There are various HR and productivity-related factors businesses should be aware of to maintain a high level of efficiency and maximize their chances of getting the best out of their workforce.
One such concept is cyberloafing - a distinctly 21st-century idea that, left unmonitored, could place a significant drain on your time and become a serious problem for the organization as a whole.
If this is something that isn't currently attracting much attention in your company, it's worth asking if you should be focusing on it.
What is cyberloafing?
In the simplest terms, cyberloafing is the habit of employees using their internet access and work devices to engage in activities that are unrelated to their job and make no contribution to the business.
There are many ways this could manifest itself, such as people checking their personal social media accounts and spending time looking at news websites and other content online that has no relation to their work.
Many employers are likely to have seen this become a bigger concern in recent years, partly as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent increase in remote working. When you have a geographically diverse workforce and a large proportion of people doing their jobs from home, it can be more challenging to track how efficiently employees are using their time.
Research by AT&T has revealed that a hybrid model - one that combines remote working with a certain number of days in the office - will be the preferred option for many businesses in the coming years. However, the study also showed that 72% of employers don't have a dedicated hybrid strategy, suggesting many are unprepared for the difficulties that could result from this way of working.
The link to productivity and engagement
Cyberloafing is linked to other concepts such as coasting, whereby employees only do the bare minimum required to avoid attracting attention to themselves and keep their managers off their backs.
According to the October 2021 CNBC | Momentive Workforce Happiness Index, 39% of workers in the US admit they're coasting.
There's also a clear connection to employee engagement. If members of your workforce are taking every opportunity to waste time online rather than focusing on activities that make use of their skills and generate value, it suggests they're not particularly engaged in their jobs.
Again, this is a common problem, with the proportion of engaged employees dropping to 34% in 2021, Gallup research showed. This was the first decline recorded in more than a decade. Nearly one in six respondents (16%) said they were actively disengaged in their work and workplace.
How to manage cyberloafing
One of the first questions to consider is how much of an impact cyberloafing is having on your business. It's possible that, while it's occurring, it may not be having a particularly detrimental effect on the performance and productivity of the workforce.
If employees are only taking occasional short breaks to browse news websites or social media platforms between work tasks, for example, it could actually contribute to their efficiency.
After all, it's important for people to be able to decompress and occasionally switch off from their jobs, particularly if they're at home and the boundaries between their work and personal lives are becoming blurred.
However, if productivity is falling in your business and you're concerned that cyberloafing could be one of the reasons why, try to look for the root causes of the problem. Workforce surveys and direct efforts to collect feedback from your staff might reveal issues with low engagement, in which case you should plan actions to address and tackle the problem.
You could also consider measures that will help you track the activity of remote workers and other employees. This might include implementing technologies to monitor emails and calls, using time-tracking software or introducing task management apps.
However, it's important to be aware of the wider impact these steps could have. Employees won't like feeling that they're being spied on or their employer doesn't trust them, so look for the right balance between monitoring productivity and giving your people a level of autonomy and control.
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