How long can you go without checking your phone? How often do you go online to check your social media accounts? Think you can go through a whole day at work or in school without unnecessarily going online?
Employees, students, or just about anyone has been found to drift from the task at hand especially after doing so for quite some time. This phenomenon is referred to as cyberloafing.
What Is Cyberloafing?
Cyberloafing, also known as cyberslacking, refers to the habit of going online without specific intention. This is why the term is often equated to procrastination. Cyberloafing is derived from the term goldbricking, which originally refers to applying a gold coating to a brick or worthless metal. Nowadays, both goldbricking and cyberloafing are utilized to refer to going online while pretending to do legitimate work.
The Cyberloafing definition is often narrowed down to connect specifically to the workplace. In the workplace setting, cyberloafing is taken to refer to the habits of employees who take advantage of their workplace’s internet access and computers for personal use while pretending to do legitimate work. This typically includes non-work-related activities during business hours like internet browsing, online shopping, online banking, social networking, sending personal emails, viewing online media, and similar activities.
Similarly, cyberloafing is utilized to refer to students drifting into the internet abyss and end up not accomplishing their school tasks. In the case of students, cyberloafing most likely involves spending too much time on social media, particularly Facebook which is considered by most as the biggest social media time-sink.
Why You Should Care About Cyberloafing
Cyberloafing is traditionally equated to wasting time at work or procrastination, hence it is often seen in a negative light. Some researchers have found a positive side to cyberloafing. And so, the big question arises – Is cyberloafing good or bad? Whether you are an employer, employee, student, or parent, or simply wish to manage your work and downtime balance, you should certainly care about cyberloafing.
Cyberloafing in the Workplace
Cyberloafing has always been viewed to negatively impact employee productivity, which consequently negatively affects overall workplace productivity. Employers emphasize cyberloafing as not just a waste of time (which should have been spent working) but also as a waste of bandwidth. For these reasons, employers have put forth strict rules covering the inappropriate use of computers and other company devices.
But is it bad? Well, researchers say it depends on what people are doing online and how long they are at it. This is to say that spending hours browsing online and getting no work done is definitely not good. However, small breaks or a certain degree of cyberloafing has been found to help employees refocus and deal with workplace stress. It has also been found that the positive effects of cyberloafing, like reduced stress levels and positive emotions, are considerably higher when browsing the internet than when answering personal emails.
As an employer, it would be best to find the right balance. It might indeed be a good idea to block certain websites and social networks to avoid digital distractions. However, take into consideration how your employees are wired. If you find that taking short breaks to browse the internet positively impacts how they work, consider loosening up a bit on your strict internet use policies. Trying to set the line between rejuvenating short online breaks and downright slacking off could be rather tricky.
As an employee, make sure to be your own police. Keep in mind you are in the workplace and have responsibilities to fulfill. At the same time, there are rules and regulations that you, as an employee, must adhere to.
Cyberloafing and Students
As for students, most schools have a strict policy on phone use during class. In universities, electronic gadgets, particularly laptops, are a normal sight during lectures. There have certainly been instances when those gadgets are not utilized for discussion-related purposes. In this case, especially in universities, it’s the student that loses, so to speak.
Cyberloafing for students could negatively impact their study habits and consequently their academic performance. Also, cyberloafing is not limited to the classroom since it can happen at home while doing a project or finishing up homework.
In the case of students, cyberloafing mostly involves social media sites. Hence, it’s often associated with social media jet lag. For instance, instead of studying for an exam or finishing a paper the night before, a student would spend hours scrolling through social media sites instead. The act itself is called cyberloafing; the next day, students may experience social media jet lag for staying up late using social media. The feeling is said to be similar to what travelers feel with jet lag.
4 Things You Can Do To Avoid Cyberloafing
Spending hours doing one task, especially if it involves boring work, can take its toll. This is perhaps the main reason why people often take short breaks to scroll through social media or watch a short video or two.
There is a thin line between taking a break to slacking off. Cyberloafing, therefore, remains a tricky subject especially when it comes down to whether it is a good or bad thing. To make sure you don’t do too much cyberloafing that ends up negatively affecting your productivity, here are some tips.
- Establish Rules
For employers, you can put in place explicit policies prohibiting the personal use of company devices and internet connections. For parents, you can establish ground rules like screen time limits, no-phone during homework time, or similar house rules. You can also set some rules for yourself like 15 minutes on social media after putting in 3 hours of work or whatever works for you.
- Recognize the Addiction (if any)
There is a condition called Nomophobia which is essentially the fear of being detached from mobile phone connectivity. In this case, prohibiting phone use might do more harm than good.
- Have a Monitoring Tool in Place
This works for both employers and parents. There are reliable monitoring apps that work well to monitor device and internet activity. Employers must take note, however, that the use of monitoring software on company devices must be explicitly disclosed to the employees.
- Have Meaningful Work
There are instances where cyberloafing is due to someone being bored at work. Employers must ensure they provide an engaging workplace where employees feel their talents and contributions matter. The same is true in a more personal case. If you are more invested in the task, you will be more motivated to keep at it and would not even think about cyberloafing.
Check Out: How To Reduce Digital Distractions