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Are you a cyberloafer?

"Cyberloafing" is defined as indulging in Internet-based activities that have no relevance to one's job. By Joshi Herrmann/London How much of the time your company paid you to work today did you waste on the Internet? Ten per cent? Twenty per cent? Half? Or did you, in fact, spend longer wasting time on the Internet than you did working? Most employees probably don't give much thought to the question, but increasingly it seems their bosses do.

"Cyberloafing" - defined as indulging in Internet-based activities that have no relevance to one's job - is the word interesting company managers at the moment, and it promises to wreak havoc with the hours you spend social networking, reading celebrity gossip and watching cute YouTube clips.

A study by US academics published earlier this year found that of the time workers spend on the Internet during their working day, between 60 and 80% is on sites that have nothing to do with their job.

Its authors, Joseph Ugrin of Kansas State University and John Pearson of Southern Illinois University, concluded that only publicly humiliating the worst offenders will stop people wasting time online.

The report elicited a frank admission from Financial Times columnist Lucy Kellaway, who confesses: "I find the temptation to waste time online is so great that it swamps everything else. It feeds almost every need I have." She says she was even distracted from reading Ugrin and Pearson's report by a gallery of "ships with rude names", which had been tweeted by a colleague (a cyberloafing pro, by the sound of it).

To discover whether I am a cyberloafer (some people say "cyberslacker") I registered with RescueTime (rescuetime.com), which tracks the programs, browsers and sites your computer is visiting and uses that information to work out how productive you are. The program also measures the time you aren't using your computer by asking what category of activity you have been doing if you haven't touched the keypad or mouse for a few minutes.

After it had observed me like an overbearing management consultant for a few weeks, it concluded that my average productivity was 72%. Apparently I usually spend 17% of my time each day writing articles, 15% reading and writing e-mails, and the other 40% either away from my computer taking calls or in meetings, using work programs on my desktop, or browsing "productive" websites. RescueTime can't break down exactly what percentage of our Internet usage is deemed productive unless you tell it which sites you deem to be productive, neutral or distracting to your work.

It found 3% of my working day is spent on Gmail (which I tend not to use for my job) and just under 1% on Facebook and the same on Wikipedia. All of which makes me 15% more efficient than the average RescueTime user, who clocks in an average efficiency of just 57%.

The program says I am least productive on Wednesday and Thursday and at my best on Monday. Noticeably, on the days when I checked my efficiency regularly, it shot up towards close to 80%. Bosses take note: self-monitoring may well be the simple answer to Internet skiving.

The Internet's capacity for distraction is an unprecedented challenge for bosses. Just 25 years ago an accountant at his desk would have to be next to a major library, install VHS and tape players on his desk, bring in several newspapers, and have ready access to a personal fax machine to replicate the entertainments and utilities on offer in seconds when we open our Internet browsers.

Jennifer Arcuri, who has worked with some of the biggest names in Tech City, says companies with a cyberloafing problem need to re-engage their staff.

"How do people even have time to browse the Internet outside of their breaks?" she asks. "If they do, then employers need to address the productivity of their staff and set expected standards of output." Sixty-nine per cent of British companies have banned Facebook in their offices, according to a survey, and many also block others like YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Graham Alcott, a productivity consultant and author of How to be a Productivity Ninja, says bosses are waking up to online time-wasting but thinks banning sites like Facebook can backfire. "I think it often works much better if people feel a sense of autonomy," he says. "If you start banning certain sites, you are treating people like children and they may not respond well to that." He says he has a self-imposed blocker on Facebook between 9am and 6pm during the week.

Some say we have been allowed to over-surf in the years before bosses understood what the Internet was all about. Are the cyberloafers finally about to be reeled in? We may be about to find out.- Evening Standard

Gulf Times Newspaper 2013

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Publication:Gulf Times (Doha, Qatar)
Date:Apr 27, 2013
Words:810
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