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 counterparts.
The [email protected] 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