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Decoding cyberloafing: Is it the distracting factor at work or a de-stressing factor?

If you spend most of your time on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc at work, then you are guilty of cyberloafing. Here’s how much is too much when it comes to social media usage while working.

more lifestyle Updated: Aug 29, 2017 14:14 IST
Abhinav Verma
Abhinav Verma
Hindustan Times
Cyberloafing,Cyberloafing At Work,How To Deal With Cyberloafing
According to Google, cyberloafing can be defined as situation where an employee engages in non-work related online activities while being on the clock.(Istock)

Ever wondered why sometimes it becomes hard for us to concentrate on work during the working hours? While some of us have a short attention span, and tend to get distracted by distractions such as a dictator like boss, love interest at work, chatter boxes in your cubicle and others. These are only one side of the coin, the Internet and social media combine for the other side. The moment we sit in front of our systems, most of us are prone to checking- Facebook, Instagram, YouTube. By the time you are done surfing and checking who posted what on social media, half the day has already passed.

According to Google,this counterproductive behaviour at the work, where an employee engages in non-work online activities while being on the clock, is defined as cyberloafing. Cyberloafing is detrimental to an organisation because by being distracted, the employees ends up stealing company’s time. An employee may be not purposefully engaging in cyberloafing but none the less it is detrimental.

According to psychologist Pulkit Sharma and Dr. Anil Sethi, psychologist and counselor, cyberloafing is not easy to decode as it sounds. In fact, it’s a complex issue, which is both productive and counterproductive, depending on the situation. So, read on as they explain cyberloafing for us.

Why an employee cyberloafs

One of the main reasons why employees cyberloaf is lack of interest in one’s work. Also, to successfully integrate in the work culture of a place, employee’s interpersonal relationships at work play an important role. Earlier, people used to bond over tea or coffee at work but nowadays — in this age and time — people are more interested in virtual world of social media rather than bonding over tea. Mostly, work shirkers are found guilty of cyberloafing. While, a few employees cyberloaf because they know that the company is too lax to do anything about it. However, at times employees can’t help but cyberloaf as they have already finished their work before time.

However, employees also cyberloaf, after they have finished their work and have nothing else to do. And at times, they can’t help browse social media because it’s a part of their job.

In moderation, it can be helpful as well

Employees aren’t machines, and it’s unjust to expect them to work like one. They need breaks to refresh themselves and that’s where social media comes into play. According to various studies, browsing in moderation can help relieve stress. So, a short break taken by an employee to cyberloaf can prove productive as well.

So, how do you deal with it?

If you think that blocking websites or monitoring employee’s usage of social media is the answer then think again! By doing this, employees might feel that their privacy is being invaded; they feel restrictive at work place. This can lead to an unpleasant environment at work.

It’s usually the de-motivated employees who slack. Rather than restricting the use of social media websites, the employer needs to spend one-on-one time with them and figure out what motivates them. Also, rather than restricting them through constant supervision, one ought to give freedom to the employees to work the way they want to. One of the solutions is to give employees access to social media only when they are not on their workstations or are in cafeteria. Another useful tactic that managers can use is that they can devise their subordinates’ schedule in such a manner that employees can pace their work well during the day. This way employees can maintain balance between underworking and overworking employees.

Here’s what the working netizens have to say about cyberloafing

As longs it’s done on the employee’s personal device and not on company’s servers, it’s totally acceptable and somewhat important for de-stressing the work environment. Reading a joke or watching a funny video or just a chat with your friends decompresses the pressure and enhance a person’s mood and one can start afresh after that it’s similar to what a smoking break does to a nicotine addict as social media today is akin to an addiction. And it’s inhumane to deny people there fix.

Shashwat Gupta, 28, Mekatronic solutions

I am an engineer, I spend my entire time in front of a system [at work] and I think cyberloafing depends on the situation. You need to give yourself a mental break while working in front a system. Since, most people’s interpersonal relationships are through their phones and internet, therefore it also helps to release stress. Yes, its true people who are not motivated and uninterested, tend to cyberloaf as a way to kill time. But banning websites or surveilling their social media usage is not the correct way to go about it. Best way to deal with them is to motivate them.

Rahul Jaiswal, 32, Engineer

In my organisation, using social media websites is banned. I think it’s important to give employees a certain level of freedom. Using social media or Google in a limited capacity can definitely help employees de-stress, it also helps them bonding with others. However, as a manager, if I find my employee wasting time on social media then definitely I will pull them up for it. I think it all depends on an individual, if one is motivated then one would not indulge in cyberloaf. The best way to deal with this for companies is hiring people who are motivated and have a high conscientiousness and are emotionally stable, rather than curbing the employee’s freedom at work.

Silky Gandhi, 28, Assistant Manager

Few of us work for 10-12 hours straight and accessing social media sporadically while working ensures that we are stress free. Since we don’t even get time to socialise, cyberloafing can help us stay in touch with friends and family. However, this doesn’t mean that people should be cyberloafing all the time. Managers need to be smart while creating a working schedule for their employees. They need to ensure that their employees are given a certain degree of freedom and breaks in the middle. But they must also make sure that employees are pacing their work in such a manner that they are not finishing their work before the day ends.

Sakshi Shokeen, 27, Tax Consultant

First Published: Aug 29, 2017 10:43 IST