What do you call it when users get online for some reason, find themselves on a part of the Internet that is not, strictly speaking, work related, and then find that an hour or more of productive time has been lost to the ether? Well, maybe what you call it is more accurate, but the worksafe word is “cyberloafing,” and it’s costing your business big money. As anyone who has gone online to look something up quickly, only to then start to chase link after link or read update after update knows too well, it’s easy to lose track of time when online. Some recent studies have estimated that up to 80% of the time employees spend online during work hours is lost to cyberloafing, and that can cost your business significantly. According to a 2013 report from PRNewswire, that can be $4500 per year, per employee!
Top 8 types of cyberloafing
Before we talk about how to counteract cyberloafing, let’s look at some of the most common activities that lead to cyberloafing.
Lots of employees may use their work email for some personal use, but most tend to maintain one or more personal accounts, and will check those throughout the day. A couple of minutes here or there may not seem like a big deal, but that time adds up and can lead to other issues, like data spillage or the introduction of malware.
In some ways, job hunting while on the clock in your current job seems like cheating on your significant other. It can, and will, happen if you don’t restrict access to these sites, and personal access to email might even encourage this behaviour.
One of the largest time sinks on the web comes from social media sites. Facebook, Instrgram, Twitter, and Tumblr are all full of content from trending news to personal posts, and seldom have much to do with the job at hand.
I’m personally terribly guilty of cyberloafing with videos. Whether it’s a link in an email, or something I find on a page at least somewhat work-related, once that first video starts it’s all too easy to find myself following playlists or related videos and the next thing I know, it’s cat vids all the way!
Whether MMORPG or simple puzzle solver, online games are an easy way to get distracted and lose track of time. Sure, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, but all play makes Jack a serious cyberloafer.
There’s really no excuse or acceptable reason for this and yet it still seems to happen. What someone does at home and on their own time is their own business, but accessing any adult or questionable content at work is not only inappropriate, it can create a hostile work environment and expose your business to liability.
‘Tis the season for online shopping, but year-round your coworkers can spend ridiculous amounts of time shopping online. While you may want to be more tolerant of this during the holidays, since shopping online takes much less time than going out for a two hour shopping spree at lunchtime, it can lead to being a slippery slope to tread.
Online bill paying, checking your investments, and day trading are all things that take time, and when that time is on the clock, it’s definitely cyberloafing. These are activities that definitely should only be happening during personal time.
What can you do?
There are several things sysadmins should do to keep cyberloafing to a minimum. Here’s the key actions you should consider.
Make sure you have a clear acceptable use policy that defines what is, and is not, appropriate for work. This should be spelled out using language that is easy for your users to understand, required reading for all employees, and both updated and reviewed on an annual basis.
Prohibit access to personal email
Keeping work and personal email separate is easy to do when employees have mail on their personal phones, and may even be required to meet compliance policies to which your business must adhere.
Implementing a web filtering solution is a great way to both protect your users from malware, and the time sinks that cat videos and other online content can create. While you can choose to completely block access to websites that are not work-related, you can also set policies that limit the time spent on non-work websites so that you can provide your coworkers with some personal web access, while ensuring they don’t waste too much time. One way to do this is to provide more open access during lunch time, while restricting it during the hours employees should be focused on their job.
Take a look at GFI WebMonitor for a great solution that can help you strike the best balance between permissive access to the Internet, while protecting your users and your business from malware while also ensuring productivity is maintained. Cyberloafing can present significant costs to your business, but with the right solutions in place, you can ensure your business remains productive and your coworkers remain happy.