Study: ‘Cyberloafing’ could play a workplace wellness role

Researchers posit that surfing the web during work hours can be benign—perhaps even beneficial—to reduce stress and increase productivity.

Are cute cat videos the key to employee engagement, efficiency and workplace wellness?

Probably not, though YouTubing funny felines, surfing dogs, prancing pangolins and Eagles fans running into poles might not be the bane of business productivity after all. According to a study published on Science Direct, researchers assert that “cyberloafing can serve a potentially positive function in that it can help employees cope with workplace boredom.”

The study weighs whether cyberloafing is an acceptable “boredom coping mechanism” rather than an egregious “counterproductive work behavior.” It’s a fraught question every company must contend with in the digital age, especially as evidence mounts that workplace boredom is just as bad (if not worse) than being overworked.

According to PsyPost:

The study of 463 non-instructional university personnel found that employees who reported a relatively low workload were more likely to say they felt bored at their job and got mentally sluggish during the day, which in turn was associated with greater use the internet recreationally at work.

The study asserts that boredom and low workload are the major hindrances to productivity—not necessarily recreational internet use. Of course, there are potential concerns.

Researcher Shani Pindek told PsyPost that too much cyberloafing poses “cybersecurity risks” and can hurt overall work performance. However, she continued: “Under certain stressful situations, engaging in cyberloafing partially buffered the negative effects of workplace stress.”

If you’re concerned about the impact of workplace boredom and stress on productivity, performance and profitability, you might consider your company’s time-off policies. A recent survey of U.S. businesses conducted by TSheets found that:

  • 573,694,800 PTO days were wasted last year.
  • One-third of all workers were prevented from taking time off.
  • More than half of respondents (51 percent) admit to misleading a manager about their reason for missing work.
  • Eighty-nine percent admit to coming to work sick regularly.
  • One-third say they have an unhealthy amount of stress.
  • Employees who don’t take time off report significantly higher stress levels.
  • Sixty percent of those who get PTO work while on vacation.

You can’t expect to prevent your workers from surfing the web, though it’s possible to influence factors that drive excessive time-wasting behaviors. Offering more time off and more flexible work arrangements can go a long way toward reducing stress and boredom, which appear to be the pilot and co-pilot of Cyberloafing Airlines.

Read more about the study’s findings here.

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