Many managers want to know why their employees cyberloaf when they are supposed to be working. Answering this question can be a first step in combating the growing tendency for employees to spend time on the internet rather than working. A study in Computers in Human Behavior may have an answer. This study, led by Shani Pindek with colleagues Alexandra Krajcevska and Paul Spector investigated how cyberloafing might be a response to boredom at work.
What Is Cyberloafing?
Cyberloafing occurs when employees use electronic devices, such as computers, phones, or tablets to engage in nonwork behavior rather than performing work tasks. This might involve e-mailing or texting friends, ordering personal items, playing games, or watching videos. It has been noted that the loss of staff time due to cyberloafing can reduce organizational productivity, and be a significant cost.
Everyone certainly experiences boredom from time to time, for example by having to do tasks that are dull and repetitive. For some employees, however, boredom can be a frequent companion, especially when there is too little to do. The feeling of work underload can be stressful, as someone might have a job that is not sufficiently challenging or demanding. As with most stressors, it can lead employees to feel emotional distress, reduced engagement, and lower productivity.
Employee Boredom and Cyberloafing
We surveyed 463 employees about their workload, boredom and cyberloafing. Employees who were underloaded were likely to be bored, and bored employees were likely to cyberloaf. In other words cyberloafing might serve as a means for employees to cope with boredom and underload. Managers who supervise employees in jobs that suffer from underload might assist subordinates in finding productive means to cope with boredom, perhaps by providing engaging tasks or developmental activities that would keep employees focused on work and not their electronic devices.