Personal Web Usage in the Workplace

Personal usage of of the web during work (PWU) is still a matter of debate. Should it be allowed or is it another form of procrastination, disadvantageous to the employers. Should employers limit PWU through monitoring and Internet usage policies? PWU can vary between reading news to watching pornography, is this all bad?

Employees can use the Internet in a variety of ways not always harming their employees. It could enhance the work of some employees. There are many kinds of PWU behaviors. In short a lot of questions starting to be answered with some recent research. The first question is what is PWU exactly and what kind of PWU behaviors do exist?

A recent study looked at this important questions and came up with another but probably useful definition and classification. It only looked at Web surfing behaviors not other forms of online activities such as email. This study appealed to me because it’s viewing PWU not a priori as bad but as a constructive behavior. PWU can provide a necessary break from drudgery or intense endeavors. It can help putting the family/work balance to more appropriate proportions. This e.g. in contrast with the term cyberloafing.

Cyberloafing is defined as ‘‘the voluntary act of employees using their companies’ Internet access during office hours to surf nonjob-related Web sites for personal

This study found after cluster analysis four types of PWU

  • The work/family PWU cluster. It includes activities where employees tend to personal affairs at work and there is a threat of production deviance as employees attend to personal business on company time instead of work. This type of PWU may serve to reduce stress as employees take a ‘‘break’’ from their work-related duties. Employees may also be working during personal time and this behavior can be a trade of.
  • Hedonic PWU. Those are using the Internet for their personal pleasure, enjoyment. Looking for entertainment and amusement. It can temporarily relief stress and improve their mood.
  • Self-development PWU. Especially knowledge workers could benefit from searching for educational informative information and current events. This self development may simultaneously benefit the organization
  • Organizational Citizenship PWU. Interest and monitoring the external environment of the organization may also be of benefit to the organization.

In short, PWU has many faces and most of them of benefit to the organization. Keep in mind that Dr Shock might be biased on this subject but at least one can certainly defend the opposing view that not all PWU is bad and disadvantageous to the employers.
Anandarajan, M., Simmers, C., & D’Ovidio, R. (2011). Exploring the Underlying Structure of Personal Web Usage in the Workplace Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking DOI: 10.1089/cyber.2010.0136