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On-the-job leisure is a pervasive feature of the modern workplace. We studied its impact on work performance in a laboratory experiment by either allowing or restricting Internet access. We used a 2x2 experimental design in which subjects completing real-effort work tasks could earn cash according to either individual- or team-production incentive schemes. Under team pay, production levels were significantly lower when Internet browsing was available than when it was not. Under individual pay, however, no differences in production levels were observed between the treatment in which Internet was available and the treatment in which it was not. In line with standard incentive theory, individual pay outperformed team pay across all periods of the experiment when Internet browsing was available. This was not the case, however, when Internet browsing was unavailable. These results demonstrate that the integration of on-the-job leisure activities into an experimental labor design is crucial for uncovering incentive effects.


This is a pre-copy-editing, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in Experimental Economics in April 2014. The final publication is available at Springer via DOI: 10.1007/s10683-014-9401-4.

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