Cyberloafers of the World, Unite!

By Robert Goldman

March 17, 2016 5 min read

You have nothing to lose but your jobs.

I hate to be the one to bring this news to you, but management has decided it is not enough to demand that you to spend 12 hours a day in your Aeron chair. You also have to do some actual work.

Not a lot of work, of course. Considering your lack of skills and your tendency to screw up even the simplest assignment, no one wants you to come up with new programs or propose new initiatives. They might be dim bulbs, but management knows that anything significant you produce is much more likely to sink the company than save the company.

Still, they do expect a smidgen of work. A flyspeck of initiative. Some infinitesimal fragment of labor that allows them to justify keeping you on. And they really do want to keep you on. Who is better at toadying to management than you? Who can they hire less likely to become a super-star and make everyone in management look bad?

It is this bizarre need to make you and your colleagues look like you're earning your paycheck that has opened the door to Jeremy Glassman, a researcher at Arizona State University. Glassman and his fellow researchers have developed software that stops, or at least puts a dent into, what these ivory tower-types call "cyberloafing." Or so I learned in a recent article in The Wall Street Journal by reporter Cat Zakrzewski.

"The Key to Getting Workers to Stop Wasting Time Online" is the title of this jeremiad against our natural human right to goof-off. (I believe it is in the Constitution, but I'm too exhausted to look it up after spending the entire morning searching for "Girls Just Want to Have Guns" mudflaps on Esty.)

"Cyberloafing costs U.S. business as much as $85 billion a year, according to a University of Nevada study," reports Ms. Zakrzewski, who also points out that "people in a study by Kansas State University admitted to cyberloafing from 60 (percent) to 80 (percent) of their time online at work."

[I know! 60 to 80 percent is shocking, but remember, the people surveyed by Kansas State were probably college students. They haven't yet gained the experience necessary to cyberloaf at your level of 100 percent.]

This is where Team Glassman comes in. Their system "divides the Internet into sites the employees can always, sometimes or never visit. It uses on-screen warnings when they are visiting sites that may not be work-related."

This sounds very sinister. Besides, It is very difficult to define what may be work-related, or not. For example, for me, obsessively checking Brandi Glanville's Twitter feed is totally work-related, because it reminds me that people with no discernable talent can be really famous and make tons of money. That's right — it gives people like me and thee hope.

The Arizona State software also limits time spent on websites that could be used for business, but are probably not. Again, a shortsighted approach to productivity. If I couldn't spend an hour or three every day checking prices on 5-star hotels on Tahiti, I wouldn't have any reason to come into work.

The system is not totally heartless. It does allow employees "to browse leisure sites for 10 minutes at a time." Very generous of management, I must say. Of course, "after 90 minutes total on any given day, the employees are blocked from those sites and have to explain to their managers why they needed more than the allotted time on leisure pages."

I'm not completely sure of this, but I suspect that telling your manager that you're the highest bidder on a cornflake in the shape of the state of Florida, and there are only 2 more minutes to bid, will not get you the permission you need to win your prize.

Or maybe you will get management approval. Glassman says, "when employers develop policies regarding how workers use the Internet, it's essential they take fairness into consideration."

Frankly, I think employers have absolutely no sense of fairness, and I'd prefer that they didn't even try.

Forget the fancy-schmansy software solutions. Let them do what they really want to do — wire each office chair for electricity. Keep drones constantly hovering over the workstations and when anyone is spotted checking an unapproved website, zap them with 5,000 volts.

After a couple of dozen jolts, even the most committed cyberloafer will get the message and get to work.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at [email protected] To find out more about Bob Goldman, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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