Cyberloafing: What is it and how can we avoid it?

There is always that one or two moments at work when someone needs a break. Oftentimes, employees use that opportunity to browse the internet. A quick check of WhatsApp groups or twitter updates would be perfect. At other times we may want to update a status on Facebook or see what other people are posting on Instagram. This can be a healthy habit, but there are situations in which this practice can become a hindrance to our work if we take it too far. Just like the old adage: too much of something is poisonous.

In this article, let us learn what cyberloafing is, how it occurs, its causes and effects, and how it can be avoided. So, what is cyberloafing?

Definition of Cyberloafing

Basically, cyberloafing is defined by the Macmillan online dictionary as the practice of using the internet for activities that are not related to work during working hours. The concept was coined in the mid-1990s to refer to the productive use of computers or the internet (cyber). Another term used to mean the same thing as cyberloafing is cyberslacking. Thus, the words cyber (referring to computers and the internet) is combined with either slack or loaf (both words refer to the action of spending time to avoid work). Accordingly, cyberloafing or cyberslacking is the process of avoiding work by browsing the internet or using computers for purposes that are not work-related.

Research shows that between 60 and 80 percent of the time spent on the web during working hours is has nothing to do with work. Men spend more time cyberloafing than women. Majority of workers think that cyberloafing is acceptable, but is it?

Benefits of Cyberloafing

As mentioned in the opening statement, a bit of cyberloafing can be good to relief some work pressure and avoid some meltdown. No one can comfortably say that they spend 100% of their working hours industriously. Although we desire to stay productive at all times, the truth of the matter is that our brains are not wired for work like computers. We need to take some rest in between jobs. Cyberloafing is one of the ways employees can take a break to give their energy time to regenerate.

Disadvantages of Cyberloafing

Using the internet for personal use during working hours can be counterproductive for both the individual and the organization. Smartphones have given a wide range of distractions from work. Employees can be tempted to chat with friends, check the news, check product prices, and catch up with family – all in one hand-held device.

Think about this scenario. You are comfortably working on a project with your Wi-Fi connection on, and shortly you get a notification. That’s great temptation in itself. When you check it, you see a fascinating headline. You open the link to read it, and when you are almost done reading, an advertisement pop-up appears. It is the greatest offer for the microwave you have always been intending to buy, so you decide to make some enquiries. Before you know it, your boss knocks at the door. He wants to see your progress on a very important project. Oops!

Cyberrloafing is sometimes costly for organizations. It can cause loss of productivity, increased expenses, and lost opportunities. A company can lose a lot of working hours through cyberloafing, which translates to millions of dollars on a global scale.

How to Deal with Cyberloafing

To avoid cyberloafing, employers have adopted a variety of strategies. Some companies use surveillance cameras to monitor employees’ activities. Others use proxy servers to limit access to inappropriate content or messaging services. It is also possible to connect all computers with a main server, which allows the management to monitor what employees are doing. Lastly, disciplinary measures may be used to punish those who use the internet for personal use during working hours.

These measures can be effective, but they are often counterproductive because they may lower employee morale, leading to reduced productivity. Thus, managers should balance between the need to take a break and the need for productivity.

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