A new study has been published in the Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace on the problem of cyberloafing, highlighting not only the cost to business but also the cost to individuals. Cyberloafing is a major drain on productivity, yet it is all too common. Employees who engage in cyberloafing can also seriously damage their career prospects.

The Business Cost of Cyberloafing

Employers are paying their employees to work, yet a significant amount of time is lost to cyberloafing. Cyberloafing dramatically reduces productivity and eats up company profits. The study was conducted on 273 employees and cyberloafing was measured along with the traits that led to the behaviour.

The study revealed a correlation between dark personality traits such as psychopathy, Machiavellianism and narcissism, but also showed that employees are wasting huge amounts of time simply because they can get away with it. The sites most commonly visited were not social media sites, but news websites and retail sites for online shopping.

In an ideal world, employees would be able to do their jobs and allocate some time each day to personal Internet use without any losses in productivity. Some employees do just that and curb personal Internet use and do not let it interfere with their work duties. However, for many employees, cyberfloafing is a problem and huge losses are suffered by employers as a result.

A 2013 study on cyberloafing conducted by Salary.com showed that 69% of employees waste time at work every day, with 64% visiting non-work related websites. Out of those individuals, 39% said they wasted up to an hour on the Internet at work, 29% wasted 1-2 hours, and 32% wasted more than 2 hours a day.

Cyberloafing can make a huge dent in company profits. A company with 100 employees, each of whom spend an hour a day on personal Internet use, would see productivity losses of in excess of 25,000 man-hours a year.

Productivity losses caused by cyberloafing are not the only problem – or cost. When employees use the Internet for personal reasons, their actions slow down the network resulting in slower Internet speeds for all. Personal Internet use increases the risk of malware and viruses being introduced, which can cause further productivity losses. The cost of resolving those infections can be considerable.

What Can Employers do to Reduce Productivity Losses?

First of all, it is essential that the workforce is advised of company policies relating to personal Internet use. Informing the staff about what is an acceptable level of personal Internet use and what constitutes unacceptable behaviour ensures everyone is aware of the rules. They must also be advised of the consequences of cyberloafing.

The Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace study suggests “a worker’s perceived ability to take advantage of an employer is a key part of cyberloafing.” By increasing monitoring and making it clear that personal Internet use is being noted, it serves as a good deterrent. When personal Internet use reaches problem levels there should also be repercussions for the employees concerned.

If there are no penalties in place for employees that break the rules and company policies are not enforced, little is likely to change.

As for what those penalties are is down to the employer. Action could be taken against the individuals concerned via standard disciplinary procedures such as verbal and written warnings. Controls could be put in place to curb Internet activity – such as blocks placed on certain websites – social media sites/news sites for example – when employees are spending too much time online. Those blocks could be temporary or even time-based, only allowing personal Internet use during breaks or at times when workloads are typically low.

WebTitan – An Easy Solution to Reduce Productivity Losses and Curb Cyberloafing

Such controls are easily applied with WebTitan. WebTitan is an Internet filter for enterprises that can be used to reclaim lost productivity and block access to web content that is unacceptable in the workplace.

WebTitan allows Internet controls to be easily set for individual employees, user groups, or the entire organisation, with the ability to apply time-based web filtering controls.

Preventing all employees from accessing the Internet for personal reasons may not be the best way forward, as that could have a negative impact on morale which can similarly reduce productivity. However, some controls can certainly help employers reduce productivity losses. Internet filtering can also lower legal liability by preventing illegal activities and the accessing of adult content in the workplace and can help to prevent the development of a hostile work environment.

If you are interested in improving productivity and enforcing Internet usage policies in your organization, contact TitanHQ to discuss your options.