Is cyberloafing a problem for employers?

Over the past few years the buzz word "cyberloafing" has appeared in many circles. According to Webopedia, the term is a slang word that describes employees who spend their working hours engaging in online activities that do not have anything to do with work.

In March 2013, U.S. News reported on a study published by Kansas State University. The research
Image credit: Pixabay
found between 60 and 80 percent of people cyberloaf. Also sometimes referred to as "cyberslacking", some say this has become a real problem when it comes to the level of productivity; others say -- not so much.

What are Cyberloafers Doing?

Employees that cyberloaf are involved with a number of different activities which are fall into two general categories: entertainment and personal business.

In the leisure realm of things, people tend to engage in:
  • Social media
  • Online games
  • Video watching, streaming and viewing live events
  • Instant messaging applications to chat with family and friends.
Personal business people engage in includes:
  • Online shopping
  • Banking and bill paying
  • Job searches
  • Reading and responding to email
Although, perhaps email should be isolated in a category of its own. According to the U.S. News report, email is a "gateway distraction" to different cyberloafing activities because it opens up numerous ways to get sidetracked from work tasks and enticed in other Web activities.

How Cyberloafing Negatively Affects Business

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Reports suggest businesses are losing thousands of dollars per year for each employee that cyberloafs, which equates to a multibillion-dollar problem (one number put out there is $650 billion). As a result of people getting distracted with online entertainment and personal business, reportedly productivity has decreased, which ultimately has a negative impact on profitability. This leads to some businesses blocking certain websites or monitoring employee Internet use, which can lead to staff morale problems and other ethical issues in an organization.

But Are Workers Really Slackers?

The term "cyberloafing" has been said to have been derived from the term "goldbricking" which is basically another work for slacker, or something that appears to possess value, but in reality, is worthless.

But is cyberloafing really that costly? An article by Mother Nature Network, points out Laura Vanderkam, author of "All the Money in the World: What the Happiest People Know About Getting and Spending," says no. Vanderkam says everyone needs a break and this can lead to happier employees, which in turn generally leads to higher productivity. Which makes sense in a today's hyper-cyber focused activities. Instead of a cafeteria or smoke break, people these days turn to the Internet. And a 2009 study supports this, along with a couple other research reports.

Is cyberloafing a problem in modern workplaces?

Whether or not this is an issue likely depends on specific behaviors in individual organizations. Some employees will take advantage of the opportunity to slack off cyberloaf, others will make sure their work is done first. Yet others might not even realize they are cyberloafing, especially since mobile has become such a big part of today's routines.

What it boils down to in the end is balance. And a conversation in the workplace about it can help restore that balance if it is off-kilter. Employees that do not waste the day away on cyberloaf activities are likely to find their employers mostly will not mind if it's limited to lunch hours, breaks and/or other periods of downtime, as long as the amount of time spent online isn't abused.

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