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cyberslacking also cyberloafing

noun [uncountable]

using a company's Internet connection during working hours for activities which are not work-related, such as shopping, playing games and sending personal e-mails

cyberslacker or cyberloafer

noun [countable]

cyberslack or cyberloaf

verb [intransitive]

cyberslacking

adjective

'For bosses, cyberslacking is becoming a pervasive and perplexing problem in the new wired workplace …'

Newsweek 29th November 1999

'With the virtual world becoming a reality in every office and a large number of workers having constant access to the Net, cyberloafing, if one may call it that, is no more an aberration, but a problem …'

The Tribune 3rd December 2001

'Cyberslackers are costing Britain's small businesses almost £1.5bn per year … A survey has found that many workers at small and medium businesses are wasting time with e-mail messages and websites that have nothing to do with their jobs.'

BBC News 1st November 2002

How many of us could honestly say that we spend every moment of our working hours engaged in some work-related activity? We're all guilty of an odd personal phone call or two, or a quick chat, and the Internet now gives us a whole new opportunity to divert our attention from work. We can shop, book a holiday, play games, write to friends or read the news. Could you, indeed, be guilty of just such an activity as you read this article? If so, you have been caught engaging in cyberslacking!

we might go online with a specific purpose in mind but the potential choices and distractions are so many and varied that they cause us to lose track of what we were looking for

The activity of cyberslacking is endemic in any office where employees have unrestricted access to the Internet, and it has been a feature of working life for several years now. The term itself first entered the public eye in the late nineties, notably in a Newsweek article of November 1999, which highlighted research claiming that nearly a third of US workers' time on the Internet was devoted to non-work related activities. At the end of 2003, it was estimated that cyberslacking cost the US economy 250 billion dollars in lost wage expenses.

Corporate concern about cyberslacking is not always confined to time-wasting. Many large firms have had to accept legal liability when employees have searched for pornography or other inappropriate material on office computers. This has led to the formation of a whole new multi-million dollar industry known as Employee Internet Management (EIM), which encourages companies to invest in software for monitoring or restricting personal Internet use.

Background – cyberslacking

The term cyberslacking and an alternative form, cyberloafing, emerged during the late nineties among a proliferation of words created by productive use of the prefix cyber- to describe things relating to computers or the Internet, e.g. cybercafé, cyberspace. The verbs slack and loaf both mean 'to spend time avoiding work'. The term cyberslacker, acknowledged in August 2003 by editors of the Oxford English Dictionary, and its alternative form, cyberloafer, are used to describe employees who engage in the practice. Cyberslacking can also be used as a participle adjective, e.g. cyberslacking employees, and there is some evidence for use of cyberslack and cyberloaf as intransitive verbs.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

This article was first published on 4th June 2004.

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