What Is Goldbricking and How Does It Affect Workplace Productivity?
It’s only natural for employees to get distracted from time to time. However, some always seem to find something better to do than the tasks assigned to them. No matter how meticulous you are in the recruitment and training process, you’ll still end up with a group of workers who never care about what you think about them. You can discover diamonds in the rough, but sometimes, you unintentionally hire goldbrickers.
What Is the Definition of “Goldbricking”?
When you refer to a behavior as ‘goldbricking,’ it has to do with passing off a worthless thing as something expensive and valuable. We can trace the etymology of the term from a common scam in the 1800s. Gold bars were widely traded during that time, and for sellers to prove their authenticity, they would cut off one of the corners. However, once the payment was secured, the buyer would learn that only the corners of the bar were real gold. The rest of the bar was just a heavy brick, making it worthless.
When used in a corporate setting, goldbricking means appearing to be productive when in reality, the person is doing less than they could. This behavior has to do with any activity that can go against the legitimate needs and goals of a company. So, when you refer to someone as a goldbricker, it means that they are getting paid a salary or wage for work that they didn’t do. They may look like they are focused on their tasks, but in reality, they are spending time on personal matters.
What Goldbrickers Are Costing a Company?
As we’ve mentioned, goldbrickers spend most of their billable hours on personal tasks. Of course, when they are unproductive, they are adding to the expenses of a company. Now, if you are managing a remote team of independent contractors, you need to be vigilant. This way, you can ensure that every penny you pay goes to productive work. However, in reality, businesses are not the only victims of corporate goldbricking.
An article published on NBC News reported that 700 public school teachers who were waiting for disciplinary hearings were paid to do nothing for months. Because of union rules, schools were not allowed to terminate tenured instructors while they were awaiting decisions on their cases. Instead, they were sent to “rubber rooms” where they sat all day, did nothing, and yet received their full pay every month. They reported to work with the appearance of being productive—a practice that we liken to goldbricking. According to the article, this union policy costs an estimated $65 million worth of taxpayer money annually.
Is Goldbricking the Same as Cyberslacking?
In 2012, Salary.com surveyed over 3,200 employees, and two-thirds of respondents admitted that they wasted time at work to some degree. Most of them would abuse their access to the Internet and use it for their personal interests. Also known as cyberslacking, this practice entails spending time on social network sites, like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. However, this behavior is not limited to online activities. Others would waste time chatting with colleagues around the water cooler.
Where Does the Time Go for Goldbrickers?
It’s not surprising to know that employees waste some time at work. Now, you may want to know how much of it can be considered goldbricking. According to studies from AOL.com and Salary.com, an average American worker wastes over two hours every day. Annually, this practice can cost over $750 billion. 64% of respondents confessed to surfing the web for non-work-related topics. Meanwhile, 46% admitted that they used their time at the office searching for a different job. According to the surveys, here is where a goldbricker’s time is spent:
Social Networking Sites
Of course, social media sites take up the biggest bulk of employees’ time at work when they are not productive. 41% of respondents say that they access Facebook from work every day. However, Facebook is not the only social media site they visit. Other goldbricking venues include Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest.
Socialization with Colleagues
Since the survey was conducted pre-pandemic, water cooler chats were included in the answers. Employees confessed to regularly gossiping with their co-workers during office time. Of course, socialization is essential in boosting morale in the workplace. However, when overly done, it can negatively affect a company’s overall productivity.
Personal Errands or Interests
Some goldbrickers appear to be busy because they are making phone calls or checking their emails. In reality, the messages they send have nothing to do with their work. Others even spend their billable hours shopping online, playing games, or, even worse, gambling.
Most employees get two 15-minute breaks. However, these breaks can stretch to 20 minutes. Sometimes, a 30-minute lunch extends to 45 minutes. Others come late in the morning or leave the office a couple of minutes early. While these lost minutes may seem small, they can add up to hours over a month or year.
How to Manage Goldbricking in the Workplace
Companies have learned to keep goldbricking practices at bay by installing proxy servers that block access to non-work-related sites. They also install online monitoring apps that track their employees’ activities on company-issued devices. There are several measures that businesses can take to prevent workers from goldbricking. However, your actions shouldn’t be too harsh – otherwise, they will damage employee morale. Here are some tips:
Use Internet Filtering
Your IT department can install software that can block access to sites that are not related to work. Of course, this is not a foolproof solution because you cannot have control over your employees’ smartphones. However, it can still offer some improvement in productivity. After all, it is way too obvious that a worker is goldbricking when they surf the web on their phone.
Develop and Implement an Internet Access Policy
It’s essential to create a consistent and clear internet usage policy for the workplace. In reality, cyberslacking is not entirely bad. The short breaks that employees take for personal web surfing can help them regain their focus. Now, if you’re going to allow this in the company, there should be guidelines in the employee handbook.
Pique Their Interest
Some goldbrickers tend to surf the web because they are not challenged enough at work. So, one way to motivate them to become productive is by piquing their interest. Now, this does not mean that you should burden them with extra work. What you should do is assign them tasks that will challenge their creativity, initiative, and decision-making skills.
Increase Your Presence
If you’re a manager, you should become more visible in the office. Of course, you should do this while avoiding micromanagement. Letting your workers know that you’re there is enough to deter them from goldbricking.
Use an Online Monitoring Tool
You cannot be present all the time to monitor your staff. Disciplining employees becomes even harder when you’re managing a remote team. Thankfully, you can use time tracking software to ensure that your workers won’t be loafing around. For example, you can require your employees to install Traqq. Once they click Start on the desktop widget, the tool will monitor their activities in the background.
On the dashboard, you will gain an overview of the websites they visit and the apps they use. There’s also a pie chart that represents the activities that eat up the biggest chunks of their time. You will also know if they are working because Traqq measures their productivity. The app monitors the activity levels of a user based on their keyboard movements and mouse clicks and scrolls.
Using Traqq won’t create a hostile work environment. Of course, it’s only natural that employees will think that you’re spying on them when you require them to use a time tracker. However, Traqq’s purpose is to monitor—not spy. While it takes random screenshots, the images are blurred to an extent that will prevent sensitive details from becoming legible. Your employees can rest easy knowing that no one can read their passwords and private messages.
Goldbricking is a serious corporate issue. What’s more, it can be difficult to spot, especially because employees appear to be busy. However, with a monitoring tool like Traqq, you will be able to spot unproductive activities easily.