Are you a ‘Cyberloafer’?

Are you a 'cyberloafer'?

We’ve done it. Our managers have done it. Over 80% of Americans have done it (which probably means over 80% of Britons have done it too). You might even be doing it right now. But just what is ‘cyberloafing’?

For those less savvy in the jargon of the workplace, ‘cyberloafing’ refers to the time we spend at work using the internet to do anything which is not directly related to the work we’re actually there to do.

And for many of us, that means social networks.

Whether it’s Facebook or Twitter, LinkedIn or Pinterest, whatever your social media weapon of choice, most of us will probably admit to being guilty of cyberloafing at some point. But how much impact is it really having on our productivity? And should our bosses be taking steps against it?

To help get a handle on the issue, we asked workers in a range of roles, from around the UK, about their attitudes to cyberloafing and compared it to similar research we carried out in 2010. Here’s what we found:

The research

Nearly half of all UK employees believe social networking should be banned in the workplace.

However, the 2013 study, which collected results from 4,242 workers, also showed us that 35% of UK staff connect on Facebook, 18% use business social network LinkedIn, and 16% like to keep up with the latest trends on Twitter during their working hours.

What’s more, of those who do admit to using social media at work, less than one-in-ten uses it for business purposes only – a huge drop in comparison to the one-in-three recorded the last time the survey was conducted, in 2010. Nearly half use social media for both business and personal use, and 43% admit they use it solely to keep up-to-date with family and friends – up from the 10% using it for the same reason in 2010.

Access and company policy

There also seems to have been a shift in how we’re accessing our online accounts. Over 70% of us use mobile devices to keep tabs on Twitter and update our Facebook status rather than using a work computer – a 10% rise since last time the survey was conducted.

Our research also revealed that almost one-in-three businesses has banned employees from browsing social networking sites during working hours. And whilst 39% do allow access, it’s permitted for business purposes only. A surprising 32%, however, have no blocking or official company policy surrounding social media usage.

But, with more and more employees using their mobile phones or tablets to access their personal accounts, is banning social media even possible? 

Increased productivity

On the other side of the debate, some argue that regular breaks from your workload can, in fact, increase productivity. It’s a well-known fact that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, but does it make him an unproductive one?

Certain studies suggest that taking time out of your day to visit websites of personal interest, including news sites and social networks, provides workers with a much-needed mental break that can ultimately boost concentration and productivity levels by up to 9%.

So, rather than allowing or denying complete access, is the secret to social media success keeping it all in moderation?

Networking

It’s also important to consider that social networks aren’t just about ‘likes’ and ‘pokes’, but that they also have an increasingly important role in business and career development.

Used in the right way, certain social media outlets offer a powerful platform for engaging with new customers, strengthening client relationships and gathering information, not to mention improving relationships with co-workers.

Our study found that 80% of us use social platforms to connect with our colleagues, mainly through Facebook (48%), LinkedIn (26%) and Twitter (14%). However, a certain level of caution is adopted when it comes to who we’re keeping in touch with:  less than half of us admit to adding our boss as a contact.

Whatever your take on social networks, one thing is clear: Facebook and Twitter are here to stay. And, for many of us, they’ve become the prominent form of communication. Whichever stance they choose to adopt, employers should set out their policy for using social media in the workplace early. If they don’t, they risk missing out on commercial opportunities, not to mention, an unhappy workforce.

As for employees? Well, there are always the privacy settings…

Do you think companies should ban using social media at work? Share your thoughts below, or tell us on twitter @reedcouk

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