March madness is about to begin in earnest with many local employees focused on basketball games. People in the greater Franklin County area are no different than those directly associated with our state universities — including the University of Kansas, Kansas State University and Wichita State University, all in the dance. High interest in the games, which begin Friday with first-seed KU at Kansas City’s Sprint Center, will make it difficult for some to stay focused on the work at hand, namely their jobs.

Instead, many will partake in cyber-loafing.

Cyber-loafing essentially is when employees waste time on non-work activities using the Internet. Those activities can include everything from making purchases and managing finances to excessive personal emailing and using social media. Clearly none of those activities likely are related to assigned work responsibilities, which results in lost productivity. The amount of lost productivity could be significant. A Kansas State University researcher, Joseph Ugrin, assistant professor of accounting, studied cyber-loafing and found that between 60 percent and 80 percent of people’s time on the Internet at work had nothing to do with their jobs or responsibilties.

That kind of lost productivity ought to prompt more stringent company computer usage policies, however, Ugrin and his fellow researchers found that policies alone aren’t enough to keep employees from wasting time on the Internet. Consistently enforcing company policies, along with sanctions or penalties for misuse of work time cyber-loafing, was the most effective way to stop the behavior, according to the researchers.

Enforcement, however, is difficult without conveying the idea that “Big Brother” that is watching employees, especially with younger workers who see using social media while at work as an entitlement rather than something that they should or shouldn’t be doing.

Finding balance is difficult, especially with employees who constantly are “on-the-job” via smartphones and other technology. The researchers recommend employers educate workers about what is acceptable during work time and also explain the consequences, such as termination of employment, when employees don’t adhere to those expectations.

It’s a dance certain to drive some toward madness, especially in the building heat of March.

 — Jeanny Sharp, editor and publisher