Can ‘cyberloafing’ be healthy in small doses?

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Can ‘cyberloafing’ be healthy in small doses?

February 06, 2015, Katja Sonkeng

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Dr. John Pearson, Professor of Management

This year may be the comeback year for everybody’s computer goof-off darlings: Solitaire, Tetris and Farmville. That is, if Dr. John Pearson’s latest research effort holds true, which is that a small amount of “cyberloafing” can indeed reduce work stress.

Pearson is one of nine College of Business faculty members that received a Summer Faculty Research Grant (SFRG) in 2014. Highly encouraged by this grant, the Minnesota native spent most of last summer working on his newest research project, titled “The Mediating Effect of Non-Work Related Computing on Workplace Stressors and Job Satisfaction.”

After reviewing literature in the area of job satisfaction and job stressors, Pearson, who holds a doctorate in business administration from Mississippi State University, developed a research model that looks at “how non-work-related computing has the potential to reduce stress, such as work-home-conflict, overload, and ambiguity and privacy issues.”  The results could change how organizations look at their employees using organizational computing resources for things such as personal email, scheduling family activities, etc.

Interestingly, if Pearson is right, and a moderate level of “goofing off” at work may actually result in increased productivity, he would be creating a loophole in his previous research, conducted jointly with Joseph Ugrin, an associate professor of accounting at Kansas State University.

The scholars’ 2013 study found that cyberloafing leads to “lost productivity and could put companies in legal trouble when workers conduct illegal activity or unacceptable behavior, like viewing pornography on work computers.” As their research further showed, between 60 percent and 80 percent of employees spend approximately 2.4 hours each work day sitting behind their computer screens and doing things that are unrelated to work, such as watching cat videos, updating Facebook and Instagram pages, or even shopping online. The primary benefit of Pearson’s current research would that companies can relax their vigilance on employee computer activity. Policy and monitoring would still be important to prevent illegal activities and extended “goofing off.”

It will be interesting to see how things unfold in the upcoming months.