People who use the Internet for personal things during work time are actually doing companies more good than harm. Called “cyberloafing”, the act of looking at YouTube, or doing some shopping on eBay during office hours can make people happier in their work. According to a new study of cyberloafing people who use the Internet at work for personal activities could actually be doing their bosses a favour.
The research discovered that people who are allowed to use the Internet freely at work tend to be more amenable to doing work at home, out of office hours. In other words, they see work as part of their life, rather than separating work and home. For employers, though, the research found another interesting factor: many people use the Internet at work for personal things because they are so bored in the office. People who consistently use the Internet for non-work activities are sending a message to their bosses – “give us something interesting to do”.
Meanwhile, bosses appear to be making every attempt possible to stop people using the Internet at work for personal things. Banning Facebook or YouTube is commonplace, with many companies now actively blocking certain sites using their firewall software.
Look in many American business magazines these days and you will find several advertisements for employee monitoring software – so you can spy on your staff and then deal with their cyberloafing or find which sites you need to block.
It all suggests potential problems for business. Bosses are focusing on the wrong thing. Rather than worry themselves silly over how they can stop staff from cyberloafing, they should be encouraging it. Giving staff the freedom to do what they like online in office hours can actually boost productivity. But this only happens when people have an interesting job to do. Big businesses in particular need to focus on job design more than anything else.
And if you are in small business – or are self-employed – and find that cyberloafing fills some or much of your day, it’s a clue that you don’t enjoy your work as much as you think.