Some 'Cyberloafing' is OK, Study Says

Employees feel that 'cyberloafing' - the non-work related use of their workplace computer -- is acceptable and helps them work better.

This is according to a study by Associate Professor Vivien K.G. Lim and Don J.Q. Chen of the NUS Business School at the National University of Singapore. A total of 191 completed surveys were collected, yielding a response rate of 32 percent. Men made up 34 percent of the respondents.

The study 'Cyberloafing at the workplace: Gain or drain on work?' found that, on the average, employees in Singapore spend about 51 minutes per workday on cyberloafing. This compares to the 10 hours per employee a week, found by earlier studies, for example the US WebSense.com study.

Personal e-mailing, instant messaging, and visiting news websites were the commonly cited cyberloafing activities, noted the NUS researchers.

In general, respondents to the survey felt that some form of cyberloafing at work was acceptable. They also perceived cyberloafing to have a positive impact on work.

"Interestingly, findings suggested that browsing activities have a positive impact on employees' work engagement while emailing activities have a negative impact," the authors noted.

Gender Divide in Attitudes

The survey findings showed that men were more likely to cyberloaf than women.

"Men and women also differed significantly in the amount of time they spent on cyberloafing at the workplace," the authors said. "Men reported spending slightly more than an hour (61 minutes) a day on cyberloafing at work, while women reported that they spent about 46 minutes."

But there was more agreement between the members of the two genders in terms of the acceptability of cyberloafing. When asked to indicate whether they felt that it was appropriate for them to use their workplace Internet access for personal purposes during working hours, about 97 percent of men and 85 percent of women reported that it was acceptable for employees to cyberloaf at the workplace.

How much cyberloafing is OK?

One of the questions in the survey was how much cyberloafing at the workplace was acceptable. Respondents felt that cyberloafing at work was permissible insofar as it did not exceed 1 hour and 15 minutes per day.

According to the survey results, about 75 percent of respondents agreed with the statement that 'cyberloafing helps make work more interesting', and 57 percent reported that engaging in cyberloafing help them deal with practical issues and personal issues. In addition, 52 percent of respondents agreed with the statement that 'cyberloafing makes them a better and more interesting worker' and 49 percent indicated that cyberloafing helps them deal with problems they encounter at work.

Based on the findings of the study, the authors have this piece of advice for companies: "Browsing activities allow for some relief at work and may motivate employees to perform better. Thus, in designing workplace Internet policies, companies should allow employees to use the company's internet access for non-work related online activities that have a positive effect on work."

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