UK office workers swap tea breaks for i-breaks

Brits are apparently spending six hours of their working week on non-work sites. But is it all for the greater good?

by James Taylor
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013
Should we be horrified by news that we office-bound Brits are spending virtually an entire working day every week reading news, playing games and social networking online? Are we turning into a nation of slackers with the concentration span of a jittery goldfish after a pint of fizzy pop? Not necessarily. In fact, you might argue that these i-breaks – which appear to have supplanted the good old-fashioned tea break, for many people – keep us sane and allow us to stay on top of our other commitments. So counter-intuitively, i-breaks might actually have a net positive effect on productivity…

The survey of 3,000 office staff, by price comparison site GoCompare, found that people are stopping work to surf the web for an average of six hours and 23 minutes every week – almost an entire working day. Newspaper websites were the most popular ports of call, accounting for around a third of this. On top of this, an hour and half is spent on online shopping, a further hour and a quarter on social networking sites, 40 minutes on online banking, and the rest on playing computer games and watching videos of cats falling over amusingly (etc).

So why are we spending all this time not working? Well, one in five said they were forced to do this stuff at work because of their hectic schedules (we’re guessing this isn’t the gaming people). As GoCompare points out, we’re working longer hours than ever before – so doing stuff like online banking and shopping at work is the only way we can square the circle. If companies try and put a stop to this, they may end up alienating their staff.

The other point is that it’s actually good for us to remove our nose from the grindstone every now and then. In fact, two-thirds of those surveyed said that an i-break leaves them feeling more refreshed and focused, and thus better able to cope with their workload. And logging onto Amazon is admittedly less time-consuming than going outside for a cheeky fag.

However, we can’t help feeling this misses the point slightly. Breaks are good – but staring at your screen for another hour isn’t much of a break from…staring at your screen all day. So maybe you’re better off stretching your legs and making a coffee. Even if won’t get your weekly shop done.

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