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8 reasons why Twitter and Facebook help productivity

5. It makes work more enjoyable.
People will hate their jobs if they have a strong desire to check in with Twitter, Facebook and YouTube during the day, but are blocked from doing so. If they're allowed to wander online, on the other hand, they'll be happier employees. And happy employees are productive employees.

6. It replaces bad slacking with good slacking.
If you think nobody ever wasted time at work before the Internet came along, well, you may also be interested in a bridge I'm selling on eBay.

People waste enormous amounts of time at work because of messy desks, inefficient processing of tasks, hallway chit-chat, long phone conversations and - the mother of all time wasters - meetings! All these activities look and even feel like work because they exhaust the mind and consume the hours.

Because people still have to meet their work objectives, deadlines and metrics for success, however, internet slacking is likely to displace not productive work, but other (and lesser) forms of workplace slacking.

7. The internet is educational.
Scanning blogs, RSS feeds and Twitter will inevitably introduce employees to wonderful time-management techniques, and stimulate the mind in other ways. (For example, this article you're reading now could be professionally valuable to you in some way. But aren't you supposed to be "working" instead?)

8. The mind will not be contained.
You can force an employee's body into a cubicle or office, but you can't force her mind to follow.

The human mind is a curiosity engine. Give it nothing to do but work, no way to satisfy curiosity or desire for social interaction, and it will rebel. More specifically, it will retreat into the daydreaming echo chamber. It will wander. It will seek ways to sabotage other employees (because that, at least, is interesting). It will employ its natural ingenuity to find ways to avoid work.

Turn the mind loose on the internet, and it will likely go get whatever it needs when it needs it, then return back to focus on productive work stimulated, inspired and educated.

And finally, we come to telecommuters, extreme telecommuters and digital nomads, and why they're the most productive employees of all. I think the main reason is simply that these workers are unsupervised, and can freely surf the internet for any reason at any time. (Plus, they don't have to sit through so many meetings or waste time commuting.)

As any telecommuter or mobile worker will tell you, they tend to establish a rhythm or process for managing work tasks with personal Web surfing that maximises the quality of both.

It's time for managers to shed old and false assumptions about the relationship between Internet slacking and productivity, and treat all workers like telecommuters.

Slacking works!

Mike Elgan writes about technology and global tech culture for Computerworld.

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