How many people manage to resist the temptation of Facebook, YouTube, or Twitter at work? If you are reading this at work, you will understand the question. Although psychologists have studied cyber-loafing for years, the recent explosion in social networking and free video sites must surely represent a big threat to employee productivity and organisational competitiveness. But just how destructive is this phenomenon?
Cyberslacking refers to employees' use of their employers' web access during work hours for non-work-related purposes. This can include surfing non-work-related Internet sites, online shopping, instant messaging and using social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter - see my previous post on this. Cyberslacking is generally thought to be a work-avoidance strategy that mostly serves as a means of expressing workplace grievances and, to a lesser extent, as a source of personal gratification. It could also be interpreted as a consequence of employee boredom, of course.Thus cyber-slacking may have positive effects on employees while having negative effects on the organisation, and, in any case, it could be seen as a symptom of poor employee-job fit: i.e., under-utilised workers, de-motivating jobs, too much time spent at work for no real reason.
According to a recent survey by the British employment website MyJobGroup.co.uk, there are now over 2 million UK-based workers (6% of the workforce) spending over an hour of their working day on social networking sites. Unsurprisingly, many employers now ban access to specific web-sites - especially Facebook, MySpace and YouTube. Here's a recent list of the top ten blocked web-sites in the workplace:
10. eBay.com -- 1.6 Percent
9. Meebo.com -- 1.6 Percent
8. Ad.Yieldmanager.com -- 1.8 Percent
7. Orkut.com -- 2.1 Percent
6. Hotmail.com -- 2.1 Percent
5. Twitter.com -- 4.2 Percent
4. Ad.Doubleclick.net -- 5.7 Percent
3. YouTube.com -- 11.9 Percent
2. MySpace.com -- 13 Percent
1. Facebook.com -- 23 Percent
However, some studies suggest that cyber-slacking can also be beneficial even in terms of contributing to higher employee productivity levels (Oravec, 2002). Indeed, it has been reported that cyberslacking does not always lead to work inefficiency (Mahatanankoon et al., 2004) as previously thought. Studies looking at individual differences - notably personality - in cyber-slacking indicate that there the Big Five personality traits explain some of the variability between people's tendency to cyber-slack (Krishnan, 2010).
Yet no studies to date have investigated the interactive effects of cyber-slacking and personality on employees' work satisfaction. We are therefore conducting a brief online survey to examine whether cyber-slacking may affect employee engagement levels different for different personality types, and whether cyber-slacking may affect the relationship between personality and work engagement. The topic of employee engagement is at the centre of human resources and management science today given that there are well-established effects of engagement on individual and organisational productivity. If engagement is low, people are de-motivated and unproductive, and likely to look for other jobs. Conversely, when engagement levels are high, people enjoy their work and perform to their best, which translates into more productive, effective and profitable organisational outputs. Thus understanding the causes and effects of cyber-slacking has important psychological and economic consequences.
Are you a cyber-slacker? Find out here!
Mahatanankoon et al. (2004). Development of a measure of personal web usage in the workplace. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 7. 93-104.
Oravec, J .(2002).Constructive approaches to internet recreation in the workplace. Communications of the ACM, 45, 60-3.