Are you reading this while you should be working?
The personal use of the internet during work hours has been dubbed ‘cyberloafing’, but a new study shows that you might not really be to blame for your constant scrolling.
The researchers, from the University of Haifa in Israel and the University of South Florida, focused on whether cyberloafing is counterproductive work behaviour, or whether it was just a response to boredom and not enough to do in the workplace.
“My interest started with the idea of workplace boredom,” psychologist Shani Pindek told PsyPost.
“The reasons and consequences for this boredom are not well-understood. For example, how bad is it, really, for someone to be bored on their jobs? Are there easy ways to deal with boredom on the job that would negate harmful effects?”
The researchers gave a questionnaire to 463 full time employees in a public university in the Southeastern US.
The questions were meant to determine how bored the employees were at work, how often they cyberloafed, their workload, and how often they engaged in other counterproductive work behaviour, like stealing or wasting employer supplies.
What they found is that both boredom and a low workload (known as underload) significantly correlated with cyberloafing.
“Underload was not correlated with counterproductive work behaviour, and the boredom-cyberloafing relationship was significantly stronger than the boredom- counterproductive work behaviour relationship,” the researchers wrote in their paper.
So, scrolling through your Reddit or Instagram might just be a bored coping mechanism, rather than hampering your productivity.
“Cyberloafing is a rather natural response to workplace boredom and it is different from other (more harmful) forms of counterproductive work behaviours,” Pindek told PsyPost.
“Cyberloafing happens more when the workload is low and in many cases it may not [be] harmful to the work. Just make sure not to overdo it!”
But there is at least one reason why you might want to limit the cyberloafing – some behaviours can cause a cybersecurity threat for your organisation.
This study also only looked at a group of university employees in the US, so we can’t say these behaviours are the same everywhere.
But the team is next looking into whether cyberloafing is also used for stress reduction in the workplace.
“In the future we plan to examine the link between what people do when they cyberloaf and what’s going on during the job in terms of stress,” said Pindek to PsyPost.
“For example – if someone was nasty to me at work, would I try to make myself feel better by watching funny cat videos, but avoid going on news websites (assuming news would often invoke a negative mood)?”
In the meantime, enjoy the occasional internet scroll while on work time – and feel free to send this article to any bosses that don’t agree with its productivity benefits.
That being said, we can’t promise they’ll listen.
The study has been published in Computers in Human Behavior.