The high unemployment rate — 5.7 percent for October 2002 in the United States — hasn’t deterred workers from goofing off on the job. Data from Websense Inc. indicates that Internet misuse costs American corporations more than $85 billion annually in lost productivity — an increase of 35 percent since the year prior.
“Employee Internet misuse is a critical business issue for corporations. While the Web has long been hailed as a productivity tool, this misuse in some cases offsets the productivity benefits of Internet access,” said Andy Meyer, vice president of marketing for Websense Inc.
The U.S. Department of Labor reports that weekly work hours decreased slightly in 2001 to 34.2 from 2001’s 34.5. However, many employees are extending their workdays from home by accessing e-mail and following up on projects remotely. IDC expects the number of “day extenders” to reach 31 percent by 2004 and the overlap between work time and home time could result in even higher incidences of Internet abuse in the office.
Websense found that 67 percent of workers access news sites for personal reasons, and 37 percent access shopping and auction sites at the office. In addition, 2 percent of employees admit accessing pornography and 2 percent admit gambling online at work.
A study from The Society of Financial Service Professionals on technology and ethics in the workplace revealed that 65 percent had committed at least one act of Internet abuse in the form of shopping (41 percent); using company e-mail for personal reasons (39 percent); playing computer games (34 percent); job searching (17 percent); and copying software for personal use (9 percent).
The worst offenders appear to be college educated males under the age of 35, who work in a traditional office setting in a middle market company.
Respondents noted a clear ethical differentiation between the activities that diverted production and those that were destructive or intrusive. Almost 90 percent believed that sabotaging systems, sharing proprietary information, listening to a private cell phone conversation, visiting porn sites, exchanging vulgar e-mail, accessing private computer files, and wrongly blaming a personal error on technology were very or somewhat unethical while just over half found job searching, playing computer games, personal surfing or shopping, and using company e-mail to be very or somewhat unethical.