Productivity of employees could be increased by allowing them to resist fewer temptations

Employees at workspaceResearchers have found that resisting the employees from tempting tasks could decrease productivity and increase mistakes in the later tasks.

This research has been published online in the journal PLoS ONE.

In this study, researchers asked 60 participants to perform 13 counting tasks. Researchers divided the participants into two groups: One group was allowed to perform tasks with Willpower Treatment, i.e. to resist a temptation for 10 minutes, whereas the other group was allowed to perform tasks without Willpower treatment. Temptation was the opportunity to watch a humorous video with others instead of silently watching a blinking red button. After this exposure, participants were allowed to continue their remaining tasks. Researchers found that the participants who did not need to resist temptation made significantly fewer mistakes on a subsequent counting task.

Researchers, in this study, noted that employers, at some workplaces, stop the personal internet use during the office hours to increase productivity but this could have negative impacts on the output of the employees.

“Thus, employers should not prohibit … the Internet as many actually do. Instead, employers should either remove the Internet entirely (going instead to an intranet-based system that is locked from the outside world) or, when doing so is impractical, allow employees a certain amount of time – perhaps even as often as several minutes per hour – for personal Internet activity.” Daniel Houser, Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia, told

Researchers have also told about the “breaks” to increase the productivity of the employees while allowing them to do their desired tasks.

“Breaks could be creatively arranged (e.g., lunch breaks could be shortened in light of the “surf-time”) and viewed along the same vein as a “cigarette break,” a “coffee break,” or any short break that leaves the employee free to spend time in a way he/she prefers. Although such breaks were once common, they have become increasingly less so.”

The study has some limitations as for example tasks, which the researchers used, needed considerable attention and the chances of error were little. Therefore, further studies can be done in the workplaces where little concentration is required and the chances of error could be large.

Researchers told, “Our message is therefore that an important way to increase worker productivity is to design the workplace so that employees need to resist fewer temptations.”


Bucciol, A., Houser, D., & Piovesan, M. (2013). Temptation at Work PLoS ONE, 8 (1) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0053713

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One thought on “Productivity of employees could be increased by allowing them to resist fewer temptations

  • February 8, 2013 at 9:55 pm

    The idea of a social media break during the workday relates to my psychology class. My professor will reserve a few minutes each class for people to check text messages or surf the social media of facebook, twitter, etc. Chapter 11 of my textbook covers the subject of obedience, as this article claims to have found studies that employee productivity is higher when an employer loosens the ties. I very interestingly find that productivity is better when sites not related to work cases are unblocked, or if the workplace has a single computer system that excludes the whole internet.


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