Are bloggers robbing their employers?

April 18, 2009

Paul Grimmond has just written a post on the Sola panel 'The Long and the Short of It' in which he responds to a recent criticism that the posts on the Matthias Media blog are too long. I was struck by one comment that fed a concern I've had for a long time. The commenter was suggesting that comments needed to be short because people are often reading blogs at work. Now to be fair, maybe he was talking about lunch-time, or perhaps he works a 10 hour day that he breaks up with some blogging. But his simple comment prompted me to think again about something I've pondered for some time.

A new Cyber water cooler?

When do people find the time to read 40-50 blogs and to write regular comments on many of them? Could it sometimes be at work? Could this be a new web-based form of theft? Could Christian workers be robbing their employers of time? Certainly, it appears from research that robbing employers of time is a common activity. In an online survey of 2,057 employees, a compensation company found that about 60% of workers admitted to wasting time at work, with the average employee wasting 1.7 hours of a typical 8.5 hour working day (here). Now I know that employers robbing workers of out-of-work time is also a big problem, which should be of concern to Christian bosses as well. But has the availability of new forms of social networking provided a new type of virtual water cooler that has potential to affect one's work? And is this a serious ethical consideration for Christian workers?

As Christians can we justify ethically and biblically the reading of blogs (or any other type of social networking) at work? If you are a pastor reading Christian blogs at Church, then maybe. If you're an engineer, reading theological blogs in work time, is this okay? Or are you stealing time from your employer? How many Christian employees check Facebook at work? Perish the thought, how many people are wasting their life telling people when they sneeze using Twitter (see a previous post of mine on another blog here)? Is work the main place you now read the newspaper?

The need for a Christian work ethic

Does the Bible speak directly to this topic? No, but there is good guidance that should help us to develop a sound Christian work ethic that will help. For example, Paul's words to the Ephesians:

Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labour, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. (Ephesians 4:28)

In Ephesians 4:17-32, Paul is speaking to believers in Christ and is challenging them to live new and changed lives that are different to the lives of non-believers. We are to put off falsehood and speak truthfully to neighbours. We are to avoid the sin of anger and lead honest lives. One who has been a thief is not to steal any longer, but instead needs to work (toil!), doing useful things that we might share with others in need. We are also to avoid unwholesome talk, bitterness and rage, slander, malice, and we are to be kind and compassionate to one another. Paul lists doing honest work as an important part of the new life of the believer; one of the ways that the believer is to demonstrate that they are new creations. While some might say, “but he's talking to someone who was once a common thief”, and he might even have had in mind someone who was once a thief, I don’t think we can avoid the point. He is writing all these things for the benefit of all Ephesian believers. Paul sees fit to mention doing honest work as opposed to stealing (or taking that which we aren't entitled to take). We are to "put away" (Eph 4:25) such things and instead "walk as children of light" (Eph 5:8).

Three simple questions

We could also look at Paul's comments on slaves and masters that would also help (e.g. 1 Timothy 6), but in the interests of a shorter post (!) I won't. I'd suggest that there is enough clear biblical teaching about the nature of honesty and godliness that would allow each of us to ask ourselves three simple questions:

Is my blogging at work related to my job description?
Is the content of my blogging, facebook checking, online shopping, newspaper reading, twittering [add your own] relevant or helpful to what I'm paid to do?
Does my online reading distract me from the things I'm paid to do, or reduce my effectiveness in any way?

If the answer to either of the first two questions is no, or if you an write 'yes' to the third question, then the course of action for the Christian is simple, stop doing it. It is stealing time from your employer.

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