Cyberslacking is a $4.6b waste of space

Cyberslackers - office Web-site surfers on non-business forays -- cost Australian business $4.6 billion a year in lost productivity, according to a survey.

The Web@Work Employee Survey, conducted by employee Internet management (EIM) solutions provider, Websense, found that 43 per cent of employees with Internet access at work, cyberslack for more than two hours a week.

The company estimates that of Australia's 5.2 million Web-enabled employees, 2.2 million workers, earning an average of $21.09, fall into this category.

However, an IT manager from a medium-sized financial organisation who requested anonymity, told Computerworld he believes there is no such thing as cyberslacking.

"I think it really depends on the point of view of the management. I would be surprised to hear that the average smoker didn't spend at least two hours each week outside the office smoking, yet no one bothers to mention this. Taking breaks from work tasks is an important tool in keeping one's mind on the job," he said.

Enforcing policies

In order to enforce its existing employee Internet use policy for its 10,000 global employees in 32 countries, of which 2500 are in the Asia-Pacific region, recruitment company TMP Worldwide has installed employee Internet management (EIM) software.

With 1850 employees in Australia, TMP first researched EIM products as a means to reduce unnecessary Internet use and cut bandwidth costs.

As a result, the company has saved 40Gb of Internet bandwidth a month, a reduction of about 30 per cent. According to company officials, the 40Gb was previously used for non work-related Internet traffic (in-bound), much of which contained material that would have violated TMP's Internet usage policy and left it open to potential litigation.

Derek Brown, Asia-Pacific technology director for TMP Worldwide, said the cost of the project was reasonable, given the amount of savings due to bandwidth and productivity gains.

"Of course, not every TMP employee was pleased to have his or her Internet access managed carefully. Abiding users had no issue, while others who tended to abuse the privilege complained the loudest," Brown said.

-- Staff writers

"I would never work for an organisation that monitored the activity of its employees, except if there was a reasonable suspicion of illegal activity."

Graham Pearson, regional sales manager, Asia Pacific, Websense said: "It's not hard to understand cyberslacking when considering the benefits of workplace Internet access. The speed of access, increasing social temptations such as the interactive, Big Brother II Web site and the Aussie love of a punt online - all combined with unsupervised time and little-to-no accountability - adds up to hours of non work-related Web surfing and millions of dollars in lost productivity and bandwidth." But software alone can't tackle the problem, he said, adding that while few employees are malicious or abuse privileges, they can't abide by policies that don't exist.

Responses to the survey showed that nearly 70 per cent of employees favour, or strongly favour, an Internet access policy.

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