Online slacking not all bad - study

BY REBECCA TODD
Last updated 05:00 21/04/2009

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Employee cyberloafing - using work internet for personal use - may be good for the economy, a new study shows.

Massey University PhD student Andrea Polzer-Debruyne surveyed 300 people from around the world about how internet use had changed their work and personal boundaries.

She found that people whose employers tolerated a reasonable amount of personal emailing and other internet use at work tended to be more open to doing work from home or making themselves available online to handle after-hours matters.

Some workers felt the boundary between work and their personal life was becoming blurred, with growing expectations of being available online for work at home.

As a result, workers felt justified in shopping, banking and paying bills online at work and were less resentful of being expected to work outside office hours.

Using the internet for personal use at work might also reduce stress, giving employees mini-breaks that could make them more productive, Polzer-Debruyne said.

"If an employee orders a present or groceries over the net at work, it takes half the time it would if they had to leave the office and do it," she said.

"In reality, people can be more productive and balance their work and private lives better."

For many workers, however, using the internet for "cyberloafing" or "cyberslacking" was a way of alleviating boredom, regardless of how busy they were with work or how much they had to do.

Canterbury Development Corporation workplace strategy manager Simon Worthington said Christchurch businesses had become more flexible about internet use.

"What that does is it ends up with people being a lot more loyal to companies and also working outside of work hours," he said.

Allowing a reasonable amount of internet use engendered a trust relationship and could broaden an employee's general knowledge.

There is some evidence that Kiwi workers are easily tempted by cyberspace. Three years ago it was reported government workers were spending 35,000 hours a year on Trade Me.

In 2005, an Air New Zealand employee was fired after being caught spending up to a third of working hours on the net. He later won a case for unjustified dismissal at the Employment Relations Authority.

- with NZPA

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