Daydreaming can take up as much as half of a typical workday. Some research suggests this may be a good thing. Wandering minds can help us adapt to problems, because by briefly changing our focus, we can solve problems more creatively. That’s not to say daydreaming is always benign.
We want the ER surgeon to focus, for example. When it comes to one-time tasks, daydreaming is suboptimal. Erik Dane, an associate professor of management, has tried to bridge these two different views of mind wandering at work. He suggests that while daydreaming can undermine productivity, it is also a critical problem-solving tool. He concluded that a wandering mind can be positive if it wanders to work-related topics, helping employees conceive of possibilities not previously considered.