Employees have always found ways to waste small amounts of time at work. To a reasonable extent, that’s to be expected – most people can’t focus for hours on end without taking short breaks to stretch their legs, chat with a co-worker, or just look away from their tasks for a minute or two. But when it goes too far, it can turn into time theft – getting paid to work while using that time on the clock to do things that are completely unrelated to work.
Taking breaks at work is nothing new, but internet-connected devices can encourage excessive time theft.
The internet has made time theft easier and more tempting than ever before. It’s all too easy to open a new tab to check social media or shop online from an employee’s work computer or to pick up a smartphone to send texts, use a messaging service, or browse the web. This is known as cyberloafing.
One study found that about 14% of employee work time was spent cyberloafing. That’s more than an hour out of an eight-hour shift – a serious amount of time theft. Since so many of today’s worker rely on computers, smartphones, or other internet-connected devices to do their work, it can be difficult to tell at a glance who is cyberloafing and who is actually working.
The Effects of Time Theft
The loss of productivity is an obvious detrimental effect of time theft. Time spent browsing websites unrelated to work is time that work is not getting done and can lead to missed deadlines, sloppy work, and other undesirable outcomes. However, there are other negative effects of time theft by cyberloafing as well.
In some cases, cyberloafing can lead to an unpleasant or hostile work environment, such as when an employee chooses to view pornography or other potentially offensive material at work. This can affect not just the employee who is cyberloafing, but other employees who may be distracted, disturbed, or offended as well.
Cyberloafing at work is also associated with the development of traits that are not only negative but can also have a detrimental impact on the workplace environment, such as narcissism, self-interest, and manipulativeness.
Minimizing Time Theft While Motivating Employees
You can encourage employees to focus on their work while still maintaining a positive workplace environment.
Time theft is clearly an important problem to address, but it can also be delicate. You don’t want to demoralize your employees or treat them like children, as that can also lead to negative workplace consequences. There are a few things that you can do to minimize cyberloafing and time theft while keeping employees positive and motivated.
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