What is loafing?

In the past months, several Ehem anticorruption seminar and anti-fixing workshops discussed at length with much debate the issue of loafing which is becoming a very prevalent malpractice in many government agencies and private sector offices. 

What is really loafing?

Loafing comes from a colloquial English noun "loafer," to mean as someone who spends time idly. This is known from about 1830s, and most probably in the US. While its exact origin cannot be established, many believed that it emanated from an old German reference to a tramp, also known as "landlaufer."

In the modern times, loafing is the equivalent of loitering. But it is more of a bureaucratic behavior (behavior in the bureaucratic or organizational context). Thus, loafing can also mean bureaucratic loitering.

Loafing is generally defined also as the continued and deliberate idleness during work periods that results in the employee's failure to perform assigned tasks manifested by wasting time, slowing down at work, engaging in idle talk or gossip, or conducting personal business during work periods. 

Loafing results in a lot of undesirable consequences that distort the bureaucratic systems as well as the personal and collective virtues of integrity. The most immediate consequence is the delay or slow-down of public transactions, thereby undermining public service. Loafing is thus directly correlated to bureaucratic red-tapes and fixing problems. There are several forms of loafing, which many are not aware of. These include but are not limited to:
  1. Gossiping or chatting while working  (the distracting ones)
  2. Habitual tardiness
  3. Frequently going out of the office for private transactions
  4. Manicure/pedicure in the office
  5. Texting (the unofficial type)
  6. Gambling in the office; the most common form is 'tong-its', 'patad' or 'last-two'
  7. Telebabad (5 hours in the telephone)
  8. Reading newspapers (usually taking more than one hour)
  9. Longer periods of time in the comfort rooms
  10. Cyberloafing (internetting or emailing for private matters; or even gaming)
  11. Longer snack breaks or longer coffee breaks (the 15-min becomes 30-min or 45-min)
  12. Table hopping (related to #1)
  13. Selling goods in the office (Avon Ladies are aplenty in government offices)
  14. Selling insurance in the office (many employees are insurance underwriters) 
Loafing also leads to many complications or other anomalies. For example, loafers resort to OT (over-time work) in order to finish the job. Without loafing, the OT option might not be necessary anymore. 

Another example: when superior officers sell goods or insurance to their subordinates or staff, the latter are compelled to buy since it is difficult to say no to bosses. And remember 'pakikisama'  at 'utang na loob' and even 'pagtingin sa kapangyarihan.' These have a way to creep into our bureaucratic relationship. 

INSIGHTS: In Fixing Society (2007), loafing is also considered a form of stationary banditry; a practice of passive theft or looting by delaying or slowing down the transactions in government, thereby forcing the public to seek out the assistance of fixers. Forms of loafing among frontline employees include spending much time drinking coffee, reading newspapers, fixing the hair and face inside the comfort room, texting in cell phones, or responding to telephone calls. Loafers are considered as stationary bandits. In the Ehem anticorruption networks, what we are saying during our seminars is for people to be sensitive about our vulnerabilities. And part of this is sensitivity to our tendency to loaf. Most especially, loafing becomes more anomalous when we loaf in front of customers or our clients. Imagine reading newspaper, chatting or gossiping in front of a long queue of clients!  So, be aware of loafing!  Beware of loafers! Beware of stationary bandits!


Amorado, Ronnie V. 2007. Fixing Society: The Insider World of Fixers in the Philippines. Davao City: Ateneo de Davao University-Research and Publication Office. 

Social loafing at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_loafing.