cyberslacking (n.) The act of avoiding work and/or other responsibilities by scouring the Internet in search of games or other non-work related amusements. Also known as goldbricking.
We’ve all done it whether we were at work, at school, or elsewhere. The mindless busywork that comes as part of your job description catches up to you and you just need a moment of freedom — so you inconspicuously hover over that Firefox or Chrome icon… and click. Next thing you know, an hour flies by and you’re behind.
Though white-collar workers like to adhere to the traditional 40-hour work week, not all of those hours are productive. In fact, it’s typical to hear of workers who Reddit at work, keep tabs on their fantasy leagues, or play online video games in short bursts. It’s too bad that most bosses don’t believe in the power of recreational breaks during the workday.
MakeUseOf does not condone inappropriate office behavior but if browsing the web at work is forbidden and you feel compelled to do so anyway, there are some things that you ought to keep in mind — like ways to hide Internet use at work.
Tip #1: You Have No Privacy
The first thing you must understand is that you are never alone. You might be the only one in your cubicle and you might be out of sight from all coworkers in the vicinity, but your greatest threat is the network itself. More specifically, it’s the administrator of your network that you should fear.
At any given time, the system administrator (or in some cases, administrators) can directly view your screen as you see it. Not only that, but they can do so without you even knowing that it’s happening. Some companies might not practice this but it’s been my experience that most office networks have something along these lines.
Not to mention the fact that Internet traffic is always logged. It’s possible that no one snoops on you while you’re clicking from YouTube video to YouTube video, but that activity can always be traced back to the machine you use.
Tip #2: Never Download Anything
When using a work or school-related machine to browse the web, it’s always a good idea to avoid downloading things. It doesn’t matter what it is, whether videos, ZIP files, documents, or whatever else. This is doubly true if your network usage policy expressly forbids downloading.
The problem with downloading is that it can introduce outside issues to the computer. For example, malware. All it takes is one mistaken download and the troubles could range from something as harmless as a slower computer to something as harmful as a hard drive wiping virus. You’d be better off erring on the side of caution and foregoing downloads altogether.
Yes, firewalls and antivirus software should catch these things, but we all know that security programs are never foolproof. Why risk it?
Tip #3: Avoid Illegal Content
It should go without saying, but do not browse illegal content at work. What you do on your own time on your own computer is between you and your conscience, but you don’t want to suffer any legal consequences for doing so on company time and company property. This includes pornography, drugs, and even piracy.
As a more general rule of thumb, just keep away from web content that you wouldn’t feel comfortable browsing if you weren’t alone. This includes personal web content on your blogs, photo albums, social media profiles, etc. Pretend that someone is always looking over your shoulder and that should be a good guideline for the types of content that you’ll want to avoid.
Tip #4: Use Incognito Mode
Most browsers these days have some form of Chrome’s Incognito Mode. In IE9 and beyond, it’s called InPrivate Browsing. Nearly every other browser just calls it Private Browsing. Nevertheless, learn to use this mode if you haven’t learned already because it will come in handy for more than just porn.
Incognito Mode basically makes it so that the browser won’t retain any record of your browsing activity while the mode is active. This isn’t very helpful for “leaving no trace” since Internet traffic is often logged at the network level, but it’s incredibly useful for sites that require login credentials.
If you log in using Incognito Mode, there’s no chance that your username and password will be saved to that computer. It’s absolutely wonderful when browsing on a public computer.
Most of this probably sounds like common sense — and it is. When you’re at work, you should be working. If you want to goof around on the web, only do so if you know the risks involved. Be careful, don’t be reckless, and always stay within the boundaries of your company’s network policy.
Have you ever faced the ire of an irate boss? Do you have your own take on using the Web at work?