Lead us not into temptation at work: study

05 February 2013 - 12:23 By Times LIVE
File picture of a paper keyboard.
File picture of a paper keyboard.

Researchers have found that resisting the temptation to watch a funny video actually hurts office workers' productivity.

Danish research published in the journal PloS One found that people who were asked not to watch a funny video, who then had one presented to them were more likely to make mistakes and in general have lower output than workers who had not been subjected to temptation.

They split a group of sixty people into two randomly assigned treatments - no willpower, and willpower treatment.

The tests then went on to three phases. The first phase was a simple counting task, the second was a funny video was presented to the test subjects via a red button, and in the third phase there was another counting task.

The only difference between the two groups was that the willpower group was asked not to press the red button. All participants could hear sounds from the video.

"In this paper we find that subjects required to resist the temptation of a humorous video made significantly larger mistakes on a subsequent counting task," the researchers wrote.

"Willpower depletion resulting from resisting the temptation to watch the video may have made concentration on a subsequent labour productivity task more difficult. Alternatively, watching the video may have promoted resource replenishment, enabling higher levels of concentration on the subsequent task," the researchers said.

While the researchers highlighted that one limitation to the study was that people who believe willpower to be a depletable resource tend to treat it like one so further work could be done on manipulating that belief, they also noted that perhaps companies shouldn't provide temptations like the Internet and then ask their employees not to use them.

Alternatively, where not having the Internet available would be impractical, the researchers suggested 'employers might consider allowing regular Internet breaks, in the same way that many currently accommodate short but not infrequent cigarette or coffee breaks.'

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