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‘Cyberloafing’ by Employees Can Cost Companies Dearly; How To Combat It

If employees feel unhappy about their work because they're overloaded, lack confidence, or can't manage their time well, they might resort to cyberloafing.
Cover Image Source: Employees are using the web for personal use for work hours (representative image) | Photo by Karolina Grabowska | Pexels
Cover Image Source: Employees are using the web for personal use for work hours (representative image) | Photo by Karolina Grabowska | Pexels

A rising issue in today's workplace, when employers are eager to maximize every second and layoffs appear to be a huge concern, is that many workers are not making the most use of their time. Instead of focusing on work-related duties, many employees browse the internet for personal purposes during working hours. It can also happen in 60-80% of cases, per one study. This issue has most likely gotten worse due to factors like social media's popularity and remote work.

Companies find it more difficult to keep everyone focused when workers have the option to work from home or in a hybrid environment and social media temptation is always present. This practice, known as "cyberloafing," presents a serious problem for employers. Cyberloafing is the act of posing as an employee while using the internet for personal purposes as opposed to traditional slacking off, where an employee might just take a break. This is detrimental to focus and productivity and can also harm the company's overall success.

Image Source: Photo by SHVETS production | Pexels
Browsing the web for personal purposes during work hours is on the rise (representative image) | Photo by SHVETS production | Pexels

Pawel Korzynski and Olga Protsiuk from Kozminski University researched to find out more. Their goal was to find out why workers indulge in cyberloafing and what steps companies might take to prevent it. Companies can improve the working environment and increase employee job satisfaction by addressing this issue.

The researchers began by observing how workload, self-confidence, and cyberloafing are linked in real life. They saw a project manager dealing with tight deadlines who often took online breaks to relax, suggesting that heavy workloads might lead to more cyberloafing. On the other hand, a confident sales representative rarely got distracted online, hinting that self-confidence could reduce cyberloafing. Based on these observations and previous studies, the researchers guessed that feeling confident would mean less cyberloafing while heavy workloads would lead to more cyberloafing as people need breaks to relieve stress.

They surveyed 217 workers from the retail jewelry industry in Ukraine, asking about their cyberloafing habits, workload, confidence, time management, and job satisfaction. Surprisingly, they found that good time management was linked to less cyberloafing, but the data didn't fully support their guesses about workload and confidence. However, they found that job satisfaction was crucial. Heavy workloads made people less happy with their jobs and more likely to cyberloaf while feeling confident made people happier with their job and less likely to cyberloaf. Good time management also meant less cyberloafing and more job satisfaction.

According to the study, an employee's level of job satisfaction has an impact on their behavior at work. Employees frequently come to dislike their jobs when they feel overworked and uncertain about their ability to complete the tasks at hand. They may seek out stress-reduction techniques as a result of their discontent.

This can be done by, for example, using their work computer time for passive activities such as browsing social media or shopping. For example, an employee may be highly stressed and afraid that they will not complete the task by the deadline if the task seems daunting. When employees are passionate about their jobs, even if they have a lot to do at work or aren’t very confident about their skills, they are less likely to waste time online. They are more likely to focus on positive aspects of their job such as how much they earn, how they work, or how they get along with their coworkers.

Image Source: Photo by Karolina Grabowska | Pexels
Disengaged workers indulge in cyberloafing | Photo by Karolina Grabowska | Pexels

To stop employees from slacking off online, companies need to make sure their workers are happy with their jobs. This includes understanding what aspects of their work make them happy or unhappy and taking steps to address any concerns. Surveys can be a useful tool for gathering data on job satisfaction in different work environments, and help identify areas for improvement. Companies should then take action to address any gaps, such as increasing job security, improving working conditions, recognizing employees’ contributions, providing greater autonomy in projects and regular meetings at work between supervisors and employees can also help identify and resolve potential issues.

Psychologist Albert Bandura argues that efficacy beliefs can change depending on context and task availability. To increase efficiency, companies can focus on ensuring that employees’ skills match the requirements of their positions. Providing opportunities for skill development and recognizing success can also enable individuals to fulfill their responsibilities more effectively.

To help employees manage their time better, companies can train them in time management and using technology. This is especially important for employees who work both in the office and from home. Companies should also be flexible with schedules and rules to fit different ways of managing time, to avoid causing stress. Letting employees manage their time in their own way can prevent them from getting unhappy and stop them from slacking off online.

Setting clear goals, doing important tasks first, and taking regular breaks can help employees stay focused and avoid wasting time online. Making sure their job matches their interests and skills, asking for feedback, and knowing what's expected of them can also make them happier with their job and stop them from slacking off online.