cyberloafing employee on social media at work cyberloafing employee on social media at work This girl gets it. (Photo: ESB Professional/Shutterstock)

Why your boss shouldn't complain if you browse Facebook at work

A new study explores whether 'cyberloafing' is a problematic waste of company time or simply something to do when you're bored.

Can you believe that tons of normal, respectable employees spend their work hours surfing the Internet?

"Yes," you respond. "Duh." Of course, it's not like YOU ever do that. Or are doing that right now. And if you were, you'd never admit it to your boss ... But maybe you should.

While it's long been obvious that people pull up Facebook or fall through Wikipedia wormholes at work, nobody was sure if doing so wasted company time and money or was just a harmless byproduct of having nothing to do. That's what a group of researchers wanted to find out.

"My interest started with the idea of workplace boredom," explained Shani Pindek, a psychologist at Israel's University of Haifa who worked on the study. "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?"

bored at work Seriously though, if so many people get bored at work, why can't they leave when there's nothing to do? (Photo: Iurii Stepanov / Shutterstock)

So Pindek teamed up with other researchers from the University of Haifa and the University of South Florida to figure out whether surfing the Internet — which they're calling "cyberloafing" for some reason — is a counterproductive activity that hurts companies, or a harmless jaunt through the interwebs. To do this, they used the ingenious method of straight-up asking people.

The scientists distributed surveys about cyberloafing to 263 employees at the University of South Florida. The researchers found that employees mostly cyberloafed ... wait for it ... when they were bored and had nothing else to do. There was no connection between employees who cyberloafed and, say, employees who stole office supplies.

The scientists concluded that cyberloafing wasn't some sort of derelict activity that sketchy employees do to waste company time, no matter how often your boss shoots a suspicious look in your direction, forcing you to minimize the pop science article you were reading. It's just something you do when you're bored. Mind blown.

"Nobody cares that I'm not there," said my friend who got back from a doctor's appointment while I was writing this article. He logged onto his computer to discover that no one at work even messaged him while he was gone. Since he has nothing to do, he's currently making a comedic infographic for Facebook. "No one has work for me," he added.

At this point, I'd love to include a cyberloafing anecdote of my own. Unfortunately, I never cyberloaf. Hear that, From the Grapevine?

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