Cyberloafing: Is it Really an Epidemic?

April 26th, 2013

Ask any group of managers to take a quick look around the office and list the top ten staffing issues they see as obstacles to company productivity, and they’ll answer in a similar way. They’ll talk about bad apple employees who undermine morale, confusion regarding project instructions, meetings that waste time and go on way too long, and absenteeism. They’ll probably also say something about cyberloafing, or the anxious irritation they feel when walking past an employee cubicle and seeing non-work related internet activity on the computer screen…for the third or fourth time that day.

It’s true that when the internet is made available to office employees, they’ll probably spend at least a small amount of time surfing the web each day for non-work related reasons. And if internet access is blocked or employees are prevented from visiting popular sites or public email accounts, employers will feel a backlash of justified resentment. But is there anything else about the practice of cyberloafing that employers and managers should know?

Cyberloafing and Productivity

As it turns out, the answer is simpler than you might expect: not really. Multiple HR studies a have been spawned by employer anxiety regarding the internet and its potential as a time-drain. But the results of these studies generally reassure employers and confirm what they already know: 1.) Employees like having internet access, and 2.) when they have it, they don’t use it very often.

About 60 to 80 percent of the time employees spend on the internet while they’re at work is spent on non-work related activity. But in most workplaces, these work hours spent on the internet are usually minimal and limited to five minute breaks between long projects, the first few minutes of the morning, and a few minutes stolen during the day to take care of personal responsibilities (such as making a dentist’s appointment) that take nothing away from employers. In fact, the ability to manage these responsibilities quickly while on the premises actually frees employees from distraction and allows them to remain in the office for longer periods of time.

So before you decide to panic and crack down on what appears to be an “epidemic” of loafing and low productivity, think carefully. Limiting internet access may actually create more problems than it solves. And in the meantime, there may be bigger time drains taking place all around you that offer a great return on each minute of your energy and attention.

Need help finding ways to get the most out of your talented employees? The NC staffing experts at PSU can help. Contact our office for a consultation today.

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