Cyberslacking refers to the use of a company’s computer and internet connection for personal activities when one should be doing work.
It’s not the occasional email, or lunchtime Facebook status check that’s deserves the name, it’s the excessive use of work time to play on the internet. Those times when you look up one little thing and 30 minutes later you’re in an internet black hole arguing, or buying another light sabre or watching cat videos. And of course mobile phones make it even easier.
It’s not a new thing, as early as 2000 reports flagged the cost of lost productivity as more than 50 billion USD in the US. The same report notes that companies were already taking action, putting in place specific internet use policies and firing the greatest violators – such as employees spending as much as 8 hours a day on gambling sites. More recent estimates put the costs to a business at 35 million per year for a company of just 1000 people, if each employee cyberslacked for an hour a day.
Some companies see this as a loss of productivity, effectively money down the drain and seek to monitor or to limit access to all non-work internet sites for all employees.
Employees find their own strategies; blocking access on work machines means they’ll use their own devices, trying to watch over their shoulder leads to cheeky solutions like the “look busy” button on Last Minute’s Australian site (it used to be on more of their sites, but apparently only the Australians kept their sense of humour).
There is some research showing that people who take internet breaks at work are more productive. I’m inclined to agree, if people are busy with meaningful work and producing great results, brief internet breaks are not going to cause a dramatic drop in productivity. In fact if managers focus on results the fear of productivity loss goes away.
This holds true even in extreme cases; the guy playing on online gambling sites all day is unlikely to produce the expected quality of work – addressing that issue early could have a better outcome for both the company and the employee.
This focus on results is one of the key principles of the Results Only Work Environment (ROWE), in fact in a ROWE the time spent on the job becomes irrelevant, employees are trusted to use their judgement to plan their workdays. In my view it’s a much healthier than putting increasing layers of monitoring on employee’s use of internet.
I guess I’m in favour of mild cyberslacking.