Scientists have coined a name for surfing the internet during work hours: ‘cyberloafing’

When the workday drags on, we may turn to the wonders of the world wide web for a spark of entertainment.

Now, scientists in a new study published in Computers in Human Behavior have a term for it: “cyberloafing,” or personal use of the internet during working hours. Bosses who catch us scrolling through Instagram may see this as a sign of laziness, but the researchers want us to rethink this, finding it to be a natural coping mechanism to workplace boredom.

We cyberloaf to get through boring days

When the researchers surveyed 463 university personnel, they found that cyberloafing correlated with low workloads. People who cyberloafed were more likely to say their work was boring and monotonous. They were more likely to get mentally sluggish during the day.

In other words, cyberloafing is a way for employees to cope with feeling underused and disengaged at work and is not necessarily a destructively counterproductive work behavior. The researchers called it an “interest-enhancing behavior” or “a boredom coping strategy.”

When you see employees scrolling endlessly through their phones at work, recognize that it’s a sign that they are feeling disengaged with the job.

“Cyberloafing can be used as an indication of boredom on the job, and training efforts can be made to channel employees’ efforts into more productive outlets such as job crafting or enriching,” the researchers conclude.

So, next time you catch yourself looking at your phone to get through the doldrums of the work day, see it as a wake-up call that your workload needs to change.