Once in a while, you’ve probably reached for your phone to check on your socials during work hours. Headlines that pop out of the side of your desktop may be hard to resist, particularly because it’s about current events. In some cases, you probably clicked on those job-hunting sites, even without the intention of applying for one.
Cyberloafing, also known as cyberslacking, is when a person uses “their Internet access at work for personal use while pretending to do legitimate work.” This includes accessing one’s personal email, watching videos, and browsing social media accounts. It sounds bad but it’s the reality of any workplace today. According to Business Chief, an American employee can “waste 2.09 hours every eight-hour work day”.
Did you know that cyberslacking costs companies billions of dollars in loss productivity? https://t.co/tncXonOojL#cyberslacking #personalemail #socialnetwork #rrss #IM #productivity #RITech #webisolation pic.twitter.com/z9MHs73qSn
— Randed (@randed_spain) July 5, 2019
Idle time is always present in any office setting. Unless you have been running the office non-stop for 8 hours, 5 days a week, you are bound to have a few minutes to sit back. Other cases of cyberloafing may come from a lack of workload. Some may be discontented with the work itself and find their jobs boring.
There are boundaries and rules to be aware of to manage cyberloafing. A company would usually have firm policies and regulations regarding the use of its resources, including accessing the internet. They can monitor an employee’s internet usage and visited pages. In other cases, some employers use extra precautions to check or limit internet usage.
Of course, businesses must practice caution to avoid becoming too invasive of the privacy of their employee. Apart from laws differing depending on the region, it goes without saying that these rules should be applied only with the consent of their employees. That being said, consent may become invalid in certain circumstances, such as the case of a Romanian employee chatting using their personal account and being fired for it. In this scenario, the ruling was in favor of the employee because the employer didn’t respect their employee’s privacy.
On one hand, cyberloafing can negatively affect the business. However, on the other hand, idle time is unavoidable and, in some cases, may be helpful to prevent employees from burning out at work. Even amongst those in a work-from-home or hybrid setup, mental awareness within the workplace can improve not just the overall performance of an employee but also interpersonal relationships within the workplace. Rather than going for immediate administrative action, employers should also show support as cyberloafing can be a result of situations such as a lack of motivation, resistance towards organizational changes, or underutilization/overutilization of skills.
Congratulations to Dr. Zhou, Dr. Pindek & PhD student Ethan Ray for their paper on "Browsing away from rude emails: Effects of daily active and passive email incivility on employee cyberloafing." published in Journal of Occupational Health Psychology! https://t.co/K29tC0isyt pic.twitter.com/KzaeffqzM6
— IO at Baruch (@IOatBaruch) April 19, 2022
Tackling the situation
With today’s vast array of resources, not to mention the spotlight on an employee’s well-being in the past few years, it’s no longer a black-and-white scenario of cyberloafing. As with everything else, there must be a balance between a well-deserved time off and blatant misuse of company resources. Efforts to curb the situation must come from both the employee and employer.
While employees shouldn’t overuse company resources and slack off while no one’s looking, employers shouldn’t misuse their power to encroach on their employee’s personal life and simply punish them. Instead, they should work together to gain each others’ trust which can range from simply following the rules to having training sessions to understand the situation. This way, both can support each other to maintain a professional working relationship and avoid excessive cyberloafing.