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Does ‘cyberloafing’ have a negative or positive impact on productivity?

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"Does 'cyberloafing' have a negative or positive impact on productivity?"
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Over the past few years the buzz word "cyberloafing" has appeared in many circles relating to business. According to, the term is a slang word to describe employees who spend their working hours engaged in online activities that do not have anything to do with work.

In March 2013, U.S. News reported a on study published by Kansas State University. The research 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 do cyberloafers do?

Employees that cyberloaf are involved with a number of different activities which fall into two general categories: entertainment and personal business. In the leisure realm of things, people tend to spend time on social media websites, playing online games, video watching, streaming and viewing live events and using instant messaging applications to chat with family and friends. Personal business people engage in includes online shopping, banking, job searches and emails.

Although, perhaps email is 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. This Financial Times article gives an interesting perspective on how cyberloafing can impact one's workday, for better or worse.

How cyberloafing negatively affects business

Reports suggest businesses are losing thousands of dollars per year for each employee that cyberloafs, which equates to a multimillion dollar problem (one number put out there is at about $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 indicates everyone needs a break.

Taking a breather and engaging in another activity to relieve stress can lead to happier employees, which in turn generally leads to higher productivity. Instead of a cafeteria or smoke break, people these days turn to the Internet. And a 2009 study supports this, noted Mother Nature Network.

Is cyberloafing a problem in modern workplaces?

Whether or not cyberloafing is a serious problem likely depends on specific behaviors by employees in any given organization. In some companies it may be a serious problem, but in others maybe not so much.

What it boils down to in the end is balance. Employees that do not waste hours of the day away on cyberloaf activities are likely to find their employees will not mind if non-work related Internet activity is limited to lunch hours and breaks.

More about this author: Leigh Goessl

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