Forty-one per cent of European employees admit using the Internet for
personal surfing at work for more than three hours a week, according to
research carried out by Websense, a provider of web management software. It
also reveals that UK companies are the most aggressive when it comes to
reprimanding staff for inappropriate use of the Internet
They are five times more likely to take disciplinary action than Italian
employers and two-and-a-half times more likely to act than their French or German
The Web@Work Survey 2001 of employees’ Internet habits was carried out for
Websense by research company Taylor Nelson Sofres. The survey covered 800
companies in the UK, Italy, France and Germany.
"The survey shows that the Internet is clearly a valuable business tool
for employees but at the same time it can be a distraction," says Geoff
Haggart, Websense’s European vice-president.
"It also shows that companies need to strike a balance and be aware
that employees do not object to having their Internet access at work managed.
Three hours a week on non-related work sites may be OK if it is controlled,
such as in a lunch hour or evening. But there is no question that non-work
surfing can cause hostility between co-workers and a loss of productivity."
Thirty-one per cent of respondents said they would consider reporting their
co-workers to management or even speaking to them themselves. Overall, less
than half (48 per cent) said their companies were doing something to address
Internet usage and 71 per cent said it was acceptable to have the Internet
managed at work, with the UK and Germany most in favour.
In the UK, 41 per cent of those polled said their companies use some form of
monitoring system; 41 per cent of firms have a written policy to guide them; 31
per cent use Internet filtering software; and at 16 per cent rely on managers
walking around. From the total sample surveyed, written policies were
considered the most acceptable (74 per cent) with technology such as filtering
software second at 65 per cent.
Internet filtering software, such as Websense’s Employee Internet Management
can control which sites employees are allowed to visit and at what times they
surf. It is possible to permit online shopping, for instance, during the lunch
hour but deny it the rest of the time.
"Just like it’s fine to make the odd personal call at lunchtime, it’s
OK to look at a holiday site," says Haggart. "But you wouldn’t let
them read a holiday brochure all day or a sports magazine. The Internet is part
of the workplace now and companies need to adjust policies to take it into