Cyberslacking refers to the term which has widely been defined as employees using IT equipment and systems for non-work related purposes. Although cyberslacking has only just emerged in the past decade, slacking has existed long before the most recent technological breakthroughs. Breaks at work have always occurred and were a staple of office culture. Before the personal computer was introduced, slacking meant frequent visits to the water cooler for idle chatter and gossip, taking extend lunches and having long personal non-work related telephone conversations. Now employees visit news, social media, chat rooms, shopping, and gaming sites on company time. A survey conducted by Websense, Inc. in 2006 on 351 IT decision-makers in the U.S estimated that employees spend 5.7 hours per week on personal web surfing at work. According to the Better Business Bureau the, "International Data Corp says 60 percent of all online purchases are made during work hours."
Employers Vs. Employees
Employers, aware of the cyberslacking issue have found ways to combat these obstacles for productivity. In a report conducted in 2010 by OpenDNS, companies most often blocked Ebay, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and Twitter from their employees. Beyond blocking sites, companies have begun to use Key logging software on their employees computers. This allows employers to track websites visited and gauge employee productivity.
Employees and popular websites have also found ways to further promote cyberslacking. One popular method is the Boss Button. A boss button is a button that can be clicked while on an non productive website that will change the current screen to a decoy screen. The decoy screen varies, sites like TBS.com display bogus excel sheets while others display work related websites that you can set. The increasing popularity of boss buttons convinced google chrome to create a boss button add-on. Another method used to disguise cyberslacking as productive work is multiple desktop screens. By having multiple screens such as spaces on a Mac, employees can have a screen dedicated to work like applications and one devoted to their personal enjoyment. Employees can then switch screens within a second by using either a hot key or another method when their boss is around.
Technology is booming rapidly in all sects of the business world. As a result, cyberslacking is not a phenomena that exists only in the United States. In recent survey, the British employment website MyJobGroup.co.uk reported that over 2 million UK-based workers (6% of the workforce) were spending over an hour on social networking sites.
On January 4th, 2006 New York City Michael Bloomberg fired Edward Greenwood IX, an assistant working in a Legislative Affairs Office in Albany, for leaving up a game of Solitaire on his computer screen. Greenwood was dismissed of his $30,3000 salary, six year job with no severance pay and no other job offers. Mayor Bloomberg stated, "There's nothing wrong with taking a break but during the business day at your desk, that's not appropriate behavior." Greenwood told reporters that he had always finished his work in a timely fashion, and that he played solitaire only when there was no work left to do, usually a few times a week or during lunch breaks.
A similar case also in New York sprang up a few months after in March 2006. Toquir Choudhri, a city employee of the New York's Department of Education, was fired for browsing sites like Google and lonelyplanet.com. On a more positive note for Choudhri, Administrative Law Judge John Spooner ruled in favor of Choudhri recommending that he should keep his job. Choudhri's defense attorney argued that there was never incomplete work or people waiting and that Choudhri was an upstanding employee who finished all of his assignments. The ruling, however, was just a recommendation and whether Choudhri got his job back was up to his employer.
Cyberslacking in Schools
As social media gains popularity, cyberslacking is no longer limited to employees. Students are beginning to tweet during class, Facebook chat, or play games. In order to keep students focused, schools can purchase software such as SMART Sync in order to be able to see each computer screen at the same time. This management software also allows you to send messages to individual computers to those not on appropriate sites as well as lock all computer screens.
It is not just students who are cyberslacking in school, but teachers and administrators as well. In the Journal of College & Character, one particular article states "...cyberslacking is an ethical dilemma for classroom teachers using electronic platforms to complete work for their college courses and for college/university professors who are mandating on-line activities." . This article shows that when examining graduate student teachers, almost half completed assignments during school hours.
The advancements of technology have made life easier for everyone. People are now able to retrieve information with a click of a button, and work tasks can be performed easier. However, these advancements are a gift and a curse. Productivity can be hindered due to technology.
- Odell, Carol (2011). Controlling Cyberslacking says Carol. http://www.bbb.org/blog/2011/07/controlling-cyberslacking/
- McBride, Jackie; Milligan, Julie; Nichols, Joe. (2006) Who's Teaching the Kids? Cyberslacking in the Classroom. Journal of College & Character. Volume 7, No. 1.