When it comes to cyber-loafing, I'm an amateur
One day last week I was sitting at my desk reading an academic paper on cyber-loafing when I glanced at my screen and saw a colleague had tweeted: “This shouldn’t be funny but it is.” I clicked on the link and found a series of pictures of ships with silly names.
There was HMS Gay Viking, HMS Spanker, SS Lesbian, USS Saucy, SS Iron Knob. At first I laughed but, as I read on to HMS Cockchafer and HMS Grappler, I thought: surely not?
Thus I found myself checking on Wikipedia and discovering HMS Cockchafer was the fifth Royal Navy ship of that name, that it was built in 1915, defended the southeast coast of England during the first World War and was later part of the Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran.
Having established that, I saw Twitter was suggesting I follow someone whose name was dimly familiar, so I Googled her and started reading her dull CV until I was distracted by a non-story on the BBC website about David Cameron weighing in on the non-story of Hilary Mantel having said the bleeding obvious: that Kate Middleton looks like a shop-window mannequin. What the hell was I doing? It was the middle of a working day and I had quite a bit to do, but had just squandered a whole hour on nothing.
The reason I’m flaunting this disgraceful theft of time from my employer is that I was reading (before I got distracted) a shocking piece of research telling me that when it comes to cyber-loafing, I’m an amateur. According to Joseph Ugrin from Kansas State University, the average US worker spends 60-80 per cent of their time online at work doing things unrelated to their jobs. This statistic leaves me feeling slightly less ashamed, but in despair about everyone else.
Until a couple of years ago I thought skiving was a non-problem. The answer, I thought, was to fire extreme slackers and give the rest of us more work to do. But I don’t think that any more. I cyber-loaf even when I’m extremely busy, which means I often work at weekends to catch up. I find the temptation to waste time online is so great that it swamps everything else. It feeds almost every need I have. It’s a drug, and I can’t help myself.
Some people heroically try to pretend there is nothing to worry about. Researchers from the National University of Singapore recently concluded that surfing the internet at work is actually a good thing, as it reduces stress and leaves you feeling refreshed. I dare say this might be right for the first five minutes or so. It was soothing for my mind to alight briefly on SS Iron Knob. But what wasn’t soothing was the helter-skelter ride I took from there that left me guilty, angry with myself, stressed about undone work and about as satisfied as if I’d eaten a whole tube of sour cream and onion Pringles.