebook, YouTube and other "distracting websites", thus making their productivity suffer. Some companies resort to blocking such websites, but then the employees feel that they are being punished. Are there any studies on whether access to such sites decreases productivity, and what is the effect of blocking such websites on the employees?

  • I have a problem with this question because unless you job is to be on these sites at work 100% of the time spent on them is a reduction in productivity. In addition you have 2 questions that need to be separated out. I am voting to close as not constructive as is. I would vote to reopen a modified questions that was on point and constructive though. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Apr 14 '12 at 16:32
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    @Chad, not necessarily, because productivity is measured over the course of a day. Instantaneous productivity at that moment certainly decreases, but it potentially increases your average for the entire day if it keeps you from burning out. – Karl Bielefeldt Apr 15 '12 at 0:52
  • @KarlBielefeldt - And that is part of the problem i have with the question as phrased. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Apr 15 '12 at 5:15
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    Shouldn't StackExchange sites be included in the list of "distracting websites"? ;-) – GreenMatt Mar 15 '13 at 14:04
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    @GreenMatt I personally consider SE to be an invaluable source of good knowledge. If your employees are engrossed in reading SE, that probably means they are "in the zone" - just as long as it's not some LEGO SE or the like you should be fine and expect great things ;). – ThePiachu Mar 16 '13 at 14:46
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Here is a search of "cyberloafing" and "psychological engagement" on Google Scholar, which present findings on the effects of productivity, how attitudes in the workplace are effected, and other topics that you might find useful.

It's difficult to summarize the various findings without short changing their explanations, but what many find is that any form of break from regular work a few times during the day is often refreshing, the same way people would physically walk away from their desks to break.

Anecdotally, in the places I've worked, usage was monitored, but never brought up as an issue unless there were other indicators that someone wasn't actually getting done what they needed to get done. Otherwise, what we did on the internet (so long as it didn't bring in viruses, or involve illegal file sharing or other activities that might raise the liability of the organization) was considered fine.

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what is the effect of blocking such websites on the employees?

One of the effects is that people spend time and effort trying to circumvent these restrictions - at least it appears that way given the number of times the question comes up on Super User.

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