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  1. Jan 2021
    1. We all cyberloaf – and the science says that it can make us more productive at work. But when does a useful break become plain old slacking off?WWhen Stephanie Andel can feel her eyes glaze over scrolling through academic papers, institutional emails or student marking, she’ll open a new tab in her web browser and explore. “I take a few minutes every hour or two to surf the web, look at news or scan my Facebook feed to catch up with friends,” Andel, assistant professor of psychology at Indiana University Purdue University of Indianapolis, admits. She’s not alone. Research shows that workers drift from their contracted tasks to personal email, social networks and the far corners of the internet for anything between a few hours a week to a few hours a day. Six out of 10 people admit they can’t get through the workday without checking their social media, according to online learning firm Udemy, while two-thirds of us say Facebook is the biggest time-sink. This phenomenon – known as cyberloafing – is an issue that costs businesses $85bn a year through lost time, according to researchers at the University of Nevada. Cyberloafing is often presented as a negative. “Some of the early research into it was framing it as procrastination,” explains Dr Fuschia Sirois of the University of Sheffield’s Department of Psychology. “People were cyberloafing to escape.” Yet more recent research suggests that a degree of cyberloafing may be beneficial to employees; that small breaks help them refocus between tasks and even deal with workplace stress. Briefly stepping back – also known as “psychological detachment” – helps them muster energy to continue through the workday.