Study finds cyberloafing can help employees cope with workplace boredom

New research suggests that the personal use of the internet during working hours is a natural response to boredom. The study, published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, examined the behavior known as cyberloafing.

“My interest started with the idea of workplace boredom. I study work stress, and while much focus is being put on overload, there are many people who experience their work as boring for various reasons,” said study author Shani Pindek of the University of Haifa.

“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? Are there easy ways to deal with boredom on the job that would negate harmful effects?”

“Looking at cyberloafing as a possible coping response was also interesting because there isn’t a consensus on whether cyberloafing is necessarily a negative behavior. Some people consider cyberloafing to be counterproductive, and others find it benign,” Pindek said.

The researcher’s study of 463 non-instructional university personnel found that employees who reported a relatively low workload were more likely to say they felt bored at their job and got mentally sluggish during the day, which in turn was associated with greater use the internet recreationally at work.

“Cyberloafing is a rather natural response to workplace boredom and it is different from other (more harmful) forms of counterproductive work behaviors,” Pindek told PsyPost. “Cyberloafing happens more when the workload is low and in many cases it may not harmful to the work. Just make sure not to overdo it!”

The study — like all research — has some caveats.

“For one, certain cyberloafing behaviors might pose a cybersecurity threat. Another important note is that spending too much time recreationally on the internet during working hours will undoubtedly end up harming your performance,” Pindek explained.

“In the future we plan to examine the link between what people do when they cyberloaf and what’s going on during the job in terms of stress. For example — if someone was nasty to me at work, would I try to make myself feel better by watching funny cat videos, but avoid going on news websites (assuming news would often invoke a negative mood)?”

“In another study we did in our lab, we directly examined the benefits from cyberloafing. Under certain stressful situations, engaging in cyberloafing partially buffered the negative effects of workplace stress,” Pindek added. “This upcoming study shows that cyberloafing is a good way of relieving some work stress.”

The study, “Cyberloafing as a coping mechanism: Dealing with workplace boredom“, was authored by Shani Pindek, Alexandra Krajcevska, and Paul E. Spector.