Are you in danger of getting fired because of too much gaming at work? If so, here's a scientific study you need to know about (and perhaps slip into the "to-read" pile on your boss's desk): "Games at work: the recreational use of computer games during working hours."
In this study, the European author (+1 if you can guess his nationality) tests the hypothesis that online gaming during working hours, often considered the most flagrant form of "cyberslacking", may actually improve employee productivity.
Halo screengrab by Brian Wright
The idea is that workers, when confronted with tasks requiring concentration, become physically and psychologically fatigued and thus perform less efficiently. A quick recovery is essential for maintaining a high level of overall productivity, even if it means a break from work-related tasks.
According to the author, there are four aspects essential to successful recovery from job fatigue: 1. Psychological detachment from work (forgetting how crappy your job is), 2. Relaxation (calming down so you can respond appropriately the next time the shit hits the fan), 3. Mastery experiences (gaining skills in outside activities to improve general confidence), and 4. Feeling in control (in contrast to the lack of control many of us have in our day jobs). What recreational task fulfills all these requirements? Gaming, of course!
The author emailed 10,000 users of a popular online gaming portal and got 1,212 to complete a survey that included questions relating to their gaming habits and how they feel before and after gaming. (The participants were given a sweet 5-euro credit to the gaming site for completing the 15-minute survey.) The survey revealed that, as predicted, online gaming seems to ease recovery from job fatigue:
"It was predicted that video and computer games elicit four different aspects of recover experience: psychological detachment, relaxation, mastery, and control. This basic assumption was confirmed by the data. Participants who play computer games during working hours associated substantial levels of recovery experience with this activity."
The author goes on to show that highly-fatigued workers and those without emotional support at work are even more likely to rely on gaming to feel better:
"Furthermore, individuals with higher levels of work-related fatigue reported stronger recovery experience during gameplay and showed a higher tendency to play games during working hours than did persons with lower levels of work strain. Additionally, the social situation at work was found to have a significant influence on the use of games. Persons receiving less social support from colleagues and supervisors played games at work more frequently than did individuals with higher levels of social support."
Now if only we could find a study that justifies taking the day off altogether...
Lillian Fritz-Laylin and Meredith Carpenter run NCBI ROFL, a blog devoted to scientific malingering.